Fatehpur Sikri is one of the must-visit places with the Taj Mahal in Agra. The first time I when I visited Agra, I also went to Fatehpur Sikri from Agra. This time when I planned a trip to Bharatpur bird sanctuary with my friends, we decided to visit Fatehpur Sikri also. It is only 20 Km from Bharatpur and so it is worth visiting. We decided that we first visit Fatehpur Sikri from Delhi and then travel to Bharatpur. It was a road trip by car because it gave us flexibility and Delhi to Fatehpur Sikri is around 235 KM. We started at 05.30 AM from Delhi for Fatehpur Sikri on Sunday.
We took Mathura road instead of Yamuna expressway due to a couple of reasons. There are now several flyovers that came upon this road and drive is almost traffic-free till Agra. Another important reason was the midway stop. There are only a couple of places to stop on Yamuna expressway and the food quality is not good. While on Mathura road (On Google map it is marked Chennai – Delhi Highway) several good eating joints.
Our travel from Delhi to Fatehpur Sikri by road
There was no traffic on the road and it was a smooth drive. As soon as we crossed the Delhi Haryana border there was a flyover at every road crossing. So, there were no stops and waiting time, it was a smooth drive and we didn’t realize when we crossed the NCR. We crossed Haryana and entered Uttar Pradesh without any traffic jam or stoppage.
After driving for a couple of hours we started feeling hungry and decided to stop. There are many Dhaba’s on either side of the road. Finally, we stopped at Asli Papu Dhaba at Kosi Kalan as they have ample parking space and the place looked clean. We are Indians and the name of the place was somewhat amusing due to the local language.
It was around 08.00 AM and still, there were people in the restaurant. It is always a good sign if you see people in an eating joint because it means food will be fresh. We ordered tandoori stuffed Aloo (Potato) Parathas with tea. Parathas are always a safe bet when traveling because they make them after you order. Service was fine and washrooms were clean, which is a must when you stop during a road trip.
From Kosi Kalan, it took us another two hours to reach Fatehpur Sikri. We stopped on the way at mustard fields to click some photographs. Driving in North India during winter months is so much fun because there is some of another crop on side of the road.
We paid 4 tolls on the way from Delhi to Fatehpur Sikri. The first one at Delhi Haryana border and the other 3 were between Harayana and Uttar Pradesh. The total toll tax we paid 285 INR, which is lesser than 440 INR to be paid on Yamuna expressway.
Also, Yamuna expressway is made of concrete so tyers get heated faster in comparison to Asphalt roads.
We parked our car in the parking of the Gulistan tourist complex managed by the UP government. Fatehpur Sikri fort is around 1.5 Km from here.
There are two options to go to Fort, one is walking and another is taking a government bus. We took the bus to save time & energy. One-way bus ticket cost is 10 INR per person. The bus dropped us in front of the ticket window for Fatehpur Sikri fort.
Agra to Fatehpur Sikri
Most of the people visit Fatehpur Sikri with Agra because it is only 40 Km from the famous Taj Mahal.
It takes around 1 hour by taxi from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri and costs around 1000 INR.
If you are on a tight budget then take a train from Agra for Fatehpur Sikri.
There are several UPSRTC buses from “Idgah bus terminus” in Agra to Fatehpur Sikri.
History of Fatehpur Sikri
This small town was originally a village named Sikri and Babur first discovered it when he defeated Rana Sangha on its outskirts. He made a garden near the lake in Sikri and called it a garden of victory. He liked this place so much that he called it “Sukari”, which meant thanks.
Akbar built the Red Fort in Agra and also used to visit Sikri. He was heirless for several years so he visited many religious places in the desire of a male child. He also visited Salim Chisti in Sikri, who was residing with his disciples here in those days. Chisti saint Salim Sheikh predicted that he would soon have a son. His prediction came true and a son born to Akbar’s queen, who was known as Jahangir. Initially, Akbar named him Salim after the saint.
Akbar’s two sons Salim & Murad were born in the village of Sikri and he developed a spiritual connection with the place. He ordered his superintendents to develop a grand fort in Sikri.
