The abandoned capital of Fatehpur Sikri
I promised you a little soap opera style story when it came to the abandoned capital of Fatehpur Sikri. This is a city easily accessible by those driving from Agra to Jaipur, whether on your own, or with a driver.
The city of Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar, one of the Mughal Emperors. Also known as, Akbar the Great, he was the grandson of Shah Jahan the famous Moghul emperor behind the Taj Mahal. Let the soap opera story begin. Akbar the Great was a Mughal emperor whose reign was troubled. He could not produce an heir with any of his wives. While he had 3 main queens, none of them had yet to give him a child.
Then he heard about a Sufi mystic that had successfully predicted the birth of three sons. This Sufi mystic was considered a saint or a priest because his prophecies were so accurate. Akbar the Great took drastic action and decided to move the entire capital to the town to Sikri. This way the saint could bless his wives so that God would bless them with a family. Well, surprise, surprise, about a year after their arrival, the saint correctly predicted the birth of a child. A son!
I wonder if the son and heir that they had been praying for looked a lot like the priest? What!?! I said that very thing to our guide, who laughed and shrugged his shoulders with a slightly smirky smile on his face. I guess we’ll never know. If only there was DNA testing back then! I almost forgot to mention that Akbar was so grateful to the priest that he even gave his prince son the same first name, Salim. Things that make you go hhmmmm?
There was only one problem with this new capital. In his haste to relocate, Akbar the Great, did not fullly consider the infrastructure that was required to maintain a city and palace. First, it was a difficult place to defend against enemies. Secondly, the lake and water was only supplied by a small spring, and it dried up. So 15 years after it was built, the capital was abandoned completely. The city is largely intact and very little has changed since it’s creation in 1571.
The red sandstone makes the buildings stand out from the others that we’d seen so far on our trip. Akbar designed the architecture and layout in a Persian style. The intricate details in the sandstone that were carved over 500 years ago are impressively intact. My favorite spot was the hall of public audience. Akbar presided over his people in this small room from high above a carved central pillar. We chose not to visit the tomb of the priest. It is wildly popular among locals who believe that a visit will help the fulfillment of their own wishes. We decided to avoid the crowds and skip it.
We only visited for about 2 hours, but felt like it well worth the stop. The walls alone were incredibly high and formidable. Fatehpur Sikri is a great way to break up the drive from Agra to Jaipur. I’d definitely recommend the stop if you’re driving that way.