Fatehpur Sikri: An Emperor’s Dream City

by Atula Gupta on May 5, 2010 · 1 comment

At the start of the sixteenth century, India was invaded by a man named Babur who overthrew the Sultan of the day and proclaimed himself to be the ‘Emperor of India’. He eventually did manage to invade and bring a vast territory of India under his rule and thus began the great tryst of Mughals with India.

But even among the Mughals there was one emperor whose approach to governance, broad mindedness, acceptance of different religions and his intelligence not just made him a beloved king among his people but a visionary who is still respected for his great forsights. He was Mughal Emperor Mohd. Jalaluddin Akbar.

Akbar brought many changes in his lifetime, like strengthening Hindu and Muslim ties, introducing a modern system of an army owing allegiance to the state, creating a new religion that was an amalgamation of many, and also creating the first planned city of the Mughals known as Fatehpur Sikri, now also a World Heritage Site.

Sikri by Jorge Bassy- 2KPhoto.com via Flickr

Sikri by Jorge Bassy- 2KPhoto.com via Flickr


It is said that there was a Sufi saint named Salim Chisti who lived at a place called Sikri in the Vindhya mountain ranges about 26 miles from Agra. Akbar made a pilgrimage to this saint and was blessed with a son Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) and so as a token of his reverence to the saint he dreamt of building a city at Sikri that he named Fatehabad.

The new capital thus began taking shape with a unique blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. In 1585 the construction was complete giving shape to an Emperor’s dream and one of the most enchanting works of architecture done in India.

What to see

For those visiting Agra to have a look at another Mughal masterpiece the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri will be a sharp contrast to the white marble monument as the later is predominantly made of red sand stone. Although time and weather have had there chance to ruin the splendor of the place, what remains is still remarkable and that is sensed even as you just see a glimpse of the city from a distance.

With plenty of time, a local guide and a thirst to relive the golden days of Indian history, tread on to witness one outstanding monument after another some of which are as follows,

Buland Darwaza

 Literally translated as the Mighty Door, this gate erected in 1602 AD to commemorate Akbar’s victory over Deccan is regarded as one of the biggest and grandest gateways of the world. The 13 meter flights of steps to the gate only add to its grandeur.

Jami Masjid

One of the largest mosque in India, it has a central courtyard, a hall and also tomb of royal ladies.

jami masjid by amanderson2 via Flickr

jami masjid by amanderson2 via Flickr

Dargah of Sheikh Salim Chisti

It is the place of worship where the emperor himself went in need of a son. Saint Salim Chisti’s dargah is still frequented by many looking for a blessing or answers to their problems. The beautiful lattice work done on the dargah is eye-catching.

Dargah by paul-simpson.org via Flickr

Dargah by paul-simpson.org via Flickr

Anup Talao

A square water body that has pathways leading to the central platform. It is believed to be used for artistic performances as well as casual game or chat session for the Emperors and his Queens.

Turkish Sultana’s house

At the corner of the pool is this pavilion with beautiful carving adorning the ceiling.

Daulat Khan-i-Khas

It is the private chambers of the emperor himself. The structure is two storied with library and common room in the ground floor and royal bed chamber in the upper floor. This chamber has been connected well with all the queens’ chambers through corridors.

Palace of Jodha Bai

Known to be Akbar’s favorite queen, the palace of Queen Jodha Bai is the largest monument as well as the most lavish.  It has a 9 meter guarded gate to the east and also secure high walls.

Sunehra Makan

The golden house as it is called was palace of Queen Mariam-Uz-Zamani. The palace I called so because of the heavily ordained golden murals all across the palace. It also has inscription of verses written by Akbar’s brother Faizi.

Panch Mahal

It is one of the most beautifully crafted monument of Fatehpur Sikri. A five storied structure with each upper floor smaller than the one below giving a tower like appearance. The single dome kiosk at the top gives a magnificent view of the city.

Panch Mahal by paul-simpson.org via Flickr

Panch Mahal by paul-simpson.org via Flickr


When in Agra it is a must to reserve half a day visiting this intelligently planned city of an emperor. It was only for 13 years that the royalties lived in this city, before moving back to Agra because of water scarcity. But what remains here to this day is helping breathe life into past people and history even today.


{ 1 comment }

1 Anita May 5, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Fatehpur Sikri certainly has a charming elegance capable of easily taking you back to the moghul era.Nice article.

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