Fatehpur (minus the Sikri)
I thought Agra was pretty bad with flies, touts and rubbish, but turns out nearby Fatehpur is even worse.
Locals crowd up against you trying to sell you postcards, brochures, necklaces or anklets, peacock fans, or soapstone carvings that they claim is marble. Little kids beg you to take pictures (then ask for 10 rupees) or try to sell you pens when they’re not asking for pens. There were a few damn smart kids, though, I predict they’ll grow up to be suave tourist scammers.
Most of all, we were besieged by so many “students” (of all ages) who just wanted to ‘share’ information with us while ‘practicing’ their English. One particularly persistent guy (of a student age, I’ll give him that) asked me where I was from. I was quite annoyed by this point, so our short conversation went like this:
Him: Where you from?
Me: United States. You?
Yes, I meant where in India?
Oh, here. Fatehpur.
So students like you just hang out here? Why aren’t you in school?
Oh… (stutters) I just want to help.
And you’re not trying to earn money?
No. (Eyes down to the ground)
Are you being honest?
(Looks at me, then back to the ground) No.
(I nod) Ahhh.(pregnant pause) Well, thank you for your honesty.
(He gives me a big, betel-red smile and then leans over close) But for you no charge. you smart.
It took me another 5 minutes to shake him off (“I just want to be alone and take photos. Do you know what alone means? No help. Yes, alone. By myself.”) and then after that I just acted as if I couldn’t hear or speak or understand anyone. One kid wanted to test me and said things like, “you liar.” (pause) “you bad person.” (pause) “you ugly.” (slight grin) I stopped walking and told him, in sign language, to go bother someone else. He tailed me around a bit and finally left.
Anyway, all that hullabaloo ended up distracting me horribly from the real reason we were there: the ruins! All this happened in the courtyard of the Jama Masjid (mosque). When we finally went past the ticket booth into the ruins, we were granted blessed peace and silence.
The ruins are the creation of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, of the late 1500s. He was the son of Humayun (whose tomb we visited in Delhi a few days ago).
He shifted the capital from Agra to a new location about 40 km west after he had a palace built, including administrative buildings as well. He named it Fatehabad (fateh meaning victory). Reasons why vary according to sources, but the one I like best is that the childless Akbar wished to honor the saint, Salim Chisti, who predicted Akbar would get his long awaited heir. An interesting thing about Akbar from the LP (though wiki and google search turned up no information about this): he supposedly had three wives of different religions, Christian, Hindu and Muslim.
Today, the body of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti rests inside a carved marble enclosure, the walls supposedly solid panels of pierced marble (called jali). Because of the ‘myth’ (or fact) of Akbar’s fortune, many childless women who come to visit, tie a piece of string to the jali, in hopes they will be also blessed with the gift of life giving.
The rest of the palace grounds and most of the ruins are all made of local red sandstone, and is said to be classic mughal architecture with influences of indigenous workers from Gujarat, Bengal and Islam.
The carvings are incredible, the buildings are mostly open and airy (as airy as stone buildings can get, that is) and the grounds are sprawling.
Now that we got the history out of the way, here are the pics.