About Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri near Agra was the short-lived capital of the Mughal Empire, and is an impressive fortified ancient city.
History of Fatehpur Sikri
Commissioned by Emperor Akbar in 1571, Fatehpur Sikri was built on the site where a holy man called Shaikh Salim Chishti was said to have predicted the birth of Akbar’s third son, who would become the leader of the empire. Akbar built his new capital here after the prediction came true, and the site includes a mosque and three palaces, one for each of his favourite wives – one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian (though Hindu villagers in Sikri dispute these claims).
Its construction was a feat of engineering: water had to be piped from the river in Agra as there were no water sources in the arid desert landscape around Fatehpur Sikri.
Fatehpur Sikri was built in honour of this prediction and also following Akbar’s victory in conquering Gujarat. Indeed, “Fatehpur Sikri” is translated as the “city of victory”.
Completed in 1573, Fatehpur Sikri was a magnificent city with numerous palaces, monuments, mosques and houses as well as public buildings. Today, the city is a ghostly sight, with its buildings intact but entirely empty save for the tourists.
Interestingly, Fatehpur Sikri is the origin of several board games. At the time of its existence, people (usually women) were used as the pieces and games were played at the Parcheesi Court.
Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned in 1585, when Lahore became the new capital. This was arguably due to the need to move to be nearer tribal conflicts, but it has been posited that the reason was inadequate water supplies. It would serve as an emergency capital once more in 1691 when a plague made Agra uninhabitable, but only for a few months.
In 1986, Fatehpur Sikri became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fatehpur Sikri today
Fatehpur Sikri is well worth a fulll day of your time. The red sandstone palace is beautifully preserved and contains classic examples of Mughal architecture as well as plenty of photo opportunities. The Ornamental Pool is one of the areas most synonymous with the site – Akbar would have watched musicians perform on this platform above the water, and it’s a calm area to sit and imagine the luxury and splendour that would have gone before.
The Jama Masjid mosque is next door and worth visiting: it’s spectacular and extremely beautiful. Watch out for touts who promise a free tour which ends up in the friend’s workshop trying to sell you things. You’ll need to dress relatively conservatively and take your shoes off.
Getting to Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri lies in the desert, about 40km west of Agra. The town makes a good day trip from Agra or outing en route to Jaipur, but there’s not enough to really warrant an overnight stay.
Public buses run regularly, taking just over an hour (albeit quite a bumpy hour), or you can get a taxi or tuktuk – make sure to agree the price firmly beforehand, although it shouldn’t be too expensive.