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  11. India: Fatehpur Sikri

Exploring the spectacular red sandstone palace of the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri 

The ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri was founded by Emperor Akbar as the capital of Mughal Empire in 1571. Akbar’s son Jahangir was born at the village of Sikri in 1569 and that year Akbar constructed a religious compound to commemorate Sheikh Salim who had predicted the birth. After Jahangir’s second birthday, he began the construction of a walled city and imperial palace here. The city came to be known as Fatehpur Sikri, the “City of Victory”, after Akbar’s victorious Gujarat campaign in 1573.

Fatehpur Sikri.
One of the palaces

The Imperial complex was abandoned in 1585, shortly after its completion, due to the exhaustion of the small, spring-fed lake that supplied the city with water, and its proximity to Rajputana, with whom the Mughal Empire was often at war. The capital was shifted to Lahore so that Akbar could have a base in the less stable part of the empire, before moving back to Agra in 1598. Because the palace area has been in nearly continuous use over the centuries, much of the imperial complex which spread over nearly two by one mile wide area is largely intact. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the rest of the city which, after it was abandoned in 1610, has fallen into a state of ruin.

The fort, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site, is a wonderful complex of buildings, constructed from local red sandstone, sitting on a rocky ridge with excellent views of the surrounding areas. The complex has several sections starting with the public spaces where the Mughal emperor and his consorts would meet with the local people and then progressing into private spaces when the royal family lived.

The most impressive of the buildings are set around the palaces of the royal family. The Buland Darwaza or the loft gateway at Fatehpur Sikri was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwaza, approached by 42 steps is 53.63m high and 35 meters wide and is the highest gateway in the world. The most striking of all the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri is the Panch Mahal, a five storey building that provided shelter to the royal ladies and mistresses. The top story of the building offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Delicate sandstone carvings

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