Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 82, Hindu Rituals of India

Nopi and Marti are fascinated by the numerous magnificent temples we have seen in India....but they don't understand the symbolic significance of all these rituals.....
So today Prasad ( ) is going to answer some of their burning questions.....

Ok Prasad, why do Hindus light a lamp when they pray?

Well, to us light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. The Lord is the the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge.
Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself. 
Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness.
So Marti says why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness.
Aaah, but the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance.
The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our negative tendencies and the wick, the ego.
When lit by spiritual knowledge, our negative tendencies are slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes.
The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we aim to acquire such knowledge as to take us towards loftier ideals.
Hmm, so why do you have a prayer room or altar in your home?
Hindus see the Lord as the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too.
The prayer room is like the Master room of the house, and we are simply earthly occupants of His property.
This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.
It's like this ....the Lord as the landlord...and we are simply the tenants and caretakers of His home.

Spiritual thoughts and vibrations are accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting that is done in the prayer rooms or at the altars and this pervades the air... so when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.
Why do you say "namaste" when you greet someone?
Well, us Hindus believe that there is a Divine spark in everything....recognising this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. .........
Basically "The Divine spark in me bows to the Divine spark in you is the deeper meaning of Namaste"
When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.
Why do you  wear marks (tilak and the like) on the forehead?

The tilak( usually sandalwood paste) invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others.
The tilak covers the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking- the "third eye".
It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga.
The tilak is applied with the prayer –
"May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds."
Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve.
The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces.
The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves – especially the third eye.
Anxiety and  worry generates heat and causes a headache, so the tilak cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss.
The ladies who wear the plastic reusable "stick bindis" use it for decorative purposes only.....
We noticed that Indians do not touch paper or books with their feet....why??
Yes, to Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine, so it must be given respect at all times.
To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord! Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.
Why do you fast?

Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals.
On such days we do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food.
According to Ayurvedic principles, certain food types make our minds dull and agitated.
Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure.
The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and remains fixed on the Lord.
Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy.
Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body.
The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands.
Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.
Why do you regard trees and plants as sacred?
The Lord pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals, hence, they are all regarded as sacred.
Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that makes life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc. Hence, in India, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred.
Indians scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one.
We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. we are also urged to apologise to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a sin 
Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc., which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today.
It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the Lord.
Why do you ring the bell in a temple?
Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps.
Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all-knowing.
Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? 
Why do you ring the bell?

The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord.
An added significance of ringing the bell is that it helps to drown any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.
Why do you consider the lotus to be so special?

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty.
The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus .
The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge.
The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances.
The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolises the man of wisdom  who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change.
This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad Geeta: 
He who does actions, offering them to the Supreme, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.
From this, we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practised by all spiritual seekers and devotees.
Our bodies have certain energy centres described in the Yoga Shaastras as chakras.
Each one is associated with lotus that have a certain number of petals.
For example, the Sahasra chakra at the top of the head, which opens when the yogi attains Godhood or Realisation, is represented by a lotus with a thousand petals.
Also, the lotus posture (padmaasana) is recommended when one sits for meditation.
Why do you blow the conch?

When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it.
Why do you say Om shaanti, shaanti shaanti.....why thrice?

Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by us or others.
For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise.
Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations.
To invoke peace, we chant prayers.
By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti thrice.
It is believed that which is said thrice comes true.
For emphasising a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
We chant shaanti thrice to emphasise our intense desire for peace.
Obstacles, problems and sorrows may originate from different sources.
1.The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.
2.The known factors around us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
so we sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or that, problems are minimised.
May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti is chanted thrice.
It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time as it is addressed to oneself.
Why do you chant Om?
Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India.  It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and vedic prayers start with Om.
All auspicious actions begin with Om.
It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshipped, contemplated upon or used as an auspicious sign.
Om is the universal name of the Lord.
It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in "around"), U (phonetically as in "put") and M (phonetically as in "mum").
The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A".
With the coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are closed, all sounds end in "M".
The three letters symbolise the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva),the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) the three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc.
The Lord is all these and beyond. 
Thanks for "enlightening" us Prasad.......this will certainly make our journey through India a more enriching experience..... 
We love India....don't we Ramzi?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 80, from the Taj Mahal to Agra Fort, India (4)

We are simply loving India....Nopi has stopped to buy souvenir fridge magnets!!
wow, stunning!!

let's continue with our history lesson Feroz.

