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The Diwan-e Khass (Hall of Private Audience) at Fatehpur Sikri

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November 10, 2021
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Mirza Firuz Shah
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Architectural and Building
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Akbar 1556–1605

The Diwan-e Khass (Hall of Private Audience) at Fatehpur Sikri

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The Dīwān-e Khass at Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh state, Hindustan, built c. 1585. Emperor Akbar period architecture, building style that developed in India under the patronage of the Mughal emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605). The architecture of the Emperor Akbar period is characterized by a strength made elegant and graceful by its rich decorative work, which reflects many traditional Hindu elements. The style is best exemplified by the fort at Agra (built 1565–74) and the magnificent town of Fatehpur Sikri (1569–74), but fine examples are also found in the gateway to the ʿArab Sarāʾī (guesthouse at Humāyūn’s tomb), Delhi (1560–61), the Ajmer fort (1564–73), the Lahore fort with its outstanding decoration (1586–1618), and the Allahabad fort (1583–84), now largely dismantled. The capital town of Fatehpur Sikri (named a World Heritage site in 1986) is one of the most notable achievements of Islamic architecture in Hindustan. The town, which was deserted only a few years after it was built, is a great complex of palaces and lesser residences and religious and official buildings, all erected on top of a rocky ridge 26 miles (42 km) west of Agra. 


The Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khas) is arresting in its interior arrangement, which has a single massive column encircled by brackets supporting a stone throne platform, from which radiate four railed balconies. The palace of Jodha Bai, Akbar’s wife, and the residence of Mahesh Das (commonly known as Bīrbal, Akbar’s friend and confidant) again show—in their niches and brackets—features adopted from the religious and secular architecture of the Hindus. Photograph of the Diwan-i-Khas at Fatehpur Sikri, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections, taken by Edmund William Smith in 1893. The Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience) is situated in the palace city of Fatehpur Sikri, built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605) from 1571 to 1585. The entire complex is built of locally quarried red sandstone, known as Sikri sandstone. The Diwan-i-Khas is a plain square building with four chhatris on the roof. The interior is unusual; in the centre there is a large carved pillar whose sixteen-sided serpentine brackets support a circular platform which is connected to each corner of the building by four stone walkways. The central pillar has a square base with an octagonal central shaft, both carved with bands of geometric and floral designs.


Diwan-i-khas or Hall of Private Audience is situated in the northeast corner of the royal complex with a huge and richly carved pillar in the center. The central platform attached to the pillar was the seat of the emperor while the diagonal galleries are believed to be the seat of ministers and nobles that were entertained here. However, since the galleries were too narrow to accommodate all ministers of the court at once, some people think that this building was actually the storehouse for the gems and jewels of the royalty and emperor used to come here only to inspect his jewels. According to Abul Fazl, Akbar had three treasuries that were close to each other and one of them was used to store gems and jewels only. Since, this building is also close to Ankh Michauli or the treasury for gold and silver, it is quite probable that this place is used as a treasury for jewels. This square red sand stone building has four double-storeyed façades. Though, there is no superstructure or dome here, the four beautiful kiosks at each corner of the building that are octagonal in shape and have a circular dome with an inverted lotus on the top, providing a superlative altitude to the building. The main hall has a most elegant capital composed by joining 36 brackets arising from the pillar in three tiers, in a circular shape. Though, the building lacks much ornamentation yet the pillar in the center is certainly one of the masterpieces of Mughal architecture.

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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