Perched atop a rocky ridge 37 km west of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri came into being four centuries ago when the Emperor Akbar, not yet 28 years old, created the first planned city in Indo-Islamic architecture. The city is the concept of one man; it was actualized with great energy while the impulse lasted, and completely abandoned a little more than a decade later. In 1568, Akbar was secure and powerful but he had no son and heir. His search for blessings for the birth of a successor brought him to the Sufi mystic Sheikh Chisti, who lived in Sikri village. The saint prophesied the birth of three sons and soon after was born Prince Salim, later to become Emperor Jahangir. In gratitude for the blessing Akbar decided to create imperial residences in Sikri, which would function as a joint capital with Agra. As a mark of his faith and his recent victories, he named his new city Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar was a keen builder and the plan of Fatehpur Sikri reveals an architectural mastermind at work.
The "Ghost city" of Fatehpur Sikri
Built in red sandstone, and is a beautiful blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural elements. The sandstone is richly ornamented with carving and fretwork. Places of Interest inside the Fatehpur Sikri: Diwan-I-Am, Diwan-I-Khas, Pachisi Court, Private Living Quarter, Mariam's Palace, Jodhabai's Palace, Hawa Mahal, Birbal's Palace, Panch Mahal, Jama Masjid, Salim Chisti's Tomb, Buland Darwaza.
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
60 km from Agra Also known as Keoladeo Ghana National Park, India's most renowned waterbird sanctuary lying in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan is the winter home of the rare siberian Crane. Approachable from Agra by road, a variety of accommodation is available, within and outside the National park. (Season: October to February).
62 km from Agra Mathura is traditionally recognised as the capital of Braj Bhoomi, the land which gave birth to Lord Krishna. The region is richly interwoven with the legend of Krishna, kept alive today by millions of devotees who look upon him as the most endearing incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and by specific locations associated with the legend.
Mathura's history dated back to at least 600 BC and archaeological remains have testified its importance. It was of significance during the Mauryan era and received great stimulus under Emperor Ashoka. Later, under the Kushans it became a centre of trade and learning, and was practically their southern capital during the first two centuries AD.
The Twin city of Brindavan
15 km away is also integral to the legend of Krishna played his flute and sported with gopis. The town was later immortalized in the poems of Mirabai, a princess of medieval India who became an ardent devotee of Krishna. Vrindavan is one of the most important religious centres of Braj Bhoomi.