Monday, 1 February 2016

Fatehpur Sikri and the road to Jaipur

So now we travel west towards Jaipur, ably driven by Shyam and stopping en route at Fatehpur Sikri, once the court of the Moghul Emperor Akbar - but only for 10 years!

The story goes that Akbar (he who built the Red Fort in Agra) had three wives. As he was a believer in all faiths working together and there being only one god, his first wife was Muslim, his second Hindu and the third a Portuguese Catholic from Goa. But he had no children, so he travelled to see a holy man at the place where Fatehpur Sikri now stands. After his second wife fell pregnant he decided to relocate his capital there. Unfortunately the spring providing water to the city dried up, so it was abandoned just 14 years after building started.

It is apparently one of the most complete examples of Moghul architecture in the world, and consists of various palaces and pavilions and a large mosque within the city walls.  Come and have a look: 

Above is the hall of private audience (Diwan-i-khas) where the emperor held court and meted out judgement on wrongdoers. If found guilty the punishment was death, carried out swiftly by one stamp of the foot of the emperor's favourite elephant. The tower you can barely see in the distance in the picture below is the elephant's grave and monument.

Inside, this tower was where Akbar learned from representatives of the worlds religions. It was also here that he sat in judgement with his ministers (on the platform at the top). The architecture was a combination of three styles: Hindu at the top (elephants' raised trunks).

Persian/ Islamic in the middle and Catholic at the bottom.

Our guide Ishmael standing under Hindu arches at the exit to this hall 

Look closely - more elephants' trunks

Even the ceiling was decorated.

This is the Panch Mahal, a five storey building for the Royal wives and mistresses and other ladies in the court, to allow them to watch proceedings without being seen. It was cool, as the wind could circulate, with intricately carved stone screens originally filling the species between pillars.

These markings on the courtyard floor are part of a game board - rather like our solitaire board. Akbar used this wives and concubines as human counters, instructing them to dance or move according to the throw of a dice.

As always, every inch of the stone pillars and walls was intricately carved

These are on the Hindu wife's pavilion (she who gave birth to the son), depicting all sorts of fruits - grapes, pomegranates and figs

And more - the frieze top left shows earrings, and the panels on the right were from inside her pavilion. They would have been richly decorated with precious stones and gold - the birds you can just see on the right have no heads as these were stolen for the gold.

The platform in the middle of the lake was for a band to play music. This is situated just outside the Emperor 's bedroom 

And the stone platform was his bed - doesn't look very comfortable!

This vessel containers holy water from the Ganges - the preferred drink at court

Onwards to the second part of the complex - the courtyard with the Mosque and the memorial to the Saint who advised Akbar. These ancient tombs have offerings of fabric, food and flowers from the families 

Three musicians play in front of the Mosque ...

While two brothers get their photo taken.

This is the inside of one of the gates - the King's gate opposite it through which we entered only has 12 steps to it. We left our shoes at the bottom stacked up in a kind of shoe jenga.

This one, on the other hand, has 52 steps; once we had run the gauntlet of the hawkers ('bangles madam, good quality - I give you two for twenty? Three for twenty? Four? Best quality madam - five for twenty' - he means dollars of course, not rupees) 

We looked down the steep steps - the round roofs at the bottom are a Turkish Baths - also built by Akbar so worshippers could be clean

Turn around and an amazing sight high up at the top of the 55 metre arch - those yellowish, paddle like structures are bee colonies.

So we went back the way we came and were treated to the front seat (four of us there including the driver) of the tourist bus back to the carpark - a dubious pleasure given the driving of your average Indian bus driver (think texting on hairpin bends). 

From there we continued our drive to Jaipur through agricultural land growing wheat and mustard seed, past brickworks - huge chimneys with furnaces at the bottom surrounded by bricks waiting to be fired, a huge assortment of animals and little villages where people seemed to be living in very poor conditions. Eventually we took the toll road and the five and a half hour journey passed relatively quickly.

The view of Jaipur traffic (turning right from the left lane) through the windscreen - with Ganesh and his mouse for good luck.

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