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Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

Tourist Attractions in Fatehpur Sikri

The Royal Palace
The Fatehpur Sikri is reached through the Agra Gate. From Agra Gate you enter the monument by the Naubat Khana (Music House) where drums were beaten to mark the Royal Approach. After this is the garden of the Diwan-iam (Hall of Public Audience). On the west wall is the platform for the Emperor’s Throne. This backed onto the private palace. In the centre of the courtyard behind the throne is the Pachisi Board. This game is northing like chess even though it uses a similar board. In the centre, a two storey building stands on its own. It is a single room with a throne platform. Here Akbar would spend long hours in discussion with the Fathers from Goa, Jains, Buddhist Monks, Hindu Pandits (Teachers). They would sit along the walls of the balcony connected to the Throne Pillar by screened walkways, while courtiers could listen to the discussion from the ground floor. The decorative techniques and metaphysical labels are incorporated into Fatehpur Sikri. The pillar, for example is shaped like a lotus, a Hindu and Buddhist motif, a Hindu Royal Umbrella, and the Tree of Life. The bottom of the pillar is carved in tiers; the first in Muslim designs, the second Hindu, the third Christian and the fourth Buddhist.

The Throne Pillar can be approached by steps from the outside. The design of the Hall deliberately followed the archaic universal pattern of establishing a hallowed spot from which spiritual influence could radiate. In his later years, Akbar developed a mystical cult around himself that saw him as being semi-divine. He appreciated that he could not draw Hindus and Muslims away from their religion but by raising himself to semi-divine status he realized that for his subjects it would be akin to a religious duty to obey and a sacrilege to oppose. In this way he won the allegiance of Hindus and Muslims alike.

In the northwest corner of the courtyard is the Treasury which comprises three rooms each protected by a narrow corridor round it. This was for sentries to guard the money. The ceiling struts emerge from the jaws of the mythical sea dragons (makaras) who are the guardians of the treasures of the deep. The serpentine scrolls derive from Jain architecture from west India. Sightly in front of the Treasury is The Astrologer’s Seat. Whilst not addicted to it like his father Humayun, astrology played an important role in the running of court affairs. Akbar kept Hindu and Muslim astrologers. It is also possible that it was used by the Court Treasurer. The Palace of the Turkish Wife is directly opp beyond the Pachisi Board. Despite not being able to bear him any children the Sultana Ruqayya Begum was his favourite. Her palace, with a balcony on each side, is so richly carved that it is like entering a finely carved Chinese Box. The walls would originally have been set with semi-precious stones and mirrors to create a Shish Mahal (Mirror) Palace. The outside has pillars carved into vines, a very European motif. In the centre of this smaller courtyard is the Musicians Tank. In the east corner is the Rosewater Fountain. Next to this are the Emperor’s Private Quarters. There are two main rooms on the ground floor. One certainly housed his library. Although unable to read or write himself, Akbar loved to have books read to him. It is said that wherever he went in the empire, his library of 50,000 manuscripts was taken with him. The recesses in the walls are for this. Behind this room is a larger room, his resting area. Records indicate that Akbar would have a Hindu thought. On the first floor is the Khwabgah (bedroom, or Palace or Dreams). Like the other rooms this was richly decorated in gold and ultramarine colours. There is another courtyard which contain the Zenana (Harem) garden and the Palace of the Christian Wife (Maryam from Goa). The Persian inscriptions on the beams are verses by Faizl.

The Panch (Five) Mahal is the five storeyed building. This elegant pavilion was a pleasure palace. To counteract the Indian heat, all buildings had long overhanging eaves to increase shade. Shaded arcades were attached and open basements to allow cool air to flow into the building. There are 84 ground floor pillars, a particularly auspicious number as it is the seven planets multiplied by the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The second floor pillars (56) all have a different design. There is the Muslim stalactite design (Mugarna) and the Hindu vase and foliage motif signifying harvest and material well-being. From the upper storeys there is a fine view of the rest of the Fathepur Sikri and the adjoining countryside.

Royal Palace Fatehpur Sikri

Through the garden and to the south is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) and Jodh Bai’s Palace. The first storey is open, the second enclosed by an elaborate jail screen which nevertheless still allowed free circulation of air. Akbar’s Rajput princesses lived in this. Jodha Bai, the daughter of the Maharaja of Amber and mother of Jahangir, lived in the spacious place in the centre of this area. Assured of privacy by a 9 m high gate, blending Hindu and Muslims styles. This was guarded by eunuchs. The six-pointed stars enclosing a lotus, may be tantric motif symbolizing the union of male and female. The centre of the building is a quadrangle around which were the living quarters of other ladies of the harem. The North and South wings are roofed in azure tiles from Multan (Pakistan).

To the northwest of Jodha Bai’s Palace is Raja Birbal’s House. Birbal, a Hindu Brahmin, was the brightest of Akbar’s nine Jewels’. Again the building is a combination of styles. The eaves and arches decorated with the lotus are typically Indian, the cusped arches Jain and the floral and geometric designs are Islamic. Some scholars believe that this building was not for Birbal, Akbar’s Wazir (Chief minister) but for his senior queens. South of the Raja’s house are the Royal Stables, though some have questioned why stables should be placed next door to the women’s living quarters. The niches in the walls could have been used for fodder and the rings for tethering the emperor’s camels and horses. Leaving the Royal Palace you now proceed across a car park to the Mosque, the second part of Fatehpur Sikri. The King’s Gate (Badshahi) is the entrance Akbar used. Inside is the vast congregational courtyard (132 m x 111 m). To your right in the corner is the Jamaat Khana Hall and next to this the Tomb of the Royal Ladies. The mosque area (courtyard), mihrab, enclosing wall and the two gates on the south (Victory Gate) and east (Badshahi) were constructed in 1571-2 at a cost of Rs. 700,000 and is modeled on the Bibi Khanam at Samarkand.

The Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, in the brilliant white marble, dominates the northern half of the courtyard. This is a masterpiece and one of the finest examples of marble work in India. Serpentine brackets support the eaves and the carved lattice screens surrounding the pavilion are stunning pieces of craftsmanship. The canopy over the tomb is inlaid with mother of pearl. On the cenotaph is the date of the saint’s death (1571) and the date of the building’s completion (1580). Around the arched entrance are inscribed the

Sheikh Salim Chishti Tomb Fatehpur Sikri
names of God, the Prophet and the 4 caliphs of Islam (rulers – derived from successors of Mohammad). The shrine is on the spot of the saint’s Hermitage. Originally the dome was red sandstone. It was marble veneered in 1806. The screens were added by Jahangir’s foster brother 1606. Both Hindu and Muslim women pray at the shrine, tying a cotton strip to the tomb and hoping for the same miracle of parenthood that befell Akbar. In the centre of the wall is the mihrab shrine which, backs on to Mecca and orientates worshippers towards the Prophet’s city. The central chamber is flanked by hall with Hindu style pillars, the first time for over 300 years that Muslim architects had incorporated a purely Hindu style into a mosque. The shafts are square, then octagonal, then 16-sided and culminate in a second octagonal section. The dome was painted in the Persian style. Also in this building are decorative panels of tiles and the Hindu satkona (six-pointed star). The final feature dominating the southern wall is the Victory Gate. Constructed in 1573 to celebrate Akbar’s brilliant conquest of Gujarat, it sets the style for later gateways. The gate is approached from the outside by a 13 m flight of steps and the entrance rises 41 m high. Decoration is quite plain, thus emphasizing the military character of the gate. Standing in the central hall and facing the courtyard there is an inscription on the right.


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