Its almost an hour’s drive from Agra on the Jaipur highway. You know you have reached the town by the distinct scene of tourists being hounded by guides all claiming to be the authorised experts on the subject they are about to explore. So it happened with us as well. We had not even got off the car when a man with his “Authorised Guide” card duly hung around his neck offered to join us in her little exploration but of course bringing his vast pool of knowledge along.We all looked at each other and telepathically agreed that a guide was a must. Because lets face it out knowledge on the mughal history was limited to that one odd watch of Jodha Akbar (the movie).

So it began, a ride back into the little curtain drawn living room spaces where the small five foot three inches mughal king Akbar lived and went about his day to day life.

Fatehpur Sikhri. Few of us knew that the town’s name was drawn from its two main monuments- Fatehpur and Sikhri.

“Baith jaye tuk tuk mein” please sit in the tuk tuk.The guide meticulously explained that the car had to be left in the parking, as the rules there deemed it so. An alternate means of transport had to be taken, in this case a Tuk Tuk. Or in more simpler words a common place three wheeler auto.

Akbar had three wives, one from each religion. But unfortunately none of them bore him any children. For a long time he longed for an heir to his throne but year after year his wish left unfulfilled. In despair he went to almost all places of worship from Vaishnov devi to Ajmer’s dargah. It was after his visit to Ajmer that he had a dream.In the dream he was told that he must go to Sikhri and build a palace there, he would be blessed with a son thereafter.

And as fate would have it, Jehangir or popularly known as Salim was born.

Sikhri took ten years to be completed. From 1572 to 1582.

Akbar’s three wives- Mariyam, Ruqanya Begum and our lovely Jodha- each had a palace of their own. Akbar’s own palace had two rooms which he kept all for himself. A living room and a bedroom.

The room which the guide pointed out as the “Khwab ghar” or his bedroom had a raised platform which was told to us served as Akbar’s bed. The room had a huge window and in olden days to maintain its temprature during summers used to be filled with rose petals and water.

The beauty of that period was that no room or spaces had doors for any entries. Curtains doubled up as the locked entrance to any space or area. Such an arrangement left one in wonder as to what scope of privacy remained in that period. And this fact becomes more baffling given the light of the information that the Great mughal king not only kept three wives but over three hundred unofficial mistresses. Whatever may have been the pact but history has clearly told us that Akbar died of a stomach ache and not out of a catfight! So eventually it all worked out.

Out of three wives, it was Ruqaya begum who had the highest proximity to the King. This is not in terms of an emotional sense but only physical. Physical! Have we already started jumping to conclusions? Well please hold your guns. Rugaya begum in her tryst to remain close to Akbar chose the smallest palace to reside but the one that was closest in distance to Akbar’s own abode.

Moving on to Jodha. As rightfully mentioned in the movie also, Jodha was undoubtedly the most loved wife of Akbar. Akbar they say was so much influenced by her that he decided to build a bridge between his and her beliefs and invented the much doomed religion called “Din e illahi”. She had the biggest palace out of all four in the monument and also she did not convert to Islam. Her temple space is visible in the ancient monument till date.

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Two characteristic features of every Mughal queen palace is the now very famous ” Meena Bazaar”. In an open space vendors from all over would come and set up stalls. They would try and sell their little brick bats to the queens and the other ladies of the palaces. The highlight of this bazaar was not just the shoppping experiences exchanged there but the absolute necessary rule of having only women as vendors. No man whatsoever was allowed in these spaces. This brings us to the “other” feature of the queens’ palaces. Akbar as a man may have been an epitome of tolerance but as a husband he was just like any other man. No man was allowed to enter the palaces of his wives, so much so that the security of the queens was bestowed not upon normal male soldiers but eunuchs. His diktat was not just limited to this arrangement. Every once in a while he would adorn a burkha and spy upon the ladies to find out if any male had been able to breach the firewall.

This just proves one thing, men may go to the stars and moons. They may travel all over the world and praise margarate thatchers and indira gandhis of our times but when it comes to their own wives nothing less than a mirabai would suffice. The funny element of this craziness from the Mughal king is his own harem of three hundred mistresses built right behind the queens’ palaces.

Well so much for the King and his manhood.

The other interesting fact is that Jodha was the only queen who cooked and so she had a seperate kitchen built for herself. The kitchen architecture was no less than the other buildings but what made it even more interesting was this string of ornate border surrounding the outer walls. The guide promptly told us that the border was built to help select Jodha the jhumkas or earrings she would want to wear suiting the occasion or her mood. Earrings and architecture. We got quite astounded by the combination- earrings and architecture. He went on to explain us that the jhumkas kept in Jodha’s wardrobe were all replicated in stone on the kitchen building and she would indicate to her servants which one she wanted to wear by pointing it out on the wall. In this way the jhumkas would be brought out from the wardrobe for the mughal queen. AAHHHHH their whims and fancies seem so much more intricate and complicated as compared to our daily needs and chores. All I want is that my maid simply comes on time, rest all I will handle her orders rather than present her mine.

We finally moved out of the Sikhri and entered the beautiful fatehpur dargah. The Dargah itself reeks of serenity and peace. It is surrounded by the graves of the ancestors of the people who served the dargah. In fact even today if a person dies in any of their families they are allowed to bury them in fatehpur dargah.

Once we had visited the shrine inside and offered our prayers we moved on to the buland darwaza. The huge gate formed a magnificent entry to the land of mughals. Its high ceilings were surprisingly not haunted by the ghosts of the ancient kings but by common place bees and their hives.

We moved out of the Dargah and took a tuk tuk back to the parking lot.

With this we left the mystical land of Fatehpur Sikhri to move on to the mythological land of Krishna- Mathura Vrindavan (next time read for you 🙂 )

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