Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Agra to Jaipur

It was another early start this morning as we said goodbye to Agra and headed south west towards Jaipur, via the Fatehpur Sikri (Victory Palace), the red sandstone fort and palace grounds of Akbar the Great, grandfather of Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal.

Completed in 1571 Fatehpur Sikri  blends both Islamic and Hindu architectural styles, reflecting Akbar’s determination to be a conciliatory ruler. He had three wives: one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian. They lived together (alongside a small city’s worth of concubines and court staff) at Fatehpaur Sikri for 16 years. Akbar moved his court here on the advice of a holy man who predicted one of his wives would bear him a long awaited son if he did that – which indeed did happen. His favourite Hindu wife bore him a son (Jehangir) during their time at Fatehpaur Sikri.

This beautiful little pavilion was for the court astrologer which was of great interest to Judy, Jennie and Sophie who'd had an astrologer's reading done the night before at our hotel.

This was he Christian wife's palace - covered in colourful paintings in its day.

This was the Hindu wife's palace (she had the biggest palace of the three wives).

And this was the exterior wall of her special Hindu vegetarian kitchen (with all the typical Rajasthan decorative elements).

And this was Akbar's bedroom. He slept up on the platform (swathed in silk and carpets of course) and the floor was filled with rosewater during the hot months of the year.

This was the entrance to the Muslim wife's palace (it was small but very decorative).

The court only lasted 16 years at Fatehpaur Sikri because of the difficulties with its water supply.

We had to say goodbye to our lovely guide Ali at this point as he returned to Agra and we kept proceeding towards Jaipur along the flat clay baked plains of this part of India.  Next stop about an hour out of Fatehpur Sikri was at the Keoladeo National Park, renowned in India for its bird life. Once part of a Maharaja’s estate this area of wetlands was the sight of many duck and bird shoots during the time of the Raj. With UNESCO World Heritage Listing in the eighties has come an end to the destruction of birdlife and some attempts to set the area up as a national park. Today we had wonderful views of hundreds of painted storks nesting in the trees above the wetlands, a number of owls and other varieties of storks, egrets and herons and some butterflies from the Himalayas. The conditions at the park were not good and the hustling for extra money at every point did not leave a favourable impression.

The drive from Keoladeo to Jaipur was a long one, a good five hours broken by a short stop at a roadside diner. The road was better than I expected, not a lot of traffic, mainly heavily laden old trucks, cyclists, a few camels and wagons and the odd cow as we passed through a village. The landscape was flat, becoming increasingly green and more intensively farmed as we neared Jaipur.

It was well after five that we climbed the pass through the Aravelli Hills and approached the crowded crazy chaotic “pink” city of Jaipur. Driving through the outskirts of the city we could tell it was more prosperous than Agra but more crazy for all that. The contrast of the piles of rubbish, the ramshackle shelters, the pigs foraging in the streets with the more modern apartments scattered around was all the more amazing!

Our Samode Haveli is an absolute haven in amongst the mayhem of Jaipur. The haveli is the home of the Maharaja and our beautiful suite and attached courtyard is suitably styled so that we can imagine we’re quite grand. We’ve all made a vow to use the gorgeous pool area. 

It was my birthday today so dinner (a thali and cake) in the candle lit haveli courtyard was a very special celebration.


Jack and William's Mum said...

Happy Birthday Judy! I'm hooked on every post in this Indian adventure and living vicariously through the blog. Your photography has come such a long way. The images are more appealing than any travel brochure. I'm sold. Take me to India.

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