Jahangir was Akbar's son. His health was completely shattered by his excessive consumption of alcohol, and he died in 1627 and was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram who took the title of Shah Jahan.

Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I (full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Abu'l-Muzaffar Shihab ud-din Muhammad, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Shah Jahan I Padshah Ghazi Zillu'llah , was the ruler of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent from 1628 until 1658.

The name Shah Jahan comes from Persian meaning "King of the World." While young, he was a favourite of Akbar. He is considered to be one of the greatest Mughals and his reign has been called the Golden Age of Mughals.

In 1607 CE (1025 AH) Khurrum was to marry Arjumand Banu Begum, the grand daughter of a Persian noble, who was just 14 years old at the time.

She would become the unquestioned love of his life.

They would, however, have to wait five years before they were married in 1612 CE (1021 AH). After their wedding celebrations, Khurram "finding her in appearance and character elect among all the women of the time," gave her the title Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace).

The intervening years had seen Khurrum take two other wives known as Akbarabadi Mahal (d.1677 CE, 1088 AH), and Kandahari Mahal (b. c1594 CE, c1002 AH), (m.1609 CE, 1018 AH).

According to the official court chronicler Qazwini, the relationship with his other wives "had nothing more than the status of marriage.

The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favor which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence [Mumtaz] exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other.

Shah Jahan has left behind a grand legacy of structures constructed during his reign. The most famous of these is the Taj Mahal in Agra which is our next stop.

Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this sublime Mughal mausoleum is India's most ogled icon.

Many have tried to sum up its beauty -
'a teardrop on the face of eternity' according to Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore,
'the embodiment of all things pure' according to British writer Rudyard Kipling.

Our first view of this architectural masterpiece is one that we will never forget
.....a true wonder of the world....

The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.

Nopi says "14 child-births! Its no wonder she didn't survive the last one!"

The court historian Muhammad Amin Qazwini, wrote that before his wife's death the emperor's beard had "not more than ten or twelve grey hairs, which he used to pluck out' [and after] turned grey and eventually white"and that he soon needed spectacles because his eyes deteriorated from constant weeping.

Since Mumtaz had died on a Wednesday, all entertainment was banned on that day.
Jahan gave up listening to music, wearing jewellery or rich and colourful clothes and using perfumes for two years.

So concerned were the imperial family that an honoury uncle wrote to say that "if he continued to abandon himself to his mourning, Mumtaz might think of giving up the joys of Paradise to come back to earth, this place of misery - and he should also consider the children she had left to his care."

Construction of the Taj began in the same year and was not completed until 1653 - although there's some debate as to the exact date of completion.

In total, some 20,000 people from India and Central Asia worked on the building. Specialists were brought in from as far afield as Europe to produce the exquisite marble screens and pietra dura (marble inlay work) made with thousands of semiprecious stones.

Yemen sent agates, the corals came from Arabia, the garnets from Bundelkhand, onyx and amethyst from Persia.
Mumtaz Mahal's final resting-place was ornamented like a queen's jewel-box.....

Legend has it that once the construction was completed, Shah Jehan had Lahori's, (the chief architect) hands cut off and his eyes gouged out, so he would never be able to duplicate the structure!!

The spectacular mausoleum was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and looks as immaculate today as when it was first constructed - though it underwent a huge restoration project in the early 20th century after falling into disrepair and even suffering vandalism.

In recent times the threat of damage has come from atmospheric pollution. Acid rain, produced by sulphur dioxide from vehicle and industrial emissions, began to discolour the famous white marble and erode the fine carving and inlays.

