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Published: December 31st 2019
We got an early start today, probably too early, as it was still dark and foggy when we arrived at Monkey Temple. We decided to have a look anyway, as we were here, though we couldn’t see much. The place was filthy, the ground covered in monkey poop and littered with banana skins, and a lone cow wandered around. The monkey residents were just waking up, fighting savagely amongst themselves and screaming into the early morning air. We had to use a phone torch to light our way up the steps and didn’t stay long. Just as we were leaving, the call to prayers started over the loud speakers. Yep, definately time to go....
Located 10klm east of Jaipur in a town called Khania Baslaji, but only a 15 minute drive from downtown Jaipur, this series of temples was built in the 15th century in a narrow crevice within a mountain pass. The temple features a number of pavilions with rounded roofs, carved pillars and painted walls. The complex is set around a natural spring and waterfalls that create 7 pools; the upper and lower pools are used for bathing by pilgrims.
We’re on the way to Agra this
morning and it promises to be a long drive as we’re visiting two big tourist attractions before we actually get there.
I had planned to stop off at Castle Konata Hotel for breakfast this morning, and had tried to call them yesterday to make a reservation but got no answer. This hotel was where the Viceroy Club scenes in The Very Best Marigold Hotel movie were filmed. It’s just 14klm from Jaipur on the Agra Road, and looked worthy of a stop, so we decided to pull in anyway.
Hidden behind high walls and situated in extensive gardens, which included stables, the hotel was shrouded in mist and in total darkness when we arrived. At 7.30am, I expected lights on, and breakfast to be underway, but not so. The security guard opened up a sitting room for us, and an unoccupied room so we could use the toilets then disappeared to rouse a staff member. Apparently it had been party night last night and breakfast was scheduled for 9.30.
Eventually we got ours - omelettes, tea and toast, which we ate in the empty dining room with Hariom. We snapped some photos, thanked the staff for the
effort they went too, and left.
Back on the road again, with our next stop Abhaneri Stepwells. Chand Baori, as it’s also called, is located near the small village of Anhaneri in the Dausa district of Rajasthan, between Jaipur and Agra.
This is the largest, and most visually spectacular step well in Rajasthan, and what an incredible sight it was. A subterranean pavilion consisting of sculptures, galleries and corridors along one side of the stepwell, was built in ancient times as a relaxation area for royalty. The other three sides have 3,500 terraced steps, plunging 13 stories into the earth, to reach the water table. The construction dates back to the 10th century, and is dedicated to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness.
Water plays a special part in Hindu mythology, as a boundary between heaven and earth known as tirtha. As a manmade tirtha, the stepwells became not only sources of drinking water, but cool sanctuaries for bathing, prayer, and meditation.
Our final stop was Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar the Great’s abandoned imperial city. This magnificent fortified ancient city, built from red sandstone, is 37km west of Agra, and was the short-lived capital of the
Mughal empire between 1572 and 1585, during the reign of Emperor Akbar the Great.
Akbar had visited the village of Sikri, which existed on this site prior to Fatehpur Sikri, to consult a Sufi saint who predicted the birth of an heir to the Mughal throne. When the prophecy came true, (Akbar’s son Jahangir was born in Sikri in 1569), Akbar built his new capital here, including a stunning mosque, which is still in use today, and three palaces, one for each of his favourite wives. His tolerant religious views and interest in literature, architecture and fine arts gave the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri a charismatic blend of Islamic and Hindu elements.
The city was an Indo-Islamic masterpiece, but was completely abandoned in 1610, shortly after Akbar’s death, due to the lack of water.
The impressive entry gateway, called Buland Darwaza, meaning ‘Door of Victory’ was built in 1601. It’s made of sandstone, decorated with white and black marble and is higher than the courtyard of the mosque. On the outside a flight of 42 steps sweeps down the hill giving the gateway additional height. It’s 40 metres high (15 storeys), constructed 50 metres above ground level,
and is the highest gateway in the world.
Since leaving Mumbai the weather has cooled considerably and we need more warm clothes. It’s been down to three degrees in the mornings here, with fog hanging around all day. So Hariom dropped us at a small shopping centre as soon as we reach Agra, and waited whilst we shopped for extra layers of clothes. We’re expecting cool foggy weather now for the rest of the trip. We were pleased to be finally dropped outside our accomodation, Bansi Homestay, where we bid Hariom an early good night. He’ll be back to collect us for a day of sightseeing at 7.30am in the morning.
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