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akbarTHE PALACE COMPLEX is taking shape at his new capital, Fatehpur Sikri. Of all its sections, it is in the diwan-i khas, the hall of private audience, that Akbar takes particular interest. He has asked his architect to share sketches, suggested improvements and finally arrived at a suitable plan.

The diwan-i-khas, like quite a few other courtyard-facing buildings in the complex, is rimmed with chatris and adorned with carved brackets. The building houses one large hall with a central pillar that supports a throne higher up. From this throne, bridges lead out to other platforms. The form is clearly that of the mandala and the pillar bearing 36 brackets carved with regional motifs, represents the centre of the universe in local cosmology.

Diwan-i-khas

Central pillar at the Diwan-i-Khas (Wiki Commons; Liang Chang)

After a period of 14 years, the city and the palace are finally realised. Everything has been looked into: there is even a large lake that has been made to take care of the city’s water needs. Within this city’s red walls, are schools and entertainment grounds for elephant matches and circuses. The palace grounds are dominated by buildings for state departments such as the Treasury, and spaces for Akbar’s official duties, such as the Diwan-i-Khas. An interesting feature in the complex, is what looks like a giant board game. In fact it is a life-size chequered stone board upon which Akbar plays pachisi, directing gamely members of his staff as board pieces.

Close to his own private chambers in the palace complex, there is a tank, the Anup Talao, with a central platform from which Tansen plays some his celebrated raags. However it is upon the platform of the pleasure pool over at the House of the Turkish Sultana that Tansen famously performs his Deepak raag that potentially sets the whole scene ablaze.

Fatehpur Sikri, however will not remain capital for long. Akbar will move to Lahore and then back to Agra, and the Mughal Empire’s capital will move with him. His three sons are growing up fast and are soon enough given independent charge of missions across the Empire. It is also becoming clear to Akbar that his eldest son, Salim is growing restless; he has already begun to ignore orders and demand greater control.

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