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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Around Agra - Fatehpur Sikri




Fatehpur sikri – an Emperor’s obeisance

 
Sikri is an very old settlement situated in the upper Vindhyachal ranges which is now almost eroded through the vagaries of nature over the eons. It was once situated on the banks of a large natural lake, which has now mostly dried up. It is a pre-historic site where some stone-age tools have been found alongwith Ochre painted Pottery which date back to 2ndCentury B.C and its prolonged occupation by mankind is reflected in the Painted Grey Ware belonging to the 1200-800 B.C which have also been discovered from this region. Sikri finds mention in the Mahabharata as ‘Saik’. The present name is derived from combination of the city built by Akbar named as ‘Fathepur’ and added to this is the pre-historic village of Sikri, thus naming the place as ‘Fatehpur Sikri’.
Present day Fatehpur sikri is situated at a distance of 37 kms. from Agra is a city built predominantly in Red. This town was built by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar. He had planned this city as his capital but shortage of water compelled him to abandon the city. The fort is situated at 27° 05' N latitude and 77° 39' E longitude and has a mean altitude of 708 meters above sea level. Fatehpur Sikri has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This place was first visited by the Mughal Emperor Babur during the battle of Khanwah when he fought with Rana Sangha during A.D. 1527 and mentioned it as ‘Sikri’ in his memoirs i.e Babur Nama. He is credited with laying the foundation of a garden and a Jal-Mahal surrounded by the lake-water, and a baoli (step-well) to commemorate his victory in the battle of Khanwah. However, thereafter the place came under Sher Shah Suri who had usurped the Mughal legacy for a brief period of time till Emperor regained his lost empire from him.
The present day Fatehpur Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar and legacy goes that he had no child. After receiving the blessings of Sufi Saint Salim Chisti, he was blessed with a male child who became the heir to his throne, he was named Salim (after the name of Sufi Saint Salim) who later become Emperor Jahangir. The tomb "Salim Chisti Ka Mazar" was built in honour of the Sufi saint in 1571 by him. Earlier it was built with red sand stone, but later converted into beautiful marble mauseleum. Akbar (1556-1605), for a period of 13 years, from 1572 to 1585, in his quest to honour the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who resided here (in a cavern on the ridge), raised lofty buildings for his use, and houses for the public. Thus grew, a great city with charming palaces and institutions. Akbar gave it the name of Fathabad and which in later days came to be known as “Fathpur Sikri”.
At Fathepur Sikri one can find all Mughal institutions such as the ‘Ibadat-Khanah’, ‘Din-i-Ilahi’, ‘Tarikh-i-Ilahi’ , Jharokha-Darshan, the doctrine of Sulh-i-Kul and policy of liberal patronage to indigenous arts and literatures, were founded. It was also here that workshops of various handicrafts were established. Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals. The sloping levels of the city were connected into terraces which were utilised for various complexes such as Jami masjid, Buland-Darwazah and tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti; Khass Mahal, Shahi-Bazar, Mina-Bazar, the Panch-Mahal, Khwabgah, Diwan-i-Khass, Anup-Talao, Chaupar and Diwan-i-Am. The efficient system of drainage and water-supply adopted here suggest an extremely intelligent town-planning by the Mughal emperor. All these palaces were built of red sandstone in the beam-and-post order, and composed of pillars, ornamental arches, brackets-and-chhajjas, jharokhas, chhatris, chhaparkhats, chaukhandis and so on. The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri has inputs from all over the country especially artisans from Gujrat & Bengal were employed to do some exquisite work and influence of Hindu & Jain sculpture is also visible in many of the landmarks here. The layout of the city reflects that a conscious attempt had been made to produce rich spatial effects by the organizing the forms of buildings and using the open spaces around them.
Prime Attractions of Fatehpur Sikri


