Archive for July, 2012

WHAT IS HIV & AIDS?

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on July 31, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1086

WHAT IS HIV & AIDS?

LiveScience Staff
Date: 30 July 2012 Time: 10:35 AM ET

Definition of HIV & AIDS: HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and damages the body’s ability to fight infections. AIDS is a potentially fatal condition that develops in the most advanced stage of HIV. Below is a brief overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments, plus links to more information.

image of an hiv virus
The therapeutic vaccines in development are all designed to give the body’s immune system a way to recognize, and then to fight, HIV particles (virus shown above).
CREDIT: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock 

What Causes HIV & AIDS? HIV attacks and destroys cells, known as CD4 cells, of the immune system. A person is considered to have AIDS if CD4 cell counts in the blood drop below a threshold or if the person has an AIDS-defining condition such as tuberculosis or toxoplasmosis. HIV may take years to progress to AIDS.

Is HIV/AIDS Contagious?Yes. HIV spreads through certain bodily fluids: infected blood, semen, genital fluids or breast milk. HIV is often transmitted through unprotected sex or by sharing drug needles. The virus cannot spread through saliva, tears, sweat, by hugging or by shaking hands.

Medical term: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Signs & Symptoms: A few months after infection a person may experience fever, headache, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms. Symptoms may disappear for years after the first stage of the infection. Fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, sores in the mouth or genitals and pneumonia are symptoms of HIV in later stages.

Treatment & Remedies: Thanks to antiretroviral drugs, or ARVs, people can now live  in good health with HIV for decades. ARVs suppress the amount of the HIV virus in the body. But ARVs are not a cure and can’t stop an HIV-positive person from infecting others.

More Facts:

  • ARVs have to be taken continuously to work.
  • The World Health Organization estimates there were 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, and 1 million AIDS-related deaths.
  • People are extremely contagious during the initial phase of an HIV infection.
  • Mosquitoes do not transmit HIV.

Sources and More Information:

HIV & AIDS: Details from MyHealthNewsDaily

Related Information from the Mayo Clinic

Related Information from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Related Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Beauty and Brains: Award-Winning Medical Images

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on July 31, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1085

