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Visiting the Fatehpur Sikri Palace of the Mughal Emperor Jalaludin Akbar

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places

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Fatehpur Sikri-The Beginning

Jalaluddin Akbar is generally considered to be the greatest of the Mogul emperors. He reclaimed the throne of Delhi in 1556 after the third battle of Panipat. In this battle, he defeated the Hindu emperor Samrat Hem Chand Vikramaditya. After the battle, Akbar allegedly beheaded the injured Hem Chand. History records that Akbar was almost defeated in the battle but an act of providence saved him. A stray arrow hit the eye of Samrat Hem Chand and he was incapacitated to lead the army further.

Akbar became the ruler of Hindustan and set up his court at Delhi. He was however restless and came to Agra in 1559. He liked the place and selected a site close to Agra called Fatehpur Sikri. This is a place 48 km from Agra. He decided to make the city the Mughal capital. It remained the capital for 15 years from 1571-86. Fatehpur Sikri can be translated as "City of Victory" and is presently looked after by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) established during the days of the Raj by the British government.

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visiting-the-fatehpur-sikri-palace-of-the-mughal-emperor-jalaludin-akbar

The Palace of Akbar


The main attraction of Fatehpur Sikri is the palace of Akbar a large opulent construction. The palace is open to visitors from 10 am to 6 pm on all days of the week and has an entry fee of Rs 20 for Indian visitors and Rs 150 ($2) for foreign tourists. It takes about one hour to traverse the palace and do justice to the monument. UNESCO has classified this site as a world Heritage site.

The palace is erected on a hill and the road winds upwards towards it. The palace was the abode of 3 favorite queens of Akbar and is so constructed that all 3 queens who were from different faiths could practice their religion in peace and privacy. His 3 queens were Rani Jodhabai who was a Hindu followed by Maryam who was a Christian and Ruqaiyya begum who was a Muslim. From these three favorite wives, Akbar reportedly had a harem of over 500 women.

The Wives of Akbar and the Palace

The beauty of the palace is a small tower with 3 stories at the top. This tower's 3 stories belonged to each of his 3 wives for prayers. The topmost tower was occupied by Rani Jodhabai who used it to scan the full moon during the festival of Karwa Chauth a festival for the long life of her husband. The second floor was occupied by the Muslim wife who used it to scan the moon during the Id festival to break her fast. The Christian wife occupied the last floor for her prayers to Jesus.

Each of the 3 wives also had separate enclosures which are the highlight of the palace. The palace of Akbar has some unique constructions. There is a pool for the 3 wives to take a dip and cool themselves. It is called Anoop Talao.

There is a large construction known as Panch Mahal. The Panch Mahal is so constructed that cool breeze can easily circulate through it. This was the place where the queens passed their evenings savoring the cool breeze. There is also a large hall called the Divan-I- khas where Akbar conducted his meetings. This was the place where Akbar who had an inquisitive mind conducted his discourses and discussions with eminent men of other faiths from Jainism, Hinduism and Christianity.

The highlight of the palace is the large courtyard with a throne in the center. On this throne, Akbar and his wives sat and played Pachisi (a game akin to Ludo). All around the stone seat are colorful squares to play the game. Only in this case, the pawns were live women from Akbar's harem. As Akbar and his wives threw the dice the women in colorful dresses changed positions as per the numbers that fell. It was a colorful affair. The squares of the board are now faded and need restoration.

The walls of the palace have faded paintings that point to the grandeur of the building. These paintings need a lot of restoration work. I visited this place about two years back and I was surprised that the ASI has not done its homework properly.

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Last word


Close to the palace is the Moti Masjid. This is a mosque dedicated to the Muslim saint Salim Chisti which Akbar often visited. The Mosque is built on the ruins of a Hindu temple destroyed by Akbar and its outer walls still support distinct Hindu motifs. His grandfather Babar had similarly destroyed the Hindu temple at Ayodhya and built the Babri Masjid on its ruins.

Fatehpur Sikri is 48 km from Agra and can be easily reached by taxi and luxury bus. Normally tourists who come from Delhi on a conducted tour to the Taj Mahal are also taken to Fatehpur Sikri. The palace closed after the death of Akbar. The reason was the water supply had dried up and the Mughals shifted their capital back to Delhi. Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned in 1586 and over the centuries it has remained like a ghost town. However, thanks to the ASI the monuments are preserved for posterity.

The city of Agra is connected by superfast express trains to Delhi and Calcutta and also has an airport which is connected to Delhi. There is a special train the Taj express which runs between Delhi and Agra basically to cater to tourists and takes about three hours.

Comments

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 30, 2020:

Yikes! I had no idea. Being friends with you on this site and reading your materials has really taught me so much about history and other parts of the world. Thanks for writing.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 27, 2020:

Denise, thank you for commenting.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 27, 2020:

What a beautiful place. It is a shame it not used at all anymore. I would love to see it someday.

