If what pulls you in are the enchanting monuments that have stood witness to history and narrow streets that help you walk down a path teeming with culture and tradition, then Fatehpur Sikri is the perfect town for you.
Located in the Agra district in Uttar Pradesh, this town stands as a symbol of the glory and grandeur of India, having been Emperor Akbar’s capital city. In fact, even Babur seemed to have loved this city to the point where he fondly called it ‘Shukri’ or ‘Thanks.’ Interestingly, it is named after ‘Sikri,’ the village on whose remains it was built. Today, the monuments in this city still stand tall, highlighting the beautiful Mughal architecture whose careful preservation has given archaeologists not only from India but from all over the world the opportunity to try to further reconstruct and conclude the details of Mughal court life and royal living conditions. This town has inspired not only historians and archaeologists but also artists, as is visible in the poem ‘Futtypore Sicri’ by Letitia Elizabeth Landon.
However, the glory of this town is not only in the past, because Fatehpur Sikri Agra manages to leave a mark on every person with its still alive and growing art and culture. Whether you are looking to eat authentic food, shop for amazing souvenirs, witness history, learn about the Mughal era, or have an experience of a lifetime, this is the perfect place for you.
Though the rich history of Fatehpur Sikri Agra is often talked about from angle of the rule of the mughals, actually this town probably had a great significance even before their dynasty. As proved by the statues and Jain idols found during an excavation by the Archeological Survey of India in 2000, this was probably a site of flourishing culture and religious significance around a thousand years ago. Quite a few of their findings are on display at the Archeological Museum are one of the most amazing things to see in Fatehpur Sikri Agra today.
Even when one talks about the Mughals, Emperor Akbar’s name should not necessarily be the first to come to mind as actually his predecessors also showered love on Fatehpur Sikri- perhaps exhausted from the immensely political and social Agra. Emperor Babur, who was the first of the Mughals, called it ‘Shukri,’ which means thanks. He is also credited with conceptualizing and overlooking the construction of a garden on the outskirts of the town.
He called this the ‘Garden of victory’ as it was meant to commemorate his victory over Rana Sangha. Humayun, too, used this garden for relaxation and contributed to the city in many ways. And yet, it was Emperor Akbar who made it his capital and constructed much of what we know of Fatehpur Sikri Agra today. Yet, when he went to Punjab in 1581, the city was abandoned, and he only visited it once after that, causing much of it to be in ruins. Today, it is well-maintained and a must-visit for anyone wishing to know about India’s rich past.
Main Monuments To Visit In Fatehpur Sikri
Originally built to commemorate Akbar’s success in Gujarat, the Buland Darwaza is today a gateway to history, though its literal translation is ‘Gate of Victory.’ This door was built as the first entrance to the famous Jama masjid.
The top inscription talks about Jesus telling his followers to remember not to consider the physical world their home as humans stop here for a very short period of time. Other inscriptions include one talking about Akbar’s great conquests in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, and one talking about his love for religious freedom.Architecturally, the Buland Darwaza is actually plainer than one would expect. Decorated with red and white marble, the Buland Darwaza is actually made of beautiful red and buff sandstone, making it one of the most beautiful places to see in Fatehpur Sikri Agra.
One of the main reasons that tourists from all over the world come to see it is that it is actually the highest gate in the world, and therefore gives evidence of the kind of talent and technology that was employed in Mughal constructions.
One of the World Heritage sites in India, the Jama Masjid, is definitely one of the most renowned places to visit in Fatehpur Sikri Agra.
As the name suggests, it is a Friday mosque where the sacred Friday prayer is read. Architecturally, the Jama Masjid actually stands as a record of the transition of Islamic art as it has a mixture of Persian and indigenous elements. The inside also has beautiful watercolor paintings.
It is also said that Emperor Akbar actually personally overlooked the construction of this mosque, which ended up taking up more than 540 feet of area. It is also important to note that prayers are still offered here, and it remains a holy place for followers of Islam.
Salim Chisti’s tomb
Built around 1580, this marvelous tomb of the respected Sufi Saint Salim Chisti actually faces the Buland Darwaza.
