Fatehpur Sikri: The abandoned capital of Akbar
One of the primary stops of every tourist in India is the Taj Mahal. One of the Wonders of the World, The Taj Mahal is undoubtedly a stunning beauty to behold. However, not many people know that that is not the only attraction that Agra holds. Just a little off the main highway that leads from Delhi to Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, an excellently preserved ghost city that was once the capital of the greatest Mughal emperor of India – Akbar.
As you walk through Fatehpur Sikri, you can imagine yourself being transported back to the 16th century. Akbar was compelled to abandon his carefully constructed city due to reasons that are still under debate. It holds palaces, courts, utility buildings, mosques and other buildings that constitute of a palacial complex. Fatehpur Sikri served as a capital for a mere 15 years. But to this day, Fatehpur Sikri is considered one of Akbar’s grandest legacies.
Fatehpur Sikri is also showcased in the popular Bollywood movie ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. This movie stars Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and heartthrob Hritik Roshan. Several scenes were shot here, including the famous fight sequence between young Akbar and his love Jodha. Jodha and Akbar’s love story is legendary. Akbar had immense political success. After he won the allegiance of the Rajputs, he married Jodha Bai to further strengthen the alliance. She was also allowed to worship Hindu gods after her marriage. One of the grandest palaces in Fatehpur Sikri is Jodha Bai’s palace which shows several Hindu motifs. It integrates the styles of Rajputs and Mughals quite charmingly. Most of the roofs are also covered with gorgeous turquoise bricks which contrast with the red sandstone.
Like the rest of Mughal architecture in the region, Fatehpur Sikri is primarily made of red sandstone and marble. It is spread across an area of 4 kilometre square and one can spend anywhere between one to five hours exploring it. All the buildings are spread across the city with wide distances between then, in a style resembling a tent set up. It is surrounded on three sides by a 6 kilometre wall. The fourth side used to have a lake at the time.
One of those buildings is the Diwaan-e-Khaas. Diwaan-e-Khaas means Hall of Private Audience. It has a magnificently carved central pillar. Thirty six beautiful geometrical and floral brackets for a circular area that served as a platform for Akbar.
You will also come across the Diwaan-e-Aam, which was a Hall of Public Audience. This was a huge open area. Nearby are the Turkish baths. While walking around you will come across a wall where every bauble is designed uniquely.
At the south end of Fatehpur Sikri is the fifty four meter high Buland Darwaja, which means Victory Gate. It was built by Akbar to commemorate his victory in Gujarat. Also known as the Gate of Magnificence, this gate took a whopping twelve years to construct. Interestingly, an inscription of the door quotes Jesus. This is a look into the religious open mindedness of Akbar.
You will also come across the Panch-Mahal. This literally translates to Five-Palace. The name comes from the five stories of the structure. This palace however was not used for residence. It is a supported by one hundred and seventy six intricately carved columns and no walls, thus making it quite a breezy place. And that’s exactly what it was used for. The Royal family would come here to relax and enjoy a good breeze on a stuffy day.
Fatehpur Sikri also holds a congregational mosque, also commonly known as Jama Masjid. The Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri is decorated with white marble. It has a row of chhatri (umbrella) that run across its roof which look quite beautiful. It is one of the largest mosques in India and deserves no less respect than Mecca, according to the inscription.
You will also the Tomb of Salim Chishti which is an elegant marble construction. There are several scattered tombs around it. It is believed that if you tie a thread at the lattice surrounding the tomb and wish for something, you wish will come true.
It is advisable to enlist a guide who can take you around and help you imagine the complex as it was in the day.
So when you plan a visit to the Taj Mahal, make sure to drop by at Fatehpur Sikri and experience the grandiose of the Mughal area and lose yourself in the history of Akbar.