What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

In a recent visit with family to Fatehpur Sikri, our excellent guide was rather befuddled by an over-excited woman, screeching with joy when she saw the Durbar hall, the Anup Talab, Akbar’s bed and the Buland Darwaza. “Yes, yes madam. Would you like a photograph? There as well? And there? And here again? Yes, it is all quite exciting.” As we entered the first garden and space where Akbar would hold his durbar, the guide pointed to a plain, flat platform raised two feet off the ground, against the backdrop of a columned corridor. “That’s where the king and Prince Salim were weighed on their birthday against gold, silver and other items.” “AAAAAHHH!” screeched the woman, madly flipping through a yellow-covered book with a gilded title, Akbar and the Tricky Traitor, to an image of Akbar being weighed against the very items mentioned, beautifully detailed by the illustrator of the book, Vandana Bist. Whipping out trusty phone, she stretched her arm out with book, framing the scene with the platform in the backdrop, and clicked. “And over there is the Darbar-i-Aam where the king held court…” “EEEEHHHH!” yelled the woman, flipping to another page in the book in which Akbar stands holding court while searching for his Super Six amidst the lot. Hand outstretched… click! “That was Akbar’s gigantic bed…” “OOOOH!” Flip flip flip… click! The ten-year-old and the eight-year-old offspring of the woman were soon influenced by the fervor of discovering new facts about the place and of photographing every nook and cranny of Fatehpur Sikri that echoed in the book, having read it multiple times themselves. “What’s...
Mystical history at the Ajanta and Ellora caves

Mystical history at the Ajanta and Ellora caves

Spent an outstanding weekend exploring the Ajanta and Ellora caves. The monuments outdid all expectations both in terms of their gorgeous paintings and sculptures, as well as the state that you find them in today. We’d had people tell us that they smell, have bats and more. The caves were incredibly clean – the main ones required that you take off your footwear before entering. The walls of these caves are books with the panels of paintings and sculpture holding a wealth of stories in them. You hear the stories come alive as you walk around the cave and follow the actions and expressions of the people portrayed. The panel on the Mahabharta and Ramayana cut into stone row upon row read as an Amar Chitra Katha comic would without blurbs. Ajanta is stunning with its location, detailed paintings and colours that have survived despite years of neglect and having been lost and forgotten in the forest. A Britisher named John Smith accidentally spotted them while out on a hunting trip in 1819. The caves at Ellora, made almost a 1000 years after Ajanta are more ornate. The paintings have largely been destroyed – the caves had villagers living and cooking inside them for years. Despite that, what has survived is truly extraordinary. The Kailasa rock-cut temple, cut into the rock with not a single joint, defies all understanding of how they visualised and created it. Spread over 25000sft, it is the world’s largest rock-cut cave temple and is dedicated to Shiva.  The acoustics in the Buddhist caves, where every chant reverberates through the hall and fills your senses,...