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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I’m cheering for ya, Mohan

Scribbled love

To the young, macho Indian man, there must be something irresistible about scrawling your romantic intentions on an old monument. This, from a nook at the palace of Jodhabai in Fatepur Sikri. I hope it worked out.

Of course, as much as a dark corner is perfect for inscribing the desires of the heart, it’s also a fine place to dump your litter.

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Baby on board

It's the eyes

A bus from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.

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Some like it hot

Hot food, hot nights

Laal mirch and more from the Fatehpur Sikri bazaar. Feel the burn.

Flavors galore

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Fruited plains

Bazaar fruit. Not bizarre fruit.

Papaya, from the crowded bazaar lanes in Fatehpur Sikri, once the headquarters of the Mughal Empire on the hot Uttar Pradesh plains. The word bazaar, comes from Persian and subsequently Hindi, by the way.

The smoke in the photo is from the incense that many wallahs burn near their stalls.

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Chaat wallah wallah wallah wallah

Mmmmm... savory snacks

I’ve tried to come up with a way to define, explain, demarcate chaat. I give up with any translation that goes beyond the English word “snack.” Indeed the online dictionaries seem to have my back on this one.

Chaat often combines small fried things — chips, crisps, discs, balls, puris, etc. — with various vegetables and the like: tomatoes, onions, mirch, chickpeas, beans, whathaveyou. And, of course, there’s spice and usually lime juice.

The photos and chaat boy above come from outside the shrine to Salim Chisti in Fatehpur Sikri. See below for more.

Continue reading this entry » » »

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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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