Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.
Fatehpur Sikri is located in Agra District in the State of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. It was constructed southeast of an artificial lake, on the slopping levels of the outcrops of the Vindhyan hill ranges. Known as the “city of victory”, it was made capital by the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605 CE) and constructed between 1571 and 1573. Fatehpur Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals to be marked by magnificent administrative, residential, and religious buildings comprised of palaces, public buildings, mosques, and living areas for the court, the army, the servants of the king and an entire city. Upon moving the capital to Lahore in 1585, Fatehpur Sikri remained as an area for temporary visits by the Mughal emperors.
The inscribed property covers 60.735 ha, with a buffer zone of 475.542 ha. The city, which is bounded on three sides by a wall 6 km long fortified by towers and pierced by nine gates, includes a number of impressive edifices of secular and religious nature that exhibit a fusion of prolific and versatile Indo-Islamic styles. The city was originally rectangular in plan, with a grid pattern of roads and by-lanes which cut at right angles, and featured an efficient drainage and water management system. The well-defined administrative block, royal palaces, and Jama Masjid are located in the centre of the city. The buildings are constructed in red sandstone with little use of marble. Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience) is encircled by a series of porticos broken up at the west by the insertion of the emperor’s seat in the form of a small raised chamber separated by perforated stone screens and provided with pitched stone roof. This chamber communicates directly with the imperial palace complex clustered along a vast court. At the north side of it stands a building popularly known as Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), also known as the ‘Jewel House’. Other monuments of exceptional quality are Panch Mahal, an extraordinary, entirely columnar five-storey structure disposed asymmetrically on the pattern of a Persian badgir, or wind-catcher tower; the pavilion of Turkish Sultana; Anup Talao (Peerless Pool); Diwan-Khana-i-Khas and Khwabgah (Sleeping Chamber); palace of Jodha Bai, the largest building of the residential complex, which has richly carved interior pillars, balconies, perforated stone windows, and an azure-blue ribbed roof on the north and south sides; Birbal’s House; and the Caravan Sarai, Haram Sara, baths, water works, stables and Hiran tower. Architecturally, the buildings are a beautiful amalgamation of indigenous and Persian styles.
Amongst the religious monuments at Fatehpur Sikri, Jama Masjid is the earliest building constructed on the summit of the ridge, completed in 1571-72. This mosque incorporates the tomb of Saikh Salim Chisti, an extraordinary masterpiece of sculpted decoration completed in 1580-81 and further embellished under the reign of Jahangir in 1606. To the south of the court is an imposing structure, Buland Darwaza (Lofty Gate), with a height of 40 m, completed in 1575 to commemorate the victory of Gujarat in 1572. It is by far the greatest monumental structure of emperor Akbar’s entire reign and also one of the most perfect architectural achievements in India.
Criterion (ii): The construction of Fatehpur Sikri exercised a definite influence on the evolution of Mughal town planning, namely, at Shahjahanabad.
Criterion (iii): The city of Fatehpur Sikri bears an exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization at the end of 16th century.
Criterion (iv): The city as a whole is a unique example of architectural ensembles of very high quality constructed between 1571 and 1585.
The inscribed property contains all the attributes necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value, and these are in a good state of conservation. Factors that previously threatened the integrity of the property, such as mining activities, have been controlled by the banning of mining within a 10-km radius of Fatehpur Sikri, but will require continuous monitoring, particularly in regard to illegal blasting. The extension of the buffer zone, and the establishment of pertinent regulatory measures, are critical to controlling the unplanned growth of the township and the potential threat to the visual integrity of the property. Adequate planning and the definition of clear guidelines for visitor use are also essential to maintain the qualities of the property, especially as relates to the potential development of infrastructure at and nearby the property.
The authenticity of Fatehpur Sikri has been preserved in the palaces, public buildings, mosques, and living areas for the court, the army, and the servants of the king. Several repairs and conservation works have been carried out from as early as the British Government period in India to the Buland Darwaza, Royal Alms House, Hakim Hammam, Jama Masjid, Panch Mahal, Jodha Bai palace, Diwan-i-Am, pavilion of the Turkish Sultana, Birbal’s House, mint house, treasury house, etc., without changing the original structures. In addition, paintings and painted inscriptions in Jama Masjid, Shaikh Salim Chisti’s tomb, Akbar’s Khwabgah, and Mariam’s house have also been chemically preserved and restored according to their original conditions. To maintain the condition of authenticity, guidelines are needed to ensure that form and design, as well as location and setting, are protected.
Protection and management requirements
The management of Fatehpur Sikri is carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India. Legal protection of the property and control over the regulated area around it is through legislation, including the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959) and Amendment and Validation Act (2010), which is adequate to the overall administration of the property and buffer zone. In addition, the passing of orders by the Honourable Supreme Court of India assists the Archaeological Survey of India in the protection and conservation of monuments. An area of 10,400 sq km around the Taj Mahal is defined to protect the monument from pollution. The Supreme Court of India in December 1996 delivered a ruling that banned the use of coal/coke in industries located in this “Taj Trapezium Zone” (TTZ), and required these industries to switch over to natural gas or relocate outside the TTZ. The TTZ comprises 40 protected monuments, including three World Heritage properties: the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri.
To prevent the entry of unauthorized persons into the tourist movement area and to avoid encroachments in the property area, a boundary wall has been constructed on the protected limits of the palace complex. In addition to the physical delimitation, regulatory measures are needed to prevent further encroachment and impacts on the visual integrity of the property.
The sustained implementation of the Integrated Management Plan is required for the adequate protection, conservation, and management of the property and its buffer zone. It is also the necessary mechanism to coordinate the actions implemented by different agencies at the central and local levels having mandates that have an impact on the property, including the Town and Country Planning Organization, the Agra Development Authority, the Municipal Corporation, and the Public Works Department, among others. Although the Archaeological Survey of India has been managing the visitors to the property by means of its management system, the Integrated Management Plan will need to ensure adequate visitor management and guidelines for the potential development of additional infrastructure, which will need to be preceded in all cases by a Heritage Impact Assessment.
The fund provided by the federal government is adequate for the overall conservation, preservation, and maintenance of the monuments of Fatehpur Sikri. It supports the presence of a Conservation Assistant who works under the guidance of the regional office of the Archaeological Survey of India and coordinates activities at the property.