Fatehpur Sikri, that Mughal emperor Akbar established as his
capital and is now a World Heritage site 32 km from here, was once
a "flourishing trade and Jain pilgrimage centre", a new book says.
Basing his arguments on the excavations by the Archaeological
Survey of India (ASI) in 1999-2000 at the Chabeli Tila, senior
Agra journalist Bhanu Pratap Singh said the antique pieces,
statues, and structures all point to a lost "culture and religious
site," more than 1,000 years ago.
"The excavations yielded a rich crop of Jain statues, hundreds of
them, including the foundation stone of a temple with the date.
The statues were a thousand years old of Bhagwan Adi Nath, Bhagwan
Rishabh Nath, Bhagwan Mahavir and Jain Yakshinis," said Swarup
Chandra Jain, senior leader of the Jain community. The Jains
comprise about 0.4 percent of India's population of 1.2 billion
and are a generally religious, prosperous and literate community.
Historian Sugam Anand said: "The findings should have led to
serious research, but that was not done. You need time and
resources. Definitely before Akbar built his capital in Fatehpur
Sikri, there is proof of habitation, of temples and commercial
centres. The open space on the ridge was used by Akbar to build
his capital. But we still need a lot of research."
The statues and artefacts discovered buried in a pond have been
kept in a guest house in Fatehpur Sikri by the ASI.
Talking to IANS, Bhanu Pratap Singh, the author of "Jain Dharm Ka
Pramukh Kendra Tha Fatehpur Sikri," said: "Sikri existed much
before Akbar. The excavations have clearly established this fact."
D.V. Sharma, former superintending archaeologist of the ASI in
Agra, who supervised the excavations, told IANS: "We found scores
of damaged statues piled up, and with dates, also a manuscript.
These are now lying in the guest house at Fatehpur Sikri. They
should have gone ahead with the excavations and engaged historians
to research on the subject."
"My book on Fatehpur Sikri excavations is there in the ASI library
with complete details of the findings which unmistakably point to
a flourishing trade and pilgrimage centre of both the Jains and
the Sikarwars. Akbar built a few structures and modified others
that were already there. Who demolished the temples and the
statues is a subject which further research alone can establish,"
The ASI, for reasons known only to itself, abruptly stopped
excavations at Fatehpur Sikri. "Had they pursued and dug up all
the mounds, startling revelations would have been made that would
have changed the course of our historical understanding," Bhanu
Pratap Singh claimed.
Prior to the excavations in 1999, the ASI, in its various
publications, had categorically stated: "Before Akbar's time, the
higher ridge was uninhabited, its former glory and present fame
are the result of a sufi saint's choice of it as a hermitage."
But ASI's documents do refer to Sikri village, "a site full of
interest and promise for archaeological exploration".
Bhanu Pratap Singh said the Fatehpur Sikri area was under the
Sikarwar Rajputs, who had many structures and palaces, including a
fort and temples, which were either demolished or suitably
modified by the Mughals and before them by the Muslim rulers.
Fatehpur Sikri was earlier Vijay Pur, according to the ASI's D.V.
The Jain community in Agra is now planning to develop a museum in
Fatehpur Sikri to tell the world "the real history of the area",
according to philanthropist Ashok Jain, a chartered accountant.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)