Akbar – Birbal and a Weekend at FatehpurSikri….

A nice cool breeze and light intermittent drizzle does feel inviting for spending the day in open and if it is a weekend …. well what else could  one ask for? Last week was one of the best ones with our day spent at magnificent and majestic red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri.

Forty kilometers west of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri was commissioned to be built by the great Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar in 1570 as his capital and it took nearly 15 yrs to complete. It is considered the first planned city of Mughals with features borrowed from Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture. However for not very definite reasons, it was abandoned after a short stay post completion.

Driving down the wide metalled road it is difficult to imagine the type of rocky terrain it might have been in 16th century. Since only the sturdier imperial quarters of red sandstone like palaces, courts, mosque survive the ravages of time, hence the exact problems, reasons for joys and daily routines of common people are a mystery….

And the royals….. their apartments are examples of real well thought of housing project , what with the emperor, his many wives, concubines, eunuchs, servants, princes and princesses all privileged to have their own private space yet  a call away from each other! Is it ever possible in today’s age?

What was it like in those royal quarters then…….

The king relaxing, smoking an ornate brass hookah, by the extensively carved stone jali jharokha(windows) of his bedroom, lined with intricately woven persian carpets caressing his feet or his jewel-studded jutis( pointed slippers) and with his view only partly obscured by sheer curtains gently swaying with the breeze. His gaze observing the swirl of lehengas, the tinkling of glass bangles as the women folk of his palace float around the red carpeted courtyards with their merry giggling and clinking laughter reassuring him of happiness and peace in the kingdom.

The evenings hours spent everyday in front of Anoop Talao listening to Tansen‘s renditions of ragas, culminating with the famed “Dipak Raag” sung to announce the time of lighting lamps all over the palace. The queens and king once in a while spending some time together at the Pachisi court serving as a large-sized board game with the emperor’s concubines playing the role of board pieces. And post a sweet win at the game, did the main queen Jodhabai with kohl lined eyes and hennaed hands indulge in cooking Rajasthani cuisine  for her Badshah?

Were his pensive moments spent discussing with his ministers in the now lifeless pavilions, preparing for the next conquest or overpowering the next rebellion. And the light banter and brain-teasing sessions with Birbal ….are the stories real? Was Birbal so witty that he earned the admiration and love of emperor and was gifted with a house in the palace complex? (Witty stories of Birbal

The largest gateway Buland Darwaja commemorating Akbar’s victory over king of Gujrat, on completion must have made him swell up in pride and being a religious man, the emperor must have paid visit to the Salim Chisti‘s dargah and the Jama Masjid bowing in reverence through the Badshahi gate. Did he then, ride on an elaborately decorated elephant in his bejewelled royal seat  with his queens following in equally decorated palkis from palace to the dargah?Did he go barefoot to the doors of the prayer hall?

The Diwan-i-aam, Din-e-ilahi court, Diwan-i-khas, Panch mahal, Birbal’s house, Jama Masjid  and numerous small and big structures all stand mute today, leaving us to imagine the grandeur of those days.

Long after the tour of the entire complex, I sat there mesmerized by the larger-than -life size of buildings pining to know much more than the history books in school taught me. I wish there was a way I could travel back in time and see everything happen in front of my eyes….Though the tour left me asking for more but overall the weekend was the best spent and the place worth visiting again.

(The details of some structures can be read at