Fatehpur Sikri – The Grand Mughal Folly - Part I

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Salim Chishti Dargah at Fatehpur Sikri
Salim Chishti Dargah at Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri – The Grand Mughal Folly - Part I



This is the story of a city, which was very close to an Emperor's heart and he built it very passionately brick by brick from scratch. It took 15 years for this symphony in red stone to be ready but was mysteriously abandoned after 14 years. This is the city of Fatehpur Sikri and the emperor was Akbar. The walls of which are witness to innumerable stories and legends. These walls today sadly echo the stories of poignancy and erstwhile glory of the Once capital of Mughals.

History of Fatehpur Sikri


Fatehpur Sikri comprises of two words Fatehpur and Sikri. When Babur defeated Rana Sanga of Mewar in a battle of Khanwa very close to present Sikri village. He called this village Shukri as a gesture to thank God for his victory. Later on, when Akbar ascended to the throne and at that time his capital was Agra. He did not have a male heir for quite long. This made him visit various religious places. He visited Jwala ji in Himachal Pradesh and then Dargah of Sufi Saint Khwaza Moinuddin Chishti. There he was advised to visit Sheikh Salim Chishti, who used to live in a cave at Sikri. Sheikh Salim Chishti prophesied that he will be blessed with three sons. His words came true very soon, as Jodhabai Akbar's Rajput wife became pregnant. She was blessed with a son. This made Akbar an ardent devotee of Sheikh Salim Chishti. He even named his son Salim and due to his respect for Salim Chishti, he never called his son by his name Salim, but Sheikhu. Later on, he decided to move his capital to Fatehpur Sikri. This was maybe he wanted to be close to his spiritual abode and wanted to give it a royal grandeur. So he built a fortified city. The length of the outer wall runs for 9 kilometres and houses Akbar's Palaces and other structures. After Akbar's victory over Gujrat, he built Buland Darwaza to commemorate this victory. This part came to be known as Fatehpur as "Fateh" means Victory and "Pur" is used for the city. Fathepur combined with the old village of Sikri came to be known as Fatehpur Sikri. However, the capital he built with so much of love and devotion, was abandoned only after 14 years of use. There are various theories about this, but most common is as the population kept on increasing and there became a severe shortage of water and Fatehpur Sikri was nearer to the turbulent Rajput states. Water shortage seems the logical reason also as there is no water conservation system or rainwater harvesting system found in the city as it is found in the other arid regions. 


The Trip


Fatehpur Sikri and Agra tour was on my travel radar for quite for time, however, I was missing it every time. This time the trip finally materialised. Fatehpur Sikri is nearly 40 km from Agra and is a one hour ride.

Buland Darwaza


When we got down from the Bus, a path from the Bus stand itself leads to the Jama Masjid complex having Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, the tomb of Salim Chishti. The first thing that hits you is the imposing height of Buland Darwaza. It was not there in the original plan of Jama Masjid complex, but was later added on. This is a victory gate built by Akbar after his victory over Gujrat. This is the highest gateway in the world and starts tall at a height of 176 feet. Buland Darwaza is made of red sandstone and beautiful white marble inlay work has been done on it. Verses from Koran are also inscribed on the gate. At the top are three chattris. After crossing the Buland Darwaza is a huge courtyard. There are pillared verandas along the inner wall of the complex.

First view of Buland Darwaza
First view of Buland Darwaza

The Flight of stairs and Buland Darwaza
The Flight of stairs and Buland Darwaza

Buland Darwaza standingTall and Majestic
Buland Darwaza standing Tall and Majestic



Stone inlay work at Buland Darwaza
Stone inlay work at Buland Darwaza. Also visible is one of the octagonal water tanks built on both sides of the gate

Inner Dome of Buland Darwaza
Inner Dome of Buland Darwaza



Pillared Corridors inside Buland Darwaza
Pillared Corridors inside Buland Darwaza

Buland Darwaza as seen from stone screen of Inayat Khan's Tomb
Buland Darwaza as seen from the stone screen of Inayat Khan's Tomb



Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti


In the entire structure made up of red sandstone, the beautiful structure in enchanting white marble is the first thing that attracted us. This is the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti or Dargah of Salim Chishti as it is called generally. This is a beautiful specimen of Mughal architecture. The inner chamber houses the grave of Sheikh Salim Chishti and the walls of this chamber are mostly solid with small marble screens on three sides. The beautiful Lattice or jali work carved in Marble in various patterns act as screens instead of the outer wall of the dargah. These various patterns of Jaliwork play with sunrays and the images of the building around the Dargah giving a magical effect. A lot of people still tie a Dhaga or thread on these Jalis of the inner sanctum sanctorum for the fulfilment of their wish and come back to untie it when it is fulfilled.


Sheikh Salim Chishti's Dargah
Sheikh Salim Chishti's Dargah

Inner chamber of the Dargah
Inner chamber of the Dargah, where devotees offer their obeisance

A latticed screen at the outer periphery of Salim Chishti's Dargah
A latticed screen at the outer periphery of Salim Chishti's Dargah

Some more Jaliwork at Sheikh Salim Chishti's Tomb
Some more Jaliwork at Sheikh Salim Chishti's Tomb

Yet another beautifully carved pattern
Yet another beautifully carved pattern

Wishing threads tied at Sheikh Salim Chishti's Tomb
Wishing threads tied at Sheikh Salim Chishti's Tomb



Qawwals Performing in front of Salim Chishti Dargah
Qawwals Performing in front of Salim Chishti Dargah



Jama Masjid


The main mosque in the complex is built up of red sandstone. The entrance design is similar to that Buland Darwaza but much smaller in size. The gateway has beautiful marble inlay work done on it, but a lot of which is coming off due to poor upkeep. The inner archways much smaller in size were also similarly decorated with stone inlay work. The main courtyard is also very beautifully done with fresco paintings and has holy verses written in Gold. There are two halls on both the sides of the main hall and have semicircular domes on them. The adjoining pillared halls have beautiful arches and the roofs are also very ornately carved. But, it was saddening to see that the beautiful paintwork and stone inlay work is coming off due to poor upkeep.


Jama Masjid Main Entrance
Jama Masjid Main Entrance also visible are ceiling domes of both sides

Pillared side halls of Jama Masjid
Pillared side halls of Jama Masjid

Ornately painted main Hall of Jama Masjid
Ornately painted main Hall of Jama Masjid

Another view of main Hall of Jama Masjid
Another view of the main Hall of Jama Masjid


The pillared hall of Jama Masjid
The pillared hall of Jama Masjid


Badshahi Gate


This is a gate on the right-hand side of the courtyard. This gate was used by Akbar to visit the mosque,  whereas Buland Darwaza was used by the common public to visit the Jama Masjid complex. Thus it came to be called as Badshahi Gate.  This gate leads to the Palace complex from Jama Masjid complex.


Badshahi Gate
Badshahi Gate

Akbar's view of Dargah and Jama Masjid
Akbar's view of Dargah and Jama Masjid - The first view of  Dargah and Jama Masjid when you enter from Badshahi Gate



There are some other buildings in the complex such as Abul Fazal's and Faizi's house, Nawab Islam Khan's Tomb, but they are not much of architectural importance.

Another shot of Jama Masjid complex
Another shot of Jama Masjid complex

continued.........

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4 Comments

  1. The Mughal architecture of repeated patterns! Lovely!
    Somehow I missed this in my last trip. I will remember this time, because of your post. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete