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.
South of the Anup Talao pool stands a complex of structures identified collectively as the Daulat Khana (Imperial Palace). The complex comprises three distinct sections: the Royal Library (Kutub-Khanah), Akbar’s Atelier (Citra Sala) and the imperial apartments (Khwabgah). All three sections were constructed in 1572, with the exception of a later open-columned structure found to the north of the Khwabgah.
On the northeast of the complex, facing the Anup Talao court, stands the hall identified as the Royal Library (Kutubkhanah). Akbar’s court historian, Abu’l Fadl, recorded that the Kutubkhanah housed 25,000 manuscripts, of which some were kept in the harem area. Those books needed for immediate reference were stored in the Kutubkhanah.
The plan of the Kutubkhanah is symmetrical along its north-south axis, consisting of a central single-height hall flanked on its east, north and west sides by an arcaded portico. These same three elevations all feature a central doorway. On the interior, the hall measures 8.23 by 5.18 meters. Supported on a plinth, its walls are hollow and clad on the exterior by perpendicular stone slabs, usually 1.83 by 0.11 m and 0.96 cm thick. Other slabs project perpendicularly from the exterior cladding, dividing the wall thickness into a series of compartments. On the inner faces of the compartments are traces indicating painted floral motifs. The plinth was also decorated and divided into coffers used for storage.
Behind the Kutubkhanah hall, in the southeast area of the complex, is a chamber measuring 12.97 x 8.76 meters with a platform projecting from its southern wall. Supported on square shafts, this platform may have been accessed via wooden or marble removable steps that were stored under the platform. North of this platform is a pair of double columns with floral carvings similar to those in the Anup Talao, and to the east is a small bathroom. Popular legend has it that Akbar used the platform for resting at the end of a day, hence the name “Khwabgah;" however, given the evidence of decorative wall painting and the nearby library, it’s also probable that these structures were used for cultural pursuits. It is also quite possible that the platform itself is an addition, as it covers the richly carved eaves and brackets of the building’s original elevation.
Brand, Michael and Glenn D. Lowry, editors. Fatehpur-Sikri: selected papers from the International Symposium on Fatehpur-Sikri held on October 17-19, 1985, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bombay: Marg Publications, 1987.
Brand, Michael and Glenn D. Lowry, editors. Fatehpur-Sikri: A Sourcebook. Cambridge, MA: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985.
Brentjes, Burchard. "City, House and Grave: Symbolism in Central and South Asian Architecture." Environmental Design: Journal of the Islamic Environmental Design Research Centre, no. 2 (1984): 3-6.
Koch, Ebba. "Mughal Palace Gardens from Babur to Shah Jahan, 1526-1648." Muqarnas XIV (1997): 146.