Fatehpur Sikri, one of the erstwhile capital city of Mughal emperor Akbar, is situated at a distance of about 36 km from the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh state. Fatehpur Sikri is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has a lot of history and greatest stories associated with it.
Whether a history buff or not it is must visit spot for anyone and everyone. Anyone who visits this place returns with an experience of a lifetime. Read on to know about this amazing site and I am sure by the time you will finish reading it you will be wanting to go explore it.
Most of you possibly know this place as erstwhile capital of Mughal emperor Akbar but Fatehpur Sikri has played more roles than the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s capital. What I mean by that is, the history of what we now call ‘Fatehpur’ is not a few hundred years old instead this area is part of a prehistoric establishment.
Experts have found that since the Stone Age period this site has had habitation. There used to be a lake on the banks of which primitive men built their rock shelter. As this site had water, food, and other resources required for humans to live, it was appropriate for primitive man’s habitation. That is why this site had been populated from thousands of years.
During the excavation of the site, various articles belonging to different time period have been recovered. Recovered objects include Stone Age tools, ochre-colored pottery belonging to 2000 BC period, painted grey ware belonging to the period between years 1200 BC to 800 BC.
Apart from this, excavation of the site has revealed that many centuries before Akbar established his capital here, once this site was home to Jain community. Remain of Jain temple, images and sculpture have been recovered during the excavation process.
The site (Fatehpur Sikri) is also mentioned in Hindu epic Mahabharata. The ancient text mentions this place as ‘Saik’ meaning a region surrounded by water. JainaSaraswati stone sculpture belonging to 1010 AD bears an inscription as per which this place was called Sekrikya which apparently is derived from Saik.
Mughal history in Fatehpur Sikri:
It’s not that Akbar was the first Mughal emperor to set a foot on the city of Fatehpur Sikri, his grandfather Babur was the founder of this city.
After defeating Rana Sangha, the Mughal army and Babur were looking for water to quench their thrust and then they found a lake at this place and used it. Babur felt gratitude towards it, hence he named this place ‘Shukri’ meaning Thanks.
This place is mentioned by Babur in his autobiography. After winning the battle of Khanwah in 1527 (against Rana Sangha) to commemorate his victory Babur founded a Jal Mahal surrounded by lake water, a baoli and a garden in this region.
Fatehpur Sikri – Making of 16th century Mughal Capital:
Fatehpur Sikri as the capital city was founded by Mughal emperor Jamaluddin Mohammad Akbar in 1569. Akbar Visited Sikri in 1569 to meet a Sufi saint called Sheikh Salim Chishti whom he held in very high regard. He approached the saint to seek his blessings so he could get a male heir.
Sheikh Salim Chishti told Akbar that his wish to be the father of a boy will be granted by the almighty. Soon after, the news of Akbar’s wife Jodha being pregnant came out and the same year Akbar ’s son was born.
Akbar named his child Salim after the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti after whose blessings the king got his heir. Akbar considered this city auspicious and decided to make it his capital.
When we visited this amazing monument, we came across some amazing stories. Our guide even told us a legend associated with the birth of Emperor Akbar’s son Salim who later became Emperor Jahangir. It is said that when Akbar went to Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti and asked for his blessing to have a male heir Sheikh Salim Chishti read Akbar’s faith and found that God has not destined him to have a Son. But Salim Chishti, a great saint who did not want to let anyone who came to him go empty-handed wanted his wish to be grated.
The ultimate sacrifice of Sheikh Salim Chishti:
Sheikh Salim Chishti then prayed to God and asked him to take his six-month-old son’s life and in return bless the king with a son. He also asked God to take his life after King’s son had turned 6-month-old.
God granted Salim Chishti’s wish he took the life of saint’s son and blessed Akbar with one. Salim Chishti never told Akbar about his sacrifice, he quietly buried his son at the back of his house. He chose to bury his son at the back of his house because had he buried him in front of his house his grieve of losing his child would never lessen as he would see his child’s grave more often.
