We moved on to the Panch Mahal, a palace of five stories, influenced by Buddhist style of architecture , each story gradually diminishing in size, till the topmost one, which is a single-domed chhatri. This building was used by emperor for recreation, and he used to enjoy the coolness of the evenings sitting on the topmost story. A passage led to the Haramsara ( residence of the concubines) , and the ladies could visit the Mahal through a passage way. In true style , thus, the emperor could enjoy his nocturnal escapades! Decadent it might be , but I was left appreciating the ingenuity of the Mughal monarch in enjoying the pleasures of life !
Nearby is the Anup Talao, essentially a water reservoir with a red sandstone open pavilion in the centre.It is here that the legendary Tansen, one of the Navratnas ( nine geniuses) of Emperor Akbar's court, would hold his musical performances, singing his trademark Mian Ki Malhar raga , and bringing rain from the skies (so goes the legend) . It was Akbar who gave this genius the title of Mian, and to his goes the credit for many of the ragas of Hindustani classical music, such as Mian ki Todi, Mian ki Malhar, Mian ki Mand, Mian Ka Sarang, Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, and Rageshwari.Visualising Tansen singing on a moonlit night to a packed audience at the Anup Talao, I felt thrilled indeed.
After Tansen, can Birbal be left far behind? Birbal, originally Mahesh Das, was another of the Navratnas and certainly the wittiest one among them , and every self- respecting Indian child has been brought up on his witty stories, courtesy Amar Chitra Katha. In Akbar's court, he was the closest to the emperor, despite being a Hindu, and their association was legendary. Birbal's palace, an imposing red and yellow sandstone structure, is situated close to the emperor's palace, and he was the only courtier of his time honoured in this way.
Nearby is an ornate building popularly known as Jodhabai's Kitchen, but which may have been an annexe of the Haramsara. This building is noteworthy for the refined ornamentation on its surface.
Through the Shahi Darwaza ( Imperial Gate), we entered a huge courtyard which contains three of the most noteworthy structures of Fatehpur Sikri - the tomb of Salim Chisti, the Jama Masjid and the Buland Darwaza.
Salim Chisti (1478-1572), was one of the most prominent Sufi saints, who was held in deep reverence by Emperor Akbar. His tomb is distinct in that it is built purely in white marble, among the red sandstone buildings. At the centre of the building is the grave of the saint. One is supposed to ask for blessings by tying red threads on the intricate jaalis on the exterior or the building. And true to tradition, we made some wishes that had been pent up for quite some time, hoping the ritual would work well for us.
To the left of Salim Chisti's tomb is the tomb of Islam Khan I, a notable Mughal general who was the grandson of the saint. A red sandstone building decorated by small chattris and topped by a white dome, it also contains the graves of several of Salim Chisti's descendants.
To the right of Salim Chisti's tomb is the Jama Masjid, one of the earliest buildings to be built in Fatehpur Sikri. It is one of the largest mosques in India and can accommodate 10,000 people, and is the only building in the complex being accessible for public use . The interiors are richly decorated, with grills, columns, arches , some of which is interestingly influenced by Hindu architecture, one of the few instances of its kind in our country,one more example of Emperor Akbar's liberal and secular thinking.
To the south of Jama Masjid is the Buland Darwaza ( Grand Gate) , a magnificient structure, marked by three arched entranceways and topped by chhatris, which was built in commemoration of Akbar's victory in Gujarat. Inscribed over the archway, are written the following words,
"Isa, Son of Mariam, said: The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen".
A philosophical and wise piece of advice indeed, attesting to a time-tested truth that all life and creation has but a fleeting footstep existence ! Nothing brings out this truth more than the fact that the grand capital of Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri, built with pomp and splendour, had a short existence and is today an abandoned city , albeit one which has made its mark on the sands of time. Lit by the rays of the setting sun, the red sandstone buildings assuming an appearance that was ghostly and enticing at the same time, we exited the grand complex of buildings that is the town of Fatehpur Sikri, through the Buland Darwaza and made our way back to the city of Agra, happy to have visited one of the most notable historical spots in this part of the country.
> Distance from Agra : 40 km
> Getting there a) Road- Tourist Buses/ Regular Buses (UPSRTC) and Taxis/ Cabs connect it to Agra. Buses are available from the Idgah bus stand in Agra. The bus stand in Fatehpur Sikri is at the eastern end of the bazaar- the bus journey takes about an hour and half. Cabs can be hired for Rs.3000- 3500/-; b) Train- nearest railway station is the Fatehpur Sikri Railway Station, about 1 km. from the city centre, c) Air -nearest Airport is the Agra Airport (also known as Kheria Airport), 40 km from Fatehpur Sikri
> Open from : Sunrise to Sunset
> Entry fees -Indian Visitor and citizen of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries: Total Rs.20.00 (Rs.10.00 by ASI as Entry fee and Rs.10.00 by ADA as Toll tax). -Other Foreign Visitors : Total Rs.260 (Rs.250/- by ASI as Entry fee and Rs.10/- by ADA as Toll tax).
> Guides: Licensed Guides are available. Audio guide facility is also available near ticket counter.
> Museum: There is an Archaeological site Museum near Diwan-I-Am booking counter. It is open from 9.00 AM to 5.00 P.M, closed on Fridays.
> Best season to visit: October to April
> MapMore info at: