Fatehpur Sikri – rise and abandonment of great Mughal era capital – Part 1

Fatehpur Sikri is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular destinations of India. Fatehpur Sikri is located at a distance of 35 kms from Agra and has a very important place in the Indian history as once the capital of Mughal empire under Emperor Akbar.

The legend has it that Akbar was without a heir to the Mughal empire for a long time and had visited Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti  and sought his blessings. He was subsequently blessed with a son who was named Salim ( Jahangir) after the Sufi saint. As a honour to the revered Saint, the city  of Fatehpur Sikri was developed  as a capital of the Mughal empire by  Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585.

Akbar named the city Fatehabad, with Fateh, a word of Arabic origin in Persian, meaning “victorious”. It was later called Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur means “City of Victory”.

The sheer scale of architecture of Fatehpur Sikri is second to none in the entire Mughal history except the more famous Taj Mahal. Fatehpur Sikri is famous for the blend of  Mughal, Hindu and Jain architecture

After building on such a grand scale over a period of 15 years, why Fatehpur Sikri  was adandoned shortly after it’s completion is still a subject of curiosity and debate?

It is said that after the city was built, it faced water shortages and was abandoned. Another theory is that in 1585, Akbar’s half-brother Mirza Hakim died in Kabul. Akbar expecting trouble from rivals in the north-west region, shifted his base to Lahore and ruled from there for the next 13 years. When he left Lahore in 1598, he came back to Agra instead of Fatehpur Sikri and the city lost it’s prominent place as Mughal capital.

What not to miss:

Buland Darwaza

Emperor Akbar built the imposing 54 meter monumental gateway called Buland Darwaza on his victory over Gujarat. It is made from red sandstone with carved marble and granite inlays. The sheer scale of the size of Gate is awe inspiring and speak about the peak of Mughal architecture under Akbar.


Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti:

The mausoleum belongs to the Sufi saint Salim Chishti who lived at a ridge near the city. It is made of white marble and is one of the most important monuments at Fatehpur Sikri and is worshipped even today by pilgrims.


Jama Masjid

The Jama Masjid was built by Emperor Akbar under the advice of Sufi Saint Salim Chishti and is a beautiful architechtural monument in the Fatehpur Sikri.


I will be covering the Royal Enclosure of Fatehpur Sikri in my next post.

Picture gallery


Corridor view near Buland Darwaza



Nawab Islam Khan’s tomb


  1. One can take taxi from Agra or Bus from Idgah Bus stand in Agra. There are direct bus to Fteh Pur Sikri or bus which drop about 1.5 km
  2. Best time to visit :  from Oct – mid March
  3. If you are visiting Agra, you can see Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in early morning and visit Fatehpur Sikri in second half of the day.

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