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Birbal Palace

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Birbal Palace

  1. 1. Raja Birbal (1528-1586) was a courtier in the administration of the Mughal emperor Akbar and one of his most trusted members along with being a part of Akbar's inner council of nine advisors, known as the 'navaratana', a Sanskrit word meaning 'nine jewels'. Birbal's duties in Akbar's court were mostly military and administrative but he was also a very close friend of the king, who liked Birbal most for his wit as well as his wisdom, as a result of which they frequently had witty and humorous exchanges between them. Born Mahesh Das, in 1528 in the village Ghoghara of Sihawal tehsil in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh. Birbal grew up in an impoverished Brahmin household. He was a poet and author whose wit and wisdom led the Emperor Akbar to invite him to be a part of the royal court and to bestow upon him a new name - Birbal. Akbar also conferred on him the title of "Raja", meaning "king".
  2. 2. Birbal’s Palace, also known as Northern Palace of the Haram Sara is an integral part of the Imperial Harem in Fatehpur Sikri. Most scholars say that this building was the residence of Akbar’s senior queens- Ruqayya Begum and Salima Sultan Begum. This home of the renowned Birbal, the great wit at Akbar's court is a conjoining of two main architectural traditions of India – Hindu and Muslim. Here there has been no attempt to fuse these traditions; they are simply placed together in an elaborate medley. Varieties of ornamental carvings are displayed both on the inside and outside of the Palace.
  3. 3. It is said that Akbar came across a young man named Mahesh Das on one of his hunting trips. In the meeting that occurred, Akbar was highly impressed with the wit of Mahesh Das. The Emperor gave Mahesh Das his ring and asked him to come and visit him in his palace any time. Later on when Mahesh Das went to meet to Akbar's palace to meet him, he was greeted by the fort's guards. Looking at his physical condition and torn clothes, the guards did not believe him and refrained from allowing him to meet the Emperor. When Mahesh Das showed the guards the Emperor's ring, they realized that he must have come to collect some reward, and agreed to let him inside only with the condition that he would share half of the reward with them. Mahesh Das promised to do so and was given access to the court. Mahesh Das went inside to meet Akbar and showed him the ring, who immediately recognized it and immediately offered him any reward he wanted. The young man thought a while, and asked Akbar for 100 lashes of the whip. The Emperor was shocked but knew Mahesh Das by now to realize something mischevious. On probing, he found out about the guard's deal with Mahesh Das, and was both amused with Mahesh Das' wit as well as furious with the guard's attitude. He immediately called to give fifty lashes of the whip for the guard and rewarded Mahesh Das by giving him a permanent place in his court along with a new title of the name Birbal.
  4. 4. History of the Birbal Bhawan, Fatehpur Sikri Built as a form of homage to the memory of the memory of the great Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti, who, it is said, blessed the emperor with an heir to the Mughal throne in India, who was to be later known as Jahangir, Fatehpur Sikri was built in 1571 and stood as the capital of the Mughal empire till the year 1585. One of the most striking relics of the rich history and culture of India, the entirety of the complex of Fatehpur Sikri has been awarded by UNESCO by putting the monument as an important part in the prestigious list of heritage monuments in the world. Perhaps, no other monument in Fatehpur Sikri can take credit for this honor as can the Birbal Bhawan, Fatehpur Sikri. Seen to be the residence of Birbal, one of the Navaratna or Nine Jewels of the court of Emperor Akbar, the Birbal Bhawan in Fatehpur Sikri can be rated as one of the most important tourist attractions of Fatehpur Sikri.
  5. 5. Birbal's House: Though it is named so, chances are unlikely that this was used by this famous minister of Akbar. This is one of the most beautiful buildings within the palace complex.
  6. 6. Birbal's House at Fatehpur SikriAccording to popular beliefs the most probable occupants of this palace were Akbar's two senior queens, Ruqayya Begum and Salima Sultan Begum. Birbal's house stands near the northwest corner of Jodhbai's palace. It is one of the marvelous buildings of imperial Harem. It was built in 1571. It consists of fours-quare rooms, each measuring 16'-10" (5.13m) square side, all interconnected through open doorways and two oblong entrance porches on Northwest and Southeast corners. While all the four rooms, have flat ceilings, porches have triangular chhappar ceiling with pyramidal roof. The interior of the building is divided into three days by richly carved pilasters. Shafts of these pilasters have been divided into three zones, which contain three different kind of decoration like single border designs, arabesque geometrical designs and stylized floral designs. Capitals of these pilaster bears lotus petals and stalactite designs. The first floor has beautiful Jharokhas overlooking the court below and a simple chajja. Each dome of the upper rooms rests on an octagonal drum, which is also carved with a raised trefoil pattern. The domes are crowned by an inverted lotus and kalash finials and also bear traces of tile work. Though the entire construction is composed of lintels and beams, but beautifully carved brackets have been used to span the spaces between the pillars and ornamental arches. These brackets are carved on both faces with lotus and arabesque designs. Spandrels of the arches also bear arabesque and floral design.
  7. 7. It is easy to imagine the life that set the pulse of the bustling capital of the ancient Mughals racing even by looking at the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri today. Narrow intersecting roads, which lead to some of the most spectacular palaces, gardens and holy places, had probably been the only lives the subjects of Akbar knew at the time. Till the fort was abandoned due to a severe scarcity of water, all the palaces and roads of this ancient land mark remained well maintained. Throwing light on the city are the various monuments of Fatehpur Sikri, notable among which is the Birbal Bhawan, Fatehpur Sikri. Though it cannot be ascertained that the palace ever housed this importat jewel of Akbar's court, the palace is connected via a screened passage to the Haram sara viaduct, which in turn leads to the Hathi Pol, one of the most prominent attractions of Fatehpur Sikri.
  8. 8. Akbar, who himself was illiterate, had great interest in interacting with learned people and highly tories about Birbal. In many of these accounts, Akbar would ask Birbal a question on any matter - something philosophical, witty, bizarre, or even unusual - and Birbal would provide a funny, clever, or brilliant answer. Birbal's collections of poetry, published under the pen name Brahma, are preserved in the Bharatpur Museum, Rajasthan, India. Raja Birbal died in the battle of Malandari Pass, attempting to quell unrest amongst Afghan or Pashtun tribes in Northwest India. Akbar was said to have mourned for a long time on hearing the news. The death was said to be caused by treachery not because of military defeat.

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