After glimpsing the Taj and ordering a Masala Chai at breakfast we were off on a 5 hour drive to Jaipur with a quick stop at Fatephur Sikri (the forgotten city).
Fatehphur Sikri is known as the forgotten city because although it take approximately 15 years to build, being completed around 1571 it was only used for about 14 years due to lack of water supply and because the new Mughal emperor wanted to move the capital back to Agra.
The city was interesting because it had a very different feel than Delhi or Agra. The sights in the old city were mainly restored works, but retained the original plans and a lot of the original stones. There was even a human sized Parcheesi board that the emperor used for entertainment with his harem, as the girls would be the pieces jumping from square to square…oh the life of a emperor!
The most impressive sight at Fatehphur was the Jama Masjid, and in particular the Tomb of Salim Chisti. This tomb was erected to a holy man, Salim Chisti, who foretold of the birth of a son to a Mughal Emperor and thus following his (the holy man’s) death, the tomb was built in 1581 and is still heavily used today. Luckily we had scarves/caps to cover our head otherwise we would not have been allowed in. People from all over India and in fact probably all over the world come to offer blessings and ask for help with fertility and probably help with bearing sons (if that is what you want). The tomb was made of white marble and the white marble screens that exhibited the skill of the carvers were exquisite examples of marble lattice work and are considered to rival or surpass some of the work at the Taj and other places we saw in India. The tomb inside was covered by mother of pearl and shone brilliantly. See a few photos below of the mosque and the tomb.
|Women praying at the tomb|
|Strings tied on the lattice work at the tomb, each string represents a plea for fertility…we did not tie one on!|
Once we had been humbled by the tomb and the heat of the morning we set off for a half day drive to Jaipur. Late afternoon we arrived in Jaipur and did some brief shopping, got dinner, and then got some sleep before another day of touring temples, palaces and the city of Jaipur.
The day started early with Carrie confusing the poor waitstaff by saying Namaste (hello in Hindi) asking for Masala Chai and a Masala Dosa, all of which had to be brought from the kitchen because this wasn’t part of the buffet on display as tourists seemingly don’t normally eat it (there is a theme here so sorry for the redundancy but the looks and laughs never really got old).
We started the morning with a short car ride to the Amber Fort and then like traditional guests to the Fort we took an Elephant ride up the long and steep hill. It was quite fun to ride an elephant, despite this being maybe our third time doing it, we got to ride side saddle and this was the first time we had seen so many colorful paints on the elephants (again the theme in India especially the state of Rajasthan was bright and bold colors). We also had glimpses of the old town wall that rose and fell over hills and encompassed a huge area and stretched for kilometers.
Once inside the Amber Fort we had a great tour of the welcoming area or public reception area and then headed off to the female part of the palace that contained some beautiful arches, doors, and stonework that again remained very well intact. The highlight though was the hall of mirrors, which was built with mirrors all over and coupled with precious stones including rubys, sapphires, etc to highlight the white marble structure and complement the mirrors. Again the pictures below do not do it justice especially as the reflection and radiance of the stones and sun were wonderful.
|Hall of Mirrors up close|
|The Hall of Mirrors again|
After kicking around the fort for a couple hours we headed back to the old Jaipur city area glimpsing the wind palace (which is really just a facade now) but was used for the royal women to look out of, without being seen and was a beautiful pink color..made of sandstone.
We then went for a walk around the old city. We adventurously (or stupidly depending on your view), tried some fruits from the vendors and ate some jaggery (cane sugar). Some of the more interesting things we saw and tried were custard apples, water nut like water chestnuts (eaten raw as a fruit in India), piles of flowers for homes and offerings, and of course samosas being prepared for lunch (we did not try this). We really felt like locals at this point because people largely ignored us and let us walk through the streets and watch people doing normal everyday shopping, eating, and working.
|Jaggery (sugary and delicious)|
Following that experience it was time to be a tourist again and we headed to the city palace (still in use) and the Jantar Mantar (a collection of astrological instruments).
The astrological items were built around 1730 and were very accurate tools to tell time and where the stars aligned for various astrological signs and events. It really clarified how important astrology is the Indians and how much of life is governed by the matching of astrological signs and how exact all of this has become for Indians. It was interesting to see the very large sundials and star charts and we even took pictures near our zodiac signs (Aries for Carrie and Cancer for Charles).
The astrological tools are next to the city palace, which is still in use today and the royal ruler or Raj remains as the governor of Jaipur. Therefore the palace is well maintained and like most things we saw in India, was amazing in its own way. In particular the building had a very unique combination of color schemes and had an astonishing peacock gate that again cannot be conveyed properly in pictures, but was a very colorful and detailed piece of art.
The final stop of the day was to a block printing shop that showed us the process of some traditional Jaipur handicrafts and then we had a dinner experience that was very unique (wait for the food adventure post).
We had fun touring Jaipur the pink city, which was the first city in India that was completely planned and laid out in a grid. It kept traffic at a minimum except that it was planned for about 200,000 people and now closer to 3.2 million live there. The city was also painted pink in 1853 to welcome the prince of wales and has been repainted pink since then every so often to retain the unique and bold color of the old city area.
The next stop was to celebrate our anniversary in the picturesque city of lakes, Udaipur.