In an attempt to reduce pollution, new industrial developments in Agra were banned in 1994, and only nonpolluting vehicles are allowed within 500m of the Taj.

The Taj Mahal itself stands on a raised marble platform at the northern end of the ornamental gardens, with its back to the Yamuna River.
Its raised position means that the backdrop is only sky - a master stroke of design. Purely decorative 40m-high white minarets grace each corner of the platform.

After more than three centuries they are not quite perpendicular, but they may have been designed to lean slightly outwards so that in the event of an earthquake, they would fall away from the precious Taj.

The red sandstone mosque to the west of the main structure is an important gathering place for Agra's Muslims.

The identical building to the east, the jawab, was built for symmetry .

The central Taj structure is made of semitranslucent white marble, carved with flowers and inlaid with thousands of semiprecious stones in beautiful patterns.

A perfect exercise in symmetry, the four identical faces of the Taj feature impressive vaulted arches embellished with pietra dura (marble inlay) scrollwork and quotations from the Quran, produced in a style of calligraphy using inlaid jasper.

The whole structure is topped off by four small domes surrounding the famous bulbous central dome.

Below the main dome is the Cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal, an elaborate false tomb surrounded by an exquisite perforated marble screen inlaid with some 43 different types of semiprecious stones.

Beside it, offsetting the symmetry of the Taj, is the Cenotaph of Shah Jahan, who was interred here with little ceremony by his usurping son Aurangzeb in 1666. Light is admitted into the central chamber by finely cut marble screens.

The real tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in a locked basement room below the main chamber and cannot be viewed.

On the western side of the gardens is a very small museum, housing original architectural drawings of the Taj and some nifty celadon plates, said to split into pieces or change colour if the food served on them contains poison.

Sunrise offers the best of all worlds.
It's a magical time when the air is cool and the morning light spreads across the Taj, turning it from dark purple to pale blue and finally a golden glow.

Sunset also provides a beautiful, softer light ...

Marti now wants a boyfriend who is prepared to build a monument like this for her...............and Nopi is missing her boyfriend very much....

But where is Prasad?? Oh, there he is...
Where were you Prasad? You went to the loo...and they asked you to pay .....oh, ok, its a pay toilet.

You were upset because you had to pay but the foreigner didn't. So why did they discriminate against you??

Hahaha, the toilet fees are included in the entrance fees for foreigners but not locals!!!

Well, foreigners pay US$ 15 per person and you only paid Rs. 20/-so don't complain!

Hmm, I noticed that there is a huge difference in entrance fees at the other monuments too.

Our guide is whispering another version of the history of this exquisite monument to us....

He says that he watched a BBC/Time Life programme on television ......and that the historical summary of the Taj-Mahal story must be regarded with scepticism.
It is highly probable that it is somewhat inaccurate and possible that it is totally misleading!!!

For example, a certain Professor Oak (in his book "The Taj Mahal: The True Story") puts forward persuasive evidence, observations and interpretation that suggest the monument was built long before the Shah Jahan came to power and that it was taken over by Jahan and 'developed' into, approximately, what we see today.

Allegedly, Indira Gandhi's government tried to ban this book and some would say the Indian government has been politically motivated in suppressing this theory.

Certainly the Taj Mahal is a great tourist money spinner with its present dramatic and romantic aura: the asset value might be greatly diminished if Oak's alternative account is correct.

Furthermore, it is argued, publicising this 'true story' might alienate a substantial tranche of the electorate: the Muslims.

There are chambers in the monument which, it seems, have remained unopened since Shah Jahan's time and which the professor believes could provide evidence to prove the account one way or another.

Allegedly the Indian government will not allow an independent investigation within these chambers, and if that is the case it raises suspicions as to their motives.
Then he says " But you must form your own opinion!!" Hahaha! Wild imagination!

Not long after the construction of this beautiful monument was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in Agra Fort.......royal intrigue!!!!

Okay, let's go there next......

As we now know Shah Jehan's son, Aurangzeb, led a rebellion when Shah Jahan became ill in 1657 CE (1067 AH) and publicly executed his brother and the heir apparent Dara Shikoh.

Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule and put him under house arrest in Agra Fort!!!

So last stop in Agra is Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The fort is also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge and Red Fort of Agra.

It is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.

It is the most important fort in India. The Mughals- Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here, and the country was governed from here.

It contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was visited by foreign ambassadors, travellers and the highest dignitaries who participated in the making of history in India.

Built principally as a military establishment by Akbar in 1565, the red sandstone Agra fort was partially converted into a palace during Shah Jahan's time.

Though the principal structure was built by Akbar, many more additions were made by his grandsons.

This massive fort is 2.5 kms long and is considered as the predecessor of the Delhi Red fort.

The sheer size and opulence of these monuments simply blows the mind..........

The colossal walls are 20 feet high and the whole fort is encircled by a fetid moat. Amar Singh gate towards the south is the only entry point in the fort.

The building and structures inside the fort gives an impression of a city within the city.

Many of the buildings inside the fort is now closed to the public.

The marble pearl mosque inside the fort is one of the most stunningly beautiful mosques in India.

Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience)
This was the hall of private audience. This hall was also added by Shah Jahan. This hall is divided into two rooms connected by three arches and it was here that the famous Peacock Throne was kept before being shifted to Delhi by Aurangzeb and finally carried away to Iran.

Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience)
This structure was originally made out of wood but was later constructed in the present form by Shah Jahan.

The throne room bears a clear influence of Shah Jahan style with the inlaid carvings and panels of marble with floral motifs.

This hall of public hearing is the place where the Emperor heard the petitions of the public and met the officials.

The hall of public hearing gives way to the
Nagina Masjid (Gem Mosque) and the Ladies bazar where only ladies merchants were allowed to sell items to the Moghal ladies.

Mina Masjid (Heavenly Mosque)Just above the Sheesh Mahal is situated the Mina Masjid, which is believed to be constructed by Shahjahan for strictly private use.

The Mina Masjid is enclosed on all the four sides by high walls.

The marble mosque has three small arches in its facade, which are plain and unadorned.

Jehangir Palace
This was built by Akbar for his favorite son Jehangir to provide him with the comfort and luxury inside the fort.

Macchi Bhawan (Fish Enclosure)
Opposite to the Diwan-E-Khas is the machhi bhawan, the fish enclosure. The emperor sat on the white marble platform facing the enclosure. It once contained pools and marble fountains, which were carried off by the Jat Raja Suraj Mal to his palace at Deeg.

Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque)
Moti Masjid is situated to the right of Diwan-E-Aam of the Agra Fort. One can see the domes of the Moti Masjid, which is the prettiest of all the buildings at Agra Fort.

Moti Masjid is a white marble structure built by Shahjahan for his family members and court chiefs. Moti Masjid made out of white marble is one of the ancient mosques situated in Agra. It used to shine like a pearl once upon a time and hence the name.

Sheesh Mahal or Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace)l
Opposite to the Mussaman Burj and just below the Diwan-E- Khas hall is the Sheesh Mahal or the glass palace.

It is believed to to have been the harem dressing room and its walls are inlaid with tiny mirrors, which are the best specimens of glass mosaic decoration in India......similar to the rooms in the fort at lahore!

Anguri Bagh (Grape Garden)
These formal 85 square geometric gardens lie to the left of the fort. During shahjahan's time, the beauty of the gardens was considerably enhanced by decorative flower beds.

Jahangiri Mahal
This is the first notable building inside the Agra Fort. It was built by Akbar as women's quarters and is the only building that survives among his or9iginall palace buildings. It si built of stone and is simply decorated in the exterior.

This elegant, double storeyed building reflects a strong hindu influence with protruding balconies and domed chhatris.

Golden Pavilions
The curved chala roofs of the small pavilions by the Khaas Mahal are based on the roof shape of Bengali village huts constructed out of curved bamboo, designed to keep off heavy rains. The shape was first expressed in stone by the sultans of Bengal.

Theses pavilions are tradtionally associated with shahjahan's daughters: Roshnara and Jahannara Begum.

