Basking in glory : Fatehpur Sikri in lensview
It is indeed one of the reminiscence of India’s glorious past- one which has been largely well-documentated and one which is largely intact, as is the case with most of the Mughal-era structures of that time. The beauty of this place is that every time you come here, you learn a few new things about the old times, just like sort of revising the history. Every time, it gives you a new perspective in current situations. Well, we are talking about Father Sikri, near Agra which was the capital of great Mughal emperor Akbar.
This architectural wonder is located right adjacent to the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, who was the guiding soul of Akbar throughout his life. Both the structures, often visited together, have different identities and different architectural values as well. But both share combined history. Here, I am sharing the images only from one of these two- the Akbar Palace.
The palace also defines the vision and ideas of Akbar as a ruler and as a person. His life has already been turned into a folklore by many films made on him. All of us know about Jodhabai the rajput princess from Jaipur who was Akbar’s hindu wife and perhaps most widely known. Hence there is Jodhabai’s Palace (below) which is the biggest one of all. But then there is a large contradiction between oral and written history on this, Written history says that Jodhabai had nothing to do with Sikri and actually this palace was Akbar’s main haram and was wrongly referred to as Jodhabai’s palace. But all guides will tell you that it is Jodhabai’s palace and as a proof they will show you the basil plant in the centre of the palace (considered sacred by the hindus) and a temple right in front of it which presumably had idols of hindu deities. But than there is a question- What was the Akbar’s haram without Jodhabai?
Then there is also Jodhbai’s kitchen in this part. You can still see some utensils of those times kept here. Interesting is the design of the kitchen (below, click the photo and zoom it) where you will find the walls decorated with carvings of ear-rings (Jhumkas, a traditional ear ornament of Rajasthani style). This again is used as a proof by the oral history to say that this palace belonged to Jodhabai who’s aesthetic sense reflected in the design of the palace.
This palace also is striking for its well developed drainage and water harvesting system. You will rarely find anything like this in palaces of that time. The drains still look intact.
Right behind the Jodhabai’s palace is this pool supposedly for queens to take bath. This covered pool, with provisions to cover sides with curtains also had a perfect water inlet and outlet system, which can still be seen here.
Move ahead and there is Birbal’s house (below) on the north-west corner of Jodhabai’s palace. Popular belief is that this house was built for Akbar’s first queen Ruqayya Begum who actually never occupied it and it was then given to Birbal.
This two storied house is one of the most beautifully carved structure of the Sikri palace with beautiful carvings on walls, which is rarely found in other structures of the palace. (see below)
Right behind the Birbal’s house was the place to keep horses and elephants. You can see (below) the hooks used to chain them.
Then you enter the main palace which housed Akbar’s palace, Panch Mahal, a very unique five storied structure used for recreation, a madarsa building for girls to study and Anoop Talab (pond) which was famously known as the place where Tansen would perform.
On one side was two storied Diwan-Khana-I-Khas and Khwabgah, the Akbar’s palace where he used to sleep, study and have food on the lower floor and upper floor where he used to give audience to the public.
Then close to Akbar’s palace was the house of his christian queen- populrlaly known as Turkish Sultana.
In the large compound in front of panch mahal was this game carved on floor, which is closely similar to today’s Ludo. Emperor’s too needed time to play and rejoice.
Then in the left corner was a building known to house the treasure of the emperor. This building is said to have derived its design from Jain temples of medieval India. In the pictures below, you can see the holes at the bottom of shelf which lead to hollow wall, used to hide the treasure. Such shelves are there everywhere in this building. (Do take care not to put your hands inside, as now there might be lizards inside!)
Then there is the all-important building which reflected the Akbar’s vision to religion in form of a new religious belief pronounced by him as Din-I-Ilahi. It was said to be eclectic religion that blended beliefs from various religions.
Akbar had a elephant which he loved a lot. When the elephant died, Akbar constructed a minaret in his memory. This minaret (below) is behind the palace towards the side of Hathi Pol (elephant gate) entrance.
Mughal Emperor Akbar’s short-lived capital (1571-1585 AD) Fatehpur Sikri is around 40 kilometres west of Agra. You can hire taxis or take buses to reach Sikri from Agra. Fatehpur is the village just below the ruins. Sikri village is few kms away. There are many places to stay on the way from Agra to Fatehpur-Sikri and also in Sikri itself. There are few more historical ruins around to be explored.
Few views of Diwan-i-Aam at the sunset-
Palaces is big and so is the adjacent tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti & Buland Darwaza. One needs time to see all of this. Leisurely, you might need the whole day to explore all of these. Plan accordingly. A day trip from Agra to Fatehpur-Sikri is what most tourists like to do. There is a ticket to enter the palace (not the tomb) and there are audio guides also available in many languages.