Panch Mahal (Fatehpur Sikri)
Publisher: H.A. Mirza & Sons (1907-1912)
The Panch Mahal meaning ‘Five level Palace’ was commissioned by Akbar This structure stands close to the Zenana quarters (Harem) which supports the supposition that it was used for entertainment and relaxation. This is one of the most important buildings in Fatehpur Sikri. This is an extraordinary structure employing the design elements of a Buddhist Temple; entirely columnar, consisting of four stories of decreasing size arranged asymmetrically on the ground floor, which contains 84 columns. These columns, that originally had jaali (screens) between them, support the whole structure. Once these screens provided purdah (cover) to queens and princess on the top terraces enjoying the cool breeze and watching splendid views of Sikri fortifications and the town nestling at the foot of the ridge.
This curious five-storied pavilion is nearly opposite to the Dîwan-i-âm. It is approached by a staircase from the Mahal-i-khas. Each story was originally enclosed by pierced stone screens; this, and the fact that the whole building overlooked the palace zanana, make it tolerably certain that it could only have been used as a promenade by Akbar and the ladies of the court. The ground-floor, which was divided into cubicles by screens between the columns, may; as Keene suggests, have been intended for the royal children and their attendants. The building is chiefly remarkable for the invention and taste shown in the varied designs of the columns, in which the three principal styles of Northern India, the Hindu, Jain, and Saracenic, are indiscriminately combined.
A Handbook to Agra and the Taj Sikandra, Fatehpur-Sikri and the Neighbourhood (1904)