Khas Mahal - white marble palace, one of the best examples of painting on marble

Musamman Burj
On the left of the Khaas Mahal is the Musamman Burj built by Shahjahan.

The Octagonal Tower is an exquisitely carved tower is close to the Diwan-i- Khas. It was here that Shah Jahan spent last seven years of his life imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb.

The tower was considered to provide one of the best views of the Taj but today the pollution has reduced the visibility.

The tower is in bad shape today but blank spaces and the empty inlay works give an idea how this building must have looked in those days.
t is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavilion.

With its openness, elevation and the benefit of cool evening breezees flowing in off the Yamuna River, this could be well have been used also as the emperor's bedroom.

This is where Shah Jahan lay on his death bed, gazing at Taj Mahal......pining for his lost love...Mumtaz....

Of course our tour guide simply loves to gossip....
He says that like all his ancestors, Shah Jahan's court included many wives, concubines, and dancing girls.

Apparently one Niccolao Manucci wrote that "it would seem as if the only thing Shah Jahan cared for was the search for women to serve his pleasure" and "for this end he established a fair at his court.

No one was allowed to enter except women of all ranks that is to say, great and small, rich and poor, but all beautiful.

"When he was detained in the Red Fort at Agra, Aurangzeb permitted him to retain "the whole of his female establishment, including the singing and dancing women."
Manucci notes that Shah Jahan didn't lose his "weakness for the flesh" even when he had grown very old.

But our guide is quick to add that most of the European travellers in India had access to such information primarily through bazaar gossip and not first hand, so we must not repeat this to anyone!!

Of course everyone prefers the more romantic story of the Emperor dying of sorrow....because he missed his beloved Mumtaz so very much.........

In January of 1666 CE (1076 AH), Shah Jahan fell ill with strangury and dysentery.

Confined to bed, he became progressively weaker until, on January 22, he commanded the ladies of the imperial court, particularly his consort of later years Akbarabadi Mahal, to the care of his daughter,Jahanara.

After reciting the Kalima and verses from the Qu'ran, he died.

Jahanara planned a state funeral which was to include a procession with Shah Jahan's body carried by eminent nobles followed by the notable citizens of Agra and officials scattering coins for the poor and needy.

Aurangzeb refused to accommodate such ostentation and the body was washed in accordance with Islamic rites, taken by river in a sandalwood coffin to the Taj Mahal and was interred there next to the body of his beloved wife Mumtaz last.....they lie next to one another for all eternity......

Well, my dear friends.....this brings us to the end of our amazing journey around the world in 80 days......

Do you guys realize that we have caught a glimpse of over 135 countries in 80 days??



So now we are going directly to Sita's home in the vibrant, bustling metropolis of Incredible Indiaaaaaaaaaa.....

Now Amit is singing to us.....

This feature is powered by - Home of Indian Music

We are going to sleep for at least 12 hours, uninterrupted, ........and we will reflect on our journey in the morning......

Thank you! Dankie! Ngiyabonga! Shukriya! Merci!, Muchas gracias!, Obrigado!, ありがとう, Grazie!, 감사, Merci!, Ευχαριστώ!, Danke schön!, ,,תודה Takk!, Go raibh maith agat!, شكرا ,Dankzij!, 感謝, Спасибо!, Dziekuję!, धन्यवाद, Bedankt!, Teşekür ederim!, Köszönöm!, Дякую, Mulţumesc!, Kiitos!, to ALL our friends, tour guides, and well wishers, who helped us along the way and made this amazing journey possible :-))

Hugs and kisses to you all!

Good night and GOD bless!

Day 80, Fatehpur- Sikri, India (3)

Wow, this place is massive and absolutely gorgeous...even if it is a ghost town....!!!
Let's walk through it

The Prime Attractions of Fatehpur Sikri are:
One of the largest mosques in India, Jami Masjid was built in 1571 AD. Inside, there is a vast congregational coutyard.
To the right, at the corne
r, is the Jammat Khana Hall and next ot this is the tomb of the royal ladies. To the left of the Jami Masjid is the Stone Cutters' mosque, the oldest place of worship at Fateh Pur Sikri.
It is entered through the eastern entrance known as the Buland Darwaza.

