Brian Rope Photography

Brian Rope Photography

Words in Focus

Akbar the Great

In my blog “Gunjan and Vrindavan”, I shared a story about an experience in Vrindavan earlier this year. After leaving Vrindavan, our tour group drove to Agra where, in the suburb of Sikandra, we stopped at the Tomb of Akbar the Great.



Akbar the Great was Mughal Emperor from 1556 until his death in 1605. He was the third ruler of the Mughal Dynasty in India and considered to be and one of its greatest rulers. Akbar was only thirteen when his father died and he quickly had a rival. Hemu, a previously undefeated general, declared himself supreme leader and advanced on Akbar with a huge army. However, when Hemu was shot and died his army fled and Akbar was triumphant. Akbar assumed complete command in 1561 at the age of nineteen.


Akbar was a patron of art and culture. He was fond of literature, and created a library of over 24,000 volumes.


Akbar was very successful militarily and extended his empire over much of Northern India and up to Afghanistan. His power and influence extended over the entire country because of Mughal military, political, cultural, and economic dominance.


But what made Akbar remarkable was his political success. He was born in Rajasthan under the protection of Hindu Rajas and, unlike previous Moslem rulers, he regarded Indians as his fellow countrymen rather than infidels to be suppressed. Consequently he abolished laws discriminating against Hindus and encouraged discussion of spiritual matters between all religions.


Akbar had the idea of generating a universal religion by taking the best out of each and then gravitated towards personal divinity. Called Din-i-llahi, it was a simple, monotheistic cult, tolerant in outlook, and centred on Akbar as a prophet. This led to a revolt instigated by Moslem zealots in 1579-80, proclaiming his half-brother as Emperor. However, he retained general support and the revolt was suppressed easily enough in the end.


Many of Akbar’s last years were consumed with a struggle with his son Salim, later the Emperor Jahangir, who attempted to seize Delhi in 1600 while Akbar was away in the Deccan and even proclaimed himself Emperor in 1605.


Akbar's latter years were also spent in fruitless campaigns in the Deccan. His great grandson Aurangzeb would conquer most of the south a hundred years later but abandon Akbar's policies of toleration and thereby engender the subsequent disintegration of the Mughal Empire.




Akbar's Tomb complex external entrance from the road, built to imitate the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri, the city Akbar founded. The south gate is the largest, with four white marble chhatri-topped minarets which are similar to (and pre-date) those of the Taj Mahal, and is the normal point of entry to the tomb. The tomb itself is surrounded by a walled enclosure 105 m square. The tomb building is a four-tiered pyramid, surmounted by a marble pavilion containing the false tomb. The true tomb, as in other mausoleums, is in the basement.




The buildings are constructed mainly from a deep red sandstone, enriched with features in white marble. Decorated inlaid panels of these materials and a black slate adorn the tomb and the main gatehouse. Panel designs are geometric, floral and calligraphic.



The grounds are popular with squirrels.




And with schoolchildren.




And ordinary folk.




How much you pay to enter depends on whether you are an Indian, Foreign or Differently Abled Tourist. Does that mean non-tourists are not able to go in?

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