Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fatehpur Sikri - staying close to Salim Chisti

Fatehpur Sikri – staying close to Salim Chisti

If only men were like Akbar!

The five feet three, had three wives and three hundred concubines and a bed large enough to have all three wives spread themselves in a foursome with their husband.

I am sure Akbar is not turning in his grave for I do not hear the slightest rustle of disbelief. But many women are, for I hear a loud rave and rant!

Son of the invader who began the Mughal Empire in India, Babur, Jalauddin Mohammad Akhbar was born on October 15, 1542. He married three women, a Hindu from Rajasthan, Jodha bai, a Muslim and a Christian from Goa. Unfortunately, none of the wives were able to produce an heir for him, until he heard of the Sufi saint, who was sitting on a hill in a village called Sikri, about 40 kms from Agra. Akbar had already travelled to Ajmer to pray at the tomb of Ajmer Sheriff, but he walked on foot to pay homage to Salim Chisti and beg him for an heir. And he was blessed with a boy, from his Hindu wife, Jodha bai, on 30 August, 1569. They called him, Mohammad Salim. Also Jahangir.

Akbar decided that he would not only build a palace with a mosque for Salim Chisti, but go and stay close to him. Fatehpur Sikri was born at the same it and the impressive structure which is aworld heritahe monument was build over 12 years with 32,000 men working there. But after Salim Chisti left his body the dire water shortage in the [place made Akbar move after living there for 16 years, along with his family and son,

Fatehpur Sikri is a living example of an alishaan life of wine, women and song . The administration of his kingdom, was done by remote control, from the top of a minor hillock.  Although Akbar continued to rule his domain from there, what strikes the viewer most is the place he gave to all three women in him life. Equally honoured in all respect, each had their own living quarter, separate from the other. Jodha bai’s palace was large; she had her winter palace and her summer palace which faced each other across a very large quadrangle. She shared a close proximity in her living quarters with his Christian wife, from Goa. Hers was a smaller version of a palace, with separate rooms. But the one, that is most engaging though, is the sheesh mahal – the official residence of his Muslim wife. Set at the farthest end of the main monument across the central water lake, where Tansen sang his songs in the evening, sheesh mahal is intricately carved with art at every wall, pillar, window. A small room, most elegantly designed, for perhaps a lady with much artistic taste, or someone Akbar honoured the most, although Jodha bai may have been his priority in other ways.

The ladies, also had their own jewellery rooms, or tijoris, in which they kept their precious jewels and money.

Fatehpur Sikri had its own hospital, with its own Hakim ji. A horse and camel stable which would have done the horses proud!
Akbar had a message in his marriages – he did want so much to bring together all religions together. I am told he even proposed a new religious sect called “Din-e-lahi” which included the best tenets of all religions existing those times. Why I have chosen to say, that if only men were like Akbar, is, while men may still like many women, behind the purdah, most would not give all their women the same honour or status in their lives through marriage or otherwise. Protesting feminists must concede this point.

Perhaps a ruler with a gentle heart and an open mind to all religions, Akbar must be remembered not for the second Mughal to rule over his domain in India, but a man who put to practice, what he believed in, all roads lead to One!

Akbar died in 1606 on the night of 25th – 26th October, in Agra Fort where he had moved from Fatehpur Sikri and was buried in Sikandara a little away from Agra Fort.

Picture gallery:

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Radha Kund - Divine ecstacy

Thirty kilometres from Mathura and four kilometres Goverdhan, a small village resembling the unkempt lanes and by lanes of Kasi, is Radha Kund. Famous among the Bengali vaishanava, the little spiritual village, is home for many who have left their homes and families in Bengal, to be here where Radha is supposed to have bathed with her gopis, right next to Shyama kund where the divine lover, Sri Krishna, himself had taken his bath. Thus, the place is full of kunds (lakes) which have natural water, in spite of being in arid, water starved Mathura of these days.

The two famous kunds, Radha and Shyama kunds are separated by a small wall. And while Radha kund still has clear water, Shyama is enveloped by sludge around the sides for want of cleaning.

Yet, the people living there are happy. They live in divine ecstasy of Radha rani.

Wikipedia says, that “following the sacred writing “Sri Upadeshamrita” (The Nectar of Instruction) by early 16th century saint Srila Rupa Gosvami of Vrindavan, a close associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vaishnava Hindus consider Radha-Kund to be the supreme of all holy places. Mythology has it that when Lord Krishna slayed a mighty asura (demon) in the form of a bull, his consort Radha tersely told Krishna to wash off his sins by taking dips in various holy rivers. Krishna laughed it off and struck the ground with his foot whereupon the mighty rivers emerged, welled up and formed a kunda (little water body). Subsequently the Lord bathed in the water to please Radha. The kunda came to be called “Shyam-Kund”. Indignant that Krishna used his powers for this, Radha and her girl attendants dug out a kunda with their bangles and filled it with water from “Manasi-Ganga”, another holy kunda at nearby Govardhan. That particular kunda is today's “Radha-Kund” where people come from far and wide to take a dip.

Since Radhaji is considered the most holy, chaste, pure, pious and greatest of all divinities, Radha-Kund holds its significance and spiritual grandeur by being made personally by Radharani.

Every twenty years or so Radha Kund is emptied revealing the original Kund that was rediscovered by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on his travels, as prior to this the Kund had remained hidden for many years. The original pool becomes visible when Radha Kund is emptied and is named Kancan or Kankan Kund.”

Just behind Syama kund is the one and only Dharmashala – Miramanuranjan Banik Dharmashala, the only staying place in Radha kund. The rooms reminded me of Bharat Sevashram in Gaya. The bathroom floors is wet, the bedding not very appealing and of course you must have your own bed linen. Priced at only Rs 130 per 24 hrs, with food, surely one can’t ask for more.

Naturally, the thrifty Bengali, who is a travel bug, and prefers places like Bharat Sevashram, wherever, they go, finds Miramanuranjan Banik Dharmashala just the right place for their shoe-string budget for bhraman ( travels), especially, in the festival months of the vaishnavas.

How to reach: By bus or car via Goverdhan.
Stay: Miramanuranjan Banik Dharmashala,
P.O Radha Kund, Mathura, Mathura Distt.
Pin: 281504
Contact person: Shubhro Majumdar
Cell: 917417502381, 918899499676

Warning: Tie your purse strings tightly! You may be flogged by persistent beggars who pose as bhaktas. I am told that many of them have Bank accounts and lakhs of money, which the generous hearted may themselves not have.

Photo gallery:

Radha kund

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Radha kund