Just In Time for Halloween: A Ghost Town!

Hey, look — we’re in an ancient Indian ghost town!

IMG_4221aTada!  Fatehpur Sikri!

Incidentally, I can’t believe we finally only have one week to go before the election.  Ack!  Too stressful!  It’s been going on for SO LONG!  I am more than ready for it to be over already.  I need those hours of my life back that I currently spend reading political blogs every day.  Just imagine how productive I’ll suddenly be!  Or, alternatively, how much more TV I’ll be able to watch!  😉

IMG_4222Presumably inhabited by ancient Indian ghosts

TV like, for instance, The Amazing Race — did you see the last episode?  They went to ANGKOR WAT!  Yay!  We were totally there!  OMG exciting!  Adam and I did not, however, visiting any floating village dentists or wade around with fish baskets like the contestants.  But we did see beautiful temples!  Man, I wish this season’s racers were as likable as the locations they’re sending them to.  (OK, I do like Toni and Dallas, the mother/son team; they seem really sweet.)  The one unrealistic/suspicious part is that none of the racers were stalked by adorable Cambodian children, and I am MOST curious about how they managed that.


OK, speaking of amazing, let me tell you about Fatehpur Sikri, which might have been my favorite place in India (too hard! I loved everything!).  It was the capital of the Mughal Empire for a while during Akbar’s reign.  Remember him?  The really hot one from the movie?  The one who married the Hindu princess, Jodhaa?

IMG_4224Jodhaa’s own quarters in the palace (note equally hot guy whose name begins with an A in the background)

One of the ways to remember Akbar the Great is by his religious tolerance, as, for instance, symbolized by this here column, carved out of a single block of red sandstone.


According to our guide, this lotus flower at the top symbolizes all religions coming together to the same place.  Awesome!  So open-minded! 

Then again, hilariously, there’s also this:

Giant Parcheesi!

It’s an enormous board game laid out on the cobblestones of the central courtyard.  (Did you know Parcheesi is called "the Royal Game of India"?  Although they spelled it Pachisi.)  Apparently Akbar would sit on the central slab and play the game with the ladies of his harem as the life-size pieces.  Whichever lady "won" got to spend the night with him.  Um, that…was not in the movie.

IMG_4492Trampling elephants not included

This is the main audience hall, the first courtyard you see when you walk into Fatehpur Sikri.  Inside that pavilion is where the emperor would sit to hear petitions from his people.  I’m sure our guide told us lots of fascinating things about this, but here’s the part that stuck in my head: watch what you ask for, because if the emperor got angry, he could have you TRAMPLED BY ELEPHANTS!  You can still see the ring in the grass that the elephants were tied to. 

IMG_4539Beware of grumpy emperors and even grumpier elephants

Yes, of course I’m putting that in a book.  Did I tell you guys about this pirate series I’m working on for Disney?  It’s all about the Brethren Court (yay!) and it’s set before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  More about that when the books come out, but let’s just say book 3 is set in India, at the court of the Pirate Lord Sri Sumbhajee.  And he MOST CERTAINLY has elephants.  :-) 

The Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience)

This is what you see when you go through into the next courtyard; that’s the building with the giant red sandstone lotus column in it.

Looking out from the lotus column to the Parcheesi courtyard

Sri Sumbhajee was a real Indian pirate, actually, and apparently you can visit the ruins of his island fort, Suvarnadurg, near Bombay.  We didn’t get over there (India is really rather large), but I did find some photos of it online!  And I imagined the rest of it based on what we saw here at Fatehpur Sikri and in the Amber and Red Forts.  


So when the book comes out next year, you can trot back here and look at the photos and be like, "Aha!  There’s the courtyard of the elephant columns!  And the Pirate Lord’s throne room!  And the palace of mirrors!"  (Coming soon!)  :-)  Won’t that be thrilling?  India + pirates = inherently exciting.  Er…I hope.

Panch Mahal (fun to say!)

For instance, I thought it was kind of fascinating how there were screens built everywhere so that the women of the court could watch what was going on without being seen.  This big pavilion towers over the Parcheesi court, so Akbar’s wives could watch the games (yay?  fun?) and anything else happening in the courtyard in privacy.  So I included screens and secret views in the pirate court as well.

IMG_4517En route to Jodhaa’s palace.

In Jodhaa’s palace courtyard


I started to go into one of these dark little niche rooms in the corner, but then I heard bat wings fluttering (seriously!) and FLED IN TERROR.

Adorable ghost town parrot

No, trust me, it was definitely bats, not parrots.  The parrots were out in the sunshine; the bats were in the dark, smelling like mice and going "eeeeeeeee" most alarmingly when we went anywhere near them.

Akbar built his capital here at Fatehpur Sikri in 1571 to honor a Sufi saint who lived here, who had told Akbar that he would have a son (which he did, with Jodhaa).


But after fourteen years someone finally noticed that there was no water supply (whoops), and the whole place was abandoned.  Hence: ghost town!


Visiting Fatehpur Sikri was our big Day 3 adventure, en route from Agra to Jaipur.  Although perhaps the most adventurous part was the massive traffic jam our bus got stuck in as we left Agra.  Seriously, we wound up in a never-ending line of trucks and buses that was not moving at all, and in the end we had to take CRAZY mud-mad back roads to get to Fatehpur Sikri.  Just try to imagine back roads in India.  Oh my GOODNESS.

IMG_4546Woeful ghost town dog

Hilarious ghost town goat

IMG_4549aVictory Gate

IMG_4551Bye, Fatehpur Sikri!

All right, time to go back to distracting myself and trying madly to make the next seven days disappear before my heart explodes.  But you know what will help?  Thursday night, because we are going to see…the So You Think You Can Dance tour!!!  WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!  Oh, yes, I totally bought tickets like MONTHS ago.  I’d say it’s a miracle I remembered that it’s this week, but come on…it’s So You Think You Can Dance!  I’ve been counting down the days!  ;-)  Adam, of course, can barely contain his excitement.  :-)  Hee!  Only downside:  I assume this will involve dressing like a presentable human being to leave the house.  HARD!  Sigh.  But worth it for Joshua and Will and Courtney and Twitch and Katee and YAY!

I hope all of you who are old enough to vote are ready to vote next week!  And psyched about voting!  YAY FOR VOTING!

Oh, and happy Halloween!  🙂

Quote of the Day:  "I always prefer to believe the best of everybody; it saves so much trouble." — Rudyard Kipling