Buland Darwaza
This gate can be approached from the outside by a 13-metre flight of steps which adds to its grandeur. The gate erected in 1602 AD to commemorate Akbar's victory over Deccan is the highest and grandest gateway in India and ranks among the biggest in the world! Spectacular!!

This is the Diwan-I-Am or the Hall Of Public Audience. This hall was also used for celebrations and public prayers. It has cloisters on three sides of a rectangular courtyard.
To the west is a pavilion with the Emperor's throne. Beautiful jali screen on either sides separated the ladies attending the court.

To the right is an apparently looking two storeyed building, with corner kiosks, known as diwan-khana-I-khaas or Hall Of Private Audience. On entering it, one finds only a single vaulted chamb er. In the centre stands a profusely carved column supporting a collosal-bracketed capital. Four narrow causeways project from the centre and run to each corner of the chamber. It is believed that Akbar's throne occupied the circular space over the capital and the corners were assigned to the four ministers.
Turkish Sultana's House
To the left of the Pachisi Board is the Turkish Sultana's house. The house, as its location at the corner of
Anup Talao shows, was a pavilion for repose, attached to the pool. The geometrical pattern on the ceiling is reminiscent of Central Asian carvings in wood.

The Treasury
To the left of the Diwan-I-Khaas is the Treasury or Ankh Michauli, once believed to have been used for playing the game, comprising three rooms each protected by a narrow corridor which were manned by guards.

Daulat khana-I-khas
Located in the corner to the left is the emperor's private chamber. It has two main rooms on the ground floor. One housed Akbar's library while the larger room was his resting area. On the first floor is the Khwabgah or the bed-chamber.
It was connected with the Turkish Sultana's house, the Panch Mahal, Mariam's House and the Jodha Bai's palace by corridors. Hmm, Amit is jealous beacause Akbar had so many wives!!

Palace of Jodha Bai
To the left of the Sunehra Makan is the largest and the most important building in the royal palace, named after Akbar's Rajput wife, Jodha Bai. This spacious palace was assured of privacy and security by high walls and a 9 metre guarded gate to the east. The architecture is a blend of styles with Hindu columns and Muslim cupolas.

Hawa Mahal And Nagina Masjid
To the right of Jodha Bai's palace is Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. This small-screened wind tower faces the garden and is attached to the palace. The garden is laid out in the Char Bagh style with straight walls intersecting at right angles and divided by shallow channels.

Raja Birbal's Palace
To the north west of the Jodha Bai's Palace is the 2 storeyed palace occupied by Akbar's two senior queens- Ruqnayya Begum and Salima Sultan Begum. It has two storeys-four rooms and two porches with pyramidical roofs below and two rooms with cupolas and screened terraces above. The building combines Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture.

Sunahra Maken
Opposite to the Diwan-I-Khas is the palace of Akbar's Rajput wife, Mariam-Uz-Zamani. This two-storeyed building is richly adorned by gold murals in Persian style. The beams have inscriptions of verses by Akbar's brother, Faizi.

Panch Mahal

To the right of Sunehra Makan is the elegant, airy 5 storeyed pavilion, the Panch Mahal.
Each floor over here is smaller than the one below and it rises to a single domed kiosk on top supported by four columns providing a magnificent view of the city and its environs.

Tomb of Salim Chisti
To the North of the Jama Masjid Mosque is the Dargah of Shaikh Salim Chishti.
This Dargah was built in 1570.
Here, childless women come for blessings of the saint. The lattice work in the Dargah is among the finest to be found any where in India.

Devotees ask for the blessings of the saint and seek fulfillment of their wishes. It is believed that tying a black thread on the marble screens of the main tomb building, with the promise of loosening the thread when the wish is fulfilled, serves as a constant reminder to the saint of their wishes.

Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned in 1585 and the capital moved to
The reasons for this remain obscure; it is possible that water sources dried up or that Akbar needed to be closer to invading Persian and Afghan armies.

Walking amongst these ruins takes one back to the height of the Mughal Dynasty.......and food....

Dishes include:



Day 80, India (2)

Wow, we still are in awe of the fort at Lahore.....Marti looks a little confused.
What's wrong Marti??

Marti doesnt know who is who in the zoo....everyone is talking about Shah Jehan, Jahangir, Akbar.....and the great Mughal Dynasty.

Ok, Feroz is going to enlighten us on the Mughal family tree as we make our way towards the last city of our journey.....Agra!

Babur 1483- 1530 was a Muslim conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, finally succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty of India.
He was a direct descendant of Timur through his father, and a descendant also of Genghis Khan through his mother.

He seemed to be as monstrous as his ancestors! He claimed that women with braided hair "were shaved with scissors, and their throats were choked with dust" and that "the order was given to the soldiers, who dishonored them, and carried them away." !

Jarca says "Oh, he was the one who built the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, after destroying an existing temple that was built to commemorate the birthplace of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and ruler of Ayodhya."

In 2003, The Archaeology Society of India conducted a study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble.

The excavations yielded:"stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of a divine couple and carved architectural features, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broke octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure"

This is source of ongoing tensions amongst Hindus and Muslims in India almost 500 years later!!

Akbar was Babur's grandson.

So Marti says "oh, so he was the wonderful Akbar the Great from the movie "Jodhaa Akbar".!! Hold on Marti, the director of that movie has admitted that about 70% of the movie is based on his imagination. However, there are some events portrayed in this very romanticised movie that are based on real events.

Nopi ( our historian ) argues that Akbar killed an unconscious Hemu (a Hindu) to become a 'Ghazi' at the second battle of Panipat!!

He later ordered slaughter of all the captives from Hemu's army and had a victory tower built with their heads!!

He later ordered a massacre of 30,000 unarmed captive Hindu peasants after the fall of Chitod on February 24, 1568. Even the Nazis did not kill 30,000 prisoners of war in cold blood during the second World War!! Coward!

Hmm, if Akbar 'the epitome of secularism' was so cruel and brutal, what must have been the extent of brutality of Timur Lane, Babar, Aurangzeb and Nader Shah?
Should Akbar be called 'Great' and 'Secular' only because he was a lesser despot than the rest of the Mughal emperors?

Excellent point Nopi!

With his Hindu wife Mariam-uz-Zamani he had a son and then twins, but the twins died.

He then consulted the Sufi Saint Salim Chishti from the Chishti Order who lived as a recluse in the small town Sikri near Agra.

Salim predicted that Akbar would have another son, and indeed one was born in 1569 in Sikri.

He was named Salim to honor the saint and would later rule the empire as Emperor Jahangir.

The following year, Akbar, then 28 years old, determined to build a palace and royal city in Sikri, to honor his pir Salim Chishti (
So our next stop is Fatehpur Sikri....a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Marti wants to know what is Sufism?
It is is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.

A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī , though some adherents of the tradition reserve this term only for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another name used for the Sufi seeker is

Sufism was considerably influenced by the
Hindu discipline of Yoga in such areas as physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama).

Fatehpur Sikri is the best example of the culmination of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

En route to Fatehpur Sikri Feroz has decided to entertain us with a qawwali


which roughly translates

O benefactor of the Poor (also the most popular epitaph of Hzrt Mo'een Ud Deen Chisti)
Oh my khwaja reside in my heart
You are the king of kings
Dearest of Ali
The faith of the unfortunate has been restored by you
In your court O Khawaja shines the eternal light
In your court O Khawaja even the nearest to God bow down
You are the carrier of those nearest to God your rank is most craved
Desiring you is the path to attaining perfect humanity (Prophet Muhammad)
My master's charity
I clutch the hem of your robe
Our miseries have disappeared
Your beneficence wraps all
No matter how much jealousy your blessings on me may create in others it does not matter
I cannot fathom abandoning your presence