Day 141 (2): The ghost city of Akbar the Great
Fatehpur Sikri Travel Blog› entry 190 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
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.
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.
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!