After two nights in Agra we checked out of the hotel and headed by bus towards Bharatpur. It was another very wet day and when we arrived at our first stop at Fatephur Sikri it was chucking it down! Built in 1571 by Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, Fatephur Sikri was the Mughal capital for 14 years. An example of a Mughal walled city with defined private and public areas and imposing gateways, its architecture, a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles, reflects Akbars secular vision as well as his style of governance. The site was abandoned in 1585 probably due to a lack of water and many of its treasures were plundered. However other than missing treasures it’s very well preserved and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building material is mainly red sandstone quarried from the rocky outcrop on which it’s situated. In it’s day, Fatephur Sikri shared it’s imperial duties as a capital city with Agra. During a crisis, the court, harem and treasury could be removed to Agra, only 26 miles away, less than a day’s march. It’s certainly an impressive place and very well preserved.
After leaving Fatephur Sikri we drove to our hotel near Bharatpur reaching it at lunchtime. It was a grand new hotel in the country. We were welcomed by drums. My room was large but cold and I was glad to be offered a portable heater.
After lunching at the hotel we drove the short distance to Keoladeo National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Keoladeo is regarded as one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries. This once arid scrubland was first developed by the Bharatpur rulers in the mid 18th century by diverting the waters of a nearby irrigation reserve to create a private duck reserve. Extravagant shooting parties for viceroys and other royal guests were held here and horrifying numbers of birds were shot in a single day. Today the park covers 29 sq km of wetlands and attracts a wide variety of migrant and water birds who fly in each winter from places as distant as Siberia.
On arrival, Yash procured for us bicycle rickshaws with a driver and an expert guide. Thankfully it had stopped raining and we spent a fantastic couple of hours being driven around this bird paradise. I noted around 40 different bird species including the common and white throated kingfisher, the snake bird and loads of juvenile painted storks. As well as birds we saw deer, monkeys (macaque), golden jackal, wild boar and baby pythons. I did regret at this point not having a better camera as my 10x zoom did not really do justice to most of the wildlife.
After dinner in the hotel we were treated to Indian music and a puppet show by a man with an incredibly long moustache.
It had been a great day and I was loving the tour. We had done so much already but were only half way through.