Situated near Agra, Fatehpur Sikri is an imperial fortress city founded in the 16th century, which encapsulates the elements, ideals and heritage of the Mughal Empire. The city was founded as the capital by Emperor Akbar who ordered the demolition of certain ancient monuments before his new city complex design was built. However, the capital was moved to Delhi from Fatehpur Sikri due to the inadequate water supply for the city in 1586. By around 1610, the whole complex of Fatehpur Sikri was completely abandoned. 

Here are 10 facts about Fatehpur Sikri Architecture you must know:

1. The meaning of Fatehpur Sikri

The name Fatehpur Sikri is from Arabic origins, with Fateh meaning ‘victory’ and Sikri meaning ‘giving thanks to God.’ The earlier name of the city was Fatehabad, given by Emperor Akbar, meaning the ‘city of victory.’ After his son, Jahangir’s, second birthday he started the construction of an imperial palace, with the names Fatehabad and Sikripur combined to form its present-day identity of Fatehpur Sikri.  

Example of Fatehpur Sikri architecture Ⓒ Bruno Poppe

2. The World’s highest gateway

The Buland Darwaza is part of the identity of Fatehpur Sikri architecture and stands at fifty-four metres tall, making it the highest gateway in the world. The structure is adorned with a variety of intricate designs with some Quranic verses also carved on the walls. The interior of the architecture also consists of some unique patterns and craftsmanship that make this form so special and widely appreciated.

10 Things you did not know about Fatehpur Sikri Architecture Sheet1
Buland Darwaza gateway © Marcin Bialek

3. The Sacred complex

The whole of the imperial city complex comprising Fatehpur Sikri architecture is situated on a ridge and is surrounded by a wall on three sides, with the fourth side bordered by a body of water. The whole complex consisted of multiple facilities, mainly of luxury to suit and accommodate the famous residents of the palace. Some of the buildings forming the structure of the Fatehpur Sikri complex include the Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal and Jama Masjid.

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The Fatehpur Sikri complex © Fatehpur Sikri | Fatehpur Sikri History | DK Find Out

4. The use of red sandstone

The Panch Mahal is an example of Mughal architecture and is built of red sandstone which gives the terraced form a unique character. The pyramidal structure of the Panch Mahal consists of 5-stories that are supported by a collection of 176 columns throughout its form. The number of columns on each floor progressively decreases, with eighty-four columns on the ground floor leading up to only 4 columns on the top floor supporting a chhatri structure. The Diwan-I-Am hall for public audiences is another structure within the Fatehpur Sikri complex that is made entirely of red sandstone, with a large courtyard at its centre. 

Structure of the Panch Mahal Ⓒ M & G Therin-Weise

5. Orientation

Throughout the architecture of Fatehpur Sikri, the spaces are articulated carefully to the cardinal directions. The main prayer hall within the Jama Masjid for example is oriented specifically towards Mecca while also following the geometries of the royal complex as a whole structure. Due to the varied topography of the site in general, the orientation of the building was also dictated by the contours and steepness of the surrounding land. 

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The Jama Masjid Mosque © Jami Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri – Islamic Architecture in India

6. The central Mosque

The main Mosque of the Fatehpur Sikri complex is the Jama Masjid. This was also built by Emperor Akbar under the supervision of Saint Salim Chishti. The overall structure is rectangular in form with the tomb of Saint Salim Chishti located outside the entrance to the Mosque

View of the Jama Masjid Ⓒ M & G Therin-Weise

7. Hindu and Muslim influence

The tomb of Saint Salim Chishti is revered as the most important building within the whole palace complex, mainly because Emperor Akbar was a sincere devotee of Salim Chishti. The Emperor believed that his son Jahangir was born after the blessings of this Saint. The structure was built around 1580 using motifs and elements from both Hindu and Mughal architecture including carved marble screens called Jaalis on all sides of the tomb. 

Many women are known to visit this well-known place, wishing for the gift of a child and tying a thread near the tomb for blessings from the Saint. Emperor Akbar was also known to have consulted with Hindu and Muslim astrologers before making decisions regarding the specific design elements of the complex. 

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The tomb of Saint Salim Chishti © BBC – History – Ancient History in depth: The Story of India: Pakistan and North India

8. The influence of Persian architecture

The Diwan-I-Khas hall used for private audiences is predominantly influenced by the style of elements of Persian architecture, with the interior characterised by central columns adorned by carved stone structures. This served as a private meeting room, at the time of Emperor Akbar, and is situated in the northeast corner of the complex. This particular hall is famous for its central pillar that is intricately decorated with brackets carved with Gujarati-style symbols and patterns. 

The Fatehpur Sikri architecture of the Panch Mahal was also inspired by Persian architectural and structural forms as well as elements from Buddhist temple architecture. 

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The Panch Mahal © Panch Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri

9. Announcement on arrival 

Situated near the entrance of the complex is the drum house called Naubat Khana where guests are announced when they arrive. This edifice is named after the Naubat drum which belonged to the Mughal culture and was played during special ceremonies. These drums were played within the structure, which was exquisitely designed with intricate carvings similar to those of Mughal art. 

Structure of the Naubat Khana Ⓒ Chahar Suq | Archnet

10. A World Heritage Site

The royal palace complex of Fatehpur Sikri is now included as a UNESCO Heritage site as it consists of an array of architectural and historical temples and monuments. This includes the Jama Masjid, one of the largest and most well-known Mosques in India. Thousands of visitors gather at this architectural site daily as it stands as living proof of the unique and beautiful fusion of various Indian styles that created the grand architecture of the Mughal Empire. 

View of the complex Ⓒ Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

References:

Rana, M., 2021. Fatehpur Sikri Architecture, Design and Construction – Architect Boy. [online] Architect Boy. Available at: <https://architectboy.com/fatehpur-sikri-architecture/> [Accessed 31 July 2021].

Centre, U., 2021. Fatehpur Sikri. [online] Whc.unesco.org. Available at: <https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/255/> [Accessed 31 July 2021].

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. Fatehpur Sikri | India. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/place/Fatehpur-Sikri> [Accessed 31 July 2021].

Author

Currently a final year BA Architecture student in the UK; Abbarnah is passionate about art and nature, an avid reader and a believer in embracing culture and spirituality. She hopes to inspire through her artwork and writing; highlighting the beauty and importance of creativity in our ever-changing world.

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