For all those making a trip to Agra, a visit to Fatehpur Sikri is strongly recommended. The palaces built by Akbar while having his capital at Sikri between 1571 A.D. to 1585 A.D. are today a world heritage Site as listed under the UNESCO. The amazing Persian architecture of some of the palaces and courts at this former capital of the great Mughal emperor along with other monuments which stand as a testimonial to the times of History continue to attract Tourists from all across the globe. This place, just a few kilometres from Agra is sure to lure every visitor to its unique and yet simple beauty, and not leave any admirer disappointed.
History about Fatehpur Sikri:
The shifting of Akbar's capital to Fatehpur Sikri from Agra took place in the year 1571 A.D. But there reason to this was more for the reasons of faith rather than military or political influences. Emperor Akbar was believed to have a strong faith in the Muslim Saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, grandson to Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. On his early travels, Akbar received inspiration to see Salim Chishti at his place in the desert. When Akbar went to see the Sufi saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti predicted that Akbar would have a son as his heir, which the emperor so longed for. In the year 1569 A.D., Akbar indeed had a son who he named Salim in reverence to the Saint himself. This son would later occupy the throne after the death of Akbar in the year 1605 A.D and is popularly known as Emperor Jahangir. The Saint Salim Chishti lived in a cavern near the village of Sikri. Two years after the birth of Jahangir as Akbar's son, the emperor shifted his capital near Sikri close to Saint Salim Chishti's place of residence. It was here that Akbar built and established his capital and built an entire township near to Sikri which he called Fatehbad, with the word 'Fateh' signifying victory in Arabic. The township of Fatehbad and the ridge of Sikri consisting of a small village hamlet together came to be known as 'Fatehpur Sikri'. Akbar had established his capital here but moved out to Lahore in the year 1585 A.D. after crisis of water shortage continued at Fatehpur Sikri, a problem that exists here till date. Akbar had never returned here except in the year 1601 A.D. only for a brief stay. After this, it never gained any political importance as it did during Akbar's reign. During history, this township of Fatehbad was known for 'silk spinning' as much as it was known for stone carvers and masons.
Monuments of Fatehpur Sikri:
Apart from the popular palaces and courts of Akbar, there are other structures worth mentioning in Fatehpur Sikri.
Visit to Buland Darwaza of Fatehpur Sikri:
This gateway built in the year 1601 A.D. during Akbar's last visit to Fatehpur Sikri was done to commemorate Akbar's victory over Gujarat. Standing at a height of almost 55 metres from the ground, this is the largest gateway not just in India but all across the globe. The most interesting thing about this grand structure is the inscription on the main gateway which reads in original Persian: "Jesus, son of Mary (Peace be upon them) said: The world is a bridge, pass over it, but built no houses upon it. He, who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer for the rest is unseen". This is one of the many proofs of Akbar's respect and tolerance towards Non Muslims and their respective religion. Thus this huge gateway which in Persian is also known as the 'high gate' or 'great gate' is semi octagonal with chattris and pillars on the top. There are about 42 steps that approach this massive gateway which lies to the south of the entrance of the courtyard of Salim Chishti's Dargah and the palaces and courts built by Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. The gateway is typical of Mughal architecture built of Red Sandstone with inlay marble work and provides an interesting view from the front prior to entering it.
Must to see Tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti in Fatehpur Sikri:
The tomb of the great revered Muslim saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, is located here at Fatehpur Sikri itself. During his time, he was believed to have performed miracles and today his tomb at Sikri is a place of pilgrimage for all his followers, for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. The tomb of the great Sufi Saint is a beautiful single storied white marble structure facing south towards Buland Darwaza, and is enclosed within the courtyard of the Jama Masjid, the Friday congregational mosque. The tomb was originally built of red sandstone and only converted to a white marble structure later on. It is built on a central square chamber and houses the grave of Salim Chishti under a wooden canopy, and upon it is a mosaic of nacre. There are five steps that one has to climb to enter the main entrance of the tomb that stands at almost a metre high. The centre of the tomb which encompasses the grave of the Sufi saint is surrounded by jalis or stone pierced screens. Other elements of the tomb are a reflecting pool, courtyards and other tombs along with the Buland Darwaza on its southern side and the emperors gate also known as the badshahi darwaza is towards the east of the tomb, and the Jama Masjid on the western side.
