Published: April 7th 2012March 30th 2012
FATEHPUR SIKRI, UTTAR PREDESH, INDIA. Friday 30, March 2012.
We were up and about at the same time as we were yesterday for the game drive - but today was to be our first taste of the Indain railways. The railways are said to be the best legacy left by the British. We were collected and taken to Sawai Madhopur Station near Ranthambhore. We waited on the platform with our agent for the train.
The platform was full of street children and the homeless begging for food and money - so we parted with a couple of packets of crisps. We were warned not to part with any cash as we would be surrounded immediately by hundreds of kids. There were rats running along the back on the platform and dogs and doggie do do's all over the place. The smell of the tracks was revolting. Next to the tracks were lines of hoses that are used to clean the trains' toilets when they arrive at the platform. It is the waste from these toilets that was causing the dreadful smell. The litter was appalling. We boarded our first class C 'chair' carriage and took our seats.
luggage had gone ahead with Mr Barun yesterday, so we only had a couple of rucksacks which was a bonus. The journey to Bharatpur Station took us about two and half hours and we were met by the agent who was waiting outside our carriage. He took us to the waiting Mr Barun. We drove towards our next destination Fatehpur Skiri which is, to this day, one of India's architectural masterpieces. Just outside Fatehpur Sikri we picked up our guide, Sachin, who was to stay with us until we left Agra.
The ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri , former capital of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar, straddles the crest of a rocky ridge 40 km south-west of Agra. The city was built here between 1569 and 1585. Akbar wanted to create a new capital that was an appropriate symbol of his imperial power. The fusion of Hindu and Muslim influences in the architecture says a lot about the religious and cultural tolerence of the time and is the reason why this place is of such architectural interest and importance.
After 1585 it never again served as the seat of the emperor, and nobody really knows why the city
was abandoned. A popular theory is that the water supply could not sustain the growing population, but other historians believe that the relocation took place for strategic military reasons. When the emperor returned to the locality after some military encounters in Punjab he chose to return to Agra rather than Fatehpur Sikri.
We started our tour at Diwan-i-Am which is basically a large courtyard surrounded by a continuous collonaded walkway with Hindu style columns and capitals. The area was grassed over and planted as a garden by the British, but would have been an open courtyard in the Emperor's time. The Emperor would have sat in the royal platform so that the citizens could make petitions to him. We proceeded to the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) courtyard which is topped with 4 chatris and embellished with carved Hindu-style brackets.
Next we went to the Treasury Building which, according to Sachin, was never used as a treasury at all. It consists of 3 rooms and is also known as 'Blind Man's Buff House' as it is great for playing the ancient game. The corbels projecting from the walls in this building are notable for their carvings derived from
the style of the Jain Temple in Western India. Attached to the Treasury buildings is a small pavilion called the 'Astrologer's Seat' also embellished with elaborate Jain carvings.
Next we went to the Anup Talao (Peerless Pool) which has a balustraded platform in the centre which is approached by 4 causeways. The platform was used for entertainment purposes. We continued to the Panch Mahal (Five Storeyed Palace) and then on to the women's quarters (Akbar had a huge harem of around 5,000 women!). The women's quarters make up the entire western side of the palace - unsurprising as there were all those women and their children.
We left the Fatehpur Sikri complex by a different gate and the three of us took a tuk tuk down to the nearby Jama Masjid Mosque. We did not enter the mosque but Sachin wanted us to see the Buland Darwaza (Great Gate). This neck-cricking entrance to the mosque is spectacular and is reached by a huge, steep flight of steps. Sachin told us a little of the history of the building before we climbed aboard the tuk tuk and retuned to the car park and the waiting Mr Barun.
continued on to Agra where we were deposited at our accommodation. We were not in a hotel this time but a homestay. This is where you stay in a room in someone's house. The house was in a gated community in a somewhat skanky suburb of Agra. The house was lovely with a well kept garden. The room was clean, roomy, modern and comfortable. As there was nowhere to eat at the homestay Mr Barun took us for a very late lunch. It was a bit of a rip off but was enough to curb our hunger. So much so that we told Mr Barun that we would not need to go out again to eat today. We stopped at a 'Wine Shop' and Mr Barun got us a couple of Kingfishers (he gets Indian prices of 70 rupees where we get charged 5 times that) to take back to the hotel. We watched TV, skyped a few people back home, caught up with some blogs and went to bed.
There are more photos below