Fatehpur Sikri - Encyclopedia

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FATEHPUR SIKRI, a town in the Agra district in the United Provinces of India, on the road from Agra to Jaipur. Pop. (1901) 7147. It is a ruined city, and is interesting only from an archaeological point of view. It was founded by Akbar in 1569 as a thank-offering for the birth of a son, Selim, afterwards the emperor Jahangir, foretold by Selim Chisti, a famous Mahommedan saint. The principal building is the great mosque, which is said by Fergusson to be hardly surpassed by any in India. "It measures 550 ft. east and west by 470 ft. north and south, over all. The mosque itself, 2 50 ft. by 80 ft., is crowned by three domes. In its courtyard, which measures 350 ft. by 440 ft., stand two tombs. One is that of Selim Chisti, built of white marble, and the windows with pierced tracery of the most exquisite geometrical patterns. It possesses besides a deep cornice of marble, supported by brackets of the most elaborate design. The other tomb, that of Nawab Islam Khan, is soberer and in excellent taste, but quite eclipsed by its surroundings. Even these parts, however, are surpassed in magnificence by the southern gateway. As it stands on a rising ground, when looked at from below its appearance is noble beyond that of any portal attached to any mosque in India, perhaps in the whole world." Among other more noteworthy buildings the following may be mentioned. The palace of Jodh Bai, the Rajput wife of Akbar, consists of a courtyard surrounded by a gallery, above which rise buildings roofed with blue enamel. A rich gateway gives access to a terrace on which are the "houses of Birbal and Miriam"; and beyond these is another courtyard, where are Akbar's private apartments and the exquisite palace of the Turkish sultana. Here are also the Panch Mahal or five-storeyed building, consisting of five galleries in tiers, and the audience chamber. The special feature in the architecture of the city is the softness of the red sandstone, which could be carved almost as easily as wood, and so lent itself readily to the elaborate Hindu embellishment. Fatehpur Sikri was a favourite residence of Akbar throughout his reign, and his establishment here was of great magnificence. After Akbar's death Fatehpur Sikri was deserted within 50 years of its foundation. The reason for this was that frequent cause in the East, lack of water. The only water obtainable was so brackish and corroding as to cause great mortality among the inhabitants. The buildings are situated within an enclosure, walled on three sides and about 7 m. in circumference. They are all now more or less in ruins, and their elaborate painting and other decoration has largely perished, but some modern restoration has been effected.

See E. B. Havell, A Handbook to Agra and the Taj, Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, &c. (1904).

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