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Gateway to the Mughal era

Last updated: 14 May, 2011
K D L Khan, Maharaja Features 16:31 IST

Pride of the Past

Buland Darwaza, meaning ‘great’ gate or ‘Gate of Magnificence’, in Persian, is the largest gateway in the world.

Located in Fatehpur Sikri, 43 km away from Agra, it is the entrance gateway to the Jama Masjid, which is situated on a hill.

The grand recessed central arch is a magnificent symbol of Mughal architecture in India. It is 35 metres (115 feet) wide, 40 metres (131 feet) high and 50 metres (164 feet) from the ground.

The total height of the structure is about 54 metres (177 feet) from the ground level.

It is a 15 storeys high gateway, approached by a steep flight of 42 steps, which add height to this majestic structure. Buland Darwaza is almost entirely made of red-sandstone.

Quaranic inscriptions on the gateway reflect a blend of Hindu and Persian architecture. The calligraphy work done on the inner facade of the Buland Darwaza is unparalleled. It is interesting to delve into the history of Fatehpur Sikri where the Buland Darwaza is located. Akbar used to visit the hamlet of Sikri to seek blessings of the great Sufi saint, Salim Chisti, in order to be blessed with an heir to his throne. His prayers were finally
fulfilled as he was blessed with three sons.

He built the new city, according to the instructions provided by Salim Chisti, whose mausoleum is a part of Fatehpur Sikri. According to another set of historians, Akbar built the new city as its location was favourable for him to control his kingdom.

The new city was set on a hilltop, which acted as a natural defence against future attacks. Built on a ridge, it grew into a magnificent township, larger than contemporary London. Akbar did not stay in this magnificent city for long because within 15 years of its construction, he found that the water in the wells of Fatehpur Sikri was too salty.

Akbar got this gateway constructed as a commemoration of his victory over the king of Khandesh (now Gujarat) in 1573. In the year 1575, Buland Darwaza was built in Mughal style of architecture. It is semi-octagonal in shape and has two smaller triple-storeyed wings on either side. There are 13 smaller domed kiosks on the roof, small turrets and inlay work of white and black marble. Various floral and geometrical motifs are engraved on the pillars and the pavilions of the gateway, which depict Hindu, Persian and
Islamic architecture.

Akbar respected all religions and declared that “no man should be interfered with, on account of religion, and anyone is allowed to be a part of a religion that pleases him,” at a time when most of Catholic Europe was given over to inquisition. Indeed, while Akbar built Fatehpur Sikri, in Rome, the philosopher Giordano Bruno was being accused of heresy; in 1600, he was burned in the Campo dei Fiori.

On the main gateway, an inscription written in Persian reads: “Jesus, Son of Mary (peace be upon them) said: ‘The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer for the rest is unseen.” The inscription is not only famous for its calligraphy, but also throws light on Akbar’s secular vision. This exquisite architectural wonder is breathtakingly beautiful and is bound to leave any traveller in awe.

One can avail road, rail or air transport to reach Buland Darwaza in Fatehpur Sikri. The nearest international airport is located in New Delhi, which is 200 km from Agra and the nearest railway station is called Agra Cantonment. The main bus-stands in Agra are Agra Fort and Idgah bus stand, where many luxury buses, taxis and coaches run between Agra and Fatehpur Sikri on a daily basis, at an interval of 30 minutes.

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