Beauty and Brains: Award-Winning Medical Images

LiveScience Staff
Leaf of Lavender
Leaf of Lavender
Credit: ANNIE CAVANAGH AND DAVID MCCARTHY; WELLCOME TRUSTThis false-coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) shows a lavender leaf (Lavandula) imaged at 200 microns. The surface of the leaf is densely covered with fine hair-like outgrowths made from specialised epidermal cells called non-glandular trichomes.
Frog Oocytes
Frog Oocytes
Credit: VINCENT PASQUE, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE; WELLCOME TRUSTThis confocal micrograph shows stage V-VI oocytes (800-1000 micron diameter) of an African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), a model organism used in cell and developmental biology research. Each oocyte is surrounded by thousands of follicle cells, shown in the image by staining DNA blue. Blood vessels, which provide oxygen to the oocyte and follicle cells, are shown in red. The ovary of each adult female Xenopus laevis contains up to 20 000 oocytes. Mature oocytes are approximately 1.2 mm in diameter, much larger than the eggs of many other species.
A Cancer Cell Divides
A Cancer Cell DividesCredit: KUAN-CHUNG SU AND MARK PETRONCZKI, LONDON RESEARCH INSTITUTE, CANCER RESEARCH UK; WELLCOME TRUSTThis composite confocal micrograph uses time-lapse microscopy to show a cancer cell (a HeLa cell derived from the cancer of a woman named Henrietta Lacks) undergoing cell division (mitosis). The DNA is shown in red, and the cell membrane is shown in cyan.
Stunning Seedling
Stunning Seedling
Credit: FERNAN FEDERICI AND JIM HASELOFF; WELLCOME TRUSTThis confocal micrograph shows the tissue structures within the leaf of an Arabidopsis thaliana seedling. The sample was fixed and stained with propidium iodide, which labels DNA, but was imaged four years later. Different oxidation of the staining chemical in different tissues allows researchers to investigate the structures within.
Caffeine Crystal
Caffeine Crystal
Credit: ANNIE CAVANAGH AND DAVID MCCARTHY; WELLCOME TRUSTThis false-coloured scanning electron micrograph shows caffeine crystals. Caffeine is found occurring naturally in plants, where its bitterness serves as a defense mechanism.
Chicken Embryo
Chicken Embryo
Credit: VINCENT PASQUE, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE; WELLCOME TRUSTThis fluorescence micrograph shows the vascular system of a developing chicken embryo (Gallus gallus), two days after fertilization.
Moving Cancer Cells
Moving Cancer Cells
Credit: SALIL DESAI, SANGEETA BHATIA, MEHMET TONER AND DANIEL IRIMIA, KOCH INSTITUTE FOR INTEGRATIVE CANCER RESEARCH, MIT; WELLCOME TRUSTTaken in the course of research into how cancer cells move and spread, this Wellcome honoree shows cancer cells traveling through spaces a tenth the width of a human hair
Moth Fly
Moth Fly
Credit: KEVIN MACKENZIE, UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN; WELLCOME TRUSTThis false-colored image of a moth fly reveals the insect’s fuzzy body and compound eyes.
Diatom Case
Diatom Case
Credit: Anne Weston, London Research Institute | Wellcome TrustThis false-colored scanning electron micrograph shows a diatom frustule. Diatoms are unicellular organisms and a major group of algae. Diatoms are encased within a hard cell wall made from silica. Frustules have a variety of patterns, pores, spines and ridges, which are used to determine genera and species. Diatoms are one of the most common types of phytoplankton, and their communities are often used to measure environmental conditions such as water quality. This diatom is approximately 80 microns in diameter.
Hole in the Heart
Hole in the Heart
Credit: Henry De’Ath, Royal London Hospital | Wellcome TrustThis photograph shows the repair of a traumatic ventricular septal defect (VSD). A VSD is a hole between the right and left ventricles of the heart, and is usually seen as a congenital condition, known as a ‘hole in the heart’. This picture was taken in theatre to document the unusual injury and its subsequent repair; the VSD is seen at the bottom of this image, and a bovine patch is being stitched and parachuted into place to seal the defect.
Bacteria Biofilm
Bacteria Biofilm
Credit: Fernan Federici, Tim Rudge, PJ Steiner and Jim Haseloff | Wellcome TrustThis micrograph photo was taken as part of a synthetic biology project and shows Bacillus subtilis, a Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in soil. Distinct lineages of bacteria expressing different fluorescent proteins were initially mixed randomly on a petri dish. As the bacteria grow, they organize themselves into reproducible patterns and shapes that can be predicted with mathematical models.
Living Brain
Living Brain
Credit: ROBERT LUDLOW, UCL INSTITUTE OF NEUROLOGY, LONDON; WELLCOME TRUSTThis image of a living human brain taken during surgery won the 2012 Wellcome Trust Award for biomedical photography.
Loperamide Crystals
Loperamide Crystals
Credit: Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy | Wellcome TrustThis false-coloured scanning electron micrograph shows crystals of loperamide, which is a drug used to treat diarrhea; loperamide works by slowing down the movement of the intestine and reducing the speed at which the contents of the gut pass through. Food remains in the intestines for longer and water can be more effectively absorbed back into the body. This results in firmer stools that are passed less often.
Microneedle Vaccine
Microneedle Vaccine
Credit: Peter DeMuth | Wellcome TrustThis scanning electron micrograph shows an array of ‘microneedles’ made from a biodegradable polymer. Researchers have shown these materials can be used to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to the outer layers of the skin in a safe and painless way.
Desmid Alga
Desmid Alga
Credit: Spike Walker | Wellcome TrustThis photomicrograph shows Micrasterias, a type of green alga called a desmid, which usually inhabits the acidic waters associated with peat bogs. These particular desmids are flat, plate-like single cells made up of two halves, which are mirror images of each other with highly ornamented edges.
Cool Connective Tissue
Cool Connective Tissue
Credit: Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK | Wellcome TrustThis false-colored scanning electron micrograph shows connective tissue removed from a human knee during arthroscopic surgery. Individual fibers of collagen can be distinguished and have been highlighted by the creator using a variety of colors.

Best Science Photos of the Week

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on July 31, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1084

Best Science Photos of the Week

LiveScience Staff
Mars' Whopping Scars

Mars’ Whopping Scars

Credit: Robbins and Hynek 2012/American Geophysical UnionThe surface of Mars is pocked by more than 635,000 impact craters at least 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide, a new study reports.

The new Martian crater atlas is the largest single database ever compiled of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system, researchers said. It highlights the violent history of Mars and could also help scientists address a number of questions about the Red Planet.

