Published: September 16th 2007September 2nd 2007
The back of the Buland Darwaza, the main gate to the masque erected by Akba in 1573 to mark his conquest of Gujarat
After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, I headed off to Fatephur Sikri. Jai was on time and there were no arguments about the route since there was only one destination. We drove through Agra, including the old part of town, and them headed down the road originally built by Akbar. When I was in Agra in 2005, we tried to reach Fatephur Sikri, but due to the main road being closed (for some reason I can't now recall), we tried to take side roads. After driving around for about three hours, we took a vote and, at 6-2, headed back to Delhi. I was disappointed at the time, but I can now undertsand why we couldn't get there. The term "main" road is a bit of a misnomer as there are unpaved sections and it felt like we were driving through fields much of the time. I'm not sure there was another way to reach Fateohur Sikri, although we gave it a good shot at the time.
It took about an hour and a half to reach the parking area. When we arrived, Jai asked about a guide and I again declined. He was a bit annoyed
The tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti
at this since he was out another commission, but he didn't push it. It was a one kilometer uphill walk to reach Fatephur Sikri, but I set off and ran the gauntlet of would-be guides, beggars, rickshaw drivers, donkeys, and cows until I reached the Buland Darwaza, the main entrance to the mosque. The gateway is 54 meters high and is quite impressive sitting atop of many, many steep steps. Brief history lesson
[http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Culture/Archit/Fateh.html]: The royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, was built between 1571 and 1585 at the orders of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. While Akbar himself was illiterate, he took a keen interest in literature, architecture, and the arts. He is also reputed to be a very tolerant ruler, and the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. One of the buildings even reflects the new sycretistic faith founded by Akbar, Din-e-ilahi, which though very short-lived remains a matter of controversy.
Popular legend has it that since Akbar was without an heir for a long time, he made a pilgrimage to the renowned Sufi saint, Sheik Salim Chisti, to seek his blessings. When
Ever since Akbar's childlessness was ended by Salim Chishti's prediction in 1568, the saint's tomb has attracted crowds of supplicants, particularly childless women in search of a miracle. Visitors make a wish and tie a small cotton thread on the screen around the tomb.
a son, later to be known as Jahangir, was born to him, Akbar named him after the saint as a mark of his gratitude and built the new capital to mark his birth. Construction of the new ceremonial capital, with its elaborate palaces, formal courtyards, reflecting pools, harems, tombs and a great mosque, commenced in 1571. A large number of masons and stone carvers worked hard on an area that was over two miles long and a mile wide; they used a brilliant red sandstone available locally, which provides the buildings with much of their lustre. Shortly after the work was completed fifteen years later, it was realized that there was a lack of an adequate water supply and the pristine complex was abandoned.
I left my sneakers and entered the mosque. There were signs posted saying that no selling was allowed within 100 feet of the mosque and, although there were many items for sale, almost no one approached me to buy their wares. There were a number of "students" inside the mosque who offered to show me around free of charge, but I politely declined as I have quickly learned that nothing is free in India.
The Hujra are clositered prayer rooms that flank the mosque.
Some of them were nice and others were a bit ude. I had a look around the mosque and at the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti. I couldn't go inside since I didn't have anything to cover my head with, but I was able to get a good look through the marble screens around the tomb. After only 15 minutes, I was once again quite hot and very tired of being hassled so I went to retreive my sneakers and head to the royal complex. This time, it cost me 10 rupees per sneaker to get my shoes back! The guy asked for money and I tried 10 rupees first, but that only got me the left shoe. It was another10 rupees for the right sneaker. It was cheaper than the day before, but it's still annoying to get ripped off in a mosque!
Carrying my sneakers with me (who knew?), I walked back through the mosque and exited through the Badshahi Darwaza, Akbar's royal gateway. Climbing down another steep set of steps, I walked the short distance to the city entrance.
The royal complex was much quieter than the mosque and it was very nice to just
The city of Fatephur Sikri lies to the south of the mosque and contains the private and public spaces of Akbar's court.
wander around on my own with my Eyewitness Travel Guide to India, an excellent guidebook that I highly recommend. It's very heavy to carry, but has great pictures and aps so it's easy to identify places and buildings while reading about them. I was only approached twice by guides and again politely declined. The city is in excellent shape and quite impressive. It was very hot, but I did find a few shady spots to sit and rest. There was green space and trees which were nice to see for a change.
My favrite places were the Khwabgah with the Anoop Talao pool in front, the Turkish Sultana's House, the Panch Mahal, and Birbal's House. The pool was full of little frogs that were great swimmers. They darted away when they saw a shoadow and it took a few minutes to get a photo of one. I knew my friend Kip would have liked the friogs so I wanted to get a good shot. I've posted some photos of Fatephur Sikri and I hope you enjoy them.
I spent about two hours wandering around and then headed back down to the car. I bought a very flat Sprite
The Khwabagh was Akbar's private sleeping quarters and faces the Anoop Talao, the pool associated with Akar's renowned court musician Tansen who, as legend says, could light oil lamps with his magical singing.
and paid more than I should have once again, but it was very cold and refreshing and that was the main point. When I got back to the car, I had to wait about 15 minutes for Jai to appear. We headed back towards Delhi, but after only 10 minutes, he pulled into a restaurant and asked if I wanted lunch. I was still full from breakfast and my Sprite and also way too hot to eat so I said no. Apparently he was hungry since he went into the restaurant and left me in the car for 45 minutes! He left the engine and the AC running, but it was still a long time. He had more than three hours of time to get lunch so I'm not sure why he waited until I got back. He finally returned to the car and, once again, we hit the road.
We drove the same route back that we had taken to get to Agra. When we got to Faridabad, Jai made a turn that I wasn't too sure about. I didn't say anything at frst since I figured he knew the way. After driving through the city, we were
The pool was full of small frogs.
soon in a very undeveloped area with not much in the way of houses or buildings, although the road was quite good and, as always, there were people around. I finally asked if we were taking a shortcut to Delhi and Jai said that it was a shortcut to Gurgaon. About 45 minutes later, we came out on Golf Course Road, less then five mines from where I live! It certainly was a short cut and, if Jai hadn't needed to run his errands on Saturday, we could have saved over an hour on the trip to Agra! Next time, I will know this trick and request that we take the shortcut both ways.
There are more photos below