Amber Town, also known as Amer town, was occupied as a fortified citadel in the eleventh century. It was the capital city of the Kachwahas—a legendary Rajput clan that rose to power during the Middle Ages in what is now the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Over the next seven centuries a series of impressive monuments were built, including the Kachwaha palace complex in the 1560s. The palace sits on the summit of the citadel, while several stone temples and havelis—or mansions—are on the slopes below. In the seventeenth century, a Mughal-influenced diwan-i am (public audience hall) was constructed, as well as a new royal residence and several gardens. The Kachwahas remained in Amber Town until the eighteenth century, when the capital shifted to the new city of Jaipur. Amber was essentially deserted, although few nobles remained, and the Kachwaha royals returned a few days each year, during a religious holiday. Today, the town’s 20 Jain temples make it a center for Jain pilgrims, while Hindus come during Navaratra, to see the sixteenth-century Shila Mata Temple. A recent increase in tourists to Rajasthan now brings over 3,000 visitors a day, along with new demands and development pressures, to the historic town.
Missing stone pieces were replaced with quartzite
Amber Town was included in the 2008 World Monuments Watch to call attention to the alarming and increasing decay of its historic buildings. Since the 1980s, tourism has greatly increased and land values have risen, resulting in historic structures being demolished to make way for new shops and hotels. Some unused historic buildings were looted for construction materials. Soon after Amber town was added to the Watch List, World Monuments Fund secured support for the conservation of the Bihari Ji Ka Mandir Temple, one of Amber Town’s most significant historic structures, through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage. The temple had deteriorated severely in recent decades, the collapse of the octagonal corbelled roof of the colonnaded hall being the most visible and significant damage. Vegetation growing on the surface contributed to further decay of stonework. The project at the temple has included the survey and documentation of the existing conditions, followed by consolidation and restoration works based on the condition assessment. Debris and invasive vegetation were cleared throughout the site; missing stone pieces were replaced with quartzite. Lighting and signage were improved for the interpretation of the site.
The Bihari Ji Ka Mandir Temple, built during the reign of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I (1611–1667), is emblematic of seventeenth-century temple architecture in the region. It has been identified as a destination on heritage walk routes for the town, with surrounding structures such as the Kheri Gate, Chanwarpalkiwalon Ki Haveli, Panna Mian ka Kund, and Ambikeshwar Mahadev Temple also undergoing restoration. A tourist destination as well as a center for community and cultural activities, conservation enriches the local and tourist experiences in Amber Town.