[Full Story: Mars Surface Scarred by 635,000 Big Impact Craters]

 New Squat Lobster Discovered
New Squat Lobster Discovered
Credit: Image courtesy of Plataforma SINCA new species of crustacean has been discovered in the underwater mountains off the northwest coast of Spain, scientists recently announced. 

The squat lobster is orange and a little over 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. Squat lobsters are more closely related to porcelain and hermit crabs than true lobsters.

[Full Story: New Crustacean Species Discovered Off Spain]

Naughty Penguins
Naughty Penguins
Credit: copyright Natural History MuseumHidden for nearly 100 years for being too “graphic,” a report of “hooligan” behaviors, including sexual coercion, by Adelie penguins observed during Captain Scott’s 1910 polar expedition has been uncovered and interpreted. The naughty notes were rediscovered recently at the Natural History Museum in Tring, in England, and published in the recent issue of the journal Polar Record. 

[Full Story: Penguins’ Explicit Sex Acts Shocked Polar Experts]

Swirling Science
Swirling Science
Credit: H. Kellay and T. MeuelWhat do you seen in this soap bubble? Researchers at the University of Bordeaux saw something surprisingly similar to a hurricane, an observation that launched a new mathematical model that can help project where cyclones will go. 

By measuring vortexes as they moved across heated soap bubbles, the researchers were able to develop a model to predict where they’d end up. The same principles hold for hurricanes and tropical storms, the scientists told LiveScience’s sister site OurAmazingPlanet. Nevertheless, the model is best at predicting early storm tracks, not the late-in-the-game swerves made by many big storms.

Neanderthal Cave Artists?
Neanderthal Cave Artists?
Credit: Pedro SauraA series of cave paintings in Spain are thousands of years older than scientists realized, raising speculation — but no proof — that Neanderthals could have been the earliest wall artists in Europe. 

The oldest image, a large red disk on the wall of El Castillo cave in northern Spain, is more than 40,800 years old, according to an advanced method that uses natural deposits on the surfaces of the paintings to date their creation. The new findings, detailed in the June 15 issue of the journal Science, make the paintings the oldest reliably dated wall paintings ever.

[Full Story: Were Neanderthals Europe’s First Cave Artists?]

Carnivorous Plant's Rainy Catapult
Carnivorous Plant’s Rainy Catapult
Credit: Bauer U, et. al, PLoS ONE 7(6): e38951. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038951 (2012)One species of ant-eating carnivorous plant has a special trick up its sleeve, new research has discovered. 

The type of carnivorous plant, the pitcher plant of the species Nepenthes gracilis, lines the underside of its lid with aspecial waxy coating, which makes sure ants and flies will lose their grip when a raindrop falls and shakes the lid they are clutching. (The ants and flies walk upside-down on the underside of this lid.) The plant gets its name from its pitcher, the large empty structure that holds the digestive enzymes that churn up its fly meals and is covered by the waxy lid.

[Full Story: Carnivorous Plant’s Rain-Powered Catapult Flips Ants for Food]

Do Alien Earths Abound?
Do Alien Earths Abound?
Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. BuchhaveSmall, rocky planets can coalesce around a wide variety of stars, suggesting that Earth-like alien worlds may have formed early and often throughout our Milky Way galaxy’s history, a new study reveals. 

Astronomers had previously noticed that huge, Jupiter-like exoplanets tend to be found around stars with high concentrations of so-called “metals” — elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. But smaller, terrestrial alien planets show no such loyalty to metal-rich stars, the new study found.

[Full Story: Alien Earths May Be Widespread in Our Milky Way Galaxy ]

Hippie Ape Secrets

Hippie Ape Secrets

Credit: Michael Seres

Ulindi, a female bonobo at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany, has had her genome sequenced, researchers report today (June 13), making bonobos the last of the great apes to have their genomes mapped. The resulting genetic code may help unlock the secrets that separate humans — physically, intellectually and behaviorally — from our closest primate relatives. Bonobos are often seen as the chimpanzee’s peaceful cousin. The two primates look very similar and are very closely related, but for some reason chimps resolve conflicts with war while bonobos prefer sex to resolve arguments. Previous studies have also shown that bonobos are more generous with food than chimps are.

[Full Story: Unraveling the Bonobo’s Genome, and its Secrets ]

Snake's Scale-y Trick

Snake’s Scale-y Trick

Credit: Tim Nowak and Hamidreza MarviWithout legs, snakes must get creative to slither up trees, and new research suggests they use the scales covering their bodies to make such climbs.

