Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

Fatehpur Sikri the magnificent ancient city near Agra was built by Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor. The speciality of Fatehpur Sikri is that it is the best preserved heritage site form the Mughal Era. Akbar was inspired by his ancestor Timur’s Persian Courts and this was reflected in the Persian design principles of Fatehpur Sikri. The Red Sandstone structures also reflect elements from Hindu and Jain styles of Architecture. Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Panch Mahal, Buland Darwaza and Jama Masjid are the highlights of Fatehpur Sikri.  Fatehpur Sikri remained the capital of Mughals for only 10 years after which Akbar moved to Lahore.

Reaching Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is located 37 KMs west of Agra. Agra is well connected by Air. While coming from Delhi, Trains are also available. Taj Express and Shatabdi Express are convenient options to reach Agra from Delhi. Since the distance between Delhi and Agra is just over 200 KMs, one can easily drive down or hire a cab as well.

Buses run from Agra’s Idgah bus station to Fatehpur Sikri, and take about an hour. The frequency is every 30-min and buses are available from 6 am to 7 pm. The bus fare is Rs 15.

Note that all vehicles are stopped a KM away from Fatehpur Sikri to avoid damage to the site from pollution. Auto Rickshaws running on CNG are available to cover the last mile.

Timings of Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is open on all weekdays from Sunrise to Sunset. Entry fee is Rs 5 which is waived off on Fridays.

When to visit Fatehpur Sikri

November- February is the best time to visit Fatehpur Sikri. Summers are very hot and hence avoidable.

Stay Options in Fatehpur Sikri

Agra has plenty of options for stay. Taj Khema is the State Government’s Tourist complex and offers Tents, Rooms and Bungalows. It is located near the Taj Mahal.

Authorized Guides

You can engage Government authorized Gudies  for visiting Fatehpur Sikri and other prominent landmarks. www.up-tourism.com/approved_guide_list.pdf has the list.

What to see at Fatehpur Sikri

Buland Darwaza is the grand entrance to Fatehpur Sikri. The 175 feet tall gateway is the highest in the world. The Buland Darwaza was built in 1601 to commemorate Akbar’s victory over Khandesh, Gujarat. Real sandstone has been used to build this gateway. Beautiful carvings in marble embellish the Buland Darwaza. Akbar was known for his religious tolerance and this is reflected in one of the verses on the Buland Darwaza.

The inscription is a verse from Jesus Christ and says ‘Isa (Jesus), son of Mary said: 'The world is a Bridge, pass over it, but build 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.'

Jama Masjid is a magnificent Mosque built in 1572. It is one of the largest Mosques in India with a capacity to accommodate 10000 devotees. The design is a fusion of Indian and Persian architecture. The Iwans around a central courtyard reveal the Indian influence. The central chamber has a mosaic of stones bordered by glazed tiles. Watercolor paintings depicting stylized floral designs adorn the interior walls. The most distinguishing feature of Jama Masjid is the row of elevated dome shaped pavilions called “Chhatri”, over the sanctuary.

Diwan-i-aam or Hall of Public Audience is a pavilion in rectangular structure facing a large open space. There used to be an imperial box where Akbar used to stand and deliver justice in all cases of dispute. Located near the Diwan-i-aam is a very interesting section called the Pachisi courtyard. Pachisi happens to be a game like Ludo, played during the Mughal Times. The only difference lay in how Akbar played this game. Instead of coins, slave girls dressed in colorful robes used to move positions across the courtyard!

Diwan-i-khas or Hall of Private Audience was a square building with four “Chhatris’  on the roof. The central pillar of Diwan-khas was a prominent structure with a square base and an octagonal shaft,  carved with bands of geometric and floral designs. The central pillar’s  thirty-six serpentine brackets supported a circular platform from where Akbar used to discuss religious topics with leaders of different faiths.

Adjacent to the Treasury building is another interesting structure called the Astrologer’s chair. The royal astrologer had to keep Akbar updated on the planetary and stellar movements and their implications.

Tomb of Salim Chisti is a structure made of white marble. The Sufi Saint’s grave is under an ornate wooden canopy, encrusted with mother-of-pearl mosaic. The sloping eaves of the parapet are supported by white marble serpentine brackets.

Naubat Khana was a drum house. Musician used drums at the Naubhat Khana to announce the arrival of the Emperor.

The Panch Mahal was the leisure Palace of the Emperor and is made up of columns spread over four storeys. The  4 storeys  are of decreasing size and are asymmetrically disposed upon the ground floor with 84 columns. The pool in front of Panch Mahal is called Anoop Talao and it provided the setting for musical shows and other entertainment.

Jodha Bai’s Palace belonged to the Rajput Queen of Akbar and was the largest in the Harem. Her name as in Mughal chronicles was Mariam-uz-Zamani.  Several Hindu motifs were used in this section including the Swastika, Elephant, Lotus and Parrot.

Din-i-ilahi, a new religion

Akbar was a religiously tolerant person. In fact he encouraged debates on religious issues between experts from  different religions at Ibadat Khana in his Palace. In due course he concluded that no religion can claim a monopoly on Truth. He founded a new religion called Din-i-Ilahi based on principles from Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. It was an ethical system with core virtues of Piety, prudence, abstinence and kindness.  Apart from Akbar some of the other notable followers of this religion were Birbal, Jahangir, Akbar’s son and successor and Abul Fazal, Akbar’s vizier and biographer.

For a travelogue on the peerless Taj Mahal, visit here.

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For weekend getaways from Chandigarh, visit Holiday Ideas near Chandigarh