Mughal Architecture

Neither Babur nor Humayun lived long enough to enjoy the newly founded Mughal Empire. The reign of Akbar (1556-1605) witnessed the development of the mughal architecture. The most important features of the Mughal monuments in India are the bulbous domes with constricted necks, the slender minarets with cupolas at the four corners, large halls, massive vaulted gateways and delicate ornamentation. Red Sandstone was amply used in Mughal monuments.

  • The largest difference from other regions of Islamic art from the Mughal Art is that the Mughals produced many masterpieces in mausoleums than in mosques.
  • The Mughal art was essentially Persian in character in the beginning. Once defeated by Shershah, Humayun had fled to Safavid’s Persia for 15 years and then returned to Delhi in 1555, bringing a large number of Persian architects and painters with him, greatly contributing to Mughal art afterward, encouraging its Persian character.

The Concept of Charbagh

One of the greatest early deeds of Mughals is that they brought the Persian Charbagh style to India.

  • Charbagh is a Persian-style garden layout, in which the main building is put at the centre of a quadrilateral garden, divided by walkways or flowing water into four smaller parts.
  • Humayun’s tomb and Taj Mahal in India are the most famous examples of this style. In the Charbagh at the Taj Mahal, each of the four parts contains sixteen flower beds.
  • Ram Bagh (corrupted form of Aram Bagh) was the oldest Mughal Garden in India, originally built by the Mughal Emperor Babur in 1528, in Charbagh style. It located about five kilometers northeast of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Babur was temporarily buried there before being interred in Kabul.
  • Another typical example of the Charbagh style is the mausoleum and its garden of I’timād-ud-Daulah (1628), father of Nur Jahan, located in Agra. The tomb, embellished with delicate inlaid works using colored stones despite a white house of white marble wholly, is a jewel of Mughal architecture.
  • When Humayun tumbled out of this world silently under the influence of opium, his widow made the first full-blown piece of Mughal architecture, the Humayun’s Tomb in Charbagh style in Delhi.
  • The Humayun’s tomb is the first garden-tomb in India. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. This was the first splendid monument of the times of Akbar, created mainly in red sandstone and white marble.

Akbar’s built the Red Fort at Agra in Red Sandstone. The grand mosque and palaces at his ad hoc capital in Fatehpur Sikri and his own tomb at Sikandara are the best example how the Islamic architecture merged with Indian traditional wooden-like post and beam structure. Some call it the Akbar Style!

Monuments of Mughal Architecture at Agra

Agra Fort

The Agra Fort was originally a brick fort of Hindu Sikarwar Rajputs. It was first captured by Ghaznavis in 1080 AD. Four centuries later, Sikandar Lodi would become the first Sultan of Delhi to live here (in 1488) and make it his second capital. Sikandar Lodi died in the fort itself and his son Ibrahim Lodi was able to sustain it for some 9 years before he was defeated and departed to the other world by forces of Babur. The Mughals were able to capture the huge treasures of this fort which also included the Koh-i-noor diamond, the one which did not impress Babur. Here, the coronation of Humayun took place in 1530. In 1540, Humayun was defeated by Shershah and for next 15 years, the fort remained with Suris. Later it was captured by Humayun again and remained the capital of Mughals for next three generations. Till the time Akbar conquered it, it was a brick structure called Badalgarh. During the times of Akbar, Red Sandstone was imported from Barauli area of Rajasthan and thousands of workers made it in a span of eight years.

  • The main material of the buildings in the fort were also red sandstone, but the only extant building is the Jahangir Mahal, the others were reconstructed entirely with white marble by Shah Jahan, such as the Khas Mahal and Diwan-i-Aam.
  • The Moti Masjid which was originally the Friday Mosque and Nagina Masjid the Royal Oratory, are also Shah Jahan’s white mosques.
Taj Mahal

The climax of the Charbagh Style was Taj Mahal, which Shah Jahan constructed for his deceased favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and the garden of the other side of the river, the Mahtab Bagh. The tomb is considered as the supreme masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture due to its figure of pure whiteness with the highness of refinement and superb proportion.