Their scales and body muscles work together to push against the bark on the tree as they inch upward, the researchers said.

“An important and surprising finding of our study was that snakes can double their friction coefficients … by active control of their scales,” the researchers write in their research paper, published in the June 13 issue of the journal Royal Society Interface.

[Full Story: Snakes’ Scales Propel Them Up Tree Trunks]

 Stargazers, Rejoice!
Stargazers, Rejoice!Credit: Fraser GunnA huge portion of New Zealand’s South Island has been designated as the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the best places for stargazing on the globe. 

“The new reserve is coming in at a ‘Gold’ level status,” said the International Dark-Sky Association’s executive director Bob Parks in a statement. “That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth.”

[Full Story: Stargazers, Rejoice! Largest ‘Dark Sky’ Reserve Named]

Will the Real Higgs Please Stand Up? (Infographic)

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on July 31, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1083

Will the Real Higgs Please Stand Up? (Infographic)

by Karl Tate, LiveScience
Researchers have observed a new, massive particle which they believe may be the Higgs boson.
Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland have observed evidence of a new subatomic particle. Further research will try to determine if it is the elusive Higgs boson, thought to be responsible for giving matter its property of mass. 

In the Standard Model of physics, matter is made up of small particles called fermions (including quarks and leptons). Forces such as electromagnetism are carried by bosons.

Physicists use electromagnetic fields to whip beams of protons around and around, accelerating them to nearly the speed of light. This gives the protons enormous kinetic energy. Finally the beams are allowed to intersect, and where protons collide, their energy is released. New particles – some of them very short-lived – are formed from this energy.

As Albert Einstein discovered, mass can be defined as a quantity of energy. Subatomic particle masses are given as amounts of electron volts (the energy of a single electron accelerated by a potential difference of one volt). The newly discovered particle – possibly the Higgs boson – is found to have a mass of about 125 billion electron volts. Other particles, such as photons, have no mass at all.

GALLERY: SEARCH FOR THE HIGGS BOSON

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on July 31, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1082

GALLERY: SEARCH FOR THE HIGGS BOSON

LiveScience Staff
Protons Collide
Protons Collide
Credit: CERNParticle tracks from a proton-proton collision (also called an event) in the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Events like this are a possible sign of the Higgs particle, though many events must be analyzed together to say with confidence the signal came from the elusive particle.
CMS CERN Particle Tracks

CMS CERN Particle Tracks

Credit: CERN/COMSA typical candidate event at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), including two high-energy photons whose energy (depicted by red towers) is measured in the CMS electromagnetic calorimeter. The yellow lines are the measured tracks of other particles produced in the collision. The pale blue volume shows the CMS crystal calorimeter barrel.

 LHC ATLAS Higgs Data So Far
LHC ATLAS Higgs Data So Far
Credit: CERN/ATLASThis plot shows the data collected so far by the Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS experiment in the search for the Higgs boson particle.
LHC's ATLAS in LEGOS
LHC’s ATLAS in LEGOS
Credit: ATLAS/CERNA model of the Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS detector, which is searching for the Higgs boson, made out of LEGO blocks by Sascha Mehlhase.
LHC's CMS Shows Possible Higgs Signature
LHC’s CMS Shows Possible Higgs Signature
Credit: CERN/CMS/Taylor, L; McCauley, TReal CMS proton-proton collisions events at the Large Hadron Collider in which 4 high energy electrons (red towers) are observed. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of a Higgs boson but is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes.
Simulated Higgs Boson Produced
Simulated Higgs Boson Produced
Credit: CERN/ATLASThis track is an example of simulated data modelled for the ATLAS detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The Higgs boson is produced in the collision of two protons at 14 TeV and quickly decays into four muons, a type of heavy electron that is not absorbed by the detector. The tracks of the muons are shown in yellow.
Higgs Boson Candidate Event
Higgs Boson Candidate Event
Credit: CMS/CERNThis event was detected at the LHC’s CMS experiment, in which one Z boson particle decays to two electrons (red towers), and another Z boson decays to two muons (red lines). Such an event is a candidate event for the Higgs boson particle.
Two Z Bosons Decay at LHC's CMS
Two Z Bosons Decay at LHC’s CMS
Credit: CERN/CMS/Taylor, L; McCauley, TThis event observed at the LHC’s CMS experiment shows a candidate event involving two Z bosons, in which one Z decays to two electrons (green towers), and the other to two muons (red lines). Such an event might indicate signs of the Higgs boson.
Proton-Proton Collision at CMS
Proton-Proton Collision at CMS
Credit: CERN/CMS/Taylor, L; McCauley, TReal CMS proton-proton collisions events in which 4 high energy electrons (red towers) are observed. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of a Higgs boson but is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes.
CMS_Higgs-event
CMS_Higgs-event
Credit: TACCAn example of simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider. Here, following a collision of two protons, a Higgs boson is produced which decays into two jets of hadrons and two electrons. DeGrand’s theories represent an alternative to the standard model.

