Sikandra. Entering Agra

Akbar, the third Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty, was born in 1542 AD, just 16 years after his grandfather Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi at the Battle of Panipat and set up the Mughal Dynasty. Whatever modern day politicians may choose to say, the Mughal Empire has had a profound impact on India, it’s history, culture, arts and music. 
Akbar, who’s name means ‘Very Great’ came to the throne when he was 13 years old. He ruled for about 50 years and died in 1605. 
Akbar is considered to be one of the greatest rulers that India has ever had. He could not read nor write, yet was considered to be patron of the arts and learning. He was tolerant, with regards to his religious views, but more of that in another blog.
Sikandra, which is his tomb, is the first well known monument that you see when you enter Agra by road from Delhi. National Highway 2 is the one, I believe you need to take.
Akbar commissioned the construction of the tomb before he died. It was completed by his son, Jehangir between 1605 and 1613. 
Personally, I have always felt that the Sikandra tomb has not got the attention it deserved. It has been quite overshadowed by the Taj. The Taj is, of course, sublime. However, the Sikandra, with it’s wonderful red stone, it’s arches, and the stonework has a sense of timelessness all it’s own.

We visited in December, and were blessed by a beautiful, sunny sky. We were still in a good mood, considering we had not yet entered the terrors of Agra traffic. I was with my friends and kids, and my kids were not yet yelling at me to move on! 
The actual tomb, which you approach after walking down a path ringed on either side by beautiful lawns, still has an air of solemnity. You feel awed, when looking down at the actual tomb of a great man. History books simply don’t do this sufficient justice. Photography in the tomb is forbidden (it is too dark anyway), and I can understand this. Photographing the tomb of a great man, and selling it as a cheap little postcard simply does not seem right. 
History seems to be one subject that school teachers simply love to kill. I am indeed thankful to many authors these days, who bring history back to life. 

Agra

I really dislike Agra. Sadly, I have been there many times, too many time I would think.

It is a dirty, vermin infested city, full of disease and pollution. I really have never understood why people would like to live there. Yet, stranger things have been known to mankind.
Despite Agra’s rather sad present, it had a glorious past. The city, from what I understand, was first created as some sort of settlement around 1,000 BC. It lies on the banks of the river Yamuna, in North India, and is about 200 km south of Delhi.
The city was first founded in 1504 by Sultan Sikandar Lodi in 1504. He was a ruler of the Lodi Empire, which fell to the Mughal Emperor Babar in 1526. Lodi lost his life at the Battle of Panipat, and according to the Babarnama, his skull was amongst the hundreds that were burned in a huge funeral pyre.
The city became the capital of the Mughal Empire under Akbar, and was named Akbarabad. Akbar was the first Mughal Emperor to be buried there, and it is his tomb that is the first destination that people stop by, when entering Agra by road from Delhi.
Akbar was a great king, and wanted to found a new religion, that was to be the amalgamation of all. The Fatehpur Sikri was built to commemorate this. Agra also has a fort – the Red Fort of Agra.
Jehangir, Akbar’s son, built the gardens. The parents of his wife, Noor Jehan, were buried in Agra, at the Etmad-ud-Daulah.
Shah Jehan built the Taj Mahal, which is the tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He shifted the capital to Shahjanabad, and then to Delhi. Aurangzeb, when he toppled his father, shifted the capital back to Akbarabad.
As per the stories that I read when I was growing up, Shah Jehan was interred in a tower across the river from the Taj Mahal, and spent the last 20 years of his life looking over at the Taj Mahal.
Finally, he was buried at the Taj Mahal, next to his wife.
After Aurangzeb fell, the city was taken over by the Jats and Marathas. In the 1700’s, it was renamed as Agra, the first of many cities to be renamed.
For a romantic, all you need to do, is to close your eyes, and try and imagine Agra in it’s heydays. For now, all you see is dirt, pollution, and disease.
What you have left, however, are the remnants of a brief but glorious past.
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