One of the finest and most renowned examples of Mughal architecture is beyond question the Taj Mahal. Thus, it is not surprising that the mausoleum built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal – the third wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan – is always teeming with people from all over the world.
What hardly anyone knows is that another mausoleum of remarkable architectural beauty is located only ten kilometres away. Jalaluddin Muhammad alias Akbar the Great (1542-1605) had designed his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it.
By entering through the precious gate you find yourself standing in the huge gardens surrounding the mausoleum – far away from noisy crowds and streets. The building combines Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu elements. Akbar the Great was one of the most important Muslim rulers to reign in the North of India between 1504 and 1739.
Due to his pragmatic as well as philosophic world view, his empire stood out as a tolerant (especially considering religious issues), cosmopolitan and artistically innovative realm, at the same time being united, fair and to a certain extend (even) peaceful.
Shortly after ascending the throne at the age of 14 he had an illustrated heroic epic compiled – the Hamzanama – considered even more artistically valuable than his tomb. It took over 15 years to be completed. More than 100 artists from all over India created 1,400 Persian miniatures, one more elaborately decorated than the other. Unfortunately, only 200 of these extraordinary illustrations were preserved.
The illustrated stories actually tell about the travel adventures of Amir Hamza, a fictional character based on a famous warrior named Hamza Ibn Abdul-Muttalib who grew up with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). After being rather sceptical towards Islam, Hamza became one of its greatest advocates.
The illustrations depict a magic-filled heroic saga, being set rather in realms of fantasy than in historical reality. Each miniature takes us into a mythical world full of colossal dragons and giants, evil wizards and demons, whom Hamza and his friends had to fight.
For further reference the following glossary is presented:
Baba – polite form of address to an elderly man
Ayyar – partisan spy/trickster
Khwaja – title of a cleric, a scholar or a notable
Dev – demon
Amir – title of a military leader or a noble; designates Hamza in this story
Farangi – European
Guebre – pagan, pejorative term for a Zoroastrian
Malik – king
Maund – measurement, approx. 82 pounds
Padishah – king
Pahlavan – hero, champion
Peri – fairy, celestial creature
Saqi – cupbearer
Solomon – biblical king
Takkiya – place of retreat, or repose
Vizier - minister
Zangi – moor
Anoshirvan – emperor of Iran
Ashqar – Hamza´s three-eyed horse
Badi-uz-zaman – son of Hamza
Khwarmah – daughter of Hamza´s enemy Malik Qimar, falls in love with Ibrahim
Khosh-Khiram – maidservant of Malak Mah
Hamza – hero of the story; uncle of the prophet Muhammad; also called Amir or Sahib-Qiran
Ibrahim – son of Hamza
Iraj – leader of the sun-worshipper
Landhaur - son of the king of Ceylon, an ally of Hamza
Malak Mah – daughter of Hamza´s enemy Malik Na´im, falls in love with Sa´id Farrukhnizhad
Malik Qasim – prince, ally of Hamza
Malik Arghush – governor of Takaw
Mihrdukht – wife of prince Hamid, a son of Hamza
Khwaja Nu´man – ayyar of Hamza
Sa´id Farrukhnizhad – prince, ally of Hamza
Shahrashob – ally of Zumurrud Shah
Khwaja Umar – ayyar and confidant of Hamza
Zumurrud Shah – king of the East; powerful enemy of Hamza