NAHARGARH FORT

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY on July 30, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1081

NAHARGARH FORT

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
File:Nahargarh 13.jpg
RoofTerrace of the Fort
File:Nahargarh.jpg

Jaipur city from Nahargarh Fort

Nahargarh Fort stands on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the pink city of Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The view of the city from the fort is breath-taking.

Along with  Amber Fortand ,Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh once formed a strong defence ring for the city. The fort was originally named Sudarshangarh, but it became known as Nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers’. The popular belief is that Nahar here stands for Nahar Singh Bhomia, whose spirit haunted the place and obstructed construction of the fort. Nahar’s spirit was pacified by building a temple in his memory within the fort, which thus became known by his name.

File:Nahargarh 16.jpg

Stone Railing at Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

Built mainly in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, the fort was constructed as a place of retreat on the summit of the ridge above the city. Walls extended over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected this fort to Jaigarh, the fort above the old capital of Amber. Though the fort never came under attack during the course of its history, it did see some historical events, notably the treaties with the Maratha forces who warred with Jaipur in the 18th century. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Europeans of the region, including the British Resident’s wife, were moved to Nahargarh fort by the king of Jaipur, Sawai Ram Singh, for their protection

File:Rajasthan-Jaipur-Nahargarh-Fort-compound-Apr-2004-02.JPG

Nahargarh Fort compound Jaipur, Rajasthan

The fort was extended in 1868 during the reign of Sawai Ram Singh. In 1883-92, a range of palaces was built at Nahargarh by Sawai Madho Singh at a cost of nearly three and a half lakh rupees. The Madhavendra Bhawan, built by Sawai Madho Singh had suites for the queens of Jaipur and at the head was a suite for the king himself. The rooms are linked by corridors and still have some delicate frescos. Nahargarh was also a hunting residence of the Maharajas. 

File:Rajasthan-Jaipur-Nahargarh-Fort-compound-Apr-2004-03.JPG

Until April 1944, the Jaipur State government used for its official purposes solar time read from the Samrat Yantra in the Jantar Mantar Observatory, with a gun fired from Nahargarh Fort as the time signal.

Some scenes of the movie Rang De Basanti were shot at Nahargarh fort.

File:Rajasthan-Jaipur-Nahargarh-Fort-compound-Apr-2004-05.JPG

File:Jaipur, Nahargarh Fort, Madhvendra Palace.jpg

File:Jaipur, Madhvendra Palace.jpg

Jaipur, Madhvendra Palace

AMER FORT

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY on July 30, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1080

AMER FORT

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Type Fort and Palace
Coordinates 26.9859°N 75.8507°E
26.9859°N 75.8507°ECoordinates26.9859°N 75.8507°E
Built 1592
Built by Raja Man Singh I with additions bySawai Jai Singh
Construction
materials
Red Sandstone Stones and Marble
Current
condition
Good
Open to
the public
Yes
Controlled by Government of Rajasthan
File:Amber Fort, Jaipur, c1858.jpg
Amer Fort, Jaipur, c. 1858

Amer Fort (Hindi: आमेर क़िला, also spelled and pronounced as Amber Fort) is located in Amer (a town with an area of 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi), 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from JaipurRajasthan stateIndia. It is one of the principal tourist attractions in the Jaipur area, located high on a hill.Amer Fort was built by Raja Man Singh I. Amer Fort is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Rajput elements. With its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake, at its forefront.

The aesthetic ambiance of this formidable fort is seen within its walls on a four level layout plan (each with a courtyard) in a well turned out opulent palace complex built with red sandstone and marble consisting of the Diwan-e-Aam or the “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas or the “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace. The palace was lived in by theRajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort’s Ganesh Gate, there is also a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult which was given to Raja Man Singh when he had defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. (Jessore is now inBangladesh).

