November, 2020July 15, 2022
Akbar’s Tomb – A fine blend of Mughal, Gothic, and Rajputana Architectural Style
It is fascinating to know that Akbar himself chose a site for his tomb and got the construction finished while he was alive. Though, his son Jahangari finished the construction of his father’s tomb. I still remember my history teacher in high school, Vijay Lamba used to ask where Akbar’s tomb was situated and since then the name got printed in my memories, Sikandra. However, back then, I had read a different spelling of this name, i.e. Secundra. I still remember once, Lamba sir asked me about Secundra and I told him that it was near Hyderabad since I confused Secundra with Secunderabad.
Before lockdown, I visited Agra on weekends with a friend of mine and got to visit Akbar’s tomb for the first time, though it was my third visit to Agra. On the second and last day of the trip, we spent nearly an hour at Akbar’s Tomb. The architecture of the tomb is fascinating and is slightly different from the other Mughal monuments which you will find around.
History of Akbar’s Tomb – Emperor Akbar himself chose the place and commissioned the construction while he was alive
Akbar himself decided this place to be his resting place after his death. He also looked after the construction and garden designs of the tomb. After the emperor’s demise, his son Jahangir undertook the construction work and finished it from 1605 – 1613. The major construction of the tomb was already finished while Akbar was alive and his son added more to the monument. He built a floor made up of marble stone over the structure.
Tomb of Akbar is spread in a massive area of 119 acres. The area is covered with beautiful gardens which were designed by the king himself. These gardens were home to several flora and fauna back then. Emperor Akbar followed the Tartary tradition where a person gets his resting place (tomb) built while still being alive. And that’s what Akbar did. Around 1 KM away from Akbar’s tomb is situated Mariam’s tomb (Mariam-uz-Zamani), his wife, and Jahangir’s mother.
Out of six Mughal emperors who ruled significantly, four emperors are resting in impressive grand monuments. The two, Babur has a simple-looking grave in Kabul whereas Aurangzeb too has an ordinary grave in Khuldabad, Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
Design and Architecture of Tomb of Emperor Akbar
The architecture of Akbar’s tomb is a fine blend of Mughal style along with Gothic and Rajputana style. The harmonious design easily reflects from the style if you can decode. The implementation of patterns so exquisitely brings the monument to life. The intricate jali work, along with Persian-styled calligraphy is the highlight of the monument. These all highlight Islamic style.
Just like Itimad-ud-Daula’s tomb, this tomb too lacks a dome. If you are someone who has some understanding of Mughal architecture, then you know that a dome is a major architectural element of Mughal style but since the dome is absent from this tomb, it has been replaced with small canopies put over pillars. Thus, this reflects the blend of different architectural styles in one building.
The tomb is a five-storeyed monument that looks like a pyramid. There are four gates and the main entry gate is the Southern Gate which resembles Buland Darwaza. The main monument is built in a square plan. Out of the four gates, three are false gateways while the Southern one being the entrance. South Gate is the largest and has four marble cenotaphs that resemble Taj Mahal. The gates are built of red sandstone with marble inlays.
There are four gardens, surrounded by walls, and the tomb is located in the middle of them. These gardens have water channels and footpaths on the sides. The southern gate has four minarets. He is said that Akbar was influenced by the idea of four minarets from Char Minar during his visit to Deccan (1599). Every minaret is made up of three marble storeys.
The first floor of the tomb
You will see cloisters on the ground floor of the tomb on the four sides with arches. The hall which leads to the main site where the grave is located is adorned with wall art, stucco paintings, and calligraphy. A walkway leads to the area the grave is located.
The second floor of the tomb
The square-formed second floor is small in size as compared to the first floor. On each corner, you will see eight pillared cenotaphs with a diameter of 5.18 m based on eight octagonal pillars. A total of 23 bays are made on every corner.
The third floor of the tomb
The third floor is even smaller than the second floor (31.62m). The third floor has four cenotaphs with the same measurement which the cenotaphs of the second floor have. Blue, yellow and green tiles have been used in the cenotaphs. The floor edges have railings fitted with jalis which are decorated with various geometrical figures such as triangular, star, swastika, etc.
The fourth floor of the tomb
The fourth floor (27.16m), square in shape, has arches, cenotaphs on pillars on all sides. This floor has a secret storey. One has to climb a ladder and then enter a narrow passage to enter the secret storey. This secret storey has five corridors that dissect each other at right angles.
The topmost floor is the smallest of all (21. 34m) which is built of marble. All four sides of this floor have cloisters measuring 27.16X2.74m.
The tomb also serves as the resting place of many people other than Akbar. Daniyal Mirza who was Jahangir’s brother and third son of Akbar is buried here. Shakr-un-Nissa Begum, the daughter of Akbar is buried here. Zeb-un-Nissa, the Aurangzeb’s eldest child is buried here. Khanum Sultan Begum, the eldest daughter of Akbar is also buried here. It is also said that Flora Annie Webster Steel, an English writer, is also buried here.
The Tomb of Akbar was looted and ransacked
Aurangzeb is known as a brutal, ruthless, and tough king. During his regime, he offended and hurt the sentiments of Hindus and demolished temples. This created huge tension among Hindus which resulted in massive revolt. The revolt was led by Jat king Raja Ram Jat who wanted to take revenge for his father’s death. He along with several other kings attacked Agra Fort and took precious stones & metals, ornaments & jewelry, etc.
He further attacked Akbar’s Tomb and looted it. It is also said that he even mutilated the king’s tomb by digging out the king’s bones and burning them. The unrest led to a lot of loss of life and property.
Stucco Painting of Akbar’s Tomb
The main hall which has a walkway leading to the main tomb site is decorated massively with stucco paintings and Persian calligraphy. The design and decoration are impressive and resembles that of Itimad-ud-Daulah’s tomb of Agra. You can read my separate article on the stucco painting of the tomb.
Restoration work conducted at the tomb
Since the tomb was plundered and deformed by the Jats, George Curzon, the then viceroy of India, conducted restoration work to repair preserve the mausoleum. The was work completed in 1905. The work was carried out under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904.
Other monuments at Akbar’s tomb complex
Near the ticket courter, you will see a demolished octagonal tomb. It is yet unclear to whom this tomb belongs. I checked a lot online and discussed it with others. I was told that this tomb belonged to the Lodhi era. However, while I was reading a blog, the author (Kevin Standage) had mentioned that the tomb belonged to the Mughal era only since the octagonal tomb structure belonged to the Mughal era only.
Other than this tomb, when you move towards Akbar’s tomb, you will see another monument which is known as the Kanch Mahal which was built by Jahangir as a harem quarter. It was later used as a hunting lodge.
The tomb opens at 6: 00 AM and closes at 6: 00 PM. You can come and visit any time during these hours.
Ticket price of Akbar’s Tomb
The ticket can be purchased both online and offline. You can either choose to buy a ticket from the ticket counter at the tomb itself or you can book your ticket online.
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I am a food & travel enthusiast, a music aficionado, poet, artist, and someone who loves to explore unexplored/off-beat places. I started this blog to share my food and travel journey.