FATEHPUR SIKRI - We left for
Jaipur the next morning and stopped at Fatehpur Sikri about a 45
minute drive from Agra. Akbar, the greatest Mughal emperor was a
lover of art and culture under whose reign not only did the
Mughal empire triple in size, but also the economy.
established many centres of learning and was very tolerant to
all other faiths, especially Hinduism, celebrating Diwali with
Of his many wives his first three were his favourite.
Ruqqiya, his first wife and also first cousin, married to him
at the age of nine, was very learned and intelligent but bore
him no children.
Salima, the widow of Akbar’s most trusted general Bairam
Khan, was married to the emperor who also happened to be his
His third, and the one that changed Akbar’s thinking on
religious and social policies, was Heer Kanwari or Harkabai also
known more popularly as Jodhabai.
An Hindu Rajput princess from Amer / Amber this marriage was
a political alliance made to gain support from the Rajput royals
and gain access to Rajasthan and eventually Gujarat (a feat
achieved only by Akbar and no other Mughal emperor).
With no heir in sight, Akbar heard of a religious man in
Sikri (where the stone artisans lived).
Legend has it that he walked the 37km. barefoot to Sikri
from his capital in Agra, falling at the feet of the Sufi
saint Salim Chishti imploring him to bless him with a child.
Salim Chishti predicted that within the year, Akbar would
have a male heir to carry on the dynasty and as foretold, a
male child was born to Akbar and Jodhabhai, within that
Salim, named after the saint, who had an acrimonious relation
with his father especially due to his addiction to alcohol and
opium, was later named Emperor Jahangir.
To be nearer to the saint, Akbar decided to shift his capital
from Agra to Fatehabad (Fateh is victorious and Abad is abode or
city) on the Sikri ridge and construction of the walled city, in
red sandstone commenced in 1569, taking 15 years to build.
His three favourite wives were housed in three different
quarters but after the birth of Salim, it was Jodabhai, now
given the title of Mariam-uz-Zamani (Mary of the Age) who was
now the Malika-e-khaas (favourite wife).
She was given the largest apartments and even had her own
separate kitchen, since she was a staunch vegetarian.
The kitchen is decorated on the outside with carvings of
earrings and women’s ornaments denoting it as an area only for
While Ruqqiya and Salima’s apartments had Persian and Islamic
design, Jodabhai’s which also had her temples built for her,
were of Hindu design.
Jodhabai’s (there is conflict if that was really her name as
she is not mentioned as such in any of the historical
chronicles) nephew Raja Man Singh was one of the Navratnas (nine
jewels) in the court of Akbar.
Children were housed and schooled in yet another area and
Akbar had his bed, made of a stone slab at an elevation of about
Every night he would climb onto his bed and the ladder would
be removed to keep the emperor safe from any attacker.
One central hall, Diwan-i-khaas (Hall of private audience)
was built with a beautifully carved octagonal shaft that went up
to a central landing, supported by 36 serpentine brackets, from
which four bridges or walkaways connect to the four corners of
Akbar, who was not very tall at just over five feet, would
sit in the centre piece while his ministers would sit on the
bridges and important meetings would be held here.
Ibadat Khana (house of worship) was where the foundations of
a new syncretistic creed derived from Islam, Hinduism,
Zoroastrianism, and Christianity, Din-e-Ilahi were laid by
Din-e-Ilahi which portrayed Akbar as a prophet angered the
Muslim clerics and the orthodox Muslims for whom the last
Islamic prophet was Muhammad (SAW).
Despite being a Hindu all her life, Jodabhai was buried under
Islamic custom and as per Akbar’s wish, his only wife that is
buried next to him.
Other important buildings at Fatehpur Sikri are Birbal’s
house – Akbar’s favourite minister who was an Hindu; Buland
Darwaza – the stupendous 55 metre entrance to the fort
gradually making a transition to a human scale in the
inside; Anup Talao - ornamental pool with a central platform
and four bridges leading up to it, used for evening
performances by musicians and dancers; Pachisi court – now
known as Ludo, a square marked as a board game where the
playing pieces were humans, usually slaves; Taksal (mint);
Daftar Khana (Records Office); Karkhanas (royal workshop);
Khazana (treasury), Hamams (Turkish styled Baths).
Paanch Mahal (five palaces) is an imposing structure that is
five floors of decreasing size with the ground floor, having 84
columns and the top a single large umbrella-shaped dome.
The pillars on each floor originally had jaali (latticed
screens) between them supporting the whole structure.
Built very close to the harem or women’s quarters, queens and
princesses would enjoy the cool breezes and splendid views of
Sikri from the top floor.
Another feat we noticed not just here but all these old forts
that we visited, is the very straight channelling for rain
Today’s artisans could not hold a candle next to these
centuries old monuments.
When Salim Chisti died, an elaborate mausoleum, in marble,
was built on the grounds of the fort where people still visit,
to tie a thread and ask for blessings to have their wishes come
Due to lack of water the fort was abandoned almost after it
was completed and is now a ‘ghost town’.
Wherever you go hawkers really pester you and even ask for
your used tickets hoping to make a few rupees from re-selling
JAIPUR - Our next stop was Jaipur, capital
city of the state of Rajasthan, built by Sawai Jai Singh and
among the first of India’s planned cities. Beautifully laid
out gardens and parks, heritage hotels, colourful bazaars
that delight in Rajasthan handlooms and trinkets.
Made up of three parts, it has the old city at Amer (or
Amber), pink city (painted thus for a visit by the British royal
family a century ago) and the new city.
We have now entered the world of the Hindu and Rajput
maharajahs, which was equally as opulent as the Mughals.
Amer (also known as Amber after the Goddess Amba ) Fort or
Palace set on the ridge of a hill, is ascended on foot or by
elephants, just like royals did four hundred years ago.
These elephant rides can only be taken as per the season.
During the winter and cooler time of the year (November to
March) each elephant is allowed five round trips, while during
the much hotter summer they can only take one round trip each.
Fronting the fort is the Maota lake surrounded by beautifully
laid out gardens whose design was taken off a Persian carpet.
Built by Raja Man Singh (nephew of Akbar’s wife Jodhabai) in
the late 16
century, it is located in the area of the Aravalli hills and is
a mixture of Hindu and Islamic architecture.
Entry through the Sun (Pol) Gate takes you into the first
courtyard where armies would form victory parade after a battle
won and the women would watch the parades and throw flowers onto
the victors from Suhag Mandir (latticed windows high up on the
Ganesh (Pol) Gate).
Named after the Hindu god Ganesh who removes all obstacles in
life, this gate gave entry to the private palace of the
In the first courtyard you will see a small but very
beautiful temple to Sila Devi (an incarnation of Kali – Goddess
of death and Durga – the invincible Goddess).
It is here that animal sacrifices were done on the eighth day
of Navratri (the nine holy nights in a Hindu calendar which are
devoted to the Goddess Amba), a practise which has been banned
People still come to worship at the temple.
Diwan-i-Am or the Public Audience Hall, in the second
courtyard, is a raised platform with 27 colonnades, each of
which is mounted with elephant shaped capital with galleries
In the private quarters of the Maharaja and his family in the
third courtyard, there are two buildings opposite each other,
separated by a garden laid in the fashion of the Mughal gardens.
To the left is the Jai Mandir also known as Sheesh Mahal
(mirror palace) where mirror mosaics and coloured glass would
reflect the light of one candle like a glittering jewel box.
Glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings even on the
outside gives it an even more beautiful look.
Unfortunately the inner part of this room was closed to the
public due to renovations.
Royal family, many concubines and mistresses lived in
Travelling across beautiful India should be an all year