Day 141 (2): The ghost city of Akbar the Great

Fatehpur Sikri Travel Blog

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Ed and me at Fatehpur Sikri

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)

Today we would drive to the town of Sawai Madhopur, which lies on the edge of the Ranthambhore National Park. On the way we passed another World Heritage Site: the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri.

This city was built by Akbar the Great as capital of his Mughal empire. Akbar subsequently had to change his name to Akbar the not-so Great when it turned out that the city, built in a desert and far away from rivers or other water sources, could not sustain life. It was abandoned after only 14 years.

Most of the city has disappeared (a new, modern town has sprung up), but Akbar's palace and a massive mosque have been well-preserved.

Beautifully carved stone pillar inside the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences)

The palace was too similar to the Agra fort for my taste: lots of kitschy ornamented buildings, which looked to 'dead' for me. (I guess that's why they call it a ghost town).
The only structure worth mentioning is the small Diwan-i-Khas, the Hall of Private Audiences, which is dominated by a stunningly carved stone column.

 

The nearby Akbar-era Jama Masjid mosque is still in use and as a result I liked it much more.
The Jama Masjid has a fantastic 54 metre high entrance gate, the Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate), which is said to be the largest in Asia. No mean feat when you consider it was built in 1571!
The mosque itself follows typical Mughal building style, i.e. it is an open air mosque with mass prayers happening in a courtyard rather than an enclosed hall. Around the courtyard there are several small Iwans, as well as a few tombs.

Buland Darwaza at Jama Masjid

There was one thing I didn't like about the mosque though. The imams seem to be turning the religion into a commercial business. It is normal for people to leave a small donation when they visit a mosque, however, this should not be compulsory. I witnessed a few young Indians who came to pay their respects at one of the mausoleums and the imam refused to give his blessings unless they paid some money! Absolutely disgraceful! I mean, it's not as if they really need the money. Ticket prices pay for the upkeep of the monument and UNESCO takes care of the rest. That's the way how world heritage monuments work!
I have seen these things happening before, Catholic churches in Mexico have a similar approach to religion. This is the first time I've seen it happen in a mosque though.

As the day progressed I started feeling somewhat better, yet Ed started feeling worse. By the time we arrived at our hotel it was his turn to retire to bed and my turn to eat by myself. Ah, the joys of travelling in India!

Biedjee says:
I don't really like palaces which have been meticulously restored but which otherwise look completely dead. Both Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri fall into this category (though I did like the Amber fort and the fort at Jodhpur).

I do like old temples, churches, mosques and mausoleums which are still used as a place of worship, where you can see how people react when they visit the place. If the mosque had just been an empty place with its only visitors being tourists, I would not have liked it either.

However, I was feeling like hell that day, so perhaps if I ever visit the place again I might feel differently...
Posted on: Dec 10, 2010
edsander says:
Interesting how we liked different things. I really like Fatehpur Sikri, even when visiting it a second time. But I couldn't be bothered by the mosque the first or the second time. With the exception of the Victory Gate I admit.
Posted on: Dec 10, 2010
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Ed and me at Fatehpur Sikri
Ed and me at Fatehpur Sikri
Beautifully carved stone pillar in…
Beautifully carved stone pillar i…
Buland Darwaza at Jama Masjid
Buland Darwaza at Jama Masjid
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
Ornamental pool at Fatehpur Sikri
Ornamental pool at Fatehpur Sikri
Detail of a wall at Fatehpur Sikri
Detail of a wall at Fatehpur Sikri
Jama Masjid
Jama Masjid
The 54 metre high Buland Darwaza a…
The 54 metre high Buland Darwaza …
Jama Masjid
Jama Masjid
On the road to Ranthambhore
On the road to Ranthambhore
Fatehpur Sikri
photo by: joseph98