India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
Sikandra is a dusty little village that lies on the national highway a few kilometres from Agra on the Delhi-Agra National Highway. Most would speed past this hamlet, observing the shops and parked trucks at the dhaabas (roadside food stalls for the travellers). However, if you are lucky, and you have done your homework well, you would certainly stop to have a look at what lies a few hundred metres from the highway.
Sikandra is the site of Emperor Akbar’s tomb. Emperor Akbar the Great (1542 to 1605) was the greatest of all Indian emperors, the greatest of the Mughals. He reigned from the age of 13 years till his death in 1605. He ascended the throne following the death of his father Humayun and was lucky to have a strong guardian called Bairam Khan, who helped defeat the forces of Hemu, leader of the Afghans in 1556 in the Second Battle of Panipat. The battle was going in favour of the Afghans until an arrow pierced Hemu’s eye and killed him. The battle turned and the Mughal dynasty was truly established for the first time. Akbar was a ruler with great vision, who conquered much of India through a combination of strategic victories, marriages into the Rajput clans and political alliances. He also proposed the religion of Deen-e-ilahi, an amalgamation of Islam with several Hindu beliefs. His court flourished with nobles of great intellect such as Birbal, as well as artists and musicians.
Akbar commissioned the building of Fatehpur Sikri, his new capital (20 miles from Agra, where Shah Jahan would build the Taj Mahal at a later date). Fateh means victory, and the capital was built after the conquest of Gujarat in 1583.
Akbar also commissioned the building of his own tomb in 1600 at Sikandra.
The red sandstone tomb itself is quite modest as compared to many other Mughal monuments including the tomb of Humayun (Akbar’s father) in Delhi. This perhaps reflected Akbar’s world view as compared to many other Mughals. There are five storeys of which only the topmost is made of marble. This top floor was added by Jahangir, Akbar’s son and the next emperor.
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The photo is courtesy of wikipedia – ekabhisek – flickr.com