Tour to Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri:
The Jama Masjid was probably the first of the monuments that was built at Fatehpur Sikri and also the main place of worship for people at the time of History. It is mainly a congregational mosque with a large courtyard which one enters through the Buland Darwaza. The mosque is made up of red sandstone, an element often used and repeated in many of the Mughal monuments. On careful observation for those who love and appreciate architecture it is worth having a look at the seven bays which consist of three semi circle niche on the walls of the Jama Masjid. The courtyard of this prayer place also houses the white marble structure of the Sufi Saint Shaikh Salim Chishti.
Elements of Akbar's establishment at Fatehpur Sikri:
Other than the Buland Darwaza, Salim Chishti's Tomb and Jama Masjid, Akbar had built to establish an entire settlement of his own, from courtiers to ministers, military to the queens and their helpers at Fatehpur Sikri. Thus, this place now houses palaces, halls, place of worship and much more- just about everything within this township.
Trip to Diwan-i-am of Fatehpur Sikri:
The Diwan-i-am was the hall of public audience. It is here where the locals would meet the emperor who would sit on a multi bayed rectangular pavilion with a large open space in front to hear to their problems, complaints and matters of disputes.
Travel to Diwan-i-khas:
The Diwan-i-khas was the hall of private audience where the emperor would meet ambassadors, ministers and other religious leaders from other different parts of the world to discuss and debate political and religious ideas, situations and views. It would also be used for the emperor to hold meetings with his own ministers of the court in order to discuss matters of the court and kingdom. Its main architectural features include a central pillar and a square base with floral designs. It is a plain square building with four chhatris on the roof. There is also a circular platform where Akbar would sit.
Visit to Ibadat Khana:
This is the house of worship and it is here where the foundations of a new faith 'Din-i-illahi' were laid down by Akbar.
Naubat Khana Trip of Fatehpur Sikri:
This house, popularly known as the Naqqar Khana which meant a drum house. This is where the musicians would drum in order to announce the arrival of the emperor.
Trip to Maryam's Palace:
This is the palace built by Akbar for his Christian wife Maryam from Goa. It was also known as the golden facade since at a time in history, it was gilded throughout.
Tour to Jodha Bai's Palace:
Close to Maryam's palace is the palace of Jodha Bai who was Akbar's Hindu wife from Rajasthan. The palace is built in a way so as to ensure maximum privacy around a courtyard. The structure shows Guajarati influence.
Places to Visit in Fatehpur Sikri Panch Mahal:
Panch Mahal is a five storied building where each tier diminishes in size while moving up. The final one which is right at the top is like a large dome with a chattri on top. Carved columns at each level support the floors. The pierced stone screens facing towards the facade ensured privacy, which indicates that it was probably built for the ladies at the court.
Birbal, a minister at Akbar's court was known for his wisdom and knowledge. He was a personal favourite of Akbar. Birbal's House or Birbal Mahal was built as a residence of this notable and witty minister at the emperor's court. Horizontal sloping sunshades with brackets for support make for an interesting architectural wonder.
There are many other buildings which were important elements of Akbar's establishment at Fatehpur Sikri such as Karkhanas which served as royal workshop, taksal or the mint which overlooks the Sikri village, Hakim's quarters, stables, caravan sarai, khazana or treasury, darogha's quarters.etc.
Transportation options in Fatehpur Sikri:
The historical township of Fatehpur Sikri is at a distance of about 30 odd kilometres from the city of Agra. It takes less than an hour drive to reach. It falls on the Agra-Jaipur National Highway and therefore has good road services. One can hire a vehicle from any car agency at Agra for a day to get Fatepur Sikri. But the better option would be to board a bus from Idgah Bus Station at Agra where a bus leaves for Fatehpur Sikri at every hour and one can travel at a very reasonable cost. However, in case you decide to return to Agra the same day, which is common with the most travelers going to Sikri, it is recommended to board a bus before dark since transportation from Fathepur Sikri at night is rare and difficult . Also, there are not too may places to put up at the town.