Directly behind the Panch Mahal, a courtyard garden was reserved for the zenana (harem). The adjoining Sunahra Makan (Golden House), also known as Mariam’s House, is variously thought to have been the home of the emperor’s mother or of Akbar’s wife Mariam. It is enlivened by the faded remains of paintings on its walls (whose now vanished golden paint gave the pavilion its name), by the lines of verse penned by Abu’l Fazl, inscribed around the ceiling in blue bands, and by the quaint little carvings tucked into the brackets supporting the roof, including several elephants and a tiny carving of Rama attended by Hanuman (on the north side of the building, facing the zenana courtyard garden).

Solemnly presiding over the whole complex is the main harem, known as Jodhbai’s Palace. The residence of several of the emperor’s senior wives, this striking building is the grandest and largest in the entire city, and looks decidedly Hindu even in the eclectic context of Fatehpur Sikri, having been modelled after Rajput palaces such as those at Gwalior and Orchha.

On the north side of the palace, the Hawa Mahal (“Palace of the Winds”), a small screened tower with a delicately carved chamber, was designed to catch the evening breeze, while a raised covered walkway, lined with five large chhatris, leads from here to a (now vanished) lake.

Northwest of Jodhbai’s Palace lies a third women’s palace, known as Birbal’s Palace – though this is another misnomer, as Birbal, Akbar’s favourite courtier, was a man and would have been most unwelcome in the middle of the zenana. It’s more likely to have been the residence of two of Akbar’s senior wives.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The world's quirkiest food festivals

The world's quirkiest food festivals

Tomato-drenched crowds wading through a lake of passata at Valencia’s La Tomatina festival might be a familiar image, but such passionate and eccentric cele…

22 Dec 2017 • Lucy Cowie insert_drive_file Article
Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long…

11 Dec 2017 • Jack Palfrey local_activity Special feature
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right