There is actually a really interesting story behind this, as Emperor Akbar marked his respect and reverence for the great Sufi saint by getting this mausoleum constructed for him. Along with inspiring peace and religious tolerance through his teachings, Salim Chisti also foretold the birth of Akbar’s son. Due to this, Akbar actually named his son ‘Salim’ after the saint himself. Later, it was this son who grew up and succeeded in Akbar by becoming the next Mughal Emperor and taking the title of ‘Jahangir.’
Architecturally, this should definitely be a part of your Golden Triangle tour as it is bordered by delicate marble screens on all four sides, and is surrounded by such intricate and beautiful work that it is definitely one of the top things to see in Fatehpur Sikri Agra.
Emperor Akbar’s love for his people and emphasis on inclusivity is famous all over the world. He believed that a ruler could not solve the problems of the people if he does not listen to them talk about the problems on his own.
According to folklore, he often dressed up as a commoner and roamed the streets of Fatehpur Sikri Agra to blend amongst the people and understand them. The Diwan-i-aam or the ‘hall of the common people’ was another one of his efforts to make the monarchy accessible to the people. It was the hall in which Akbar sat and met people from all over his kingdom. He absolutely loved listening to their issues and helping them out there and then.
The fact that the building had such an instrumental purpose but still manages to be an architectural wonder means that many tourists who stop here during their Golden triangle tour go back believing that it is definitely one of the most unique things to see in Fatehpur Sikri Agra.
Just like there was a hall for the general public in Akbar’s capital, there was one for those who held special titles or were a part of his court. Essentially it was meant for those who Akbar wished to have a private audience with.
Other Popular Tourist Attractions
Birbal was one of Akbar’s most loved ministers and was actually a Hindu employed in the court of a Muslim ruler, which shows the long-lasting history of India’s secularity.
He is a household name in India because children are told stories of the interactions between Emperor Akbar and Birbal, which celebrate the spirit of wisdom, kindness, acceptance, and charity. So naturally, Birbal’s house is one of the most visited places in Fatehpur Sikri Agra.
Many tourists like to specifically get clicked in front of the house that is featured in so many stories that they have heard while growing up. Architecturally, the unique features of Birbal’s house include sloped sunshades and the brackets that hold them up, showing the technological possibilities of the time.
Panch Mahal literally translates to ‘Five Palace,’ which is a reference to the number of floors in this structure. What makes the architectural aspect of this palace particularly interesting and attracts people from all over the world are the 176 pillars that hold up the floors.
Every single one of these pillars has beautiful carvings on it. Speaking of the floors themselves, they keep slowly reducing in size, and the top one acts as a chattri.
Some historians have come to the conclusion that the Paanch Mahal was originally designed for the ladies of the court as there is a subdivided interior.
The Anup Talao gets its name from the fact that Raja Anup Singh Sikarwar built it. It is surrounded by other really beautiful places to visit in Fatehpur Sikri like Ankh Michauli, Khwabgah, Panch Mahal, Akbar’s residence, Diwan-i-Khas, and the Astrologer’s Seat. It is visually very appealing since four bridges meet together in the center.
Like all religions have a special place for praying or contemplating, the Ibadat Khana in Akbar’s kingdom was the place he built for religious contemplation for followers of the religion he founded, Din-i-Ilahi.
Akbar was extremely fond of cross-religious discourse, and his religion followed this idea of secularity and allowed anyone to choose to follow it as it was based on the common teachings from all religions.
Mariam-uz-zuman’s palace: As is well-known, Emperor Akbar had a harem for his wives, and many say that Miriam-uz-zuman’s palace is the place where they resided. The palace is named after his Rajput wife, who is famous from many names in India because it is said that she introduced him to Hindu culture, sparking the interest that led him to explore the teachings of many religions. Architecturally, it has a mixture of Gujarati and Mughal work.
Things to Do in Fatehpur Sikri
Learn about history at the Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum in Fatehpur Sikri is sure to be one of the highlights of your Golden Triangle Tour as it has quite a few of the idols, statues, and other items found by the Archeological Survey of India in 2000 that points to a rich history of Fatehpur Sikri Agra even before the Mughal era.
Have lunch at Hotel Ajay Palace
Hotel Ajay Palace is actually a small establishment run by a family on the way to Fatehpur Sikri Agra. Even though there is a limited menu, tourists love to stop here for the great taste and the personal attention that is offered by the staff.
Plan a full Golden Triangle tour
If you are planning on visiting Fatehpur Sikri Agra, why not consider planning a full Golden Triangle Tour with a top travel agency in India?
