Fatehpur Sikri has a magnificent past history. Before the great Mughal Emperor Akbar came to power, this area was completely uninhabited. Soon after the birth of Prince Salim, Akbar ordered the transfer of his capital to this small insignificant town. The Emperor’s decision was followed by rapid work and within a short span of five years this palatial city was completed by 1574.
Akbar marched out from Fatehpur Sikri to conquer Gujarat on the 4th July, 1652 which was ruled by a Muslim dynasty independent of Delhi and to celebrate his triumph; Akbar gave a new name to the village as Fatehabad—which was later changed to Fatehpur. Both these names convey the same meaning viz., “the City of Victory.”
For about twelve years Akbar concentrated all his attention to Fatehpur to make it a glorious seat of power and the Mughal court also functioned from here.
In 1585, Akbar had to march to the North-West frontier to defend his empire and to pacify the Afghan tribes. He camped at Lahore till 1598, to consolidate his conquests. During his absence Fatehpur remained neglected. The empty houses of the nobles who were on march with him, due to want of regular maintenance, decayed. After his return from Lahore in 1598, he halted at Agra, which lay on the direct route south from Delhi.
On the 16th of September, 1599 he had again to march to Deccan to supervise the protracted wars there. A famous inscription on the Buland Darwaza shows that he passed a few days here on his return from Deccan. In the meantime Prince Salim rose in rebellion against his father in Allahabad and Akbar hastened on to quell his rebellion and remained there till he died on 17th October, 1605.
Salim, now ruling as Jahangir (1605-1627) stayed for a few months at Fatehpur in 1619, as Agra was under the grip of a serious plague. During this short stay, 28th birthday of Prince Khurram, later known as Shah Jahan, was celebrated here. Jahangir utilized this occasion in paying a ceremonial visit to the shrine of Sheikh Salim. He left for Agra in April.
Aurangzeb (1658-1707) marched to Deccan in 1681, never to return.
But once more Fatehpur Sikri had a turn, and the palaces were filled with life, the easygoing Muhammad Shah Rangila in April, 1719, sat on Peacock Throne and crowned himself as emperor of India. But however it did not last very long. Gradually disintegration of the Mughal Empire and the extinction of material prosperity hastened the decadence and ruins of the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri.
Madho Rao Scindia (1772-1795) the Maratha ruler of Gwalior held the descendants of Sheikh Salim Chisti in high esteem. For a long time, to this day, both Hindu and Muslim devotees maintained the flow of visitors to Fatehpur Sikri.
Then came the British who seized Agra in 1803, and subsequently set up an administrative sub-division located at Fatehpur, which continued till 1850.
The credit of preserving these monuments goes to Lord Curzon (1898-1905) who initiated a systematic scheme to conserve the Fatehpur Sikri and its environs. The major repairs seriously commenced in 1881, and restoration of certain stone screens. Since then the protected monuments have been well-maintained.
The imperial city of Fatehpur Sikri was designed to serve as the cultural, commercial and administrative centre of the Mughal Empire. In case of an enemy invasion, strong fort of Agra was to fall back on.