India is full of different architecture styles. Whether we talk about the Rajput Architecture, Mughal architecture or the Colonial architecture, but still after so many invasions, India has somehow managed to preserve all these architectural styles. We might have read about the special features of each of these styles in various books, but there is much deeper down, that we don’t know, which can be seen in the great emperor Akbar’s tomb.
Mughal architecture is not just about aesthetics, and opulence that we’d do not miss. It is also about functionality, so little features that we very often mistake to be factors of beauty, are some functional elements. Moreover, these elements provided, carry some great reasons beneath them.
So in this article, we have covered some facts and features of Mughal Architecture, seen in the Great Emperor Akbar’s tomb.
INTRODUCTION TO THE AKBAR’S TOMB:
LOCATION: Sikandra, Agra
AREA: 481,575.86 m2
Akbar’s tomb is an important masterpiece in Mughal architecture. The construction began in 1605 by Akbar who himself took up the project to build his mausoleum, but unfortunately died before its completion. Later, his son Jahangir completed the project by 1613.
The entire complex is constructed using red sandstone. The tomb is present in the centre of the campus and surrounded by a garden. The surrounding wall of the complex consists of four gates, out of which the South Gate forms the most important gate and is also the main entrance to the campus. The complex carries mixed-features of Mughal as well as Hindu architecture. Consequently, all these features provided, further have an important significance.
Let’s discuss these facts in detail:
1. SOUTH GATE OR DIN-E-ILLAHI GATE
The South Gate also called the Din-e-Illahi gate is the main entrance of the campus. Inside of the South Gate reveals a large central hall leading to the garden and then to the main tomb building. The gate bears the features of using a mixture of the three religions, Hindu, Muslim and Christian, which Akbar dedicated to his wives which were from three different religions respectively. Dividing the gate into three parts, the central portion had articulations of Catholic symbols, whereas, on either side, Swastika symbolised the Hindu religion and half-moon represents the Muslim religion.
The design of the gate also reflects the use of floral patterns created with the use of white marble. It also reveals the use of detailed calligraphic designs in the form of large mosaic patterns brought also brought up by the use of white marble and slate-coloured marbles.
2. FROM SOUTH GATE TO THE TOMB:
The approximate distance between the South gate to the tomb is about 228 m. But, archaeologists during the survey of Akbar’s tomb, found that the gate and main tomb present in the basement were perfectly aligned in the same axis. It is still a question amongst the archaeologists, that how the workers of that era, achieved so much perfection. Due to this fact, the mausoleum eventually became a UNESCO World Heritage Monument site.
The other functional system of the Mughal architecture is the pathways, that crisscrosses the entire campus, located in the central open space between the south gate and the tomb. The pathways were not just provided for the decoration necessarily, but these also worked as a very efficient drainage system. So, during the rainy season, the water passing through these pathways, further entered to the drains, placed aside of this central platform.
All the water collected was later used for watering the garden surrounding the tomb. Moreover, it helped in saving the entire campus from water clogging.
Akbar was a very intelligent ruler. The tomb site was initially planned by Akbar himself, with a huge garden surrounded by red sandstone walls, and with the centrally located four monumental gates. Above all, the lush green “charbagh” garden was also planned by him. The garden harbours beautiful palm trees. Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India started an open deer park in the garden for the visitors and tourists.
5. MAIN CENATOPH OF THE TOMB:
The main monument of Akbar’s tomb is pyramidal in shape consisting of five storeys, built to be used as the cemetery for Akbar and his daughters. After entering the tomb, a small hall is present which exhibits the remnants of a magnificently painted (stucco paintings) dome. These stucco paintings create an out of the world aura by the use of gold, blue and green coloured floral arabesque amidst Persian inscriptions. But, earlier it was once decorated using abundant of precious stones, which later got looted.
6. BOW YOUR HEAD AS YOU MEET THE EMPEROR:
Jahangir had designed the entire campus to perhaps symbolise his father’s simplicity, purity, dedication and strength. By providing various features within the structure, he also wanted the upcoming next generations to bow their head in front of his father. After entering the tomb, a door is present within the hall, which further connects to the tomb through a ramp acting as its medium. The ramp was not just provided to enter the main tomb, but also carries a great significance. The downward slope had a ratio of 1:12, which automatically bowed the heads of the visitors as they moved forward.
So in conclusion, if you want to visit the tomb, you will have to bow your head in front of the great emperor.
7. HEIGHT OF THE MAIN MAUSOLEUM:
The main tomb carries a large hall, with Akbar’s tomb placed at the centre. The height of this tomb is double storeyed. The double-storey provided creates echo within the hall during the time of namaz. This further created an aura and an environment of universal connection. The sound echoes within the hall for about 6 seconds. Moreover, Jahangir wanted the hall for his father which depicted that Akbar is now in heaven.
8. CIRCUMFERENTIAL GALLERY:
Around the tomb, is a circumferential gallery. It is an Indian proverb that says, “the walls also have ears”. This circumferential gallery is a clear depiction of this proverb. The whole gallery is full of colonnades at a distance of 3 m. If two persons, stand opposite to each other facing towards these columns and speak into these walls, they can listen to each other.
Just like today’s telephonic and mobile communications, where the words of a person can only be heard by the receiver. In the same way, these columns also helped the people standing on distant to communicate with each other. These walls have voids within, which further helped in the communication of two persons.
This architectural style is only seen at three places in India, i.e. Golkonda fort of Hyderabad, Shahi Imambara of Lucknow and the Akbar’s tomb.
The thing to remember is it’s not just the Mughals who created the best architecture, but what is the case is that the architecture once before them has hardly survived. This is one of the few architectural legacies that a person can touch, see, and witness. Nevertheless, it’s marvellous.
Also, to read more such facts about Indus valley Civilization, click here