The Golden triangle tour refers to the three sites in India that are rich with heritage and culture- Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur- and going on this well-curated tour ensures that you get to experience the rich culture of India in the three locations that perhaps have played the biggest role in India’s history.
Delhi is the capital of Modern India but has played this role in the past, with many rulers choosing it as their own capital, which means that it has a host of monuments that are bound together by threads of culture. Jaipur, on the other hand, helps you explore the royal Rajputs and their glory in India.
Agra, a town that is world-famous for having the Taj Mahal, has a lot more to it that you can also explore. Small towns with long histories like Fatehpur Sikri Agra also fall within the tour, as the idea is to get to experience all of India’s richness within one well-planned trip.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is located around twenty-five minutes away from the main Fatehpur Sikri Agra town and yet falls under one of the top places to visit in Fatehpur Sikri Agra because most tourists love to visit this Sanctuary.
Eid is one of the most important festivals in Islam, and since the Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri Agra holds a lot of importance for many followers of the religion, it is celebrated with a lot of festivities and pomp here, so you should definitely consider planning your trip around it.
Shopping At Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri Agra has a long list of places to shop, including not only local markets but also shopping malls. However, two particular markets top the list of places to visit in Fatehpur Sikri if you love shopping.
The first is Chudi Bazaar, which literally translates to ‘Bangles market.’ True to its name, this market in Fatehpur Sikri, Agra has beautiful and bright items on display, which are not only bangles but a host of trinkets, handicrafts, and art. If you want to take back a souvenir with you, this is the perfect place to buy it from as the colors of the objects literally pop here, and you can find a decorated version of the most mundane of objects like utensils.
The second place is the ‘Daily market’ which is frequented more by locals than tourists, which means that if you want to shop for authentic things, this is your place to be. Located just outside the forts, this is called the Daily market’ because the handicraftsmen actually organize them daily, ensuring that you get extremely unique and beautiful things to take back with you.
Fatehpur Sikri Agra is a wonderful destination that you can enjoy to the maximum by keeping a few things in mind-
- Wear practical shoes and clothing so that you do not get tired visiting the various beautiful monuments and are able to enjoy your encounter with history to the maximum.
- When visiting Jama Masjid, make sure to be respectful and follow guidelines as it is still a place of religious significance where prayers are offered.
- When shopping at the local markets, make sure to bargain as much as possible! There is a tendency amongst shopkeepers to hike prices for tourists.
- When trying to get a guide for a monument, make sure to educate yourself on the average rate and use that pick an authentic person who actually knows what they are talking about instead of charging you extra and not giving correct information.
- Plan your trip in such a way that you do the complete Golden triangle tour, which includes Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and the tiny towns near them that are rich in culture and heritage.
Best Time to Visit
While the monsoon that takes place in Fatehpur Sikri Agra between August is absolutely beautiful, it is also might end up preventing you from enjoying the destination to the fullest.
If you choose to visit during this time, you will end up getting great deals at hotels but may not necessarily have been able to explore the town as much as possible. Similarly, the summer here, being a typical Uttar Pradesh Summer, which has extreme scorching heat, might tire you out sooner than you want.
Therefore, the best time to visit Fatehpur Sikri Agra is actually the autumn or winter between October and March. As the Monsoon has just given way to winter in October, the weather would be extremely pleasant, and you will be able to enjoy everything from sightseeing to shopping.
How to Reach
Located just 39 kilometers away from Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Fatehpur Sikri can be reached without too much hassle through a variety of ways like-
The nearest Airport to Fatehpur Sikri is unsurprisingly in Agra. It is called the Kheria Airport. Once you land here, you can easily get a taxi or bus to Fatehpur Sikri, though booking one in advance would ensure that you get the best rates. Going through a Top Travel agency in India to book this part of your commute might be a good idea.
Since Uttar Pradesh is a state that is well connected by Rail, you can easily take a train till the Agra railway station, which will drop you around forty kilometers away from Fatehpur Sikri Agra. Once again, you can choose to take a cab, taxi, or bus to continue your journey to the town.
If you wish to travel by road, you will surely be impressed by the well-maintained road that leads to this town. The route is simple, and you can easily take your personal car, rent a taxi, or take a UPSRTC bus.