Sikandra, where Akbar the Great rests

S. Balakrishnan *

Akbar is one of the good souls who ruled Hindustan. Well, I can’t vouch for it but it was what I was taught in my boring history classes. You see, better be cautious with the Hindutva forces. Despite being a Muslim ruler, he was a secular person who even founded a new religion ‘Din-e-ilahi’ (Divine Faith) by assimilating all the good in the other religions. His head was not heavy with power.

Above a victory gateway (Buland Darwaza) that forms part of his palace complex in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra, he had inscribed ‘The world is a bridge; pass over it, but build no house upon it’. But he did build his own tomb, choosing himself the suitable site also.

Constructing one’s own tomb during one’s lifetime is said to be a Tartary custom. [Great Tartary was a nation in northern and central Asia, mostly inhabited by Turkic people, and extending eastwards from Caspian Sea and Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The Mughals were a branch of the Timurid dynasty of Turco-Mongol origin from Central Asia]. Thus begins the story of Sikandra.

Akbar was the grandson of Babur who founded the Moghul Empire in India in 1526 AD. ’ahir al-Dîn Muhammad Babur hailed from the steppes of Central Asia. His ancestors had settled in the Uzbeg-dominated Fergana valley.

Babur was the 14th generation descendant of the notorious Mongol emperor Genghis Khan and the 5th generation descendant of Timur the terrible who ransacked Delhi. By defeating Ibrahim Lodhi, an Afgan sultan who was then ruling Delhi sultanate, in the First Battle of Panipat (near Delhi) on 21st April 1526, Babur ‘The Tiger’ established himself as the first ruler of Mughal dynasty that would rule Hindustan for the next 350 years or so.

But Babur died within four years, aged 48, on 26th December 1530, and he was interred in Agra where he had created his Garden of Eight Paradises, world’s first Mughal Garden. Later, it was taken to Kabul in Afghanistan by Akbar for final resting at Bagh-e-Babur (Garden of Babur). Babur was followed by his son Humayun and then his grandson, Akbar, who ruled from 1556 to 1605.

The Mughal empire ended in 1857 after the First War of Indian Independence (Sepoy Mutiny) when the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was captured by the British and exiled to Burma (Myanmar), ending the more than three-century-long Mughal Empire in Hindustan. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor, breathed his last in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1862, unsung! Coming back to Akbar, the third of the 19th Mughal rulers, he ascended the throne in 1556 and ruled for almost half a century until 1605.

Akbar was the most outstanding of the Mughal rulers, hence called Akbar the Great. He was a great patron of arts & crafts, literature, philosophy, and sciences. Remember, he had behind him the Nine Gems of courtiers in his court, including Birbal, Tansen, Abul Fazal, etc.! Akbar was also a great builder. Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri palace complex, and his own tomb at Sikandra stand testimony to his architectural eminence. He laid the foundation for the new Indo-Islamic culture known for aesthetic beauty and courtly grace.

At Sikandra, Akbar’s chosen final resting place, his taste is reflected in massive and virile fashion. Even the marble inlay works assert in a bold manner like flashes of lightning. Of course, one also finds intricate, richer inlays reminding the zardozi embroidery, but these could have been the work of Akbar’s son Salim (Jehangir), who completed the Sikandra mausoleum complex in 1613, eight years after Akbar’s death.

In 1980, without realising its beauty and historical importance, I passed by it just like that, only clicking its Southern gateway from the moving bus, after eye full of Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri. It took another 23 years to visit this marvellous mausoleum.

I regret being so stingy with analog still photography, because I took only one photo – of the calligraphy work in red sandstone in the southern gateway. Maybe the heat of April 2003 made me dizzy, or I was overfed with the beauty of Taj & Sikri and could not stomach anymore.

The result is I do not remember much about Sikandra. Sad! The red sandstone mausoleum complex is within a serene forty acre garden divided into four squares. This is enclosed by a compound wall, pierced with a monumental gateway on all four sides, though the entry is now only through the southern.

