Buland Darwaza | Fatehpur Sikri | History & Architecture
The Mughal period is one of the most important periods in the history of India. It contributed towards the prosperity and development of India as a nation.
Many practices, systems, culture, etc. that originated or existed during the Mughal period are practiced even today.
During this period, many spectacular monuments were built, which is a part of the rich heritage of our nation. Buland Darwaza is one of them.
Buland Darwaza is a part of the structure of Fatehpur Sikhri which is located near Agra which was the capital of the Mughal Empire during the reign of Akbar.
It is also located near Taj Mahal, another beautiful testimony of Mughal architecture. While Fatehpur Sikhri was built to honour the great Sufi saint Salim Chisti, Buland Darwaza was constructed for another purpose.
It was built by the great Mughal ruler Akbar to celebrate and mark his victory over the Kingdoms of Khandesh in Gujrat and Ahmednagar in Deccan.
But, according to writer Catherine Asher who wrote the book The New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India, “This monumental gate, however, was probably less intended to commemorate a military victory than to underscore Akbar’s links with the Chishti order.
Its surface is covered by marble slabs inscribed with Quranic verses promising paradise to true believers, appropriate for the entrance into a khanqah, a complex intended for meditation and devotion.”
A Persian inscription on the Buland Darwaza itself also suggests this. It is written on the inscription that “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.”
Some also suggest that the Buland Darwaza was used to stand as guard and protection to the south-eastern entrance of the city of Fatehpur Sikhri.
Thus, it was constructed for, and served various purposes. The aforementioned, which is one of the most famous inscriptions on the walls of the Buland Darwaza also shows the religious tolerance of Akbar as this verse was said by Jesus, the son of Mary.
Its very inclusion suggests that Akbar respected and propagated all religions.
It was built in 1601 A.D. Buland Darwaza is also the main entrance to the town of Fatehpur Sikhri. Buland Darwaza is one of the finest and the most exquisite examples of Mughal architecture in India.
But that’s not all. Buland Darwaza is also the highest gateway of the world.
It attracts thousands of visitors from all across the globe, who come to witness its exquisite beauty and fine architecture. It is, after all, popularly known as the “gate of magnificence” It took 12 years to finish the construction of Buland Darwaza.
To reach Buland Darwaza, one has to climb 42 steps. It is 53.63 m high and 35 m wide, making it the highest gateway in the world.
The Buland Darwaza’s structure is so huge that it towers over everything in its vicinity. It exudes the power that the Mughal Empire once held.
A person cannot help but come to respect its towering presence and power. Historians suggest that the Buland Darwaza was not planned to be a part of the original design of the Jami Masjid, which is located in the adjoining area.
It was planned later, and is actually an addition to the original structure. The Buland Darwaza is constructed to be semi octagonal in shape.
Red and buff sandstone was used for the construction of the overall structure. White and black marble were used for the purpose of decorations through carving and inlaying.
According to Professor Rezavi, who is a popular scholar and historian, the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikhri is “the most iconic architectural accomplishment of Akbar’s reign.
It incorporates almost all the essential features of Akbar’s architectural traditions: red sandstone, stone carvings, relief by inserting white marble, etc.”
While it is true that its architecture was inspired by the Timurid architecture and has Central Asian origins, it cannot be denied that local Indian elements are also present and has been reflected through this monument.
The architecture consists of both Persian and Hindu styles, and is a unique blend of both cultures. This can also be taken to reflect the religious tolerance during Akbar’s reign.
Akbar was one of the most tolerant rulers India has ever seen. He respected all cultures and encouraged solidarity and harmony amongst various cultural groups.
The whole construction of the Buland Darwaza can be divided into two aspects: the front and the back. The front part is unique and elaborate. It has a lot of inscriptions and decorations.
It forms the main part of the Buland Darwaza. On the other side, the back portion of the monument is quite plainly constructed. It is the portion that faces the courtyard of the Jami Masjid.
The Buland Darwaza is symmetrically built. In its top, there are large pillar like structures called the chhatris. It consists of two smaller triple-storeyed structures on either side, while it itself is five storeyed.
The main structure is topped by a dome, which is a hallmark of the Islamic style of architecture. The structure is decorated with inlaid flowers and ornaments, made of black and white marble
There are many inscriptions engraved on the structure of the Buland Darwaza. Many of these inscriptions are direct saying from the Holy book of Quran that can be seen on the pillars at the front.
These verses from the Quran which were engraved on the Buland Darwaza were drawn by none other than the great Sufi saint Khawaja Hussain Chisht who was a disciple of Sheikh Salim Chishti.
It was in Sheikh Salim Chisti’s honour that Fatehpur Sikhri was constructed. The calligraphy used in the writing of these inscriptions, is not only stunning but also fluid and languid.
This type of calligraphy was known as Naskh, a distinct calligraphic style to write in the Arabic alphabet.
This beautiful style of calligraphy can be seen in other monuments constructed during the Mughal Empire as well. In fact, it was also one of the main features or characteristics of Mughal architecture.
It also shows the skill and talent that existed during those times. Most famous inscriptions that are engraved on the front part of the Buland Darwaza are related to religion.
The Buland Darwaza and the whole structure of the city of Fatehpur Sikhri took a long time to build. Akbar made sure that the city was planned and constructed in an organised and proper manner.
A lot of time, energy, planning, labour, talent, skill and resources were invested in the construction of the Buland Darwaza and Fatehpur Sikhri.
But, unfortunately in a very short time after its construction, Akbar decided to abandon it. Akbar moved from Fatehpur Sikhri to a new capital. The reasons for this decision are not clearly known.
But, it is often suggested by historians that the Mughal Emperor decided to abandon it due to a famine which struck the area and resulted in the drying up of resources.
Despite this, Buland Darwaza remains one of the most important monuments in India which was constructed during the times of the Mughals. It is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal glory.
Just like the formidable and strong Mughal Empire, the Buland Darwaza also exudes power. It is also one of the most exquisite examples of Mughal architecture.