The city of Fatehpur Sikri was founded in 1571. The name came from the village of Sikri and Fateh (Means Victory) after Akbar’s successful campaign of Gujarat at that time. During those days high walls from three sides and a lake on the fourth side surrounded it.
The Fatehpur Sikri fort sits on a rocky ridge. It was mainly built with red sandstone. The intricate designs were made in this stone. Fatehpur Sikri has a mix of Muslim and Hindu architecture, which was popular at that time.
Akbar left the Fatehpur Sikri in 1585, just 15 years after it was founded. He visited it only once after leaving it in 1585. The city was completely abandoned by 1610.
It mostly remained abandoned except for short durations. Jahangir stayed here for 3 months in 1619. Later on, Mohunmad Shah stayed here for some time around the 1730s. At that time the Mughal Empire was declining so very little work was done in the fort during his stay.
After occupying Agra the British East India Company used it from 1803 to 1850. They ordered the repair work of the Fatehpur Sikri Fort. Despite everything, it remained abandoned and never retained its initial glory.
Why Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri?
There are several stories why such a well made fort and palace were abandoned. But there is no documented record in about it in the history of Fatehpur Sikri. It can be one or all of the reasons mentioned below –
1.) Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri on the whim when he blessed with a son. Afterward, he lost interest and left this place.
2.) Another reason is that Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri for the Punjab campaign and he didn’t retune here for several years. Most of the people moved after he went. Ultimately the fort was completed abandoned by Mughals in 1610.
3.) Another version is that there was a failure of water supply to the Fatehpur Sikri and due to this, Akbar left this place.
This seems a logical reason because any royals did not occupy the fort and palace afterward for a longer duration.
Places to visit in Fatehpur Sikri
I have visited Fatehpur Sikri twice and on both occasions, it mesmerized me. The last trip was a few years ago and when I visited in the afternoon there were very few people in the complex. In those days vehicles were allowed up to the gate of Fatehpur Sikri fort.
Nowadays, we have to park it 1.5 Km before the fort. I have read several stories of guides jumping in front of the car so that you can hire them or their misbehavior. Fortunately, on both occasions, nothing like that happened with us even though we were female accompanied by a male member who was on the wheels. After parking the car we went to the boarding point of the bus taking us to the fort.
Brief intro of Fatehpur Sikri layout
While on the way to the fort we crossed a big gate, which is known as Naubat Khana. It was the place where a ceremonial drum was played in the Mughal era.
On the right side of the road on the small ridge is a hall it can be seen from the road. This place is known as Tansen’s Baradari. You can easily skip this place as there is nothing much to see. It is believed that this was the residence of Tansen, who was one of the nine gems in Akbar’s court. This place doesn’t look like a residential building because there is only one big hall. No other building around it to prove that it was a house.
The main monuments of Fatehpur Sikri are in two compounds.
One is the fort complex with the palace and other important royal buildings.
Another is Salim Chisti’s Dargah complex where Buland Darwaza and Jama Masjid situated.
Fatehpur Sikri Fort
It is better to start with the Fatehpur Sikri fort complex because it is big and spread in a larger area.
If you go by the tourist bus from the parking area to Fatehpur Sikri then it will drop you in front of Fort’s gate. Buy a ticket and enter the fort complex.
After crossing the entry gate is a well-maintained garden with some beautiful structure around it.
Inside the fort is Diwan-e-Khas, which was the Akbar’s private hall of audience and accessible to people closely associated with him.
Panch Mahal is one of the biggest and most promising buildings in the Fatehpur Sikri Fort. This four-story building has a canopy on top of it. It was next to the Zanana quarters of the palace so also used for relaxation and entertainment.
The women of the royal family used the upper floors of the Panch Mahal. The Jalis (Screens) provided cover (Pardah) to them. Women can see the activities of Fatehpur Sikri from these screens. The Anoop Talab is in front of it. Music and other entertainment programs were performed on the platform in the middle of it.
