Located at the centre of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan in India, the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur, as the women’s wing of the enormous City Palace. As the women in those days were not allowed to show their face to public, the Maharaja intended to give a golden opportunity to the royal ladies to watch and enjoy the everyday life and the royal processions on the street, unobserved from behind the latticework of the palace.
Built of red and pink sandstone and designed by Lal Chand Ustad, the five-storey building with its lace-like facade looks like a honeycombed hive with its 953 small windows, known as jharokhas, decorated with intricate latticework. This unique architectural style is also instrumental in allowing cool air to pass through, thus making the palace pleasant during the hot summer days prevalent in the region.
The façade of the building is essentially an enormous screened porch, which is mostly one room deep. However, the attractive façade of Hawa Mahal is misleading, as it is not the front of the palace, it is the rear. There is no entrance at the front, which is from the city palace side, through an imperial gate that opens into a big courtyard, adorned with a fountain at its centre.
The courtyard has two-storey buildings on its three sides, with Hawa Mahal on the east. The courtyard houses a small museum that contains miniature paintings, ceremonial armour and other relics, evoking the royal past.
The pyramidal shaped building that rises to around 70 feet is a unique example of a fusion of Hindu Rajput and Islamic Mughal architecture. While the influence of the Islamic style can be seen in its stone inlay filigree and arches, prominence of the fluted pillars, domed canopies, and floral designs evidences Hindu Rajput style. The honeycomb-like front elevation has small portholes, equipped with miniature windows and carved sandstone grills, finials and domes. All of them taken together give the impression of a mass-octagonal bay.
Although the top three floors of the structure have the width to accommodate a single room, the first and second floors have frontal patios. All the five floors of the Hawa Mahal have different names, and are known as the Sharad Mandir, Ratan Mandir, Vichitra Mandir, Prakash Mandir, and Hawa Mandir.
It is said that Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh was a devotee of Lord Krishna, and the top portion of Hawa Mahal was built to resemble the crown Krishna. Nevertheless, the façade of Hawa Mahal, adorned with niches and intricately jarokhas, is a stark contrast to the plain-looking inner face of the structure, located at the rear that consists of chambers built with pillars and corridors with minimally ornamented corridors, and reach up to the top floor. However, the airy rooms in the interior of the palace have been described as having coloured marbles, relieved by inlaid panels or gilding.
The exquisite pinkish sandstone monument, a popular attraction for the visitors of Jaipur, the pink city of India, was renovated in 2006, with the help from the Unit Trust of India, to give it a facelift after a gap of 50 years at an estimated cost of Rupees 4,568 million. Currently, it is maintained by the archeological department of the Government of Rajasthan