This fort, along with Jaigarh Fort, located immediately above on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the same Aravalli range of hills, is considered as one complex, as the two are well connected by a subterranean passage. This passage was meant as an escape route in times of war for the royal family members and others in the Amer Fort to shift to the more redoubtable Jaigarh Fort.

Annual tourist visitation to the Amer Palace in Amer town was reported by the Superintendent of Department of Archaeology and Museums to the Amer Palace as 5000 visitors a day, and 1.4 million visitors were reported during 2007.

Etymology

Amber or Amer Fort’s name is derived from Amba, the Mother Goddess.

Geography

File:Amber Fort - Mahota Lake and Garden 2.jpg

Maota Lake and Garden below the Amer Fort

Amer Fort is situated on a forested hill premonitory, above the Maota Lake near Amer village, about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from Jaipur city, the Capital of Rajasthan. It currently sits near the National Highway, which goes to Delhi.A narrow jeepable road leads up to the entrance gate, known as the Suraj Pol or the Sun Gate, of the fort. Elephant rides are also taken through narrow passage through the Sun Gate.

History

File:Amber1860.jpg

A view of the fort at Amber in Rajasthan; a watercolor by William Simpson, c.1860

Amer was known in the medieval period asDhundar (meaning attributed to a sacrificial mount in the western frontiers) and ruled by the Kachwahas from the 11th century onwards – between 1037 and 1727 AD, till the capital was moved from Amer to Jaipur. The history of Amer is indelibly linked to these rulers as they founded their empire at Amer.

Earlier to the Kachwahas, Amer was a small place built by the Meenas in the town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as `Gatta Rani’ or `Queen of the Pass’. The Amer Fort, as it stands now, was built over the remnants of this earlier structure during the reign of Raja Man Singh, Commander in Chief of Akbar’s army and a member of the Emperor’s inner circle of nine courtiers, in 1592. The structure was fully expanded by his descendant, Jai Singh I. Even later, Amer Fort underwent improvements and additions by successive rulers over the next 150 years, until the Kachwahas shifted their capital to Jaipur during the time of Sawai Jai Singh II, in 1727.

Many of the ancient structures of the medieval period of the Meenas have been either destroyed or replaced. However, the 16th century impressive edifice of the Amer Fort and the palace complex within it built by the Rajput Maharajas are very well preserved.

Layout

The fort is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard.

File:Amberjpr.jpg

View of the Amer fort.

Main entry is through the Suraj Pole (Sun Gate) which leads to Jaleb Chowk, which is the first main courtyard. This was the place where armies would hold victory parades with their war bounty on their return from battles, which were also witnessed by the Royal family women folk through the latticed windows. This gate was built exclusively and was provided with guards as it was the main entry into the palace. It faced the eastern direction towards the rising Sun and hence the name. Royal cavalcades and dignitaries entered the palace through this gate.

Jaleb Chowk is an Arabic usage, which means a place for soldiers to assemble. This is one of the four courtyards of the Amer Palace, which was built during Sawai Jai Singh’s reign (1693–1743 AD). The Maharaja’s personal bodyguards held parades here under the command of the army commander or Fauj Bakshi. The Maharaja used to inspect the Guards contingent. At this location, the horse stables were also located where its upper level rooms were occupied by the guards.

First courtyard

File:Amber Fort - Marble Screens above Ganesh Pol.jpg

Latticed screens above Ganesh Pol.

File:Amber Fort-Jaipur-India0006.JPG
 View of Ganesh Pol.

An impressive stairway from the Jaleb Chowk leads into the main palace grounds. Here, at the entrance itself to the right of the stairway steps is the Sila Devi temple where the Rajput Maharajas offered worship, starting with Maharaja Mansingh in the 16th century till the 1980s, when the animal sacrifice ritual (sacrifice of a buffalo) practiced by the royalty was stopped .

Ganesh Pol or the Ganesh Gate, named after the Hindu godLord Ganesh who removes all obstacles in life, is the entry into the private palaces of the Maharajas. It is a three level structure which has many frescoes and was also built at the orders of the Mirza Raja Jai Singh(1621–1627) and leads to the private quarters of the royal family. Above this gate is the Suhag Mandir where ladies of the royal family used to watch through the latticed windows functions held in the Diwan-i-Am.