And it is the southern gateway that is the most decorated with floral mosaics and arabesque patterns. Its four red sandstone minarets on the top are completely covered with white marble inlay work. So much so, the ornamentation appears to be overdone for ordinary eyes. As per Islamic convention, representation of living beings is generally avoided at least in religious art & architecture.

It exhibits Akbar’s patent style, a mixture of various architecture styles – Hindu, Islamic, Christian. Of the five floors of the mausoleum, the ground floor has Akbar’s tomb and that of his two daughters, Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano. His tomb and the vestibule to it are profusely ornamented. The storeys above have nothing in particular but full of bays, arches and chhatris.

While the fifth storey is entirely in white marble, the rest are made up of red sandstone. As if to prove his secular belief, Akbar married a Rajput princes and a Christian, besides Muslim women. The Bollywood film of 2008 ‘Jodha Akbar’ brings forth the life of Akbar with the Rajput princes, played by Hrithik Roshan & Aishwarya Rai. Though he stood for Hindu-Muslim unity and married a Hindu princes and made her son the next ruler, he could not stand the rich-poor mingling, at least in his own royal family.

There lies the famous love story of Salim (who assumed the royal name of Jehangir when he ascended the throne) and Anarkali, a courtesan dancer in Akbar’s court. Two classic movies were made on this theme – Anarkali (1953) in which Pradeep Kumar & Bina Rai paired, and Mughal-e-Azam (1960) which paired Dilip Kumar & Madhubala with the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor donning the majestic role of Akbar the Great.

The latter is one of my favourite movies which I watched thrice within a week when it was re-released in 2004 in digital avatar and in full colour. As I write this I plan to download and watch Anarkali which also carries mesmerizing songs, and Jodha Akbar, though I am somehow unable to connect with Hrithik Roshan.

Oh, well, the flame of love had veered me off. Sikandra is a suburb of Agra, 13 kms. away on the road to Mathura. Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra is considered the most unique among the crypts of Asia! That sums up Sikandra, I suppose.

So, next time you pay a visit to Taj Mahal, the Monument of Love, the most outstanding crypt of the world, do call on Akbar the Great in Sikandra.

* S. Balakrishnan wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at krishnanbala2004(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was posted on 29 January, 2018 .

