An hour outside Agra you pass the deserted Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri, a complex of forts, palaces and mosques built in sandstone. Fatehpur Sikri served as Akbar’s capital for only a short period of twelve years before the capital was abandoned, apparently due to a lack of water supply. Today Fatehpur Sikri is a ghost city, its architecture is in a perfect state of preservation, and wandering through the palaces it is easy to imagine that this was once a royal residence and a dynamic cultural centre. The white marble Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti, Akbar’s spiritual adviser, is now observed as a Muslim pilgrimage spot.

To visit Fatehpur Sikri, from the parking area, you take a non-polluting gas powered minibus to the site entrance. There are 2 separate sections - the “living” section, for which an entrances fee is charged, which contains the many palaces which were built for Akbar’s various wives and concubines, and the separate “religious” section, where there is no entrance charge, where you can enter the tomb of the holy man whose prophesy led to be the construction of Fatehpur Sikri, visit the mosque, and see the largest gate in Asia.

Note that, whilst local guides are available and will approach you, many are unlicensed and few have much knowledge of the site. You should also resist any demands for additional fees.

What to see

  1. Diwan-i-Am: The first enclosure of the palace is a vast courtyard in which the emperor gave daily public audience and dispensed justice.

  2. Diwan-i-Khas: The Diwan-i-Am gave access to the second enclosure, a large quadrangle which contained all the major functions of the palace, and the finest buildings of Fatehpur Sikri. At the northern end is the Diwn-i-Khas. Also referred to as the Hall of Private Audiences, it’s an astonishing chamber dominated by a massive carved pillar which supports a fantastic capital above which is a balcony.

  3. Pachisi Court: The paving of this courtyard is laid out to resemble the cruciform board on which the game Pachisi is played. It is believed that Akbar used live pieces for the game.

  4. Private Living Quarter: These are at the southern end of the quadrangle, clustered around a pool, the Anup Talao. The structures here include Akbar’s library, the scene of his intellectual activity. A window overlooked the Daftarkhana , or records office. Above this is the Khwabgah, “the palace of dreams” or Akbar’s bedroom. This whole space was warmed or cooled by water channels. Nearby, the Turkish Sultana’s Palace is an exquisite pavilion, carved with Persian, Turkish and even Chinese motifs.

  5. Mariam’s Palace: The women’s quarters lie to the east of the “ male zone”. A small doorway leads to Mariam’s Palace, the residence popularly ascribed to Akbar’s Goan wife. Till even as late as’ the 19th century, its interior was richly embellished with gold.

  6. Jodhabai’s Palace: The largest of all the palaces, it housed Akbar’s queens. Here stylistic elements of Gujarat, Mandu and Gwalior are blended with traditional Islamic designs. Its blue tiled roof is the only splash of colour in Fatehpur Sikri.

  7. Hawa Mahal: A small screened wind tower attached to the women’s palace.

  8. Birbal’s Palace: This ornately carved palace is ascribed to Birbal, the legendary wit and Akbar’s favourite courtier though it is unlikely he lived in the women’s quarters.

  9. Panch Mahal: This is an extraordinary 5-storeyed columned structure set in the corner of the male and female zones of the palace. A pleasure pavilion, it was used by Akbar for his special consorts. Commands a grand view of the palaces below.

  10. Jama Masjid: The first , largest and highest building in Fatehpur Sikri, is entered by the Badshahi Darwaza in the east. The prayer chamber is splendidly painted.

  11. Salim Chisti’s Tomb: The white marble, jewel-like tomb of the saint lies in the courtyard of the mosque. Its interior is ornamented with mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli and topaz. It has become a popular wish-fulfilling shrine.

  12. Buland Darwaza: When Akbar returned to Fatehpur Sikri after a successful campaign of Gujarat the victory arch was constructed. The southern entry to the mosque was remodelled into a stupendous, 15 storey high gateway.

Getting There

Air: From Kheria airport at Agra 40 km.

Rail: Fatehpur Sikri is connected to the rest of the country from the railway stations in Agra.

Road: Fatehpur Sikri is connected by motorable roads to Agra 37 Km, Bharatpur 25 km, Jaipur 225 km and the rest of the country.

General information

Area: 8.0 Sq.Km Altitude: 230 mts Temperature: Summer - Max: 45.0 Deg.C Min. 21.9 Deg. C Winter - Max: 31.7 Deg.C. Min: 04.2 Deg.C Rainfall: 65 cm (June to September) Best Season: October to March. STD Code: 05619

Excursions

  1. Agra: Just 37 km away, is the home to one of the seven wonders of the world - The Taj Mahal. The architectural Splendour of the mausoleum, the fort and the palaces is a vivid reminder of the opulence of the legendary Mughal empire, of which Agra was the capital in the 16th and early 17th centuries

  2. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary: 25 km. A paradise for bird watchers and ornithologists, this sanctuary is also known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. More than 300 species of birds have been sighted here including the famous Siberian Crane. The best season to visit the park is between October and February when migratory birds are here.