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.
The Anup Talao, or "peerless pool," was completed in 1576 on a wide platform (chabutara) to the north of the Khwabgah (imperial apartments) in the Mahal-i Khass courtyard. The Mahal-i Khass measures 64.3 by 46.73 meters, and is located to the south of the Pachisi Court. Enclosed by a complex of halls, pavilions, and wide covered colonnaded passageways (dalans), the Mahal-i Khass was formerly entirely screened off from the Pachisi Court. At the south of the Mahal-i Khass are the imperial apartments (Daulat Khana), and on its northeast corner is the Anup Talao pavilion (the pavilion of the Turkish Sultana).
Abul Fadl, Akbar’s court historian, records a 1578 order to fill the Anup Talao with copper, silver and gold coins; these were later distributed by the Emperor himself. Akbar’s son Jahangir confirms the event, although he refers to the pool as the "Kapur Talao." The Anup Talao is a red sandstone masonry tank, square in plan and bilaterally symmetrical. A square island platform stands in its centre. Stone bridges, 0.61 meters wide and supported by stone columns with bracket capitals, span 10.06 meters from the center of each side of the platform to the side of the tank. Another name for the Anup Talao, the "Char-Chamad," refers to these four bridges.
The tank served to cool the air near the Khwabgah. It formed part of a system of mini-tanks and canals built on the eastern platform of the Khwabgah. The tank measures 29.26 meters per side and is 3.66 meters deep. The island platform (9.14 m2) is flanked by a jaali balustrade, and has a raised seat (chabutra, 3.66 m2) in its center. A 1905 photograph showing the presence of a corner pillar confirms the original placement of a pavilion (barahdari) over this chabutra. The island platform is supported on columns with exquisitely carved relief capitals, designed to be seen above the water, that form a corridor encircling a closed central volume below the water. This volume might contain a chamber, formerly accessible by a stair from the pavilion atop the platform. A second puzzling stone masonry structure stands in the northeastern quadrant of the tank, closed on all sides except for a slanted vent in its roof.
Two consecutive series of six broad stairs step down from the sides of the tank to the original water level (0.96 meters, or just below the twelfth step). The tank was originally filled via one water channel from the waterworks near the Elephant Gate to the west: the water was carried via a stone duct north of Birbal’s Place, Miriam’s Garden, and the Kothi. A second channel came from the eastern waterworks. Overflow was diverted to the tank found north of the building with a central column (Ekastambha-Prasada), to keep the level of water in the Anup Talao constant.
Later, the drains of the tank were blocked by debris, and the water level rose. Various incidents of drowning were reported in the Anup Talao. At one point, the tank was filled with debris, rubble stone, mortar, and mud up to the level of the sixth step, and a new layer of stone slabs laid down. More recently, this intervention was reversed, and the original level of the tank restored.
The masonry work of the Anup Talao, including its stone railings, was restored under Lord Cruzon (1859-1925) in the early twentieth century.
Brand, Michael and Glenn D. Lowry, Glenn, eds. Fatehpur-Sikri: A Sourcebook,75-79. Cambridge, MA: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985.
Nath, R. Fatehpur Sikri and its Monuments15-17. Agra: The Historical Research Documentation Programme, 2000.
Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas. Fathpur-Sikri, 30. Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons, 1975.
Sharma, D. V. Archaeology of Fatehpur Sikri: New Discoveries, 96-101. New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2008.