Blessings,

Denise

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 27, 2020:

Flourish, yes, those times were different but so many want to hark back to the old times and the wife of President Erdogan defended the concept of a harem. My word!

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 26, 2020:

While it is beautiful edifice, the harem of 500 wives and all of the means of subjugating women and using them as mere showpieces were disturbing. I'm glad that we have advanced somewhat, although we still have a long way to go.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Vanita, You have raised very relevant points. Blaming everything on the caste system is not correct because caste was also there in Europe and the names like Carpenter and Smith denote cast/profession. In India also caste had everything to do with the profession. After 1947 the Congress party rewrote the history of India and even British historians like duff who had commented on the carnage of the Hindus were put aside.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Chitra, So nice of you to have commented and given your viewpoint, yes, women had a tough time but things are better now but again the old prejudices still continue at some places. Another factor is the Hindu society was very advanced but the advent of the Islamic invaders and they put the clock back.

Vanita Thakkar on November 26, 2020:

I agree with Chitrangadaji.

The Hindus have suffered worst kind of tortures, slaughters and carnages in the history of mankind. The colonial historians have avoided mentioning about them. Women have suffered the worst - no words enough to say and express. People try to escape realities by blaming on the Hindu caste system. Which society does not have a caste system ? Have the cruelties and brutalities of the devils in the guise of men been blamed enough ? Why ? Does enough sense a remorse exist and strong enough resolution and determination exist among those who still try to blame Hindu caste systems for the utmost inhumane violence that Hindus suffered ? Can there ever be any justification for violence of that category and scale ? Does a genuine and enough sense of realisation on such hypocrisies - in this matter and other similar matters - exist ? As long as these questions remain unanswered, can a true sense of justice and peace prevail in mankind ? Let us all think about all this and give our own significant contributions to such matters of genuine concerns.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 26, 2020:

Interesting and informative article. I have visited Fatehpur Sikri many times, due to it’s proximity to Delhi. While I do appreciate these monuments for their architectural beauty and heritage, I can’t appreciate the lifestyles of the emperors or kings of those times. Thank God, that we are living in the times, when women have voice, education, equal opportunities and rights, and not just a showpiece, or objects for physical pleasure.

Many thanks for sharing another wonderful article with historical facts, which is not quite pleasant to me.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Caste is the bugbear of Indians and the Chinese Institute of Strategic studies in a paper has commented that it will lead to the balkanization of the country.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Thanks, Tom, you have covered so many topics in one comment. The sum total is that the Mughal rule was not honey and sugar but a terrible time for the populace.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Vanita, Thank you for your comment. The fact is the Moguls did nothing much for the country. If you read the history written by Prof Lal and Duff the population of Hindus declined by 80 million

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

John, a pleasure to read your appreciative comment

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 26, 2020:

Liz, thank you for your comment

Vanita Thakkar on November 26, 2020:

Interesting and informative article, MG Singhji. While the grandeur and beauty incite appreciation, sad as well as bitter facts of Indian history teach necessary lessons, not only to Hindus or Indians, but to the mankind as a whole, about rulers and pomp and show and betrayals and loyalties and politics, religions, womanhood - objectified source of ownership and pride and pain and plight - shallow hypocrisies running far and deep and wide .... the forms and hues may differ, but underlying facts and realities are the same everywhere.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on November 25, 2020:

This is a beautiful and impressive palace. Akbar really doted on his three wives. Interesting article and I also enjoyed the history lesson. Thanks for sharing MG.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 25, 2020:

This looks like a fascinating place to visit. I especially appreciated the interesting historical background you included in your article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 25, 2020:

Tom, Sher Shah Suri was a fine warrior and defeated the moguls. But his death saw the rise of Samrat HemChand TukuRam Vikramaditya- The last Hindu ruler to sit on the throne of Delhi. Akbar had over 500 concubines and I wonder what he was doing with them. All said and done despite the whitewash by the Congress government the Mogul rule was the alien rule and it is a pity that 250 million Indians were governed by just a hundred thousand Turks/Mongols.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on November 25, 2020:

Tom, you are right the Rajputs were the most loyal soldiers of the moguls. This in my view is a little sad as they were very brave but somehow they got a defeatist complex and joined up with the moguls and also gave their Queens and daughters to the moguls as concubines and wives. Akbar did abolish Jizzia but he did nothing as far as Sati is concerned and the Jesuit priests who were in his court during his reign have reported that he once wanted to go to see Sati "for fun."It was only Aurangzeb who abolished Sati in 1664 by his firman. Incidentally, his most famous general who defeated Shivaji was a Rajput.