AGRA TOURISM

SIKANDRA

AKBAR'S MAUSOLEUM


Akbar’s penchant for construction made plan his own mausoleum for which he selected a site named Sikandrabad eight kilometers on the outskirts of Agra. It was named after Sikander Lodi, one of the era still strand. But the place is now more famous because of Akbar’s imposing tomb.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary



Thought Akbar began bulding the tomb, it was his son and successor Jahangir who completed the mausoleum because of former’s death in 1605. It is an edifice which exemplifies the unmistakable elegant style of the emperor it so proudly commemorates.

‘’Akbar Nama’’ the memoirs of Akbar penned by Abul Fazi state that the great monarch was buried in a sacred garden Bahishtabad or the ‘’abode of paradise’’ In Sikandra, a suburb of Agra. There are other historians who claim that this tomb complex was entirely Jahangir’s concept so ‘’in agreement with men of experience, by degrees a lofty building with a garden and a large and imposing gateway with minarets of white stone were built’’ and completed in 1613.

The main entrance to the tomb is through a unique 74 feet high southern gateway of red sandstone surmounted by an arched chamber. The inscription on the gateway says ‘’These are the gardens of Eden, enter them to live forever’’ and its inner and outer facades adorned with decorative marble inlay mosaic embellished with black slate and coloured stones which form beautiful floral and geometric patterns along with band of fine calligraphy on the recessed arches. At each corner of the gateway stand four tapering marble minarets believed to be a precursor to those found in the Taj Mahal, which further add to its grandeur. These have been built in a way that all four of them cannot be seen at the same time as one always gets hidden behind the first one. Each minaret is three storeyed and 86 feet high with flights of steps inside to reach to the top. A Persian inscription at the tomb’s entrance reads ‘’may his (Akbar’s) soul shine like the rays of the sun and the moon in the light of God’’.

The main tomb is an impressive red five tiered pyramidal composition quite reminiscent of Akbar’s places in Fatehpur Sikri, particularly the Panch Mahal. Some historians are of the view that this unusual design was an inspiration from the Buddhist viharas since it bears no resemblance to any of the other Mughal monuments. There is a deviation from the conventional design and form of the usual single storeyed square or octagonal shapped tombs built during that period.

The tomb stands on a marble platform reached by a wide stone causeway. The ante chamber on the ground floor was once profusely decorated with dark blue plaster and gold leaf, but was destroyed in the uprising of 1857. It was restored by Governor General Lord Curzon during the visit of Prince of Wafes to India. From here a long sloping passage leads to a silent mortuary chamber in the basement where lies the unostentatious and plain cenotaph of emperor Akbar under a domed sepulchre. It faces towards Mecca, as was his desire. A gold and silver canopy, rich Persian carpets and the monarch’s arms and ammunition which decorated the grave earlier were looted and taken away by the Jats. Now only a dimly lit lamp remains.

The first floor is a podium of arches which has a doorway decorated with inlay work. The next three flat roofed storeys, each smaller than the earlier one, have earthy sandstone pavilions with beautifully decorated kiosks on all sides and marble domes shaped in Hindu style. It is the topmost floor which sets itself apart because of its unusual design. Made entirely from marble, it is like an open terrace with n roof and intricately designed latticed marble screen in a variety of pattern, in place of walls, which are surmounted by four marble kiosks on all the four sides. Each screen is divided in to 36 arches and each arch has panels inscribed with Persian couples praising the Great Akbar.

In the centre lies the replica tomb of Akbar, (exactly above his grave on the ground floor) carved out of a single block of white marble embellished with floral motifs and inscriptions. At the head of the tombstone can be read the words ‘’Allah-o-Akbar’’ or ‘’God is great’’ while the inscription at his feet says ‘’jalla Jalalahu’’, which means ‘Great is his glory’. On the two sides are the ‘’99 names of Allah’’ and patterns of clouds and Chinese butterflies. It is said that initially the roof was covered with a canopy made of gold, silver, brocade and precious stones as it is hard to imagine how an exquisitely decorated tombstone of such a great emperor could lie uncovered.

Like all the monuments built by Akbar his tomb at Sikandra also demonstrates a fine fusion of Hindu and Muslim architecture and emphasizes the transition from Akbar’s strong and resilient style to Jahangir’s delicate ans aesthetic technique.