(NB : I have subsequently revisited this site, for an updated account please see my post on Akbar’s Tomb – Sikandra).
The mausoleum of the Mughal emperor Akbar lies on the outskirts of Agra in an area called Sikanda.
It’s believed that Akbar himself chose this location for the site of his tomb and commenced its construction in around 1600, according to Tartary tradition to start the construction of one’s tomb during one’s lifetime. Upon his death in 1605, his son and heir Jehangir so disliked the building that he had it pulled down, and it was replaced by a new tomb that differed from the more famous Mughal mausolea in India in that it had no dome. This it is thought to be in symbolic accordance with some conservative Islamic teachings that oppose burial in covered buildings.
My recollections of visiting the Tomb of Akbar the Great ten years ago are dominated by just how quiet and peaceful it was. Despite visiting at what I would have thought was a popular time, it was almost deserted. Back then I don’t think the crowds had really discovered this site, which if course will be competing with one of the most famous buildings in the world just 10km away, and with an audience that no doubt don’t have much time on their hands.
The mausoleum is set at the centre of a tranditional Mughal char-bagh (gardens), with four equal parts divided by water channels. The whole feeling is one of immense serenity.
The tomb itself is located on the ground floor and can be visited, access to the remaining upper levels is not permitted to the public. The interior of the mausoleum gives some hints of how spectacular it once was, but the state of preservation is not brilliant.
During the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir the tomb was ransacked, plundered and looted of all the gold, jewels, silver and carpets, whilst destroying some of the fabric of the building (there are still signs of burning on the gates). Akbar’s bones were also burnt and the tomb was in a vulnerable state until extensive repair was carried out by the British under Lord Curzon. The neighboring Taj Mahal was also looted, and two of Agra’s gates were taken away.
There are a number of Mughal ruins and tombs along the stretch of road where this mausoleum is, including the tomb of Mariam, one of Akbar’s wives. Unfortunately I had no time to explore any of these, it’s on the list for next time…
The tomb complex is open sunrise to sunset.
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