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Fatehpur Sikri

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Fatehpur Sikri: Mughal Splendor in A Fortified City

So grateful was Mughal Emperor Akbar to the saint he believed blessed him with three sons that he built a City of Victory 40km west of Agra with Salim Chishti's tomb as its centerpiece. Constructed in the mid-16th century, Fatehpur Sikri was the short-lived capital of the Mughal Empire at the height of its glory. A scarcity of water led to the abandonment of the fortified city after just 10 years. Nearly five centuries later, Fatehpur Sikri is a World Heritage Site that testifies to the extravagance of the Mughals. To enter their ancient world, you'll need to fend off an army of souvenir hawkers and rupee-seeking guides. Once past their persistent flanks, pass through red sandstone fortifications into an opulent complex that encompasses three palaces for each of Akbar's wives, one a Hindu, one a Muslim and one a Christian. The emperor's taste for diversity also is reflected in Fatehpur Sikri's masterful blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture—particularly evident in its most important building, the Jama Masjid. The white marble Indi-Islamic structure is one of India's largest mosques. Still in use today, it houses the tomb of Salim Chishti, the Sufi saint who predicted the birth of Akbar's heirs. Accessible by car and bus, Fatehpur Sikri is on the main Agra-Jaipur road. A visit can be easily combined with a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

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AFAR Local Expert
about 4 years ago

Popcorn Seller

As I was making my way out of Fatehpur Sikri, I locked eyes with this man. Something about the look on his face drew me towards him. I noticed the basket at his feet. I didn’t know what he had in the small bags so I leaned down to take a closer look. It was popcorn. There was a quiet dignity about him. I don’t remember him ever speaking. I know he didn’t try any sales tactics on me. He just sat quietly while I contemplated on how many bags I wanted; I knew could not walk away without buying from him. I held up a finger to indicate one bag. Using his fingers on one hand, he wrote out a number on the palm of his other hand. I gave him twice as many rupees and walked away with two bags. It wasn’t the best tasting popcorn I've ever had but it was definitely the most memorable popcorn buying experience for me. It’s been almost five years since that day and the look on this man’s face still draws me in.
about 4 years ago

Three wishes in Fatehpur Sikri

When visiting Agra for the Taj Mahal, it is worth a little trip to the nearby Fatehpur Sikri. Here, many spectacular examples of Mughal architecture remain. One such example is the tomb of Sufi saint, Salim Chisti. The mausoleum was made by the emperor Akbar for the saint who foretold the birth of his sons. Akbar wanted a son badly to carry on the empire, so he sought out the aesthetic to ask for his blessing. Salim Chisti foretold he would have not one - but three sons. Now pilgrims and travelers come to make a prayer at Salim Chisti's tomb. As sufis chant inside the tomb, flowers are thrown above his grave while holding a thread in your hand and three wishes inside your head. Then, you tie the string in three knots along the spectacularly intricate marble carvings around the tomb. Here are many wishes hoping to be blessed by the saint.
about 4 years ago

Exploring inside the palace

While exploring the palace I came across this hallway on the back side of the complex. The way that the sun was hitting the red sandstone columns, and the almost infinite mirror effect fading into blackness recalls the mystery that often shrouds much of India to many outsiders. I almost felt like I was exploring the ruins in an Indiana Jones movie, walking towards the darkness.