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Heikru Hidongba #2 : Gallery
  • Attitude to life and family
  • Breaking the glass ceiling
  • 28th NAMA Convention at Chicago
  • Inpui Naga Karing Ngei 2018 : Book
  • Dr. Md. Hamidur Rahaman : AMP Award
  • World Patient Safety Day
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Peace talk reportedly at final stage
  • Chayom Thupki (Meetei Philosophy) #11
  • 48th Foundation Day of RIMS : Gallery
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to the dead
  • Licypriya : Climate change in Angola
  • World Ozone Day 2019
  • iKON 4th anniversary : Indian iKONIC
  • Gratitude to Dk. Korungthang
  • Xavier Board Higher Education Conference
  • Confusing announcement: ban on plastics
  • Nongpok Sanjenbam village #1: Gallery
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #4: Gallery
  • Ways of seeing Atiyagi Maya
  • National Lok Adalat at Lamphel Court
  • Take Me Home :: Poem
  • Money Lending business in Nagaland
  • Ambeshori : Gold at Jr Women Natl Boxing
  • Crime against nature deserve punishment
  • Khamba Thoibi Museum #1 : Gallery
  • Time- Is it an illusion? Certainly not
  • Can there really be peace without justice
  • Enrollment Program for PMJAY & CMHT
  • Heavy traffic fines, Harekrishna krishna
  • Jenil Khuman : Heroes of India award
  • Cracking the whip on driving by minors
  • ST demand: Is this a consensus decision..
  • Mukna - indigenous game : Gallery
  • Leikoiba, Lanhim, Khangjenlu :: eMing
  • An interaction with Dr. O.K. Singh #1
  • Cry of a Dying River - 92 :: Poem
  • Missing person : Dongminlian at Tirupati
  • Google Earth for ground & aerial survey
  • Mary Kom 1st woman athlete for Vibhushan
  • Delivering a point maturely
  • There should be a toll free grievance cell
  • Hiyang Tanaba @Lamlai #1: Gallery
  • Shrinking safe spaces
  • Child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • Demands: Flag for Naga & ST for Meitei
  • Proud of our scientists & ISRO
  • Daanveer Dutta Karna : 2nd best play
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Significance of Sept 11 to TSE
  • Climate Crisis, People, and the State
  • Ibudhou Marongkhong Haraoba #3: Gallery
  • Conundrum for Manipur govt over CAB
  • Violence against medical fraternity
  • Thongkhatabam Ankita : Governor's Award
  • The Enchantress :: Poem
  • Sunyata & Kenosis: Search of Ultimate Truth
  • Lim divide continues to run deep
  • Of nationalism, patriotism & against nature
  • Heikru Hidongba #1 : Gallery
  • Komrem Students Day @B'lore : Gallery
  • Protective Thinking: Village Nationalist #1
  • Haipou Jadonang: A Social reformer #3
  • Ungracious :: Poem
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • IAS Officer: Hero- Whipping boy- Villain
  • Petition CM to revoke breach order in Edn-S
  • Stand against illegal immigrants
  • September and Hijam Irabot
  • Impact of Christianity among Vaiphei #3
  • Kakching WW II Memorial Run : Gallery
  • Framework Agreement: Divide the state
  • Training Program for Remand Advocates
  • Hunt for North East designers & models
  • Kakching World War II Memorial Run: Report
  • Common Admission Test for IIMs
  • No school bags day for young students
  • GoI backtracking on Framework Agreement
  • Trekking to Dzukou #3 : Gallery
  • English as a Lingua Franca for NE
  • A Good Place to Spend the Night : Poem
  • The idea of Manipur
  • Vacancies at Hadron Techs, Imphal
  • 8th Convocation of Assam Don Bosco held
  • Yogurt based DIY packs to try
  • Big Bang Edge Test
  • Bhabananda was right; it was not only him ..
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #3: Gallery
  • Judicial administration under Bhagyachandra
  • Reena Bhavsar(Pebam ningon): Mrs India
  • Sick Education System should be blamed ...
  • Foundation Day of Physics Dept, MU
  • 26th World Congress of Political Science
  • DBC, Maram bags SBSI National award
  • Regulate pay of Pvt school teachers
  • Chingda Satpi Engellei #1 : eRang
  • The Endurers : a growing tribe
  • Swachh in Manipur
  • Khongoinaba & Kanglei Chanura Kanba
  • The ten in between :: Poem
  • Happy for no reason
  • Convocation: Assam Don Bosco University
  • Sounding the alert at the entry points:
  • Victims of greed
  • Folk Dance @Retreat ceremony #2: Gallery
  • Call for Papers : NACETER 2019 at Aizawl
  • Celebrating Teachers' Day 2019
  • Draft Bill on violence against healthcare
  • From the heart - Transcending fears
