It was a hot day as, through the shimmering haze of the midday sun, Emperor Akbar galloped towards a cluster of mud-brick houses on the edge of a plateau known as Sikri. He was on his way to see a Sufi saint known as Shaikh Salim Chishti. Welcome to a new post themed on “guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri”. Let me continue what I began narrating.
History, going back in time : Fathehpur Sikri
The saint lived in a small brick house, and the Emperor had to duck down to enter the low doorway. Inside the darkened interiors, he greeted the saint and explained the reason for his visit. The saint pulled him towards him until Akbar’s forehead was resting against his own. A feeling of wondrous well being floods Akbar and his mind felt bathed in light. Sheikh Salim Chishti then uttered these simple words “ You need not fear Emperor, your wife will soon bear you an heir to the Mughal Empire. “
History lessons in school speak about a great Mughal Emperor called Akbar. Sitting in my class , trying to concentrate on the teacher the name stuck itself in my memory. From that lesson in the history books, I came across the word Fatehpur Sikri. Never has I thought in the year 1992-93 that one day in 2020 I would find myself standing gazing at Fatehpur Sikri’s monuments.
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The Mughal Empress bore the first son to Akbar out here in Sikri when it still was not what is seen today. In joy and ecstasy and a sign of remembrance Emperor Akbar decided to construct his capital here using chief architects who would be Hindu. Akbar’s scribe Faizal Khan recorded the thoughts of the Emperor. The chief architect of the Fatehpur Sikri was thus a man called Tuhin Das.
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Rise of Fahtehpur Sikri
Akbar explained to Tuhin Das that he wanted a rose-red city, built of red sandstone which shone like a jewel in this arid region, a fitting tribute to Shaikh Salim Chisti. History says more than sixty thousand labourers worked on erecting Fatehpur Sikri.
Fatehpur Sikri, the ghost city of today. As Taj Mahal showcases the love that Emperor Shah Jahan had for his wife, Mumtaz. Fatehpur Sikri showcases the love, effort and vision of one man – Emperor Akbar. The latter built something grand that would stand for the centuries to come. Thus he conceptualized and built Fatehpur Sikri.
If you are into reading, suggest read Moghul series by Alex Rutherford. In this author, portrays Akbar as one who was trying to sync religion with a scientific way of Life. Thus the same I would say is visible in the red sandstone monuments of Fatehpur Sikri. Intricately carved, painstakingly erected over 500 years ago, this masterpiece of Mughal architecture with elements of otherworldly ways of Life was the epitome of Akbar’s masterpieces.
Walking through the wide-open spaces and courtyards looking up at the various buildings, I could faintly conjure the vision of erstwhile glory where Tansen composed his world-famous renowned masterpiece Ragas be it Megha Malhaar or the raga Deepaka. The whispering of the still wind made me think of Birbal and his witty tales, which may originate from the monuments where I stood. I firmly believe that in tales of past lie the keys to the future.
So as I wandered through the entire complex of Fatehpur Sikri, let me elaborate a small paragraph or two about the famous monuments that one would like to visit in case you planning a visit to Fatehpur Sikri. Lets read on guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri.
My blog focuses quite a bit on history among other places of travel which I keep doing. The history posts come up because there has been in Indian History so many monumental architectures which were created. Read through the posts on Land of 1000 temples , Tamil Nadu or Stunning churches of Goa. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an architectural magnificence prism of view. In case interested read about HAMPI here or the temples of Pattadakal.
Guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri
It is not very widely established why Emperor Akbar chose to abandon Fatehpur Sikri after working tirelessly for almost 14 years to build it.
The Emperor was in his later years, inclined towards conjoining science and religion. In his quest for the merger, he established a new religion known as Din-I-Llahi (Religion of God). This had thoughts emanating from various scientific principles he encountered in his discussions with multiple world travelers who visited the Mughal empire from across the world.
The Emperor wanted Din-i-Ilahi to teach men kindness, compassion, tolerance and seek spiritual truth but above all, help secure the Mughal Dynasty by having the Mughal Empire the final say in matters relating to God.
To explore Fatehpur Sikri, pls follow this simple route as I describe it. The entire guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri will take around three to four hours without delving too deep into each monument’s intricacy because how can we understand each monument of a city that took 14 years to build in just a day or two.
Guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri
So to begin the guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri. One is confronted by the lovely lush landscaped garden in front as soon as one enters Fahtehpur Sikri complex’s main gate. This garden is indeed very well maintained by ASI. Lined with shrubs and green grass t beckons the visitor to what lies ahead. In the center of the garden, a massive ring is seen. It is said that the Emperor used to punish offenders of heinous crimes by trampling under the foot of his great elephant.
Diwan-e-aam is where the Emperor used to hear the grievances of the ordinary citizen. He used to hold court and disseminate solutions to problems faced by the Mughal Empire’s ordinary citizen. As I looked at the silent monument which hardly looked imposing now, I wondered how it would have been at the zenith of its glory with the full Mughal court in attendance.
