Akbar's Tomb in Sikandara - a beautiful way to rest in peace...
A visit to Agra was long overdue, since I had already covered Delhi and Jaipur and was keen to complete the Golden Tourist Triangle of India. In Agra, I was drawn to a lesser known destination in --- the suburb of Sikandara.
To make the most of our time, we boarded, excitement aplenty, the early morning Delhi-Agra Shatabadi Express. But as they say, “Man proposes, God disposes”. Our plans went kaput as we reached Agra where we find ourselves caught in one of the heaviest downpours of the season. Determined as we were, we set off to Sikandara --- a suburb eight kilometers from the city centre.
Although Sikandara owes its name to a Lodi Sultan from the early 1500s, it is now known for being the resting place of the Mughal emperor Akbar. It is said that in keeping with Tartary tradition, Akbar himself ordered the construction of his tomb here. To our modern sensibilities, this was a somewhat chilling revelation. Nonetheless, the beautiful double-storeyed southern gate with its typically Mughal-styled chhatri-topped minarets compelled us onwards. We found ourselves facing a mausoleum that lies symmetrically in the centre of a massive square garden in the traditional charbagh layout, and is flanked by decorative gates on the other three sides as well.
The deep-red tomb inside exemplifies Akbar’s taste for Indo-Islamic styles and his preference for sandstone. The imposing tomb is a four-tiered building with multiple pillar-supported chhatris adorning the various levels of the structure. We walked closer to admire the façade which is splendidly covered with inlaid stone and carved motifs. The tomb rises to culminate into a courtyard, where we saw Akbar’s cenotaph and strolled around in the surrounding marble arcades. As is traditional, the true coffin lies undecorated in the quiet ambience of the basement.
To lead us there was a very high vestibule intricately decorated with coloured tiles and filigree work. As I gave this unique dome-less tomb one final glance on my way out, the layered chhatris and the prancing deer in the background transported me back to my childhood's fairy tales.
Akbar’s tomb in its entirety, a startling red juxtaposed with the vast sea of green where it stands, was a sight that made up for the day’s initial misfortunes.
( This article was published in the city edition of the Hindustan Times, Chandigarh on 2nd July, 2013.)