In Sikandra, about 7 kms from Agra, is a huge red sandstone gateway with marble minarets, leading to the tomb of Mughal emperor Akbar. The construction of the tomb was started by Akbar himself, but he died before it was ready, and the work was completed only during the reign of his son, Jahangir.
The marble tomb of Etmad-ud-daulah, built by his daughter Noor Jahan, Jahangir’s wife, would probably have received a lot more attention had it not been in the same town as the Taj Mahal. This was the first structure with walls entirely in white marble, decorated all over with inlay work using semi-precious stones, and intricate jaali work. It is often called the Baby Taj, because it is believed that this was a precursor to the Taj Mahal.
For a long time, Mughal emperor Akbar had no son to succeed him. On hearing that the Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti could perform miracles, he went to see him and seek his blessings. And it worked! Soon Akbar was blessed with his first son Salim, who went on to become Emperor Jahangir. As a mark of gratitude and respect, between 1571-73, Akbar had the city of Fatehpur Sikri built around Salim Chishti’s camp, about 40 km from Agra, and shifted his capital there. The city was the Mughal capital only for about 14 years and is a bit of a ghost town now, but it is a fascinating example of Akbar’s secular beliefs, with its mix of Hindu, Persian, Buddhist and Christian architectural elements.
A beautiful white marble dargah dedicated to Sheikh Salim Chishti is a part of the palace complex. It is believed that if you tie a thread onto one of the marble jaalis or grills of this dargah and make a wish, it will come true.
Fatehpur Sikri’s most iconic structure is the Buland Darwaza, a gateway built to commemorate Akbar’s victorious conquest of Gujarat. At a height of 176 feet, it is the world’s tallest gateway, probably symbolic of the might of the Mughal empire.
I cannot possibly say anything about the Taj Mahal that hasn’t been said before, so I’m not even going to try. Photos don’t do justice to its unearthly beauty either, but they are all I’ve got, so here goes 🙂
Some of the best views of the Taj Mahal are from a garden called the Mehtab Bagh across the river Yamuna. We were lucky to be there at sunset.
From one of Delhi’s most famous monuments in my last post, let’s go to one of the last examples of the Mughal architecture in Delhi. Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan was the governor of Awadh and he also assisted the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah in his administration. Pleased with his services, the emperor gave him the title of “Safdarjung” and put him in charge of Kashmir as well. When Ahmad Shah Bahadur became the next emperor, he made Safdarjung his Prime Minister.
After his death, Safdarjung’s son Nawab Shuja-ud-daulah built a red sandstone tomb for his father in Delhi, along the same lines as Humayun’s tomb. It is impeccably maintained, and the complex houses the headquarters of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Despite having been to Delhi many times in the past, I’d somehow always missed visiting the Jama Masjid, and it has been on my must-see list for a long time now. A Jama Masjid is a large congregational mosque where Friday noon prayers are held. The one in Delhi is India’s biggest – it can accommodate up to 25000 people. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan laid its foundation stone in 1650, and the mosque was completed in 1656.
There are three huge gates to the masjid on the north, south and east. The main structure has eight striped domes and two huge striped minarets (41m high) on either side.
When we reached the mosque, afternoon namaaz was going on, during which only Muslims are allowed in. So we sat basking in the winter sun on the red steps outside the gate, watching the bylanes of old Delhi bustling with activity and dreaming about the parathas we were soon going to have in Chandni Chowk 🙂