Tansen Chabutra and Anoop Talab
This square platform in the middle of Fatehpur Sikri is known as Tansen ka Chabutra. The red sandstone pond around the platform is known as Anoop Talab. According to the legends, Tansen sang Raag Deepak (Raaga of Indian classing music can Light the lamps) and Raag Megh Malhar (It can start the rain starts if sang perfectly) at this place. There is a narrow passage to cross the Anoop Talab to reach Tansen’s Chabutra, though this passage is closed for the public now.
Zanana Quarter and Jodh Bai’s Palace
Jodha Bai Palace is one of the prominent places in the Zanana quarters of Fatehpur Sikri Fort. The palace has a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. There is an open courtyard in Jodha Bai’s palace. A part of the palace had blue tiles on the roof. This is the only place in Fatehpur Sikri fort with a splash of color otherwise everything is in red sandstone.
Other interesting buildings in Fatehpur Sikri fort are Birbal’s palace, Stonecutter’s mosque, Ibadat Khana, Royal officers meeting yard, Daftar Khana and Todarmal Palace.
From the fort, you can see Hiren Minar.
The compound of Tomb of Salim Chisti, Buland Darwaza
The tomb of Salim Chisti is located a few hundred meters from Fort and connected with an Asphalt road.
The tomb is inside a high walled compound. There are two gates to enter this compound. i.e. Buland Darwaza and Badshahi Darwaza.
Badshahi Darwaza opens towards Fatehpur Sikri fort, while Buland Darwaza opens towards the town side.
Tomb of Salim Chisti
The tomb was built at the burial place of Sufi saint Salim Chisti. He was a disciple of Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer. Akbar built this tomb in 1580 after his death to show his respect for the Sufi saint because Salim Chisti predicted the birth of his son.
The tomb is built of white marble stone on a platform. The delicate marble screens cover the tomb from four sides. It is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture.
According to the belief if you wish something and tie a thread on the screen of tomb then your wish will fulfill. People specifically visit this tomb to get the blessing of childbirth.
The literal meaning of Buland Darwaza is “Door of Victory”. Akbar built this 50 meters tall gate after his successful campaign of Gujarat. The gate is built of red sandstone and decorated with white and black marble.
Jama Masjid was the first structure built in this compound. Buland Darwaza and Tomb of Salim Chisti were built afterward. Jama Masjid is the mosque where Friday Namaz (Prayers) is offered.
Fatehpur Sikri entry fee
The ticket for Indian nationals, SAARC nationals, and BIMSTEC nationals is 50 INR. If you book a ticket online then it will cost 45 INR.
For foreign travelers, it is 600 INR. If you book a ticket online then it will cost 560 INR.
Entry for children below 15 years of age is free.
You can book online tickets on ASI’s website.
You have to buy a separate ticket for ADA Toll-Tax from the counter of the monument even if you buy a ticket online.
There is no entry ticket for Buland Darwaza and the tomb of Salim Chisti.
A camera ticket is not required. Videography is allowed by paying 25 INR.
Fatehpur Sikri timing
It remained open from sunrise to sunset like most ASI monuments. Fatehpur Sikri remains open from 06.00 AM to 06.00 PM on all days. It remained open on all days of the week.
Travel tips for Fatehpur Sikri Agra
* Fort complex is 1.5 Km from the parking area, so it is advisable to use the bus operated by the government dept. The boarding point for the bus is 100 meters inside the tourist complex.
* While walking towards the bus stop, you have to cross a row of shops selling Indian souvenirs. These shopkeepers are very pushy and consistently ask you to visit their shop. If you don’t want to buy anything then keep walking.
* It will take 2- 3 hours to visit the Fatehpur Siki fort and Dargah complex. So carry water because nothing is available inside.
* Wear comfortable shoes because the floor is slightly uneven in some places.
* Though several guides approach you when you are in the parking area and also later on when you reach the fort complex. This is a common practice at most historic places in India, guides insist that you hire them.
If you don’t want a guide then refuse them politely, some will go after one refusal and some may insist to hire them. Young children of age 10-12 years approached us and asked to hire them as a guide.
* There is no audio guide available for visitors.