Fatehpur Sikri

Akbar (1542-1605) is generally considered to have been the greatest of the Mughal emperors. The rapid and bloody extension and consolidation of his realm was the first of his many exploits. A man of many talents, he also was interested in architecture, painting, literature, theology and elephant riding, to mention only a few of the domains in which he became accomplished. His father Humayun had been forced by the Afghan rebel Sher Shah to spend a 15-year exile in Persia before returning to power. Akbar learned to draw during the exile and, after inheriting the throne, created and developed a Mughal school of painting which eventually incorporated Persian, Indian and even Christian elements, the last borrowed from illustrations in a Bible brought to Akbar by Portugese missionaries. Akbar's eclectic tastes extended to religion: Not only did he marry women of Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths; he also attempted to establish his own religion in order to promote tolerance among all religions. When Akbar despaired of having a son and heir, he consulted a Sufi mystic, Salim Chishti, who predicted the birth of a son.

Akbar built the Red Fort in Agra and moved the capital there, but he then tired of life there and decided to build a completely new and "perfect" capital city. Thus came to be Fatehpur Sikri. Alas, soon after Akbar's death, the city was abandoned, at least partly because there was a lack of adequate water supply in the region. The city was the Mughal capital only from 1571 to 1585. Today, it stands as an open-air museum of Mughal architecture.

Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri
House of Maryam, Akbar's Christian wife Palace of Jodh Bai, a Muslim wife
Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri
Anoop Talao, or pool Crossing the Pachisi Court to the Diwan-i-Khas

It is thought that Akbar once played (or supervised the playing of) Pachisi in the court of the same name, with his wives occupying the places of the different pieces on the board. Since Akbar is said to have had 5000 wives, there were more than enough for the game. Competition to participate must have been fierce.

Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri
Panch Mahal, where Akbar's queens savored the
 evening cool
Central pillar inside the Diwan-i-Khas
perhaps a meeting hall
Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri
Ankh Michauli - youths still frolic where
Akbar once  may have played blind mans
buff with his queens
A few bits of painting remind us of
how colorful the walls once
may have been

Nearby is the huge mosque, the Jama Masjid, which contains the tomb of the Sufi mystic and saint, Salim Chishti, who predicted the birth of Akbar's first son. We were lucky to visit on the day after the end of Ramadan, so festivities were taking place. 

Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri
Akbar's private entrance to the Jama Masjid The courtyard of the mosque with the
tomb of Salim Chishti
Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri

Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri  
Colorful salwar kameez wearers Festive tissues and the main mosque

The tomb of the Sufi saint Salim Chishti, a white marble building in the mosque courtyard, is still much visited.

Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri
The saint's tomb Beautiful jalli inside the tomb
Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri
Closeup of jalli Colorful threads tied on one jalli by
pilgrims (and tourists) are supposed
to bring wish fulfillment

That same evening, we visited the site that was the principal reason for our coming here -- the Taj Mahal.

Back to India 2007