From the Diwan-e-aam one ventures through a doorway in-wall and emerges into the inner complex area. Here is greeted by an imposing monument in the middle. This is known as the Diwan-a-khaas. The center piece of guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri
The Diwan-e-khaas was where the Emperor used to meet eminent personalities, including envoys and world travelers who used to come to the Mughal court.
The centerpiece of the Diwan-e-khaas is a highly decorate massive ornate pillar. The pillar is supported and connected with four corners using horizontal beams carved very skilfully. It is said that Akbar’s throne was placed on the circular platform on top of this pillar. From here, the Emperor used to listen to the various tales, hear petitions and discourses from eminent personalities.
The architects wanted to show that from his throne in the center and connected with the four beams to four directions, Akbar would convey to the visitor this dominion over the four corners of the globe.
From here, one turns towards the Panch-Mahal by crossing the courtyard known as Pachisi Court. The Panch Mahal consists of five stories that finally taper down as one reaches the fifth level. It looks to be a very delicate construction. Considering that it has withstood the test of time speaks of its strength and durability. I am deliberately keeping the description in this post on guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri in a simple manner for better appreciation and correlation when the reader visits this place.
It is said that there are 176 columns or pillars in the full structure. However, I could not see them up close. The third level is connected to the building which used to house the harem of the royal queens, and they could visit the Emperor when he used to sit on the fifth level.
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Anup Talao-The Peerless Pool
After seeing the Paanch Mahal, I turned towards the Anup Talao, also known as the Peerless Pool. The pond which is symbolically connected to 4 directions is the place where Tansen composed and rendered his immortal ragas. The pool was fed with waters through a series of aqueducts that sadly are closed today. The Emperor could always hear the rippling sound of fresh water coming into the pool.
As I looked into the pond’s green waters, my mind conjured up images of crystal blue waters with swans and lotuses reflecting the color of the sky above against the backdrop of the red sandstone buildings completely ornate with designs in ivory and precious jade. A worthy place for the jewel of Akbar’s court, Tansen to sit and sing to the glory of music. What a sight it would have been. Guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri.
From Anup Talao I ducked and entered the nearby building. As per My guide the Emperor used to dine as he listened to the melodies of Tansen. It was a unique kind of a building, relatively low in the entrance and then widens outwards. On some days the Emperor used to sleep here at night to observe the full moon reflection on to the pool ahead.
Once this part of the complex finishes, one heads towards the third part of the complex which houses the famous Jodha Bai Palace. As a part of guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri, I have segmented the main complex which is still erect into the above subsections.
Jodha Bai Palace
The largest of all the palaces out here, the Jodha Bai palace was the chief wife of Emperor Akbar. The palace has an architecture which is a mix of Hindu as well as Mughal art. Jodha Bai occupies a very significant stature in the mythology and history of the Rajput history of India. The palace has a chattri over the roof from where the Rajput Queen could see the moon and worship the Hindu Gods.
One proceeds towards the Fahtehpur Sikri’s highlight from the Jodha Bai palace – the imposing Jami Masjid and Buland Darwaza. The complex lies towards one end of the Fahtehpur Sikri, where Sufi saint Salim Chisti’s tomb lies. One enters the complex through the Shahi Darwaza while at the other end lies Buland Darwaza.
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Shaikh Salim Chisti
Inside the complex, Salim Chisti’s tomb is beautifully ordained in white marble with lattices carved in the marble. It is definitely worth seeing the mausoleum, replete with the essence of rose petals and ether aroma. There is a quiet solitude within while the tourists and visitors’ sounds are strangely muted and distant.
As we move ahead to the end of guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri. The Jami Majid which lies to the other end of the complex is a must-visit. It is one of the most visited spots in the region. It contains elaborate carvings, etchings with inlaid mosaic tiles. With long corridors, one is bound to be amazed by the high ceilings and a sense of magnificence.
After the Jami Masjid, one is to exit the complex through another marvel known as Buland Darwaza. It is known as the largest gateway in Asia and is over 54 mts high. It was made to commemorate the victory of Akbar over Deccan. My guide explained to me that the gateway is a fine blend of Mughal and Persian style of architecture. There are verses of the Holy Quran etched in the doorway panels.
- Guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri
This concludes the broad guide to must see places in Fatehpur Sikri. I will come back to a question that might bother many a visitor about why the Mughal Empire’s magnificent capital abandoned. The leading theory put forward is the scarcity of water. However, I would say that if Akbar could build a city from nothing, he could even solve the problem of water. However, I think the real reason to move the capital to Lahore was to broaden the Mughal Empire to the North West.
Whatever may be the real reason, but knowing the strength of purpose of Emperor Akbar, the decision to abandon Fahtehpur Sikri would not have been a hasty one instead a well thought of action.
So, here I end this post. Hope this travel guide and my thoughts will assist you the next time you visit this magnificence opulence built by Emperor Akbar. Few points to note , do always use the authorized agents to see Fatehpur Sikri. You will get them from the vehicle parking lot itself. Do not use the private guides. Secondly avoid spending time post sunset near here for it might not be safe. Thirdly there is no eating joint out here , so factor this in your travels. It does get hot so carry suitable shades. Wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing as Jami Masjid is a religious place of worship. There is no public transport to come here as far as I am aware of , so one needs to hire a cab from Agra.
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