Jalal al-Din Akbar was the third Mughal Emperor of India, and one of the most influential rulers of that dynasty. He was born Abu al-Fath Muhammad in 1542/949 AH in Sind (lower Indus River Valley). When he assumed the throne he took the regnal title Akbar ("Great"). His honorific name (laqab) Jalal al-Din means "Glory of the Faith." Upon his death he was given the epithet 'arsh-ashyani ("he who nests at the divine throne").
Akbar inherited the small kingdom in northwestern Hindustan surrounding Delhi that his father Humayun had reunited just before his untimely death in 1556/963 AH. Under his leadership, this kingdom would greatly expand, and by the end of his reign, Afghanistan, Sind, and Hindustan were united for the first time under Mughal rule.1
Aside from uniting a large geographic area, Akbar also achieved a major feat in facilitating the integration of Central
Asian and Indic courtly culture.2Unlike previous Muslim rulers in India, Akbar actively forged alliances by orchestrating marriages between members of the Muslim Timurid nobility and the indigenous Hindu Rajput clans, as well as allowing Rajput elites to advance in the bureaucracy and take active part in the administration of the empire.3
Similarly, Akbar was interested in
facilitating dialogue between the various religious groups in India, including
Christian, Jain, Hindu, and Muslim. Religious tolerance was encoded through imperial policy, and interfaith contact was encouraged through
the dual institutions of the 'ibadat-khana (house of worship) and
maktab-khana (translation bureau).4 The former was a space in
which all faiths were welcomed to discuss religious ideas. The
latter was an organization dedicated to scholarship where Hindu texts were
translated to Persian.
Akbar was a dedicated patron of architecture and literature, and Mughal India flourished as a cultural capital during his reign.In the architectural sphere, he is most famous for constructing
the city Fatehpur Sikri to commemorate his conquest of Rajputana. Initiation of
construction on the Red Fort at Agra (Lal Qil’a) and Lahore Fort (Shahi Qil’a) also
began during his reign.
Thackston, History of
S. Inayat A. Zaidi, “Akbar and the Rajput Principalities: Integration into Empire,” in Habib, Akbar, 15-24.
Northeast of the Anup Talao is a profusely ornamented chamber popularly referred to as the "Pavilion of the Turkish Sultana," and now more simply referred to as the Anup Talao pavilion. According to some, Akbar used this pavilion to receive visitors and honored guests. However, its function within a semi-public court has been the subject of much scholarly debate: some argue that it was a zenana residence, the bedroom of one of Akbar’s wives, the daughter of the Turkish Sultan. Others maintain that it was an extension of the imperial library, Akbar’s private study, or a reception space.
Square in plan, the pavilion measures 3.96 per side on the interior, and features a khaprel ceiling. Along its west elevation is a rectangular portico, 2.64 by 4.07 meters, with the same floor-ceiling height as the main chamber and supported on piers that are square in section and octagonal columns.
Carved in floral and geometric patterns, the main chamber is one of the most richly ornamented structures of the entire complex. Opulent carvings adorn dado panels, columns, pilasters, double columns, brackets, and friezes. Every square meters of the interior dado panel is covered with vegetable and animal motifs with distinctive borders of hexagons and swastikas. These panels depict scenes from forests, orchards, and gardens, ingeniously crafted. The pavilion has three windows, each of which are filled with exquisite white marble tracery.
Two colonnades were added to the pavilion, one at the northwest corner and the other at the southeast, connect to the Khwabgah (imperial apartments) and the structure known as the Girl’s School / Abdarkhana (storage area for fruit & water).
Brand, Michael and Glenn D. Lowry, Glenn, eds. Fatehpur-Sikri: A Sourcebook,187-188. Cambridge, MA: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985.