Sila Devi temple
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Embossed double leaf silver door entry in to the Sila Devi temple

On the right side of the Jaleb Chowk there is a small but an elegant temple called the Sila Devi (an incarnation of Kali or Durga) temple. The entrance to the temple is through silver sheet covered double leaf gate with raised relief. The main deity inside the sanctum is flanked by two lions made in silver. The legend attributed to the installation of this deity is that Maharaja Man Singh sought blessings of Kali for victory in the battle against the Raja of Jessore in Bengal. The goddess instructed the Raja, in a dream, to retrieve her image from the sea bed and install and worship it. The Raja, after he won the battle of Bengal in 1604, retrieved the idol from the sea and installed it in the temple and called it as Sila Devi as it was carved out of one single piece of a stone slab. At the entrance to the temple, there is also a carving of Lord Ganesha, which is made out of a single piece of coral stone.

Another version of the Sila Devi installation is that Raja Man Singh, after defeating the Raja of Jessore, received a gift of a black stone slab which was credited with link to theMahabharata epic story in which Kansa had killed older siblings of Lord Krishna on this stone. In exchange for this gift Man Singh returned the kingdom he had won to the Raja of Bengal. This stone was then used to carve the image of Durga Mahishasuramardiniwho had slain the demon king Mahishasura, and installed it in the fort temple as Sila Devi. The Sila Devi was worshiped from then onwards as the lineage deity of the Rajput family of Jaipur. However, their family deity continued to be Jamva Mata of Ramgarh.

Another practice that is associated with this temple is the religious rites of animal sacrifice during the festival days of Navrathri (Nine days festival celebrated twice in a year). The practice was to sacrifice a buffalo and also goats on the eighth day of the festival in front of the temple, which would be done in the presence of the royal family, watched by a large gathering of devotees. This practice was banned under law from 1975, where after the sacrifice is being held within the palace grounds in Jaipur, strictly as a private event with only the close kin of the royal family watching the event. However, the practice of animal sacrifice has been totally stopped at the temple premises and offerings made to the goddess are only of the vegetarian type.

Second courtyard

The second courtyard, up the main stairway of the first level courtyard, houses the Diwan-i-Am or the Public Audience Hall. Built with double row of columns, the Diwan-i-Am is a raised platform with 27 colonnades, each of which is mounted with elephant shaped capital with galleries above it. As the name suggests, the Raja held audience here to hear and receive petitions from the public.

Third courtyard

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Mirrored ceiling in the Mirror Palace.

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Interior of Sheesh Mahal. Diwan-i Khas of Amber Fort is also known as Sheesh Mahal (Glass palace).
മലയാളം: ശീഷ് മഹലിന്റെ ഉള്ളിലെ ദൃശ്യം. ആംബർ കോട്ടയിലെ ദിവാൻ ഇ ഖാസ്, ശീഷ് മഹൽ (കണ്ണാടിമന്ദിരം) എന്ന പേരിലും അറിയപ്പെടുന്നു.

The third courtyard is where the private quarters of the Maharaja, his family and attendants were built. This courtyard is entered through the Ganesh Pol or Ganesh Gate, which is embellished with mosaics and sculptures. The courtyard has two buildings, one opposite to the other, separated by a garden laid in the fashion of the Mughal Gardens. The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were “glittering jewel box in flickering candle light”. However, most of this work was allowed to deteriorate during the period 1970–80 but has since then been subjected to a process of restoration and renovation. Carved marble relief panels are placed on walls around the hall. The hall provides enchanting vistas of the Maota Lake.

The other building seen in the courtyard is opposite to the Jai Mandir and is known as the Sukh Niwas or Sukh Mahal (Hall of Pleasure). This hall is approached through a sandalwood door with marble inlay work with perforations. A piped water supply flows through an open channel that runs through this edifice keeping the environs cool, as in an air conditioned environment. The water from this channel was led into the garden.

Magic flower

A particular attraction here is the “magic flower” fresco carved in marble at the base of one of the pillars around the mirror palace which is identified by two hovering butterflies depiction; the flower has seven unique designs of fish tail, a lotus, a hooded cobra, an elephant trunk, a lion’s tail, a cob of corn and a scorpion, each is viewed by a particular way of partial hiding of the panel with hands.

Palace of Man Singh I
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The magic flower fresco
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The pavlion named Baradhari at the centre of courtyard of Man Singh Palace at Amber Fort
മലയാളം: ആംബർ കോട്ടയിലെ മാൻ സിങ് കൊട്ടാരത്തിന്റെ നടുമുറ്റത്തുള്ള ബാരാധാരി എന്ന മണ്ഡപം.

