Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Mausolium of Akbar, the Great in Sikandra, Agra

How much do we know about Akbar, the Great ? Other than what we made of him from Akbar-Birbal stories that we read and heard in our childhood ?

After some wonderful days at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary I was on my way to Allahabad via Mathura for my first ever experience of Maha Kumbh in February 2012. Thanks to a missed train at Mathura, I was forced to take the road to Allahabad via Agra. I even convinced my driver that he could allow me about 30 minutes at Sikandra, Agra against his wishes as he was keen to reach the destination well before nightfall. It is a different story that I stretched my time at Sikandra to over 90 minutes. Reasons are here to see.

Akbar ascended his throne at a tender age of 13 in 1556 after untimely death of his father Humayun and had a long reign until 1605. Considered the most successful among the Mogul rulers, he also cherished a novel vision of  a new religion Dīn-i Ilāhī meaning "Divine Faith" which tried to merge the best elements of all the religions in his empire as an attempt to reduce differences dividing his subjects. Was his marriage to women of 3 different religions another attempt in the same direction ?

We certainly see merging of Hindu, Muslim and Christian architectural styles in tomb made of red sand stone which he started building during his own lifetime in 1600. It was later completed by his son Salim i.e. Jehangir in 1613.

Architecturally, this Mausoleum is said to be a transition from red stand stone structures like Red Fort to white Marble extravaganza of Tajmahal which was built about 50 years later.

The complex has 4 sandstone gates of which the Southern is the largest and the only one in use. The decoration on the gateways is very striking with polygonal mosaic patterns.

A broad paved causeway as seen below leads to the tomb which is of a unique square design...

from inside of Southern gate which today is the only entrance to the complex.

Geometric and calligraphic designs achieved by the mosaics of glazed tiles and colored stones inside the first chamber of the tomb is stunning to say the least. One can very easily and quickly forget his other plans once inside this room. Its inscriptions were said to be written and designed by Abd al- Haqq Shirazi (later known as Amanat Khan), famed calligrapher of Mughal monuments including Taj Mahal.

Two of Akbar's daughters found their peace in the same tomb complex. One of them is seen here :

What one comes across while walking around this large complex is its simplicity yet the richness of taste. Seen below is the cenotaph of the tomb and the emperor lies below it. It is placed in a large empty hall of about 20 sq meters with only a single dim lamp hanging from the top.  I spent some good amount of time in this place. The access to this hall is about a 50 meter long dimly lit passage of just about 1 meter wide.  

One also comes across a network of waterways in the complex as seen in some of the pictures above. Unfortunately, my guide was not informed enough about many things which I was curious about but then I had only a short time and there is always a next time. 

Keeping the best at the end...... The intricate floral jaali work in marble windows and screens ...... a hallmark of Mogul architecture.  

Admirers of history and architecture and photographers ... This is one place you should not miss if you are anywhere within 100 miles of Agra.


  1. I have been there...... Your photographs are mesmerising....

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    2. Thanks Amit. Go again and you will see it differently.