Wah Taj – My Agra Diary (Part 2)

The history of India has witnessed rule of countless kings and emperors, but if someone is asked to recall their names they can be in finger tips.  Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor is definitely one of them, who is loved and appreciated by all, be Hindus or Muslims.

Agra was Akbar’s karma bhumi and here also he was buried. His tomb is located at Sikandara, about 15 km away from Taj Ganj on Delhi – Agra Highway. Most of the tourists however skip his tomb because their hurried Agra darshan programme finishes with Agra Fort and Taj. But for me it was in the top priority.

From Taj Ganj I hired an auto for the whole day and landed at Akbar’s final resting place around 10 in the morning. The weather was excellent, much better than Ahmedabad’s scorching heat.  Once reached my destination a huge 16th century gate welcomed me to the majestic royal tomb. I was simply floored.

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Akbar’s Tomb is a large square building in the middle of a sprawling char bhag garden, an idea introduced by Babur, his grandfather in the previous century. However, unlike Humayun Tomb in Delhi and Taj Mahal, which are massive domed structures influenced by Timurid architecture of Central Asia; Akbar’s Tomb reflects more of local elements. It is five storied. The main floor is simple, dignified structure that does not seem to be related to the elements above it. Historians have suggested that the ground floor was probably finished before Akbar’s death and the rest of the floors were added by Jahangir, his son. The upper levels appear light and elegant consisting of Rajasthani chhatris of white marble and red sandstone. A few are also tiled reflecting Persian influence. However, the building is mostly red.

The garden is enclosed by a long wall. Within the walls are the main gate on the south side and three false gates on the other three sides. The main entrance is handsomely designed gateway with tall marble minarets on four corners. The key draw of this structure is the bold geometric inlays. The inlay is not restricted to the use of white marble, but other coloured stones are also used, adding variety and richness. One of the highlighted patterns is of swastika, a popular Hindu symbol.

The design of central arch on each of the façades is similar in character to the main entrance gate. They are bold, simple structures whose geometric inlaid ornaments produce a strong and vibrant composition.

As I approached to the interior of tomb, I was stunned by the rich ornamented stone work, intricate calligraphy and carving, and painting, mostly coloured in blue and gold, but there are other colours as well – such as crimson and red.

Just outside the southern gate there is yet another elegant structure from the time of Jahangir. Known as Kanch Mahal, it was a harem quarter or ladies resort. The two storied mansion was planned around a covered central square hall, roofed by a vaulted soffit. Jharokas, fine carving of motifs and blue and yellow glazed tiles are some of its major draws.

(To be continued)

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