Once again, I am thankful to some great advice from a friend. She said, "When driving from Agra to Jaipur you MUST stop to visit Fatehpur Sikri." She must have told me this at least four times.
Why wouldn't we stop to see it?
1) It is a bumpy ride off the highway.
2) A man came out and practically jumped on our car trying to get us to take the turn off to the fort and pay him to be our guide.
3) We were all packed and seven of us had finally found comfortable positions in the van.
4) The day before our oldest had claimed she would, "see NO MORE forts."
But in my head I kept hearing my friend almost pleading and saying, "Really, it is great and so interesting and just cool." So, stop we did.
And yes, it is "interesting and just cool." The guide, although his means of getting our attention were annoying and somewhat dangerous, was very educated about the fort/palace and really made the visit for us.
What is Fatehpur Sikri?
It was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1570. Akbar was an intellectual who was very interested in art and religion. He had four wives, one Hindu, one Christian, one Jain, one Muslim, and built a separate part of the complex for each wife.
Today, but for the tourists, it is deserted but amazingly well preserved and a testament to the architects and builders who planned it.
Walking among the red sandstone was quite a drastic difference from the day before and the bright whiteness of the Taj Mahal.
From Wikipedia, "Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Private Audience, is a plain square building with four chhatris on the roof. However it is famous for its central pillar, which has a square base and an octagonal shaft both carved with bands of geometric and floral designs....It is here that Akbar had representatives of different religions discuss their faiths and gave private audience."
The craftsmanship was just incredible and amazing to see.
From Wikipedia (yes, again) "Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audience, is a building typology found in many cities where the ruler meets the general public. In this case, it is a pavilion-like multi-layered rectangular structure fronting a large open space."
Off to the side is the mosque or Jama Masjid. From, you know where, WIKIPEDIA, "A Jami Masjid meaning Friday Mosque was perhaps one of the first buildings to come up in the complex, as its epigraph gives 1571-72 as the date of completion." There is a school in the mosque for local children who can't afford an education. We met one young boy on the steps selling his wares. He said a percentage of his sales go back to the school. His father went to school there just as he does four hours a day. He and his father now sell crafts, jewelry, etc to feed the family and help the school.
As with any tourist attraction in India and worldwide, there are shops on the way back to the parking lot. The brilliant colors of India still capture me every time. India does color and bling better than anywhere else or at least better than anywhere else I have found.
At the end of the tour, we were all happy. I learned more about Mughal history. Little one picked up some bling that she is very proud of. The in-laws were just in awe of it all...the crowds, the history, the architecture, the culture. Even Daddy and our oldest were glad that we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri.
From now on, I won't question when a friend says, "This is a MUST-see."