Last June, while monsoon was glooming, I went for my first outing since I have moved to Delhi. Fatehpur Sikri.
I was most interested in visiting this ghost town I had heard about!!
I have to say I was a bit disappointed as it is more of a palace, the kind you see a lot in Rajasthan, than a ghost town.
However I really liked the place, it was very big and hardly anyone was visiting it.
It is called a ghost city because it was inhabited for only 13 years (from 1572 to 1585) before being abandoned as water had dried out. I always thought one must be stupid to build a city on a dry place but water had actually been abundant there since pre-historic time…
Talking of water, I loved the master bedroom with the summer bed, on a platform 2 meters high; in summer time, they would fill the floor with water and rose water so that it would cool down and smell good!
Fatehpur Sikri was the “first planned city of the Mughals” and the residence of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (son of Humayun, grandson of Babur the first Mughal Emperor). He had “shifted his residence and court from Agra to Sikri to honour the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who resided here (in a cavern on the ridge).”
So there are two parts to visit: the palace and the religious courtyard with the tomb of the saint which is super famous. It is said that if you go there, place a piece of cloth on the tomb, throw rose petals, make three wishes and tie a thread on the window, your wishes will come true. Legend has it that this is how Carla Bruni got her baby!!
Akbar was a great Emperor, illiterate but cultivated and ultra-tolerant.
As his Muslim ancestors before him, he had to fight the Rajputs (Hindus), who were dangerous but not unified. “Make love not war”: Akbar married the daughter of a Rajput King (from Amber) – she was offered to him as her father was seeking protection of Akbar against his peers who wanted to take his throne. “Akbar followed the same feudal policy toward the other Rajput chiefs. They were allowed to hold their ancestral territories, provided that they acknowledged Akbar as emperor, paid tribute, supplied troops when required, and concluded a marriage alliance with him.” “In total, Akbar had 36 wives of various ethnic and religious backgrounds.”
“Probably even more importantly to his ordinary subjects, Akbar repealed a special tax placed on Hindu pilgrims who visited sacred sites, and completely repealed the jizya, or yearly tax on non-Muslims. What he lost in revenue by these acts, he more than regained in good-will from the Hindu majority of his subjects.”
|Fatehpur Sikri, UP - June 2012|
The day before the festival of Shiva (on February 20), I came across one of his devotees with his trident (!!) while waiting for my rickshaw:
In the evening, during dinner, I asked my hosts: “What is Maha Shivatri?”.
Answer of the father: “no idea”.
Answer of the mother (who thought hard): “Once upon a time there was Vishnu who spent much of his time lying down on his snake itself lying on the ocean. One day the ocean was irritated and started to throw up things. The demons and the gods shared them but nobody wanted the poison. Then Shiva sacrificed himself and swallowed the poison. But his wife, refusing him to die, put her hands around his neck so that the poison would not go down. But the gods, refusing the poison to be spelled out, blocked his mouth. Thus the poison remained in Shiva’s head and that it is why he is blue. This is what we celebrate for Maha Shivaratri.”
Apparently it is the right explanation (at least one of the right explanations)! http://hinduism.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/p/mahashivratri.htm
A philosophy I quite like:
"Although it would be ridiculous to say that eroticism in art or religion began in any one place, it is certain that the specific philosophy known as “Tantra” began in India. It also reached its highest artistic
“Tantra” is a Sanskrit word taken from the root tan-, “to expand.”
“Tantrism” is a form of religious practice that takes elements from its Vedic roots and combines them with elements of Buddhism and Hinduism to form a synthesis with universal roots. Elements of Tantra date back nearly 5,000 years to the Harappan Culture (Indus Valley Civilization, c. 2300–1700 B.C.)
Invasions by the Huns, the Moslems, and Victorian soldiers led to an end of the flowering of Tantrism in India. It continues to this day, but nothing could rival the expression Tantrism found in the Northern Medieval period in India.
Tantra involves esoteric sacramental practice. For instance sexual intercourse is
(Click on “Lire la suite” to read more)
At breakfast, the room of the restaurant is empty, as well as the plates. We feel like asking for the moon when we ask for toasts. We decide to give up, leave and buy biscuits somewhere. Well, yes, except that the car will be 30 minutes late. The guy at the reception sends us back to breakfast where by magic food has appeared! We stuff ourselves with parathas and potatoes!
We then visit the Sun Temple of Konark, a massive charriot with 24 giant wheels. An enormous stone temple which dates from the 11th century, partly renovated, full of erotic sculptures from the tantric period (soon a post on this).
