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.
North of the imperial haram sara, and adjoining the northwest corner of the courtyard of the Sonahra Makran, it is a garden known as "Miriam’s Garden," or the zenana bagh. Used by the royal ladies of the palace, it was completely enclosed via rubble walls faced in cement. Its doorway was flanked by a guardhouse at the northwest corner of the Sonahra Makran courtyard.
The garden is based on a traditional chahar bagh garden, laid out on two terraces, of which the upper measures ca. 27 by 28.4 meters, and the lower approximately 19 by 37 meters. Each level is divided by orthogonal walls into two quarters; flowers, plants, and shrubs lined their sides. The garden was originally paved in stone.
On the southeast corner of the upper level stand the ruins of a covered cistern, built below ground level, which held water from the water works at the Elephant Gate. The square tank measures 7.31 meters/side and is 1.22 meters deep. It was used as a swimming and bathing pool for the ladies of the court, and was therefore connected to the haram sara via an underground passage and protected by a roof. All of its openings were curtained. Its roof was supported by an octagonal pillar, 0.55 meters in diameter, which stands in the middle of the bathing pool.
From the covered tank runs a shallow water channel running down the center of the south side of the upper level and passing along an open four-columned chhatri. The water runs from south to north, dividing the terrace in two, passes beneath a second chhatri, and empties into a small fish pond located in the center of the southern edge of the lower terrace. As the water enters the tank, it runs over a wall pierced with fourteen small niches, each 17.5 cm tall. Excavated by Smith in 1981, the fish tank is 0.88 meters deep and 1.44 by 1.77 meters in plan with little steps on all four sides.
To the north of the zenana bagh was a second walled garden measuring 19.1 by 28.24 meters. In ruins, it was completely destroyed in the nineteenth century when a road was built through it. Sources:
Koch, Ebba. "Mughal Palace Gardens from Babur to Shah Jahan, 1526-1648." Muqarnas XIV (1997): 146.
Nath, R. Fatehpur Sikri and its Monuments, 21. Agra: The Historical Research Documentation Programme, 2000.
Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas. Fathpur-Sikri, 57. Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons, 1975.