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
Fatehpur Sikri proper
Lal Qila, or the Red Fort Agra
- Agra – The Architectural Heritage. An INTACH Roli Guide. By Lucy Peck, 2008. New Delhi: Lotus Collection – Roli Books.