The great Jalal ud-din Akbar is considered one of the greatest and accomplished rulers ever to have ruled India. The basis of this conception is not only limited to his military accomplishments, but also for his vision for the overall social and cultural uplifment of the country. One of the areas which witnessed a major surge during his tenure, was Architecture..
So there I was..The history buff inside me drove 36 kms from Agra to the gates of this whimsical erstwhile capital of the great Mughal Dynasty. It was all quaint and tranquil from outside. But it all boiled down to the inner emotions. Just imagining what the feeling would have been standing at this very spot around 440 yrs back was enough to give a chill in the spine.
I was standing at the crossroads of two different complexes. On my right was the Residential complex, which I left to be covered at the later half of the day. I made a move to my left, and after a short 2-3 minutes’ walk, came across a staircase. Crossing the gate on the other side of it, I got into a gigantic compound that is home to some of the most historically significant monuments of the entire Fatehpur Sikri compound.
Now before I commence further on my journey, let me first, for all the inquisitive minds, throw light on the name ‘Fatehpur Sikri’, and the origin of the city.
The city was previously known as ‘Sikrigarh’, ruled by the Rajput king, Maharaja Sangram Singh. Akbar attacked it on several occasions, but it was only on his seventh attempt that he emerged successful. And thus, the name Fathepur Sikri, or, ‘Victory on Sikri’.
Standing inside the compound, I was now face to face with dargah of the famous Sufi Saint, Salim Chishti. Built in marble, the structure stood out completely amongst the sea of red sandstone constructions. It gave the impression of an oasis, and is the only structure in the entire compound built in marble.
It is Salim Chisti, who should be credited for the birth of Fatehpur Sikri. According to legends, Akbar visited him, who used to reside in this area, to seek blessings for a son. The saint blessed and told Akbar that this son would turn out to be his heir to the Mughal throne. The words did come true. As a mark of respect to the holy man, Akbar named the son Salim after the saint, and moved his capital from Agra to the present site..
I came across another interesting spot near the shrine. There was a staircase going inside the basement. The door was closed and hence no one can go any further. Some say this is the entry to the secret tunnel, from where Akbar ordered Anarkali to be taken to Lahore, away from Salim. I don’t know how true this is, but it is these types of mystery laden stories that make history more intriguing and fascinating…Isn’t it???
Have you ever experienced getting dwarfed?? Ask me..As I did that day…
Such is the impact that ‘Buland Darwaza’ has on you. Built in 1576 by Akbar to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, the gate acted as the main entrance to the city of Fatehpur Sikri. The gigantic 180 feet structure is probably the most popular tourist spot in the compound, and is clearly visibly from quite far off..
The real beauty of Fatehpur Sikri lies in the fact that you are face to face with a new architectural marvel associated with some of the most well known historical figures of the Indian history, that you remain awe inspired at every step of yours..
So in a ‘historically enlightened’ state, I entered into the so called Residential complex.. And what a journey it was..I consider the complex not just a tourist spot. It’s much more than that. It’s a reminiscence of the past. A poetry in red sandstone. Yes..Thats the right phrase..
I came across a compound laden with architectural masterpieces. It was a perfect blend of Mughal and Rajput style of architectures, so symmetrically built, that it leaves a soothing effect on your eyes. And, as I said before, if you combine this with the historical significance they possess, it is a treat for the history buffs. (Count me in that group).
The Panch Mahal!!! What a sight it was..The 5 storey pyramidal structure is stunning to say the least. It was built basically for entertainment purposes, such as musical, dance and theatrical performances..
I came across a pool right in front of the Panch Mahal. Known as ‘Anup Talav’, it is surrounded by the royal enclaves. Some say, the great Tansen used to give his magical performances sitting in the middle of this very pool, with the royals surrounding him from all sides. What a sight it would have been. The tunes of Rag Malhar were already echoing in my ears sitting at that spot!!!
Just on the other side, I entered the Khwabgah. It was the private chamber of Akbar. This is the closest you can experience the life of the great Mughal anywhere. Enough to give you goosebumps.
When I talk about Fathepur Sikri’s architecture, it would be criminal not to mention the Diwan-e-khas. As the name suggests, it was meant for the emperor’s meetings with the close private audience. The main attraction surely was the central tower, also known as the ‘Lotus throne’. Connecting the four corners of the first floor, it was meant for seating purpose of the emperor. The throne would have truly complimented him..The exquisite fine carvings are just exemplary and as good as you can find anywhere.
Structures like the Jodha Bai Mahal, named after Akbar’s famous Rajput wife,and Birbal Mahal are another examples of the blend of the two architectural styles, Mughal and Rajputana.
Fatehpur Sikri turned out to be an amalgamation of experiences for me. Being a history lover, this place took me on a high., into the fairytale world of Akbar in his full zenith. It may have been a short term capital of the Emperor, as the scarcity of water forced him to move the capital back to Agra in 1585, after just 14 years.
But such is the allure and the intrigue of the place, that it would continue to leave an everlasting effect on the lovers of Indian history for the times to come!!!