Fatehpur Sikri architecture, oil painting, oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar, Moghul palace Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, India.

Moghul Palace “Fatipur Sikri” – Agra, India

We had left the Taj Mahal behind us as we traveled by government bus back towards Delhi, but not before we visited this Moghul palace that had been deserted, it is believed, for a lack of water. This is where the city of Fatipur Sikri architecture is showcased in the fort and abandoned Moghul Palace.

It was late in the day, perhaps 4PM and the sun was straining through the white smog to keep the scene well lit. A few national tourists roamed the area and children gave furtive glances as they took stock of who was present in the great open square. Later we would find ourselves surrounded by half a dozen kids all trying to pickpocket us.

Without warning or invitation, a self-appointed guide materialize out of nowhere who started telling us facts about the place. We reluctantly let this entrepreneurial fellow tag along, but on this day, money was extremely tight and he would be looking for a tip thereby leaving us with nothing once we got off the bus in the middle of the night in Delhi.

We had arrived at the Taj Mahal only to discover to our horror that the policy had changed regarding fees and currency. We would be admitted if we paid $15US each. Nationals, by comparison, paid the equivalent of thirty-five cents US. Anand attempted to buy one national ticket for him and a US one for me, but they had him figured out. He was an “NRI” –non-resident Indian and he would have to pay full price. We rarely carried cash on us in any great amount when out and about as we didn’t like to take risks, but whenever we knew we could face a major change in plans where we might have to stay in a hotel, for instance, we brought about $40US cash with us. This entrance fee at the Taj Mahal ruined our insurance plan.

This is a photograph of an archway inside Fatehpur Sikri palace in Agra, India. Fatipur Sikri Architecture

Fatipur Sikri Architecture “Archway”

Not only did the recent ticket hike take us by surprise, we saw many Europeans and Asians who did not have US dollars on them get turned away. We were shocked by this and had extreme sympathy for these tourists who had traveled by train –some for two days only to be met by this dual pricing system. It seems that a recently appointed politician made an abrupt decision shortly before our visit and changed the policy. There was no system in place for accommodating other world currencies, no credit card sales or ATM nearby to help those who didn’t carry dollars. (Westerners couldn’t pay in Rupees either, which made no sense at all.)

It was painful to watch tourists get upset and try to reason with the clerks at the entrance to the park. However, it was more painful to open our wallet since our fees represented one and a half times our daily backpacking budget in India. When you travel around the world for almost half a dozen months, most people have a daily budget that is in keeping with your lifestyle but you must make cost comparisons at the local level. Feeling gouged and taken advantage of for being Westerners added to our frustration because it wasn’t the first or last time it would happen to us in India.

I grumbled the whole way into the park, but the moment I saw Taj Mahal, all grumbling ceased and I got completely lost in its stunning –no, breathtaking beauty.

This is a photograph of one facade of Fatehpur Sikri from inside the plaza. Fatipur Sikri Architecture

Fatehpur Sikri Architecture – From inside the plaza.

Thinking that anything after the Taj Mahal would be anti-climatic, I wasn’t expecting anything from the rest of the tour, but I was wrong. Something about this magnificent red sandstone palace captured me in a way I wasn’t expecting. The minarets, domes, archways, door details, carvings, filigree and play of light and dark on the rose colored stone left me speechless. It appeared to me as one big, gigantic stone that had been masterfully carved to reveal a palace. Of course, that is not how it was created, but that was the impression left upon me. Fatipur Sikri architecture is stunning.

This painting is from a photograph I took. I saw humor in it; Three women looking away from something incredibly beautiful. Whatever were they looking at? If you had been there, you would have known they were looking at an equally beautiful facade of arches and doors, columns, domes and more architectural detail than one’s brain can register in the moment.

In my painting, on a small 9″ x 12″ canvas, the detail was frustrating to paint and took many hours with a size zero and double zero brush. A painting on a large scale canvas would have been ideal and, if I am inspired to try my hand at this scene again, I will work on a 4′ x 5′ canvas.

Exploring The Hues of Fatipur Sikri Architecture

The sandstone itself creates some strange optical illusions because it changes color here and there. The inconsistency of color warps the perspective. For example, imagine what happens when the normal rule of “darks recede and lights advance” is reversed or mixed up. I fought my inclination to correct some of this because it made the floor look pitched downwards and not on level with flooring elsewhere. (Should I even point out these inconsistencies? –or is it a  disservice to myself?)
In painting this facade on a small canvas with a “fine” texture, I learned that it wasn’t fine enough. The natural warp and weave in the canvas could create distortions in the building’s lines and it added to my constant, never ending frustration as a realist painter. A wooden surface, such as a mahogany panel that had been prepped for ultra-fine realistic work, would have been best.

This is a photograph of a domed roofline in Fatehpur Sikri. Fatipur Sikri Architecture

Fatehpur Sikri Roofline

Red sandstone of Fatipur Sikri’s architecture, ranging in hue from deep bloody purples to light ivory peach, created a luscious palette to work from. The antiquity of the buildings has stood the test of time burdened by hot desert sun, winds carrying abrasive sand, pollution and dirt cover every architectural detail, etchings from rare rains, highly acidic bird droppings, and normal wear and tear from humans and animals…yet these harsh conditions have rendered these palace buildings full of character. Nothing is perfect or regular which might be why I chose to paint it: it was a very forgiving building for a realist painter to capture on canvas.  [Note: Make no mistake, this painting was extremely challenging in its own right and I would never wish the task on anyone. <LOL> Definitely pick something easier to paint…that’s all I have to say.]

Visitors in my home press their noses up against this small canvas as they examine it. Four hundred and forty-four years later, the Moghul palace of Fatehpur Sikri does not disappoint. In my humble opinion, it holds up well against the Taj Mahal as a treasure in Moghul architecture and history. It should not be missed and I think, for best viewing and as an artist, visit it at a time of day when the sun strikes the building facades at an angle. and you will be guaranteed a feast for your eyes.

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