A Fantasy Short Story Inspired by Rajasthan, India

Last month, Turtleduck Press released this anthology:

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

My contribution (besides editing the anthology) was a story about a maidservant and an inventor, set in a fantasy/clockpunk version of Mughal-era India. I spent six weeks in India last year and fell in love with…well, many things, but especially the historical architecture. So writing about it was a no-brainer. And as a bonus, that means I can put up related photos…

The story opens at Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort), a fortified palace in Rajasthan, which looks like this. Click to enlarge any of the photos (all copyright 2013 Siri Paulson).

Amber or Amer Fort

Amber or Amer Fort

Gateway in Amer Fort

Gateway in Amber Fort

The first scene in the story takes place in the fort’s pleasure gardens, which look like this. On the right side of this photo you can see one of the many open-air halls or pavilions (it’s a desert — no walls necessary) where court was held, musicians played, poets held competitions, and so on:

Formal garden in Amer Fort

Then the action shifts up the mountain, to Jaigarh Fort and its tower, which you can see in the background here (Amber Palace is in the foreground again):

Jaigarh Fort and Amer Fort

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit Jaigarh Fort, so to add to the atmosphere, I drew inspiration from some of the other forts in the area, like the faded flowers on this decayed wall at Amber Fort:

Amer Fort decayed wall

and this big archway in Nahargarh Fort:

Archway, Nahargarh Fort, India

and this walkway in Agra Fort (built by the Mughals, not the Rajasthani princes, but in the same era — and the Mughals in Agra also built the Taj Mahal):

Walkway of arches

I could keep rambling about architecture all day, but moving on, here’s the sort of thing that the (high-born) inventor in the story would have worn:

Taken at the National Museum in New Delhi.

Taken at the National Museum in New Delhi

The maidservant would have been dressed something like these women, who are wearing shalwar kameez — loose pants and tunic, with a matching scarf that can be worn over the head, as here, or just over the shoulders (note that the women in the linked photo are in southern India, where the fabrics used are often filmier and more pastel than in the north).

Taken in the nearby city of Jaipur

Taken in the nearby city of Jaipur

And here’s an artifact from Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur that will give you some idea of the sumptuousness of the decor (link to more at the bottom of the post):

Jug in Mehrangarh Fort, India

Finally, the inventor in the story is based on a real person: Jai Singh II, the ruler of the kingdom of Amber in the early 18th century, who had a great interest in science. To say more would be to spoil the story, but you may find some clues in the Wikipedia article about his work.

More Reading

For yet more architecture photos of Amber Fort and the other forts in the area, see my blog post Touring the Forts and Palaces of Jaipur, India.

For more artifacts and interiors, see Exploring Jodhpur, the Blue City.

Finally, I’ve done this before for a different story — see A Short Story Inspired by Thailand.


(Quick admin note: I’ll be back on Monday, aiming to post alternate Mondays and Wednesdays. Mondays are for books/films/other geekery, and Wednesdays are for travel/mental health/other stuff related to Real Life. Hope you’ll join me for the ride!)


4 responses to “A Fantasy Short Story Inspired by Rajasthan, India

  1. Sounds intriguing…this is going on my reading list!

  2. Thanks, Ken — hope you enjoy it!

  3. These pictures are so cool. I’d visualized everything smaller and greener (more forest/foliage) when I read the story, and it’s fun to get a different perspective.

  4. Liv, glad to hear the post enhanced your experience of the story! I’m not used to arid and semi-arid landscapes, so this one made an impression on me…guess I could’ve done a better job putting that on the page. šŸ˜‰

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