Fatehpur Sikri bears exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization at the end of the 16th century. It offers a unique example of architectural ensembles of very high quality constructed between 1571 and 1585. Its form and layout strongly influenced the evolution of Indian town planning, notably at Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi).
The 'City of Victory' had only an ephemeral existence as the capital of the Mughal empire. The Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) decided to construct it in 1571, on the same site where the birth of his son, the future Jahangir, was predicted by the wise Shaikh Salim Chisti (1480-1572). The work, supervised by the great Mughal himself, was completed in 1573. In 1585, however, Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri to fight against the Afghan tribes and choose a new capital, Lahore. Fatehpur Sikri was to be the seat of the great Mughal court only once more for three months in 1619, when Jahangir sought refuge there from the plague that devastated Agra. The site was then finally abandoned, until its archaeological exploration in 1892.
This capital without a future, some 40 km from Agra was, however, considerably more than the fancy of a sovereign during the 14 years of its existence. The city, which the English traveller Ralph Fitch considered in 1585 as 'considerably larger than London and more populous', comprised a series of palaces, public buildings and mosques, as well as living areas for the court, the army, servants of the king and for an entire population whose history has not been recorded.