If you are visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra, do take some extra time, and visit the Fatehpur Sikri Fort and buildings, which are extremely beautiful and hold fascinating architectural details of the Mughal eras. Fatehpur Sikri is an abandoned city approximately 40km from Agra, was planned and built from scratch in the 16th Century by Akbar the Mughal Emperor. It was his capital and the seat of the grand Mughal court for 14 years, before being abandoned due to water scarcity and turmoil in north-west India. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the first planned city of the Mughals and also the first one designed in Mughal architecture, an amalgamation of Indian architecture, Persian and Islamic architecture.
On the top of the hill is the palace city, with most of the buildings were built with red sandstone. It consists of two major parts, the sacred religious area and imperial complex. At the foot of the hill, grew a township, where others who served the imperial court built their houses, mosques, temples and marketplaces. Together, the complexes were given the name of Fatehpur Sikri. It served as the Mughal Empire’s capital from 1571 until 1585. Though the city took 15 years to build, it was abandoned after only 14 years because the water supply was unable to sustain the growing population. It is hard to believe that someone as far-sighted as Akbar could have made such a monumental mistake. Comparing Agra which sits on the banks of one of India’s major rivers, the Yamuna, Fatehpur Sikri depends on rain for its water. Akbar obviously made some attempts at ensuring that this rainwater was stored – Fatehpur Sikri’s rainwater harvesting system is probably the oldest documented system in India – but he didn’t realise how much water an entire township would end up consuming. At the end of that period, Akbar uprooted his court and left, never to return. This amazing court, with its mosque and its surrounding town, was abandoned to the desert winds.
Today, Fatehpur Sikri leaves you with a sense of wonder. Parts of the city are well-maintained with polished floors and inlaid walls, and other buildings are crumbling away. Very little remains of the settlement clustered around the foot of the hill: some ruined houses and mosques, and the city walls, stretching far out, across the plain. The palace complex and the mosque at the top of the hill are the major remnants of Akbar’s imperial city. It’s apparent that an amazing amount of effort must have gone into carving these splendid palaces. Most of them, especially the palaces of the queens and the Halls of Audience, are masterpieces, every inch carved in painstaking detail. But that all of this effort and wealth was spent on something that was inhabited for less than fifteen years – well, that is one monumental mistake.
I would highly recommend a visit here if you are in the area but would advise you to spend at least a day here if possible visiting both the palace and also the mosque.
Tips for visiting Fatehpur Sikri :
- You will arrived at the main reception area 1km away at the base of the city where cars and taxis had to be parked at this area. Various guides hang around the entrance, offering their services, eyeing for your attention and cash. Make sure you AVOID them!!. Took a shuttle bus with a small fee (Rs10) which take you up to the City gates about a mile away. You also can take the shuttle bus return.
- When you arrive, it’s a good idea to see the city first. Once you’ve paid foreigner-price entrance charge (rs250) at the ticket booth. there is a gate on the right of the booth leading into the city.
- Visiting the whole complex will take you at least 2, and up to 3 hours, and as with other sites, it’s best to come early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, to dodge the worst heat.
- Entrance to the mosque area is free, and consequently you must work hard to dodge the endless ‘tourist guides’ touts, sellers, beggars, and goats.