Small digression on one of the Indian paradoxes: they worship penises (the lingam of Shiva), a lot of temples are adorned of sculptures with sexual character but the smallest hint of a tit on TV and the image is blurred and the sex is a huge taboo. A heritage of the English according to my Indian friends; in my opinion it started changing well well before the British time, and the Arab invasions starting in the 8th century also played a part - and I am not the only one to think that! see here). And here are the Indians somehow stuck between thousands year old tradition and “modernity”. Just saying…
The complex of the temple was superb, not only the architecture (see here: A) but the gardens, and we enjoyed it big time in spite of the heat and the Indians who stopped us every 30 seconds (I do not exaggerate) to take a picture of/with us. A little annoying after some time…
Small stop at the beach on the way back. Virgin beach as soon as one moves away a little. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and quiet beach that I have seen in India.
|De Konark, Orissa - Nov 2011|
Lunch at 3:30 in the only open restaurant. “Open all the day”. The waiter brings us the menu and lets us lose ourselves in it. And then at the time of the order (some 10 minutes later), there is only “fried rice”. Normal. And a chai? No? Good… He finally takes his fingers out of his a.. to prepare me a tea!!
After that it is superb! There is an incredible crowd on the beach. The tradition in this auspicious day (Kartik Purnima) is to send small boats to the sea, in commemoration of the close relatives who left in this day to Java, Sumatra, Bali (from where the name of Bali Yatra or Boita Bandana). Many people come to the beach for that, including tribal Indians, the old women not wearing a blouse under their saris etc. What a piety!
A superb experience thus, especially with the puja (ceremony) on the beach at 18:30 where the Hindus get purified by fire. Many people took pictures of us but it was only fair as we did the same!
The next morning, on the advice of the guy at the hotel, we decide to go to Jagannath temple at 5 in the morning, the “best time” according to him. We are excited: it is an important place of pilgrimage, apparently a site that Hindus should visit at least once in their life!
How surprised we are when we discover, at the entry number one, that only Hindus are authorized to enter!! But how??? It was written nowhere on the site of tourism of Orissa!!
I jabber a bit of Hindi and the guard sends me to the “identification office”.
In the most total chaos of pilgrims, cows etc, we turn around this immense temple, with guys following us all along.
At the last entry, it seems that we will be able to enter. A so-called priest with a loincloth and only one tooth begins to talk to us. I leave shoes, camera and cellphone (all of this is prohibited) to my friends and go to try my luck with these guards.Nothingl. When I go back to my friends, I am a bit irritated (I respect; but I would have found nice if the guy at the hotel or the rickshaw had informed me; it is 5 in the morning for the love of God!!). The priest is still there pestering them. He wants to sell offerings for the God we won’t be able to see. It pisses me off!! I ask him to leave us. The fellow understands that his pathetic strategy to get money from us has failed and gets upset: “You are Christians? HERETICS!! Go back to your country. ”
Mmmmhhhhh. Mmmmmhhhhhhh. And YOU WANT MY FIST ON YOUR FACE @fod,ezi#[|éfr€ioz@] ?? (I did not say that, it is not very politically correct, and he was old and skinny, and above all I could not the words, but it gives an idea of the atmosphere on that early morning with people annoying tourists at any hour…)
It reminds me of the situation Christian-Hindus is tended a little in Orissa, and apparently, this is not a joke.
But not regrets, it was awesome to see all the pilgrims and the fishermen when we got back to the beach.
This time, the taxi to the airport was there one hour early. The boy comes to seek me on the beach for me to announce it and I indicate to him that I want to take my breakfast first. He asks me what I want. Just toasts. 30 minutes later, we are in the restaurant room. And 20 minutes later, nothing. Nothing at all. I call the boy, inquire where the toasts are. He looks at me with empty eyes and asks “what toasts?”. Holy cow…
|Puri, Orissa - Nov 2011|
Retrospectively, first words of Lonely Planet on Orissa: it is very laid-back.
Ah! That it is the least you can say!! No stress there…
I learned my lesson: to avoid bad surprises next time, I will take the Lonely Planet, no matter its weight, and I will know that the following temples are for Hindus only:
· Jagannath Temple of Puri (Orissa) and Lingaraja in Bhubaneshwar (Orissa)
· Golden Temple of Vishwanath in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)
· Temple of Guruvayoor in Guruvayoor (Kerala)
· Temple of Trimbakeshwar close to Nashik (Maharashtra)
· Temple of Balaji in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) – but apparently people from abroad have already entered there.
Apparently an American tourist succeeded in melting down in the crowd and entering the temple in 2010. She was arrested and she must have had a good time!! (Source: http://www.eturbonews.com/20247/us-tourist-arrested-india-entering-jagannath-temple)
More details on tourism in Orissa, Puri area: here