Ladies of the palace

Where once the royal harem sat

The palace of Jodhabai was home to Akbar‘s favorite wife. But it also held a large harem, both to attend to the queen’s daily — washing, dressing, feeding, fawning — needs as well as the king’s nightly urges.

When they weren’t otherwise employed, however, the harem would mostly have been bored, whiling away the hours in the nooks and crannies of the palace at Fatehpur Sikri.

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The cloistered life of wealth

Flight of the pigeons

An interior courtyard at the palace of Mariam-uz-Zamani, known today as Jodhabai, the Rajput princess who became wife to Mughal emporer Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, or Akbar the Great. Her palace today is a World Heritage site at Fatehpur Sikri near Agra.

Today, the warrens of Fatehpur and nearby Agra are tourist nightmares. They represent the ghoul that arises when Western wealth and gullibility meet Indian poverty and aggressive entrepreneurship. The touts, the scams, the hawkers as well as the ignorance and self-rigteous behavior (from both sides, mind you). Oy. There are few places in India I like less.

But inside Jodhabai’s haven — and similarly inside the Taj Mahal — one finds respite. Of course, behind the peaceful walls, I’m not unlike a member of the Mughal court of the 1500s, cloistered safely away from the poor, common folk hustling and bustling in the dirt outside.

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