Monday, May 14, 2007

Fatehpur Sikri

I was looking through my pictures and came across some of Fatehpur Sikri. And I wondered - how come I never wrote about it ? Was it simply because the touts made it impossible for me to enjoy the place ? Or was it because the weather was so hot ?

Don't get me wrong, the place itself is beautiful. And the architecture great and awe inspiring, especially the red sandstone made it look out of the world. Infact I was reminded of quite a few scenes of the movie Pardes. But still....

So I decided to pen down what were the precise reasons that put me off.

Reason 1: First impression - We approached the fort through a small bazaar outside the fort. There were touts in the bazaar who insisted that we stop our car and pay them some amount for parking near the fort. They were using a thick rope as a makeshift barrier to stop passerbys like us.

Reason 2: As soon as we got out of the car, there were guides pursuing us like crazy. There seemed to be no official place to get any ticket/information on the place. Apparently the fort itself is managed by the local board or something (I forget) and so there is no one to enforce propriety.

Reason 3: This is a trivial reason, but I distinctly remember that we were not allowed to wear shoes in some portions and the ground was burning hot.

Reason 4: Even when we went inside the dargah of Salim Chishti, a priest/qazi put a hand behind my head and before I knew what was happening, with a hard push bent it in front of the dargah. Then with a long bunch of feathers he blessed me and asked me to pay some money as "donation". Of course I paid up the damages (I am sorry, I can't call it an offering since it was not of my own free will). But even after that they would not let me stand for a couple of minutes in the dargah. "Move ahead", he said.

In all fairness, here are some high-points of the place.

1. The red sandstone architecture and the expansive courtyard.

2. The intricately carved windows inside the dargah, made of a single marble piece.

3. The magnificence of the huge Buland Darwaza, even though it was infested with bee nests (honeycombs) at the very top.

4. The hawker outside that was selling cool and refreshing fruit salad and kakri (type of cucumber).

But I really wish the government would pay more attention to the upkeep and maintenance of these monuments. And do something about these touts.


Bombay Addict said...

Hi - Here via Blogbharti.

We (self and wife) visited Fatehpur Sikri in Dec-06 and loved the place (in fact I've also posted some photos over at my blog).

On what you said..
Reason 1 - I think we were lucky that our car driver knew where to park. I remember how someone almost barged on to our car (for the same parking thing you mentioned). Our driver stopped the car, yelled back at him and went ahead. Disturbing stuff.

Reason 2 - The guides, well, you can't avoid them. They were everywhere at the Taj also. But, I think all of them are Govt. certified. I remember the time we went, almost all of these guys had a Govt I-card tags around their necks.

We didn't use a guide at the Taj, but we did at Fatehpur Sikri. I mean we were like totally new to this place, had not read up or anything, didn't have any book. So we found the guide useful. Rs100 for an hour is kinda ok, I thought - and this was also the official rate as per the board put there. Oh, and he also told us where to find the tickets, so that saved me a couple of rounds of finding the place!

Reason 3 - That's weird. Was that at the dargah?

Reason 4 - This was horrid on their part. Really bad.

Overall - We were awed by the place and saddened by the near-derelict state its in. At one point I was even ashamed of the various "X loves Y" scribbled at the monuments, even as foreigners (so many tourists!) were clicking snaps of these same places. While the Govt. might not be doing a great job of maintaining the place, I think there's a lot to say about us (public) who vandalize these historic sites.

Karnail said...

Thats why we dont get our share of the international tourist market, despite of the potential.
My "Gwalior Fort" was like that

Pooja Aggarwal said...

@bombay addict: I agree, I too was awed by the architecture and all. But for reasons mentioned, I was not all that satisfied. I hate to admit - maybe i am getting used to the high level of propriety in US. But I wonder why things can't be similar back home.

@karnail: I truly feel India has a lot to offer in way of tourism, if only we could improve the customer service we offer.

Mridula said...

Lovely pictures Pooja. Have been there a few years back and I agree about the place not being well maintained. And this is another world heritage site.

Sigma said...

I agree - the experience of self-proclaimed guides on the road jumping on your car is really off-putting.
In January, we went to Agra [from Bharatpur]. Sikri falls right on the way - when we were passing through that stretch of road I saw a huge crowd of people on the sides ... some of them were screaming something, and almost blocked our way. I was scared for a moment, but we were saved from trouble as my father knew what it was , having lived for several years in those parts.

We didn't go to Sikri on this visit, but I have been there a few times befire, and it is an amazing place.

Bendtherulz said...

This place has such importance in history. The pics which you have shown here are quite nice. Loved the Marble Jaali.
When I was there with a friend we never clicked the pic so it was good to see all these images.
I can imagine what happens if people are so aggressive. Its very off putting.
We were there in winter and reached the place in evening so it was out of this world experience , very few people around, with lobaan and rose mingled air..... Infact I found visit to this place much better then Taj Mahal.

Anil P said...

Te carved windows . . . I can only imagine what it must be like to see light streaming through it.

What was it like for you?

Pooja Aggarwal said...

@Mridula: Yeah. I wish we would pay more attention to the upkeep of these places.

@Shalini: I, too, was saved because of my brother-in-law who knew about this thing and told the driver to drive on. But just seeing a crowd of people almost jump onto our car was scary

@bendtherulz: Agree. There were less crowds here and the place was serene and peaceful compared to the Taj. I loved sitting quietly in one corner and just looking around.

@Anil: To be honest, this is just the top portion of the jaali. I had to cut off the main portion because someone came in front when I took the picture. So imagine something topped by this and thrice the size. Thats how huge the jaali actually was.
It was huge and with light streaming through it, it almost gave the place a divine feeling.

Hank Freid said...

In my point of view, July to Sep. is the best time to visit there. However it is really nice place, which really depicts the civilization, culture.