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.
Lahore is the site of the first Mughal conquests in India. Situated between the Mughal centers and the strongholds of Kabul, Multan, and Kashmir, the city had great strategic importance for the empire. It became the most important Mughal city after Agra, until Shahjahanabad eclipsed them both. Akbar rebuilt an earlier fort on the site, enlarging and strengthening it by replacing the original clay walls with solid brick masonry. Lahore fortress is contemporary to Agra Fort, and is based on the same formal organization, although it is smaller (roughly 365X304 m or 1200X1000 feet), and distinguished by strong Persian stylistic influences, as well as the Hindu influences also apparent at the Agra and Delhi forts. Akbar's successors Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and other Mughal, and later Sikh, rulers would make revisions, replacing many of the original buildings, but the scheme seems to have been preserved.
The high outer walls are decorated with blue kashi tiles of Persian origin. The fort has two distinct sections: the 'private', palatial section, and the administrative section, including areas for royal audiences. The residential section is arranged in courts along the northern half of the fort, and is accessed by the Hathi Pol, or 'elephant gate'. The northeastern section, which includes red sandstone buildings, is the oldest part of the residences, and was built in Akbari times. The Bari Khwabgah, or 'large bedroom', is attributed to Jahangir, and the Choti Khwabgah, in white marble, is a later addition by Shah Jahan. The Mussaman Burj, Naulakha Pavilion, and the Shish Mahal, known as the 'hall of mirrors', also by Shah Jahan, are examples of the ornate architecture in fine white marble work he brought to the Fort.
The more public, administrative section is organized in a layer that conceals the private one. It is accessed from the Alamgiri Gate, built by Awrangzib (1658-1707), which leads into the large courtyard of the Diwan-i-Amm, or hall of public audience. The Fort also contains gardens and a mosque, the white marble Moti Mosque by Shah Jahan.
Asher, Catherine. 1992. The New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 224-6.
Tillotson, G.H.R.. 1990. Mughal India. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. pp. 131-37.
Koch, Ebba. 1991. Mughal Architecture. Munich: Prestel. pp. 60-61, 84-85.