Patterns of India (Part 2: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri)

While travelling in India, I became fascinated with the variety of patterns in its architecture. Historically, they’re mostly a legacy of the Sultanates and the Mughal Empire, and Islam’s tradition of non-figurative art. But interesting patterns can also be found in Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and modern architecture, and also in natural forms.

These galleries collects all the photographs of patterns I took during my visit. I’m releasing these into the public domain. They are far from comprehensive, and others can be found in various places such as Wikimedia Commons.

Part 1: Delhi
Part 2: Agra and Fatehpur Sikri
Part 3: Rajasthan
Part 4: Chandigarh
Part 5: Miscellaneous



The tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a chief minister of the Mughal Empire, the Itimad-ud-Daulah was built in the 1620s and was a strong influence on the design of the Taj Mahal.

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The Hate List – Volume 19


I really enjoyed my trip around India. This special edition of the Hate List does not represent my overall opinion of the country and its people. For a balanced view, it should be read in conjunction with my Highlights of India blog post.

  1. People loudly belching in the street.
  2. People loudly hacking up phlegm and spitting it out in the street.
  3. People chewing paan and spitting it out in the street.
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I try to maintain a healthy attitude to guidebooks. I certainly don’t go for the hardcore traveller’s “I never use them” approach. They have many uses, and do tell you which places are specifically interesting and which aren’t. By ignoring them you end up wasting a lot of time in the less interesting places when there’s something unique and incredible around the corner. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a slave to them, as some of the best experiences are off-piste on crazy, unpredictable journeys.

The other reason I stopped in Agra, as well as visiting Fatehpur Sikri, was for another day trip, to nearby Mathura. I’d heard from several sources, including Peter Hopkirk‘s book Quest for Kim, that it had a hidden gem of a museum, rarely visited but containing a wealth of ancient sculpture. It’s also mythologically the birthplace of Krishna, eighth incarnation of Vishnu, and has a major temple marking the site.

I wasn’t put off by the fact that Mathura wasn’t mentioned at all in the Rough Guide. Perhaps I should have been.

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Fatehpur Sikri

Agra is a stinking cesspit of a city that no human being should ever have to endure… and none ever would, if it hadn’t had the undeserved luck of containing the Taj Mahal.

It does have some other nice monuments too, which is why people say Agra’s beautiful, but if a dog ate a few gemstones and did a poo, you wouldn’t call the poo beautiful.

A pig eating from a pile of unutterable filth in an open sewer, at a food market in Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

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Agra Tomb Review

Now you’ve read my Delhi Tomb Review, you probably want to know what I think of the tombs in Agra, too. Read below to find out.



Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb, glowing in the evening light

Where: The north end of central Agra, on the far side of the Yamuna river.

Who: Mirza Ghiyas Beg (?-1622), a Mughal politician and, clearly, a scheming genius, who rose to become chief minister and managed to get his daughter and granddaughter married to successive emperors.

Tomb features: It’s referred to as the “Baby Taj” and considered the penultimate step in the architectural evolution which realised perfection in the Taj Mahal. It suffers from that as people describe it as “imperfect” in comparison, which I think is unfair. It’s a different tomb with different design intentions. The Taj is very austere, whereas Itimad-ud-Daulah is intricately decorated, with the finest inlaid and latticed marble of all the tombs. It’s a nice garden to walk around in, especially in the evening when it’s bathed in golden sunlight from across the river.

Summary: A fine tomb in its own right.

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I’m currently on a two week holiday, visiting the classic tourist destinations of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with my girlfriend. There will be a short blogging hiatus during this time. Normal service will be resumed after the break.

Edit 22/10/13: Actually I’ve got a bit of spare time while we’re in Jaipur for a couple of short posts.