It’s wedding season in India as this is such a religious country there are many months where marriage is prohibited for bad luck and other days honoring the gods. The next few months there will be hundreds of weddings each day of the week and we are so fortunate to be here during the kick of month where nervous brides and grooms who may or may not have ever met are marrying. I must add it takes hours before the ceremonies actually start and I am left wondering if that is because the families are all meeting for the very first time! I had about four hours of sleep listening to the sounds of happiness coming from two yards away from our hotel. Even Jill’s white noise soundproof Bose headphones would not stop the blaring of music and cheering. This made for a long morning but thankfully we arrived at Fatehpur Kikri – the City of Victory and Mughal Emperor Akbar’s home.
Akbar is the grandfather of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal and the grandson of the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India. He inherited the throne at age 13 and is best known for his appreciation of all faiths and his passion for the arts and culture. The Fatehpur Kikri completed in the 16th Century was the head of the Mughal Empire for about 10 years under Akbar’s reign. It was abandoned when Akbar defeated a tribe in what is now Pakistan where he remained. The walled city is quite grand but having experienced the Taj the day prior, it pales in comparison. The city constructed of red stone and in typical Mughal (Persian) architecture consists of palaces, public buildings, living areas for the court, army, servants of the king and a mosque (still active today). Many of the carvings represent Hinduism, Christianity and Islamic traditions highlighting Akbar’s compassion and need to unite his empire.
Our guide was 35 years old and originally from this area and spoke amazing English. He was very proud of Fatehpur Kikri and wanted to make sure we appreciated every detail of the city. He kept stopping us to give instruction. I am getting used to their pleas but most the guides get very upset when Jill wanders to take pictures and I am left listening. They want us to listen first and take pictures later. This guide was no different but sort of figured out Jill quickly. I enjoyed him because he was very open and honest about his background. He lost his father a few years ago and supports his mother (who suffers from a mental illness), while his older brother travels the world as a Bollywood producer and his younger brother works in Delhi. He donned an American look equipped with the standard baseball cap, jeans, sneakers and Ray ban sunglasses (most are more subtly dressed). He is Hindu (I of course guessed he was Muslim) and is not married. We did learn from him that Indians (Hindus primarily) are not allowed to marry someone from the same village an unspoken rule). I am guessing because they could possibly be related or something, which is absolutely prohibited by law and religion. He is to be engaged next year and then marry. I didn’t get the feeling that he even knew the woman yet.
As we toured Fatehpur Kikri for a bit, our guide started building up a sight called the Tomb of Salim Chishti within a separate area of the city. It is believed if you make an offering to the Tomb, you will be granted three wishes. He made a strong case for this as his wish for his mother came true. People from all over the world visit the Tomb to make a wish. The former president of France Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni made a wish for a baby girl and it came true. I would never want to miss an opportunity to make a wish so after 500 rupees ($10); Jill and I purchased the required cloth, flowers and string. The Tomb is actually a marble structure similar to a mosque with a center chamber. We entered the chamber area (heads fully covered), laid our cloth on the Tomb, then our flowers and moved to a type of gate and tied our string. Being in India has left me superstitious so I won’t jinx myself and share my wishes but if anything maybe it will give a little power to the prayers my parents make each week at church for both me and my brother….happiness, health and WEDDINGS!
In India, there is much time to be spent learning religion and the country’s culture. What Jill and I are learning is that there are many sets of rules and some days we figure out which ones apply to us and other days we give up trying. There are safe tourist restaurants that supposedly prevent Delhi Belly, there are shops that are government and tour agency approved that mark up their products 20 percent and then there are American standards and Indian standards.
We go with the flow most of the time but there is the occasional freak out moment like this morning when I took a cold shower or yesterday when the guide tried to take us to his marble shop and was visibly distraught when we didn’t want to go to a second tourist trap. It’s not easy being a tourist. It is an experience in a beautiful country but the culture shock is dramatic.