Buland Darwaza - meaning 'high' or 'great' gate in Persian. The Buland Darwaza is 53.63m high and 35 meters wide. Buland Darwaza is the highest gateway in the world and an astounding example of the Mughal architecture. It is built of red sandstone and inlaying of white marble. There is an inscription one on the monument which is a message from Lord Jesus advising his followers not to consider this world as their permanent home. The Buland Darwaza towers above the courtyard of the mosque. The Buland Darwaza is semi octagonal in plan and is topped by pillars and chhatris. Buland Darwaza echoes early Mughal design with simple ornamentation, carved verses from the Koran and towering arches. There are thirteen smaller domed kiosks on the roof, stylized battlement and small turrets and inlay work of white and black marble. On the outside a long flight of steps sweeps down the hill giving the gateway additional height. A Persian inscription on eastern archway of the Buland Darwaza records Akbar's conquest over Deccan in 1601 A.D.This gate can be approached from the outside by a 13-metre flight of steps which adds to its grandeur. The gate erected in 1602 AD to commemorate Akbar’s victory over Deccan and is the highest and grandest gateway in India and ranks among the biggest in the world.
 
Dargah Of Sheikh Salim Chisti - This Dargah was built in 1570. Here, childless women come for blessings of the saint. Even Akbar was blessed with three sons, when he came here. The lattice work in the Dargah is among the finest to be found any where in India.
The Jami Masjid - One of the largest mosques in India, Jami Masjid was built in 1571 AD. Inside, there is a vast congregational coutyard. To the right, at the corner, is the Jammat Khana Hall and next to this is the tomb of the royal ladies. To the left of the Jami Masjid is the Stone Cutters’ mosque, the oldest place of worship at Fateh Pur Sikri. It is entered through the eastern entrance known as the Buland Darwaza.


Palace of Jodha Bai - is the largest and the most important building in the royal palace, named after Akbar’s Rajput wife, Jodha Bai. This spacious palace was assured of privacy and security by high walls and a 9 metre guarded gate to the east. The architecture is a blend of styles with Hindu columns and Muslim cupolas and has a winter & summer palace placed diametrically opposite to each other, separated by a vast courtyard with a central vault for Tulsi plant. Just outside the main gate is the personal kitchen of Jodhabai where the jali work and lattice above it has sculptures replete with designs of Hindu women ear rings.

Sunehra Makann - is the palace of Akbar’s Christian wife, Mariam-Uz-Zamani. This two-storeyed building is richly adorned by gold murals in Persian style. The beams have inscriptions of verses by Akbar’s brother, Faizi.


Panch Mahal - To the right of Sunehra Makan is the elegant, airy 5 storeyed pavilion, the Panch Mahal. Each floor over here is smaller than the one below and it rises to a single domed kiosk on top supported by four columns providing a magnificent view of the city and its environs.

Diwan-I-Am - or the Hall Of Public Audience. This hall was also used for celebrations and public prayers. Beautiful jali screen on either sides separated the ladies attending the court.


Diwan-khana-I-khaas - or Hall Of Private Audience, in its centre stands a profusely carved column supporting a colossal-bracketed capital. Four narrow causeways radiate from the centre and run to each corner of the chamber. It is believed that Akbar’s throne occupied the circular space over the capital and the corners were assigned to the four ministers.
Turkish Sultana’s House - This palace is attributed to the third wife of Emperor Akbar and to make her feel comfortable, the geometrical pattern on the walls and ceiling are reminiscent of Central Asian carvings in wood.



The Treasury - or Ankh Michauli, once believed to have been used for playing the game, comprising three rooms each protected by a narrow corridor which were manned by guards.



Daulat khana-I-khas & Anoop Talao - Located in the corner to the left is the emperor’s private chamber. It has two main rooms on the ground floor. One housed Akbar’s library while the larger room was his resting area. On the first floor is the Khwabgah or the bed-chamber. It was connected with the Turkish Sultana’s house, the Panch Mahal, Mariam’s House and the Jodha Bai’s palace by corridors. In front is the water tank also called Anoop Talao where famed Tansen used to sing for the emperor.



Astrologer's seat - A palace which was intricately sculpted and next to the Diwan e Khas was the seat for the royal Astrologer who used to fortell the position of the stars and advise the emperor accordingly for carrying out his day to day duties.

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