Akbar’s Agra – Fatehpur Sikri and the Agra Fort

1- Red Fort Entrance

Lal Qila, the Red Fort, Agra. The red sandstone walls had been erected during Akbar’s time.

In 1563, the Emperor Akbar, the third of the Mughal Emperors, entered Agra and made it his capital. Initially, he lived here, in what would become the Agra fort, on the banks of Yamuna River. But in 1571, he would move his capital and retinue some thirty-odd kilometres west of Agra proper to a brand-new palace and city complex, which he built from scratch.

This city, he named Fatehpur Sikri, or “City of Victory.” Here, he would establish a court known far and wide for its opulence and sophistication.

The Emperor Akbar, was known also known as Akbar the Great, because it under his reign, that the Mughal Empire truly established its foothold over India; and, growing wealthy, powerful and influential, also saw a flourishing of the arts.

Akbar the Great was particularly known for his patronage of the arts, and for also being not only tolerant, but curious of other religions, suffering holy men of the other major religions in India – Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Jainism – at his court.

By 1598, Fatehpur Sikri had been abandoned, and today, it remains a deserted city. Many of the structures still remain, and are architecturally intriguing. But it is hard to imagine just how opulent and sophisticated the court must have been here in the city’s heyday.

Akbar removed himself and the court back within the walls of Lal Qila, or the Red Fort, which he had earlier, in 1565, refortified with red sandstone and rebuilt. It is said that Akbar had built more than 500 structures in the Fort in a pan-Indian style of architecture.  Of these, only one structures remains mostly intact – the Jahangiri Mahal.

Most of the other structures the Grand Tourist would see today date from the time of Shah Jahan – Akbar’s grandson. His mark is obvious – he loved white marble, which is used to exquisite effect in the Khas Mahal and the Shah Burj, and the beautiful Nagini and Moti Masjids.

Unfortunately, much of the Red Fort – including the many gardens laid out by the Emperor Jahangir, Akbar’s son and Shah Jahan’s father – had been demolished during the British Colonial era, and repurposed as barracks. They continue to be barracks today and are off-limits to the public.

Jami Masjid, Fatehpur Sikri

20 - Bulan Darwaza

The Bulan Darwaza – grand entrance to the Jami Masjid (1571) in Fatehpur Sikri, built in honour of Sheikh Salim al-Din Chishti.

21 - Entrance to Jami Masjid

Entrance to Jami Masjid.

22 - Back view of Entrance

Back view of the Bulan Darwaza. Unfortunately, I visited on a misty day…

23 - Jami Masjid proper

Badshahi Darwaza, Jami Masjid.

24 - Jami Masjid mihrab

Prayer niche, Jami Masjid

25 - Jami MAsjid Structure

Trabeate squinch, Jami Masjid.

26 - MArble Shrine

Tomb of Sheikh Salim al-Din Chishti, in a Gujarati style, Jami Masjid.

Fatehpur Sikri proper

27 - Birbals House

Birbal’s House. Raja Birbal was a Hindu advisor at Akbar’s Court.

28 - Jodhbais Palace

Palace of Jodha Bai, who was the Rajput Queen of Emperor Akbar.

29 - Jodhbai Palace interior

Courtyard of the Palace of Jodha Bai.

30 - Miriams House

Miriam’s House

31 - Diwan i Khas

Diwan-i-khas, the Private Audience Hall.

32 - Diwan i Khas interior

The Diwan-i-khas is known for its carved pillars. This would never be repeated anywhere else.

33 - Panch Mahal

Panch Mahal, with five (“panch”) floors.

34 - Anup Talau and Turkish Sultanas House

The Anup Talao, with the Turkish Sultana’s House to the left.

35 - Detail Turkish Sultanas House

The Turkish Sultana’s House has the most exquisite carvings. This one is of pomegranates and grapes.

36 - Detail Turkish

Carving at the Turkish Sultana’s House.

Lal Qila, or the Red Fort Agra

2 - Amar Singh Gate

The Amar Singh Gate, also known as the Lahore, is the main public entrance to the Red Fort.

3 - Jahangiri Mahal

Jahangiri Mahal, Red Fort.

4 - Jahangiri Mahal Chatri

Chhatri, Jahangiri Mahal.

5 - Jahangiri Mahal interior

Interior courtyard, Jahangiri Mahal.

6 - Jahangiri Mahal structure

Riverfront courtyard, Jahangiri Mahal.

7 - Taj

View from the Jahangiri Mahal to the Taj Mahal.

8 - Hindu

The architecture at the Jahangiri Mahal blends Hindu styles…

9 - PErsian

…with Persian styles, resulting in a unique Indo-Persian style that characterised the Mughals.

10 - Khas Mahal

Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan in 1636.

11 - Khas MAhal Side Pavilion with Bangla roof

The side pavilions of the Khas Mahal have “bangla” roofs.

12 - Khas Mahal Interior

Interior of the Khas Mahal.

13 - Slate Throne

The slate throne, on which the Emperor would

14 - Shah Burj

The exquisite Shah Burj.

15 - Shah Burj Interior

Interior of the Shah Burj, a profusion of marble with inlaid precious stones. This was Shah Jahan’s signature style.

16 - Courtyard

Machcchi Bhawan.

17 - NAgini Masjid

Nagini Masjid, made of pure white marble.

18 - Diwan-i-am

Interior of the Diwan-i-am, Shah Jahan’s Hall of Public Audience.

19 - Diwan-i-am


Essential Reference:

  • Agra – The Architectural Heritage. An INTACH Roli Guide. By Lucy Peck, 2008.  New Delhi: Lotus Collection – Roli Books.

Akbar worshipping the sun. Attributed to Manohar (active 1580–1620). Mughal India, late 16th century. Watercolour, gold on paper. Collection of the Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore.

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Museums, Photography, Sociology & Urban Studies, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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