We left for Jaipur at a reasonable hour on Monday; we would be spending two nights in the city and felt we could get there a little later, not to mention we needed the rest. On the way we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, a fort located about 100 Km from Agra.
Fatehpur Sikri resembled many of the forts we’ve seen along the way. A mix of Mughal and Hindu architecture, the site is in some ways an anomaly in our travels. Most of the forts, towns, mosques and temples we planned to see were occupied for several hundred years before being abandoned, or were still in use today. Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar and lived in for only 14 years before he moved the capital to Agra. The area itself has been occupied or around for thousands of years, but Fatehpur Sikri as it stands today was a blip on Akbar’s very busy radar. Most say it was abandoned due to lack of water.
On the site you will find much of the same architecture as you would at other Mughal palaces, though in a more primitive state. Akbar it seems was still molding the style that would later be refined by his son and grandson. For a palace that was occupied for less than a quarter of a century, it is surprisingly complete. There are the typical diwans for addressing public as well as private audiences, courtyards, gardens, and pools. The palaces here were downright austere compared to the Jami Masjid up the hill, which is similar to the Jama Masjid in Delhi. To be honest, the architecture of the mosques and tombs begins to run together after you see three or four in the Mughal style. Looking back at the photos I find myself wondering which one is which.
After leaving Fatehpur Sikri we continued on towards Jaipur. The scenery along the way was bucolic; rolling fields of wheat made up the majority of the landscape, the roads lined with trees that Mashtan informed us were very expensive. Like most deserts, it is entirely flat. It reminded me of driving through inland southern California. Every ten to fifteen minutes you would roll through a village, all of which looked too similar to tell apart. The drive was relaxing compared to a drive through Old Delhi, but nothing like a drive through wine country in Northern California.
A word about driving in India. Chaos reigns the road. Lane lines are more of a suggestion, and its hard to tell if the drivers are interpreting them as something they should ride on top of or between. Honking is your friend. It lets drivers around you know when you are about to do something crazy like pass into head on traffic. It also tells the guy in front of you to move out of the way, which they will do if you honk long enough. Intersections are like games of human frogger, with pedestrians, bicycles, camels, cows, cars, and scooters all trying to hit you and avoid being hit. It works though. I don’t recall seeing any car accidents (though most of the cars have experienced a scrape or two), nor did I see any ambulances rushing hit and run victims to the hospital. There is order in the chaos and though I wouldn’t want to see the streets of Atlanta cut loose, I have to admit that they may have something here.
You can’t mistake arriving in Jaipur. The pink city rises out of the flat landscape like a skyscraper out of the desert. You suddenly find yourself climbing a hill up into the city, winding around tight curves lined with walls several hundreds of years old. When you arrive at the top you enter through a gate and find yourself in the middle of a bustling bazaar. Our driver confirmed that the traffic in Jaipur is much worse than Delhi, and that’s saying something.
We got there late in the afternoon and didn’t have time for site seeing, so we stopped at a few shops that Cary was interested in, then made our way toward dinner and lodging. Our driver took us to a place that served Rajasthani food, which we both agreed was fantastic. There were musicians and a dancer that was showing off the typical Rajasthani moves; carrying an inordinate number of bowls on her head and twisting around in circles. Cary found herself caught up in the dance along with several other restaurant patrons, though she wasn’t required to balance anything on her head. The night properly topped off with a Kulfi, we fell asleep ready a day of forts, palaces and science in the morning.