We were ready to journey on to our next stop on our Golden Triangle tour. I realized I hadn’t previously mentioned the “Golden Triangle”. India’s golden triangle is a tourist circuit which connects the national capital Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
The Golden Triangle is so called because of the triangular shape formed by the locations of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur on a map. The trips usually start in Delhi moving south to the site of Taj Mahal at Agra, then west, to the desert landscapes of Jaipur. The Golden Triangle is now a well-traveled route providing a good spectrum of the country’s different landscapes. The circuit is about 720 km by road. Each leg is about 4 to 6 hours of drive.
Our driver, Karan, picked us up at our hotel and we headed out.
Our first stop was at the city of Fatehpur Sikri. The city was founded in 1569 by the Emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. He commenced the construction of a planned walled city, which took the next fifteen years in planning, and construction of a series of royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. He named the city Fatehabad, with Fateh, a word of Arabic origin in Persian, meaning “victorious.” It was later called Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best preserved collections of Indian Mughal architecture in India.
The Buland Darwaza entrance to the complex
And old man making his way to the entrance of the Buland Darwaza entrance.
The Buland Darwaza entrance from inside the courtyard.
An overview from the inside of the courtyard of the Jodha Bai Palace.
A view of the Jama Mosque. The Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) is a 17th Century mosque. The mosque was built in 1648 by Emperor Shah Jahan and dedicated to his loving daughter, Jahanara Begum. The mosque also known as the “Friday Mosque” is one of the largest mosques in India and is a most sought after pilgrimage site by the devotees. Some of the designs of the mosque reflect beautiful Iranian architecture. The Jama Mosque entrance.
The white marble encased tomb of Salim Chishti.
On the left of the tomb, to the east, stands a red sandstone tomb of Islam Khan I, son of Shaikh Badruddin Chisti and grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti. The tomb is topped by a dome and thirty-six small domed chattris and contains a number of graves, some unnamed, all male descendants of Shaikh Salim Chisti.
The Mariam-uz-Zamani’s Palace was the home of Akbar’s wife. It was designed to ensure the women in purdah had everything that they needed for their daily life.
The Palace of Birbal is also within the complex.According to popular beliefs the most probable occupants of this palace were Akbar’s two senior queens, Ruqayya Begum and Salima Sultan Begum. Birbal’s house stands near the northwest corner of Jodhbai’s palace.
Some of the column work inside the complex.
Looking out to one of the back entrances.
As we were leaving the complex, we saw a man heading up the road with several donkeys carrying loads of bricks.
We made a wrong turn as we were heading back down to find our driver and ended up in a pretty run down area. We saw several hogs rummaging through some garbage on the side of the road.
We finally did make our way back to the car and headed off to our next stop, Abhaneri village.
Abhaneri is the location of the Harshat Mata Temple and Chand Baori – the largest step well of India. The concept of step well actually originated in India. These wells acted as the reservoirs or the storage tanks that can store large amount of water and keep it cool as well. These wells were used by the local villagers to gather and spend their time talking, celebrating festivals in the cool serenity of the cold water of the wells on hot summer days. They were used to harvest rainwater to be subsequently used in droughts as Rajasthan is a dry state with scarcity of water in many areas.
This step well is the deepest step well in the world. The well is a 13-story building, which is about 100 feet deep and has a total of 3500 steps. It is of square construction measuring 35 meters on each side. Three out of the four side have steps that lead down to the bottom of the well. These steps were used to draw water from the well. It was constructed in the 9th century.
Adjoining the Chand Baori step well, there is a temple dedicated to Harshat Mata.
It was built during the 10th century. Harshat Mata is the goddess of joy and happiness. As per the beliefs, the goddess is always cheerful, who imparts her joy and happiness to the whole village. The villagers offer daily prayers at the temple which consists of beautiful carvings on its pillars. The temple was destroyed by the army of Aurungzeb.
Our final stop before heading into Jaipur was the Monkey Temple (Galwh Bagh).The Monkey Temple is located in the town of Khaniya Balaji, only 10 km from Jaipur. It is believed that Saint Galav spent his life meditating and performing penance at Galtaji. Pleased with his penance, the Gods appeared before him and blessed his place of worship with abundant water. To honor this great ‘rishi’, a temple was built here and it was named after him. Taking a dip in the natural springs of Galtaji is considered very auspicious and is said to cleanse a person of his sins. The water is stored in the ‘kunds’ (tanks), Galta Kund being the holiest of all the seven ‘kunds’ that never goes dry.
It is interesting to note that monkeys from different tribes come here and treat it as their home, justifying the name of the temple in its true sense. The main deities of the temple include Lord Hanuman and the Sun God. The temple offers a panoramic view of the Pink City (Jaipur).
A spectacular structure, this magnificent temple is built in pink sandstone, amidst low hills, and is structured to look more like a palace or ‘haveli’ than a traditional temple.
Before we arrived at the temple, Karan stopped and bought a huge bag of bananas for us to feed the monkeys. When we arrived, he sought out and found “The Monkey Whisperer”. I’m not sure of his name, but I believe it is Kanhaiya Sharma. He explained to us that he is somewhat of the caretaker of the monkeys here. He was a very nice guy that showed us how to feed the monkeys and took pictures and videos of us. Our driver told us to be sure and give him a tip. I tried several times throughout the time he spent with us here which he refused to take. He finally asked me if our driver had told us to give him a tip and I told him yes. When we got back to the car we just thanked him and he went on his way. I was surprised he had given us over an hour of his time and did not want or expect a tip.
The upper levels of the Monkey Temple.
After taking in the views, we hiked back down and said goodbye to the “Monkey Whisperer” and our driver, Karan, took us on into Jaipur to our hotel. Tomorrow we will tour the city of Jaipur.