  • Her Richness :: Poem
  • Beauty benefits of mint
  • Return of the power struggle
  • 'We Dont, So Shouldnt You' of Mayangs
  • Licypriya: Peace Prize : Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang: A Social reformer #2
  • Licypriya : World Children Peace Prize
  • Champions at 5th Intl Thang-Ta C'ship
  • International Geological Congress 2020
  • Manipur Tourism: Best cultural Award at TTF
  • 46th AMWJU Foundation Day
  • NDPP leaders called on Nagaland Governor
  • Condemns UP Govt for case against Journo
  • Looking to CBI to deliver: The trust deficit
  • Mockery of the legislation
  • Hinduism in Manipur # 2
  • No mee should disturb peace in Kuki Hills
  • Cry of a Dying River - 91 :: Poem
  • Human service demands need to save river
  • Aromatherapy as career option
  • Khelen Thokchom Media Fellowship
  • Rejoinder to Yanthungo Patton
  • New traffic rules and regulations
  • Myopic leaders and misplaced priorities
  • Over 19 lakhs excluded in Assam NRC
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #2: Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Maibi Jagoi : Gallery
  • FMGE -Foreign Medical Graduates Exam
  • Referendum in Catalonia
  • Allergen-specific blood test for allergies
  • Better investment climate: Challenge of Govt
  • AMWJU Identity Card
  • Chayom Thupki (Meetei Philosophy) #10
  • September Calendar for Year 2019 : Tools
  • Freshers Meet/Musical Night at Bangalore
  • Surgery over Healthcare
  • Discussion: Identity at India-Myanmar Border
  • A Euphoric Day Of Freedom :: Poem
  • Remembering the past famine...
  • Stalls- Hathei Phanit, Ukhrul #1: Gallery
  • AMSU & Naga Peace Talk
  • Hypocrisy of 'The Federation Of Haomee'
  • Introspecting renewed Hydropower push #2
  • Enrolment Program for PMJAY & CMHT
  • Martyrdom of Haipou Jadonang: Gallery
  • The traffic maze
  • Haipou Jadonang: A Social reformer #1
  • Chinglensana Kangujam : Arjuna Award
  • A Rainy Morning in Summer :: Poem
  • Apple Farmer Mayengbam Shyamchandra
  • The idea of a book club Imphal
  • Condemns act of locals in ICFAI Univ
  • Free medical camp at Ithai Barrage
  • Attacker on Childline must be arrested
  • Computer Courses at IP Infotech
  • Dead men or dead girls tell no tale
  • Going beyond people's expectations
  • Chaklam Khongchat Numit #1: Gallery
  • Wainu Chara : An indigenous rice breed
  • The sugarcane crisis
  • Positive Teachers-Students relation
  • NDPP & BJP met with Bishop of Nagaland
  • Zero budget natural farming
  • Helmet drive with sweets at CCpur
  • Responsibility matters
  • Manipur Independence Day : Gallery
  • Manipur Heli Service : Gallery
  • Kariang nuna sip eh :: Poem
  • River Rights as legal person
  • Athokpam Right: Kalams Book of Record
  • Be Educated; Be Empowered 0.02 Edition
  • Separate flag and separate Constitution
  • Manipur on a high: Drug menace
  • Impact of Christianity among Vaiphei #2
  • Introspecting renewed Hydropower push #1
  • Jhulon @ Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Climate variability in Phalee khul, Ukhrul
  • What vows does a catholic priest take ?
  • Leg Pain : What to do ?
  • Convention: Defense of Democratic Rights
  • Transit route to manufacturing unit
  • Khangkhui Cave, Ukhrul #5 : Gallery
  • Meeting on Road project at Phalong
  • The road that halted us by earthfall
  • National Entrepreneurship Awards 2019
  • Strategies to adopt for IAS Exam
  • Discussion: Issues of Legal Services
  • Irregularities of Non-NET Fellowship in MU
  • Threatened democracy
  • Nagas await historic day: NSCN (I-M)
  • Hathei Phanit @Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • Dr Ak Priyokumar : Golden Achiever Award
  • Lai-Harouba @JNMDA #2 : Gallery
  • Sangai fest: Dance Drama : Gallery
  • N'Jang-Ngi Thangal fest : Gallery
  • Jhulon @ Nabadwip, WB : Gallery
  • School Fagathanshi Mission : Gallery
  • Healthy & active lifestyle: A healthy Manipur
  • Heikat-Leikat [13 Aug] #2 : Gallery
  • Babysana: Student - Aug 10 #2: Gallery
  • Jhulon @ Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Chayom Thupki (Meetei Philosophy) #9
  • Patriots' Day @ Pune : Gallery
  • Babysana: State bandh - Aug 9 #2: Gallery
  • Folklore of Hao communities #3
  • Aliyah #2 (Film Scenes) :: eRang
  • Babysana's last rites performed: Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2019 #3: Gallery
  • Tolloi, Ukhrul :: 360 Panorama View
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download