South of this courtyard lies the Palace of Man Singh I, which is the oldest part of the palace fort. The palace took 25 years to build and was completed in 1599 during the reign of Raja Man Singh I (1589–1614). It is the main palace. In the central courtyard of the palace is the pillaredbaradari or pavilion; frescoes and coloured tiles decorate the ground and upper floor rooms in this palace. This pavilion (which used to be curtained for privacy) was used as the meeting venue by the maharanis (queens of the royal family). All sides of this pavilion are connected to several small rooms with open balconies. The exit from this palace leads to the Amer village, a heritage town with many temples, palatial houses and mosques.

Garden

The garden, located between the Jai Mandir on the east and the Sukh Niwas on the west, both built on high platforms in the third courtyard, was built by Mriza Raja Jai Singh (1623–68). It is patterned on the lines of the Chahar Bagh or Mughal Garden. It is in sunken bed, shaped in a hexagonal design. It is laid out with narrow channels lined with marble around a star shape pool with a fountain at the centre. Water for the garden is led from the Sukh Niwas cascades of water channel and also from the cascade channels called the “chini khana niches” that originate from terrace of the Jai Mandir.

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Amer Fort overlooking Maota Lake

Tripolia gate

Tripolia gate means three gates. It is an access to the palace from the west. It opens in three directions, one to the Jaleb Chowk, another to the Man Singh Palace and the third one to the Zenana Deorhi on the south.

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Tunnel connecting Amber Fort to Jaigarh Fort

Lion gate

The Lion gate, the premier gate, was once a guarded gate, leads in to the private quarters in the palace premises and is titled ‘Lion Gate’ indicative of strength. It was built during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh (1699–1743 AD). It is covered with frescoes and its alignment is zigzag, probably made so from security considerations to attack intruders.

Fourth courtyard

The fourth courtyard is where the Zenana (Royal family women, including concubines or mistresses) lived. This courtyard has many living rooms where the queens resided and who were visited by the king at his choice without being found out as to which queen he was visiting, as all the rooms open into a common corridor.

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  • Double collanade of Diwan-i-Aam

The queen mothers and the Raja’s consorts lived in this part of the palace in Zanani Deorhi, which also housed their female attendants. The queen mothers took deep interest in building temples in Amer town.

Jas Mandir, a hall of private audience with floral glass inlays and alabaster relief work is also located in this courtyard

Conservation

The Amer town itself, which is an integral and inevitable entry point to the Amer Palace is now a heritage town with its economy dependent on the large influx of tourists (4000 to 5000 a day during peak tourist season). This town is spread over an area of 4 square kilometres (1.5 sq mi) and has 18 temples, 3 Jain mandirs and three mosques. It has been listed by the World Monument Fund (WMF) as one of the 100 endangered sites in the world; funds for conservation are provided by the Roberts Willson Challenge Grant. As of 2005, some 87 elephants lived within the fort grounds, but several were said to be suffering from malnutrition.

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Toshkhana or 27 Kacheris (27 offices) of Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Conservation works have been undertaken at the Amer Palace grounds at a cost of Rs 40 crores (US$8.88 million) by the Amer Development and Management Authority (ADMA). However, these renovation works have been a subject of intense debate and criticism with respect to their suitability to maintain and retain the historicity and architectural features of the ancient structures. Another issue which has been raised is the commercialization of the place.

A film unit shooting for a film at the Amer Fort damaged a 500-year-old canopy, demolished the old limestone roof of Chand Mahal, drilled holes to fix sets and spread large quantities of sand in Jaleb Chowk in utter disregard and violation of the Rajasthan Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Antique Act (1961).

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Ceiling painting in Amber Fort, Amber India

The Jaipur Bench of the Rajasthan High Court intervened and stopped the film shooting with the observation that “Unfortunately, not only the public but especially the concerned (sic) authorities have become blind, deaf and dumb by the glitter of money. Such historical protected monuments have become a source of income.”

 

Bright morning vista of the Amer Fort from across the road

 

Panorama of Amer Fort at dusk
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 Mirror Palace details Amber Fort
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: Side Panel Ganesh Pol Amber Fort
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Second floor view Fourth Courtyard Amber Fort
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 Amber Fort Mirror Palace in the Second Courtyard
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View of dome Amber Fort