5. Fatehpur Sikri
One’s visit to the great historical city of Agra is not considered complete until they have traveled 37 Kms west of Agra, on Agra-Jaipur Highway to reach the imperial capital of Akbar, the Great for 25 years, named FATEHPUR SIKRI. Fatehpur Sikri is a small village, which was dwelt by stonecutters and was under the Rajput chiefs till the 14th century. While Akbar was returning from his yearly pilgrimage to Ajmer in the rainy season of 1571, he halted at Sikri. His Majesty gave it the name of Fatehbad (place of victory), which by common use came to be known as ‘Fatehpur’. The victory that inspired this name was Akbar’s celebrated conquest over Gujarat. Akbar’s stay in Fatehpur marked a distinctive phase in his life.
The main buildings are as:
The Music Gallery: A few yards from the Agra Gate is the first building called Naubat Khana or Music Gallery. It was guarded by the troops, and royal music was played in it.
The Mint and the Treasury: There was a beautiful building to the east of Naubat-Khana, which was known as ‘Taksal’. Gold and silver coins were minted here in 1557 A.D.
Diwan-I-Am: Emperor Akbar constructed Diwan-I-Am or the Hall of Public Hearing from 1570 – 1580 A.D. In its center is situated the Majesty’s seat of judgement on an elevated recess. On its there sides, the petitioners and litigants sat, while on the fourth side, seats were provided for the ladies of the Royal Harem.
Diwan-I-Khas: Also called ‘Ibadat Khana’, this red sandstone single-storied building was used by the Emperor to sit with his nobles. It was from here that Akbar, the Great used to give ‘Jharokha Darshan’ to his subjects daily during the morning hours.
The Khas Mahal: It is a block of three buildings. One is ‘Khwabgarh’, or the bedroom of Akbar himself. It was decorated with golden ornaments. Then comes the Turkish Sultana’s House. She was the chief wife of Akbar. Madarssa-e-Niswan, the third block, is a girl’s school where females of Akbar’s Harem were given training. Noteworthy here, is the fact that female education was imparted even in those times.
Char Charman: In the middle of Khas Mahal is situated the ‘Char Charman’. There is a platform approachable from 4 sides, where the King used to recreate.
Panch Mahal: Panch Mahal is a five-storied building, as the name suggests. It is a beautiful edifice often mistaken for a Buddhist Monastry, which was a place of complete recreation for Akbar and his wives.
Astrologer’s Seat: Towards the northwest of the Pachissi Court, there is a ‘Chattri’ of 9.75 feet, which was the seat of an astrologer, with whom Mughal rulers, both Akbar and Aurangzeb consulted regularly.
Mariam’s Palace: To the south of Panch Mahal, there is a beautiful double-storied palace built by Akbar for his Hindu wife, Mariam-Uz-Zamani.
She was the mother of Prince Saleem. It is called ‘Golden Palace as it is decorated with golden colors.
Jodha Bai’s Palace: Akbar, the Great married a Rajput lady, named Jodha Bai. He built the fascinating ‘Jodha Bai’s Palace’ for her. It is purely Hindu in architecture with colorful designs, ornamental carvings depicting bells and chains on stones. The Hindu princesses observed their religious practices, such as ‘Havans’, in the courtyard and in their rooms.
Hawa Mahal (Air Palace): It is part of Jodha Bai’s Palace. It was a pleasure resort used by the ladies of the ‘Harem’.
Islam Khan’s Tomb: Near the Shrine of Sheikh Salim Chisti, there is another tomb, called Islam Khan tomb. It is the cenotaph of the Governor of Bengal during Jahangir’s reign.
Buland Darwaza: Also called the ‘Victory Tower’, it was built by Emperor Akbar in 1602 A.D. It is the grandest and the tallest Gate in India. There are Arabic texts inscribed on it. One can have a general view of Fatehpur Sikri and a distant Taj Mahal, from the top of the gate.
The Great Step –Baoli Well: A big Baoli was built, which is octagonal in shape. Flanked by 2 staircases, and it was used by men to raise water.
Houses of Abul Fazl and Faizi: The two main houses are situated near the Buland Darwaza. Abul Fazal inhabited in the first house. He wrote ‘Ain-I-Akbari’. Faizi came in contact with Akbar in 1567A.D.
Jama Masjid: It is the largest building in Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built it in 1571A.D. in Mecca at the suggestion of Sheikh Salim Chisti.
Sheikh Salim Chisti’s Tomb: The Sufi saint was honored for his blessings to Akbar, the Great, by way of his Tomb at the summit of the hill. It is artistically decorated with flora and fauna. There is a ‘Sheesham wood’ canopy above the cenotaph. Hindus and Muslims hold this shrine in high veneration.
Birbal’s Palace: Birbal, one of the “Nav-Ratan’s” of Akbar’s court, built ‘The house of Raja Birbal’ for his beloved daughter in 1571A.D.
Hiran Minar: Emperor Akbar built this grand tower on the mortal remains of his faithful elephant ‘Hiran’.
In 1610A.D., William Finch visited Sikri and found that the city slowly last its past glory due to security reasons and acute shortage of water. The capital of Mughals was later shifted to Agra.