Few weeks back, I went for a glorious day-long excursion to Fatehpur Sikri and Agra, in Uttar Pradesh with my friend and her cousin. Being the historical-monuments-obsessed person that I am, this was just my kind of holiday. The fact that the places we were going to had a strong Mughal connection, was perhaps the icing on the cake.
So, firstly, thank you Stuti, for making sure I went.
I’ve always been highly fascinated with royal dynasties, especially the Mughals and the ancient Egyptians. And after having read Subhadra Sen Gupta’s fascinating books (written as personal diaries) on Princess Jahanara (daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan) and Queen Jodha Bai (wife of Akbar, mother of Jahangir), my fascination with the Mughals escalated even more.
So, for me, going to any Mughal monument means getting lost in the past. For a while, I live with the ghosts of the past; hear their laughter, imagine their baithaks (meetings), the flowing ghagras, the tinkling anklets…
Forgive me…I was lost in another world.
So, anyway, we first went to Fatehpur Sikri. The word ‘fateh’ literally means victory, and the place was so named when Akbar was finally able to capture this erstwhile Sikrigarh from the Sikriwal Rajput kings. Check out the awesome history lesson from Wikipedia here.
Okay…too much history. Here are some pictures!
The Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri (built by Akbar after his victory over Gujrat) is one of the major attractions. Its supposed to be the tallest gate in all of Asia (according to our guide). Now, to me it seemed like the tallest gate in the WORLD. We were simply dwarfed by it. Like, literally.
We found an interesting thing at the small entry gate of the Buland Darwaza; numerous horse shoes hammered into the wood. The story behind it is that whenever a horse would get ill, its owner would come and put its shoe on the gate here, praying for a speedy recovery. It makes sense, because in those days, horses were basically the fastest way of transport and trusty steeds during battles. So their good health was worthy of special prayers!
The Fatehpur Sikri complex is also very important because of the presence of the Dargah of the Saint Salim Chisti. It’s a beautiful break from the red sandstone (Akbar’s favourite building material), with its pristine white marble and intricate jaali-work (stone cut to give a lattice or lace-like effect).
After offering our prayers at Salim Chisti’s Dargah, we went to the next obvious place…Agra. Home to one of the Seven Wonders of The World – The Taj Mahal.
And it was a rainy day.
And…being the optimistic person I am, and being with two just as optimistic and crazy people, we had a blast roaming around a very wet Taj complex. Can I just say…not too many people have the chance to get to see the Taj Mahal in the rain. So, it was quite an experience on its own.
Wanna know what the Taj looks like in the rain? Like this…
Yep…lots of umbrellas and glistening walkways. The marble didn’t dazzle us as it does in bright sunlight, but there was a sort of…feeling. You cannot help but be awed just as you stand there, looking at something so beautiful; a beauty that all the hi-tech machines cannot replicate today, which was made entirely by hand thousands of years ago.
It is beautiful. No questions asked.
All the rumours and mysteries surrounding the Taj, of course, add to the curiosity. For example, did Shah Jahan really plan to build another Taj Mahal, this time in black marble, on the opposite bank of the stately Yamuna river? Did he really have the thumbs of his master sculptors cut off so that they could never make something as beautiful as this ever again? Does Mumtaz Mahal, the lucky lady for whom this poetry in stone was written, really lie for all eternity in the sarcophagus below, or was she actually buried right outside the Taj complex, as some experts say?
Questions are always raised as to the ‘true love’ which this monument symbolises. The love that Emperor Shah Jahan had for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. And I, at the risk of sounding very unromantic, would have to say that I too do not believe he pined away as much for Mumtaz Mahal as some romantics will have us believe. He went on with his life, but yes, he lost a companion and a friend, and the mother of most of his children. But, as Oscar Wilde put it – life…it goes on.
Nevertheless, it cannot be argued that it was a sign of the fondness he had for his Queen that he decided to build the most beautiful ode to love, which would live on for centuries to come. And it is heartbreakingly beautiful!
I got this beautiful shot once the skies had cleared up a bit. And I just love how the greyness of the sky makes the beautiful white marble stand out even more!
All I can say is that it was a wonderful day. The rain caused us much vexation, but it couldn’t dampen our spirits at the end. Three cheers for one-day holidays!
If you want, you can check out all the photographs I took on the trip, HERE, on my Flickr photostream.