Nestled in the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh is the city of Fatehpur Sikri. The city was founded in 1569 by the Emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. After his military victories over Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from Agra to a new location to honour the Sufi saint Salim Chishti. Here he commenced the construction of a planned walled city, which took the next fifteen years in planning, and construction of a series of royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. He named the city Fatehabad, with Fateh, a word of Arabic origin in Persian, meaning ‘victorious.’ It was later called Fatehpur Sikri. It is at Fatehpur Sikri that the legends of Akbar and his famed courtiers, the nine jewels or Navaratnas, were born. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best preserved collections of Indian Mughal architecture in India.
According to historians, Akbar took a great interest in the building of Fatehpur Sikri and probably also dictated its architectural style. Seeking to revive the splendours of Persian court ceremony Akbar planned the complex on Persian principles. But the influences of his adopted land came through in the typically Indian elements. The easy availability of sandstone in the neighbouring areas of Fatehpur Sikri also meant that all the buildings here were made of the red stone. In its entirety, the monuments at Fatehpur Sikri thus reflect the genius of Akbar in assimilating diverse regional architectural influences within a holistic style that was uniquely his own.
The Imperial complex was abandoned in 1585, shortly after its completion, due to the exhaustion of the small, spring-fed lake that supplied the city with water, and its proximity with the Rajputana areas in the North-West, which were increasingly in turmoil.The palaces were occupied by the Marathas after their conquest of Delhi, then transferred to the British army, which used the fortified complex as a headquarters and barracks. Restoration of which began under Lord Curzon.
Because the palace area has been in nearly continuous use over the centuries, much of the imperial complex which spread over nearly two mile long and one mile wide area is largely intact. It is still surrounded by a five mile long wall built during its original construction on three sides. However apart from the imperial buildings complex and the magnificent mosque, which continues in use, little of the city survives. The former site of the city is mostly barren, except of ruins of the bazaars of the old city near the Naubat Khana, the ‘drum-house’ entrance at Agra Road.
A trip to Fatehpur Sikri is journey into the rich history and culture of India.