Fatehpur Sikri: One-time capital of the Mughal Empire and center of religious tolerance

As the name Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory) indicates, this site commemorates victory in war. It was built to celebrate the triumph of the Mughal emperor Akbar over the sultan of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. Akbar also built the Red Fort at Agra and a royal road was constructed between these two sites. It was while the Red Fort was under construction that Akbar moved to Fatehpur Sikri, where he established his new capita from 1571 to 1585.

Akbar was a Muslim, but he did not insist that his people follow the same religion that he did. A remarkably tolerant ruler, he established in Fatehpur Sikri a place known as the House of Worship. Here, representatives from different religions gathered to discuss and debate theology. Akbar was inspired by this same spirit of tolerance when he planned the monuments of the city, and as a result the architecture at Fatehpur Sikri is a harmonious mixture of Hindu,Buddhist, Jain, Christian, and Islamic decorations and techniques. The monuments of the complex include the Diwan-i-khas where Akbar used to address the public from the platform of the central pillar, and the largest congregational mosque in India, the lavishly decorated Jama Masjid. The compound boasts two magnificent main entrances: the Badshahi gate and the Buland gate. The latter is the most impressive, crowned by thirteen parapets orchatris.

In building Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar wanted to pay homage to Salim Christi, a holy man who had become his adviser. When Salim Christi died in 1572, Akbar ordered a grand mausoleum to be built in the city. Most of the architecture at Fatehpur Sikri is made from the local red sandstone, but Salim Chisti’s mausoleum is of white marble to accentuate his holiness and to honor the emperor’s spiritual guide. Fatehpur Sikri became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.