Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Agra - Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh State

Event date: 3rd July 2009

The royal city of Fatehpur Sikri is situated 26 miles west of Agra. I was on my way from Jaipur to Agra city when I discovered the city from the highway, alerted by my companion cum driver. It was a personal trip to India in June 2009 where my wish list was vacationing at a triangle of Delhi-Rajastan-Uttar Pradesh from Pakistan, where I worked at that time. I had spent 2 nights in Chokidani resort, Jaipur after landed in Delhi, Indira Gandhi international airport on 1st July 2009 for the first time.

Fatehpur Sikri is a city and a municipal board in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh state, India. The city was founded in 1569 by the the great Mughal emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. After his military victories was over in Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from Agra to a new location 23 miles on the Sikri ridge, to honor the Sufi saint Salim Christi. He commenced the construction of a planned walled city which took nearly 15 years in planning and construction of a series royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. He named the city, Fatehabad, with "Fateh", a word of Arabic origin in Persian, carry a meaning "victory." it was later called Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best preserved collection of Mughal architecture in India.

Akbar took a great interest in the building of Fatehpur Sikri and probably also dictated its architectural style. Seeking to revive the splendours of Persian court ceremonial made famous by his ancestor Timur, Akbar planned the complex on Persian principles. But the influences of his adopted land came through in the typically Indian embellishments. The easy availability of sandstone in the neighboring areas of Fatehpur Sikri, also meant that all the buildings here were made of the red stone. The imperial Palace complex consists of a number of independent pavilions arranged in formal geometry on a piece of level ground, a pattern derived from Arab and central Asian tent encampments.

The Imperial complex was abandoned in 1585, shortly after its completion, due to paucity of water and its proximity with the Rajputana areas in the North-West, which were increasingly in turmoil. Thus the capital was shifted to Lahore so that Akbar could have a base in the less stable part of the empire, before moving back Agra in 1598, where he had begun his reign as he shifted his focus to Deccan (southern continent of India). In fact, he never returned to the city except for a brief period in 1601. In later Mughal history it was occupied for a short while by Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah. Today much of the imperial complex which spread over nearly two mile long and one mile wide area is largely intact and resembles a ghost town though properly maintain for tourist

Fatehpur Sikri sits on rocky ridge, 3 km in length and 1 km wide, and palace city is surrounded by a 6 km wall on 3 side with the 4th being a lake at the time. Its architect was Tuhir Das and was constructed using Indian principles. The buildings of Fatehpur Sikri show a synthesis of various regional schools of architectural craftsmanship such as Gujarat and Bengal. This was because indigenous craftsmen from various regions were used for the construction of the buildings. Influences from Hindu and Jain architecture are seen hand in hand with Islamic elements. The building material used in all the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, palace-city complex, is the locally quarried red sandstone, known as 'Sikri sandstone'. It is accessed through gates along the five-mile long fort wall, namely, Delhi Gate, the Lal Gate, the Agra Gate, Birbal's Gate, Chandanpal Gate, The Gwalior Gate, the Tehra Gate, the Chor Gate and the Ajmere Gate.

Some of the important buildings in this city, both religious and secular are:

Buland Darwaza: Set into the south wall of congregational mosque, the Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri, this stupendous piece of architecture is 54 metre high, from the outside, gradually making a transition to a human scale in the inside. The gate was added some 5 years later after the completion of the mosque in 1576-1577 as an 'victory arch', to commemorate the Akbar's successful Gujarat campaign. It carries 2 inscriptions in the archway, 1 of which reads: "Isa (Jesus) Son of Mary said: The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen". The central portico comprises 3 arched entrances, with the largest one, in the centre, is known locally as the Horseshoe Gate, after the custom of nailing horseshoes to its large wooden doors for luck. Outside the giant steps of the Buland Darwaza to left is deep well.

Jama Masjid: It is a Jami Mosque meaning the Friday Mosque congregational mosque, and was perhaps one of the first buildings to come up in the complex, as its epigraph gives AH 979 (A.D. 1571-72) as the date of its completion, with a massive entrance to the courtyard, the Buland-Darwaza added some five years later. It was built in the manner of Indian mosques, with diwans around a central courtyard. A distinguishing feature is the row of chhatri over the sanctuary. There are 3 mihrabs in each of the 7 bays, while the large central mihrab is covered by a dome, it is decorated with white marble inlay, in geometric patterns. I opined that the Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri is a lot more nicer than Jama Masjid in Delhi. You may click here, my previous entry "Delhi-Jama' Masjid" to see whether what I state is true, in your opinion.

Tomb of Salim Chrishti: A white marble encased tomb of the Sufi saint, Salim Chrishti (1478–1572), is located within the Jama Masjid's courtyard. The single-storey structure is built around a central square chamber, with has the grave of the saint, under an ornate wooden canopy, encrusted with mother of pearl mosaic mosaic. Surrounding it is covered passageway for circumambulation, with carved Jalis, stone pierced screens all around with intricate geometric design, and an entrance to the south. The tomb is influenced by earlier mausolea of the early 15th century Gujarat Sultanate period. Other striking features of the tomb are white marble serpentine brackets, which support sloping eaves around the parapet.

On the left of the tomb, to the east, stands a red sandstone tomb of Islam Khan 1, son of Shaikh Badruddin Christi and grandson of Shaikh Salim Chishti, who became a general in the Mughal army during the reign of Emperor Jahangir. The tomb is topped by a dome and thirty-six small domed chhatris, and contains a number of graves, some unnamed, all male descendants of Shaikh Salim Christi.

Diwan-i-Aam: It is a Hall of Public Audience, is a building typology found in many cities where the ruler meets the general public. In this case, it is a pavilion-like multi-bayed rectangular structure fronting a large open space. South west of the Diwan-i-Am and next to the Turkic Sultana's House stand Turkic Baths.

Diwan-i-Khas: the Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Private Audience, is a plain square building with four chhatris on the roof. However it is famous for its central pillar, which has a square base and an octagonal shaft, both carved with bands of geometric and floral designs, further its thirty-six serpentine brackets support a circular platform for Akbar, which is connected to each corner of the building on the first floor, by four stone walkways. It is here that Akbar had representatives of different religions discuss their faiths and gave private audience.

Anup Talao: Is an ornamental pool with a central platform and four bridges leading up to it. Some of the important buildings of the royal enclave are surround by it including, Khwabgah (House of Dreams) Akbar's residence, Panch Mahal, a five-storey palace, Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) and the Astrologer's Seat, in the south-west corner of the Pachisi Court.

The Empress Palaces (Harem): It is a residence of Akbar's wife's (Muslim, Christian, Hindu etc) placed at a separate royal entrance. One of the building of Akbar's wife, Mariam-uz-Zamani, a Gujarathi shows Gujarati influence and is built around a courtyard, with special care being taken to ensure privacy. Jodha Bhai was said to be Akbar's favorite wife and he put her in a special palace within the same courtyard of his other wife's.

A palace with earing design crafted on the wall

Panch Mahal: A five-storied palatial structure, with the tiers gradually diminishing in size, till the final one, which is a single large-domed chhatris. Originally pierced stone screens faced the facade, and probably sub-divided the interior as well, suggesting it was built for the ladies of the court. The floors are supported by intricately carved columns on each level, totaling to 176 columns in all.

What I like most about the whole areas is the richness of it's sandstone colors of the city. It brings out a beauty of it's landscape, being a ghost town. It would be more meaningful if the source of water could be overcome and a resort cum golf course can be introduced in neighboring area to bring more lights and attractions to such a lovely Mughal creation.

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