Visiting the Palace of Akbar the Great at Fatehpur Sikri Close to Agra
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Visiting the Palace of Akbar the Great at Fatehpur Sikri Close to Agra

The main attraction of Fatehpur Sikri is the palace of Akbar a large opulent construction. The palace is open to visitors from 10am to 6pm on all days of the week and and is classified by UNESCO 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.

In 1570  Akbar moved to a site close to Agra called Fatehpur Sikri. This is a place 48 km from Agra and was the Mughal 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.

Recently I visited Fatehpur Sikri and was impressed by the site  which is classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The main attraction is the palace of Akbar the great Mughul.The palace is open to visitors from 10am to 6pm on all days of the week and has an entry fee of Rs 20 for Indian visitors and Rs 100 ($2) for foreign tourists. 

As one reaches  Fatehpur Sikri and enters the car park, you will be accosted by a host of 'guides'. Most of them are not registered and one has to beware of them. It is better to take a registered guide who will charge about Rs 600. The palace is about 3 km up a hill from the car park and as cars are not allowed to the monument, one can take a motorized Riksha who will charge Rs 50 for a up and down trip.

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.

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 flower 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 residenses 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. When I visited the Anoop Talao was dry with no water, but I am told it is filled with water by the ASI during the rain months.

-          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 position 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.

Close by the palace is the Moti Masjid 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.

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.

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