The pool at the Palace of Jodh Bai.
The Victory Gate entering the mosque.
August 13, 2006
Fatehpuri Sikiri is not too far from Agra and that is what would bring me here. This town was the home to Emperor Akbar and
was the capital of the Mughal empire (though only for a short time - 1571 through 1585). The amazing thing about this
emperor was his tolerance to other religions. Though he was Muslim, he was very open-minded to Christians and Hindus. In
fact, he had wives that were of these religions. He incorporated many religions into this desert city so that he could engage in
debate. Because there was a shortage of water in this area (it was far from any rivers), it was abandoned soon after Emperor
Akbar passed away. Gone, too, were the liberal attitudes that he employed.
There are really just two things to see here: the mosque (Jama Masjid) and the palace buildings.
It had been a while since I had seen such a grand mosque (heck, it had been a while since I had seen any mosque). The only
one I could think of on this scale was Umayyed Mosque in Damascus. When walking through one of the four corners, it was
necessary to tiptoe my way in and out of the different tombs (as bodies of the family members are buried here – and continue
to be buried here). Picnicking Muslim families lines the entire inside perimeter of the courtyard. There is a huge gate that leads
into the courtyard which is called the ‘Victory Gate’. At 54 meters high, it is the largest gate in Asia (I am just doing my best to
supply you with ‘fun facts’ along the way). There is a mausoleum directly across from the gate that is filled with colorful murals
and a canopy that consisted of mother-of-pearl. I never actually saw the inside of the mosque but that was okay – I am going
to assume that it was the requisite large space filled with people praying while facing in the direction of Mecca.
I also went to the palace buildings. I am now learning that there are certain terms that are used by all palaces out here. ‘Diwan-
i-Khas’ would mean the ‘Hall of Private Audiences’. ‘Diwan-i-Am’ would mean ‘Hall of Pubic Audiences’. Other things found
here were a treasury, an astrologer’s kiosk, an ornamental pool, the ‘Panch Mahal’ (used by the court ladies) and the Palace of
Jodh Bai (which sported Hindu, Islamic and Persian influences).
I have gotten ‘churched out’ in Europe. I have gotten ‘templed out’ in Egypt. And now I think I am almost at the point where I
am ‘forted and palaced out’ in India. I have only seen two at this point but already I am having a hard time remembering
which one was which. I know there are still some major ones to see while in Rajasthan but I think I am going to start being a bit
more choosey when it comes to which ones I entered.
This town is obviously not one that somebody would stop in if they were taking a train in and out of Agra. But since we were
driving through, it was okay for a two-hour break…