Saint Salim Chishti is said to have died six months after Salim the son of Akbar was born. When Akbar came to know about great sacrifice of the Sufi saint, he decided to pay respect to the great saint by building him a beautiful tomb.
Sheikh Salim Chishti was a secular saint, he had followers from all faith. People from every walk of life, every religion come here and pray to this holy soul. It is believed that if you donate a Chaadar (a cloth) and tied the holy thread making three knots with every knot you can wish for something. It is a popular belief that if you ask for something in this place it gets answered.
Of course, team wander Bharat also tied the holy thread and wished let’s see when the wishes come true 😉
16th century and later period
Fatehpur Sikri, once a prosperous city now a Ghost town and a cherished tourist spot. Fatehpur means the City of Victory. Akbar founded this city after winning Ranthambhore and Chittor. He initially named the city Fatehabad which later became Fatehpur.
It took around 15 years to build is colossal complex. Akbar’s fort as one would call it included palaces, courts, harems and many other structures. Each crafted exquisitely.
Fatehpur Sikri used to be the capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century until Akbar decided to shift the capital to Lahore. It held the status of capital for a short tenor of 14 years from the year 1571 to 1585.
Abandoning of Fatehpur Sikri:
The primary reason behind abandoning Fatehpur Sikri was the shortage of water. The abandoning of Fatehpur Sikri by Akbar is said to have done in two phases one in 1585 and later in 1601. It is believed that in 1585 Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri to fight a battle in Punjab and shifted his capital. In 1601 Akbar came to Fatehpur Sikri for a short while and eventually abandoned it permanently.
Another reason behind leaving this place as is said to be increasing attacks of Rajputs. As Fatehpur Sikri is located close to Rajasthan, Akbar’s capital saw frequent attacks to avoid loss caused in such events he decided to shift the capital.
Fatehpur Sikri during Later Mughal Emperors, Marathas, and British:
Mohammad Shah apparently came here in 1720 made some restoration efforts but that too was for a short period that he stayed here.
Later when Marathas overtook the seat of Delhi in the 18th century the complex of Fatehpur Sikri came in their control.
In the 19th century (the year 1803) the British took over the complex and used it as their headquarters. During this period many structures of Fatehpur Sikri complex were harmed.
The efforts of restoring this historical masterpiece were initiated by Lord Curzon from 1898 to 1905 who, brought to action Archaeological survey and restoration process
About the Fatehpur Sikri complex
Sikri was the first planned city to have been built by Mughals. The city of Fatehpur Sikri had remarkable water supply and drainage system. This speaks for great town planning done by the architects and engineers of those times.
Most of the structures of the complex are built in red sandstone. The structures are adorned with intricate carvings, ornamented arches, Jharokahas, Brackets, Chajjas, chhatris etc.
Today most parts of the complex are in ruins but there are some parts of it that still are in pretty good shape.
It is said that about 75% of the city has already faded with time, but the remaining 25% of it does not fail to astonish you. Taking the tour of this erstwhile capital of Akbar the great you will witness some outstanding structure and will get to know the grand lifestyle of the Mughal King.
The whole complex is very beautifully crafted. One can see every structure built exquisitely with intricate carvings, designs and artistic approach.
The architectural style of the complex is not entirely Mughal. Elements of various Indian regions and religions (Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist) have also been incorporated in its architectural style.
The most beautiful thing about this complex is that every structure of it gives some message. For example, the message of Akbar’s secular believes is seen engraved on the walls and pillars of the complex in various forms.
Prominent Structures of Fatehpur Sikri:
Main attractions of the complex include Jami Masjid, HiranMinar, the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, Buland Darwaza, Khaas Mahal, Meena Bazar, Panch Mahal, Shahi Bazar, Khwabgah, Diwan I Khas, Diwan I Am, Anup Talao, stable for horses and Chaupar.
Apart from the royal family, this magnificent royal complex of Fatehpur Sikri was home to more than 1.2 lakh Mughal army soldiers.
Special structure and messages in details:
In various parts of this massive construction, Akbar has various symbols carved as designs so he could send the message of his religious tolerance. While roaming around near Ruqiya Palace in a veranda you will find some pillars, these pillars have designs of Temple, Mosque and Church carved upon them. Elements like these spread the message of his secular mindset.
