If you’re going to Fatehpur Sikri you might want to take along a fuck off great big stick to fend off the traders in the free-entry square. A huge stick, with nails in the end. Or a chainsaw. Or a flamethrower. You can handle sellers that call to you from the side of the road or follow you at a respectable distance. It’s annoying but hey, you knew this would happen when you came to India. But you know when you’re walking down the streets back home and the people wearing Save The Children vests constantly want “a minute of your time” after telling you how lovely your shoes are and after the third chugger in the space of 500 metres it takes every ounce of your British politeness not to tell them to fuck right off before you rapidly introduce your forehead to their nose because all you want is to get to McDonald’s before they stop serving breakfast? Imagine that but multiply it by a thousand and subtract your personal space. If you stop for more than three seconds you’re suddenly mobbed by men and children attempting to insert their wares right into your eye sockets. It’s like the fucking zombie apocalypse except they want the contents of your wallet instead of your skull and instead of “BRAAAAIIIINNNNSSSS” they’re wailing, “Good price! Good price, madam! For you or for gift!” Now. What size bludgeon would madam like to procure for her little Fatehpur Sikri adventure?
Anyway. I was going to just head here with my worldly belongings strapped to my person, find a cheap place to crash then check put the palace ruins but it’s so much easier to just day trip it from Agra on the ₹40 each way bus, plus I really liked the Zostel Hostel I was staying in despite Agra itself being the seeping anal glands of India’s buttocks. So I duly rocked up to meet Alex and Laurie again and we caught the bus.
The first part of the complex is a square where you have to take your shoes off and this area is free. Don’t believe the guides who offer to take you around this part for a price including shoe fee (there isn’t one) and ticket price (they won’t buy you one, this part is free! They’ll even produce a used ticket to “prove” they bought one for you and this, my lovelies, is why you should not give your used ticket to the kids, no matter how much they beg, and they will fucking beg!)
There’s a shrine type thing where you’ll need to cover your head but hey, don’t worry if you forgot your hat because they’ll provide fetching plastic baskets in a range of colours to cover your bonce with. This is where women tie a piece of string to the lattice to wish for a baby. We saw kids doing it too, little girls around 8 or 9 years old tying red or yellow string to the partition which is a bit young to be thinking about starting a family, even if you were gunning for that nice council house down the road.
Aaaand then you pretty much have no choice but to bail for the ₹260 palace and away from the constant hassle of the traders before you have a breakdown.
It’s a random collection of fancy buildings, this place. Apparently the dude who built it, Akbar, had three wives. One was Hindu and he built her a lovely palace complete with niches in the wall for statues of her deities and pillars engraved with bells. He had a Christian wife and a Muslim wife and they too had shit built for them. So here I am thinking, ok, he seems like a nice bloke ay. Then you learn he had about 5000 concubines too though to be fair, that was kind of normal in those days. He probably treated them well I guess though I have no idea why you’d what three wives and 5000 concubines. You only have one penis, dude.
And then you learn that he had a game board made out of tiles in the courtyard where he used to play an ancient form of Ludo called pachisi using slave girls dressed in colourful clothes. Ok yeah, maybe Akbar was a bit of a prick after all then.
You spend your time here wandering from building to building. There’s some interesting stuff, like the animals carved into the wall which used to have jeweled heads until thieves took them. There are peacocks and lions and something which looks a bit like a dick but I think it’s meant to be a lion too…
There was one building which we guessed could have been a church for the Christian wife as the roof was prism shaped and we’d not seen that in architecture of this period before. But basically, it’s not known what a lot of the buildings were used for, merely speculated at in various information boards littered around the place. Like, in one hallway there are stone rings which were once thought to be used for horses, camels or elephants but now they think that they were used to partition living spaces off for the servant women. Y’know, the ones he didn’t have sex with.
After we’d had a wander round and checked out the random tower with stone tusks sticking out of it we thought the bazaar would be worth a look back in town. Given that it’s run up to Diwali, you can buy sweets everywhere. We headed back to the market for a chai and these little yellow balls of pure diabetes, the names of which I forget but it could be ladoo. Diwali basically contains two of my favourite things; Sweets and fireworks. Now if the sweets were served to you along with a cocktail in a coconut shell on a tropical beach by wildly attractive, topless Venezuelan beauty queens as opposed to grumpy street vendors in grubby shirts and bare feet, Diwali would contain all of my favourite things.
But yeah. Just because they’re rude to you it’s not because they hate you because you’re Western. They’ll be just as rude to the Indian guy they serve next. And that tuk tuk driver who just ripped you off? He’s done the same to an Indian before. In fact, he probably rips off more Indians than foreigners. And it’s just another difference that you’ll get used to. Because hey, isn’t cultural difference one of the reasons we travel anyway?
Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
Stayed at: Zostel Agra (Fatehpur Sikri is an easy day trip on the bus from Agra)