Fatehpur Sikri UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, India
Four hundred and fifty years ago, Babur the first Mughal, after defeating Rajputana’s formidable Rana Sanga, was passing through the Sikri and Nagar settlements that were earlier taken over from the Sikarwar Rajputs by Turkish Mohammedans. Returning thanks (shukri) to god for his fateful victory, Babar renamed Sikri as Shukri.Nothing remains now of the pavilions and gardens that Babar built except an inscribed well corroborating the statement in his ‘Memoirs’. Nothing also remains of Nagar Chain , a pleasure resort that Akbar erected in 1564 near Karaoli, not far from Shikri. The new capital that Akbar built here much later, sprawling astride a rocky ridge, presents a picture of unforgettable splendour and also of desolation.
The birth story of this beautiful city , described as an epic poem in red sandstone, is interesting. There, in a grotto in Shikri lived a Muslim saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti by name. Akbar, hearing of his renown, asked of the blessing of a son, and when a son was born, not only was the child named Salim, the site for a mighty and ambitious project-a city-was chosen near the residence of the saint.
The new city renamed Fatehpur after Akbar’s victory of Gujarat, was perhaps a ceremonial capital from where, if need arose, the court could retire to the fort at Agra. Here, if one were to let imagination slide back a few centuries one could join the throng of noblemen and attendants, musicians, poets and philosophers, beautiful maids- and savour the enchantment of Fatehpur Sikri as it was conceived and brought to life a short but momentous spell.
The building in Fatehpur Sikri can be divided into categories, the religious and the secular. On one hand is the imposing Jama Masjid with the most stupendous gateway of India, the Buland Darwaza, and the exquisite gem of the ‘dargah’ of Shikh Salim Chisti within the courts.On the other are the many and varied secular buildings: the Diwan-I-Am,the Diwan-I-Khas, Jodha’s Bai Palace, Birbal House, Mariam’s House, the House of Turkish Sultana and the Panchmahal. In different buildings, a variety of architectural styles are to be found, since craftsmen representing many schools were probably employed for the buildings to be completed with the extraordinary speed desired.
Beyond the three-arched Naiubat Khana-the palace of drums, as one enters Fatehpur Sikri, is the Diwan-i-Am ao the Hall of public Audience.This is an extensive quadrangle where Akbar meted out justice. The Diwan-i-Khas or the Hall of private audience, is one of the most interesting of buildings to be seen anywhere. From the outside it appears to be a double storeyed structure with a plain exterior but inside it as the touch of Bazaar. The hall is divided at about half of its height by a gallery on brackets running round the sides. Other narrow galleries run diagonally from one corner to another ,meeting at the centre, in a circular platform. The entire construction is supported on a unique cluster of brackets forming the capital of a column rising from the ground. It is said that Akbar used to sit on the circular column presiding over his ‘dominion over the four quarters’, listening to religious discussion and consulting with ministers.
The other building somewhat whimsical, though to a lesser degree, stand close by the Diwan-i-Khas. These are the famous Astrologer’s Seat and Panchmahal. The Astrologer’s Seat, actually the seat of the court treasurer, is noted for the large elaborate pillar which supports the roof and which resembles the Jain temple-architecture of Western India.
The Panchmahal is a pyramidical structure of five storeyed planned like a Buddhist Vihara. The topmost (also the fifth) floor, providing the grand view of the city and its environs, has four pillars crowned by a small dome. The buildings contains 176 column, each elaborately carved and wholly different from the other. The Turkish baths, the chambers of the princesses and the so-called royal astrologer’s seat, all form the Diwan-I-Khas: the Emperor’s special audience chamber.
In the courtyard there are makings of a checkerboard, where Akbar played with courtesans and dancing girls servrd as live pawns.
Diwan-Khana-i-Khas,the imperial residential comples of Akbar is composed of Khas Mahal and Khwabagha.Khas Mahal, Akbar’s private apartment is decorated with an ornate four-petal led sunken fountain. The Khwabagha or Khalwat Kada-i-khas is the Emperor’s bedroom and perhaps the most magnificent of all the royal apartments.
The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri is an a mixture of the Hindu and Muslim style. There are wall paintings which range from drawing of birds and animals to portrait of Salim and the Madina.
Overwhelmed by what he saw at Akbar’s opulent court, Ralph Finch, an English traveller wrote,” The king hath in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri 100 elephants,30,000 horses,1,400 tame deer,800 concubines and such other store of leopards, tiger, buffaloes, cocks and hawks that it is very strange to see. He keepeth a great court, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri are very great cities, either of them much greater than London”. To perpetuate the memory of Sheikh Salim Chisti, akbar built a charming mosque. Every year ,childless women of all religion come to pray at the Sheikh’s tomb to evoke his blessings. His Urs(death anniversary) is celebrated during winter with Urdu spiritual songs (Qawwalis) and music.
Akbar lived in his new capital for only sixteen years. Trouble in the north-west compelled him to shift to Lahore, and then he returned to Agra instead of Fatehpur Sikri.
The shortage of water at Fatehpur Sikri undoubtedly contributed to its desertion. Within a few years, the palaces, mosques and mansions of the nobles were deserted. Only in 1719, when Mohammed Shah sat in state on the Peacock Throne and had himself crowned Emperor of a ‘limited’ India did once again transiently its splendour flash. The same English traveller, Finch’s observation, remained true for four hundred years “ruinate. lying like a waste district………” reminding us what has been inscribed by Akbar on Buland Datwaza: Thus said Jesus, on whom be peace! The world is a bridge: pass over it, but build no house upon it”.
Open on all weekdays from sunrise to sunset.
Entry fee for those above 12 years- Rs. 5.00.
Free entry on Friday.
Best Time To Visit
From November to February.
More Information on Links Below
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