There are many special buildings in the complex but Jama Masjid or Jami Masjid (mosque) was one that was particularly special to Akbar. Construction of Jami Masjid was personally guided by Akbar himself. This magnificent mosque has a length of 165 meters and a beautiful white marble tomb dedicated to Sheikh Salim Chisthi. This whole complex is called Sikri. Sheikh Salim Chishti’s Dargah is considered holy and people from all faith come here to pay their respect to the great Saint.
The very famous Buland Darwaza is the southern entrance to the mosque. This was built by Akbar to commemorate his victory over Gujrat. It is one of the most magnificent monuments of Mughal times. The Architectural work done on this gate is outstanding. This gate is built with red sandstone and this 54-meter-high gate bears most beautiful carvings.
This place was built for the first wife of Emperor Akbar i.e. Begum Ruqiya Sultan. This structure had Sheesh Mahal like interiors. Intricate work on the portions of the wall of this structure speaks of mastery of craftsmen and Mughal architectural styles.
Maria or Mariyam palace
Maria or Mariyam was Christian wife of Akbar. Apparently, Akbar was not too close to her. It is said that Akbar married Maria for political and trade-related benefits. Another reason given for marrying Maria is that Akbar wanted to spread the message of his religious tolerance, broadmindedness, and secularity by marrying women of other religions (Hindu, Muslim and Christian women).
It is a 54-meter-high gateway that was built by Emperor Akbar to commemorate his victory over Gujrat.
Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti
This tomb or Dargah belongs to Sufi Saint Salim Chishti. He was highly revered by the king Akbar. Akbar came to Sheikh Salim Chishti to ask when he will get his male heir and wanted his blessing so he could have a son. Sheikh Salim Chishti predicted he would soon be blessed with a Son and the same year Akbar’s son was born. Close to tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti there are several tombs. These tombs apparently belong to the saint’s relatives.
Diwan I Am
This was the hall of Public audience built by Akbar where he heard problems of his subjects and gave decisions on various issues.
Diwan I Khas
It was the hall for Akbar’s Private meetings with his Navratnas. It is a single storey structure that is divided into two storeys from inside. At the center of this building is a big pillar that bears signs, symbols, and representation of all religions. This represents Din I Ilahi concept that was brought by Akbar. This is a great example of a broad mindset and secular thinking of the king.
It is a five-story structure that was built by Emperor Akbar for ladies of his harem i.e. royal ladies and his mistresses.
Jodha Bai Haveli/ Mariam Uz Zamani Palace
This is one of the most magnificent structures of this complex. This is a huge palace that was built for Hindu wife of Emperor Akbar. This palace includes summer, winter palaces, temple, numerous rooms, and a big courtyard.
Right before the entry gate of this lavish Haveli is a servant room where one of Jodha’s 210 maids stayed. Anyone who wanted to go inside Jodha Bai’s palace needed to speak to the maid first.
Ankh Micholi treasury
It was the place where the king used to play games with his ladies.
It was the Royal Dining hall.
Birbal was one of Akbar’s Navratanas and favorite courtiers. Hence King built a house for him in this complex. This two-storey structure is created tastefully and its architecture incorporates Hindu and Islamic architectural elements.
It is a platform built in the middle of a pond called Anup Talao. It is said that Tansen used to sit here and sing his famous Ragas and make the skies rain and light the candles on the command of his music.
A vegetarian kitchen was built for Jodha Bai the Hindu wife of Emperor Akbar. This Kitchen situated outside Jodha Bai Haveli. The outer walls of this kitchen are adorned with carvings of Jumka (earning) designs. It is said that after marrying Jodha, Akbar decided to be vegetarian for three days a week. And every time he had a meal from this vegetarian Kitchen if the king liked the food he would gift Jumka (earning) to the queen as a reward.
The complex has a sperate non-vegetarian kitchen.
It was a structure from where announcements of royal’s entry were made which is in ruins.