Monuments of Mughal Architecture in Delhi

Purana Quila
  • Humayun commenced constructing the sixth city, Dinpanah, in greater Delhi in 1534. But when Humayun was defeated by Shershah, its construction was continuing, renaming it Shergarh. There remains the Purana Qila with the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque
  • This Purana Quila is oldest known structure of any type in Delhi. The site seems to be the ancient Indraprastha, the capital of the Pandavas.
  • The Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque built by Sher Shah in 1541 is an example of pre-Mughal design. There is extensive use of the pointed arch in the region with the ‘true’ horseshoe-shaped arches.
Humayun’s Mausoleum
  • This tomb was created in 1571 and here, the principles of tomb architecture of that sort on the height of Mughal architecture were established. This tomb is in Charbagh style, a four-faced building open to four directions by means of Iwans and crowned with a white marble dome and enlivened with Chhatris on the roof.
  • The dome is Double Dome, providing a ceiling at a height suitable for the interior, and a roof at a height desirable for the exterior view.
  • The tomb itself is also doubled, with a cenotaph on the ground floor and a true sepulchre underground.
  • This mausoleum was designed by Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyath and most of the later mausoleums in India followed this form and its climax was the Taj Mahal.

This is the 7th city of Delhi built by Shahjahan and today we know it as Old Delhi. It is approximately shaped like a quarter cìrcle, with the Red Fort as the focal point. It is surrounded by a wall enclosing about 1,500 acres, with 14 gates, out of which 13 survive today. Through the palaces and Charbaghs in the Delhi Fort (1639-48), also called the Red Fort (Lal Qila) like the Agra Fort because of its red sandstone walls, the emperor’s intention to actualize the earthly paradise was consistently fulfilled.

Monuments of Mughal Architecture at Fatehpur Sikri & Sikandara

Fatehpur Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals. It is also the place demonstrating the first heritage of the Mughal architecture. It was virtually the capital of Akbar from 1571 to 1585. However, later it was abandoned mostly because of the problem of drinking water supply.

Fatehpur Sikri is a world heritage site declared in 1986. The important monuments in Fatehpur Sikri are:

  • Buland Darwaja : Built in 1576-77 in commemoration of Akbar’s Gujarat Victory.
  • Jama Masjid
  • Tomb of Salim Chisti: This is a singular monument encased in white marble encrusted with mother of pearl (Nacre) mosaic. the Jalis in the circumambulation with intricate geometric designs is its special feature.
  • Diwan-i-aam: The hall of public audience
  • Diwan-i-Khas: The hall of private audience.
  • Naubat Khana: the Drum House
  • Panch Mahal: The court for ladies.
  • Birbal’s house: the home to the favourite Vazir of Akbar.
  • Anup Talao: A pool

Today, this beautiful city, though a great tourist destination, is a deserted. It was abandoned and ever since has remained the desolate and abandoned city. A few years back, some Jain & Hindu idols were found which were dated 1010 AD near the Birbal ka Tila site which have rise to a hot debate that this beautiful city was actually a great Hindu site, that was vandalized by the great Mughal.

Whatever may be the truth, but palaces, tombs, mosques, baths, lake and everything at Fatehpur Sikri is a great Indian Heritage through which we recognize the grandeur and pomp of Akbar, greatest of Indian emperors.

Mausoleum of Salim Chishti

The Mausoleum of Salim Chishti standing in the courtyard, entirely made of white marble, is a gem of tomb architecture despite its relatively small scale, with deep Chajja (stone eave plates) and delicate Jali (stone lattice works).

Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandara

The tomb was also built (1603-1613) in Charbagh style. The area of the precinct comes up to 48 hectares, four times grander than the Humayun’s tomb and is the largest Charbagh in the world. 

The tomb itself is not covered with a dome, but there are piling numbers of chhatris like a jungle gym on a high platform, and making the roofless terrace on the top floor an open tomb hall.

Akbar’s style

The building projects done during the times of Akbar are mostly constructed of red sandstone with limited use of white marble. The central theme is the use of the trabeated system, arcuate forms being adopted mainly for decorative purpose. The ornament consists chiefly of carvings or bold inlay, perforated screen work, and artistically painted design on the walls and ceilings in gold or colours. The architectural style of Akbar is marked by a judicious mix of purely indigenous and foreign forms. The buildings lack domes but there is extensive use of Chhatris.

Its construction began in 1603 during the lifetime of Akbar and it appears that his intentions to reconcile Muslims and Hindus for the sake of the empire were also applied to his architecture. This tomb is an excellent example of the  fusion of Hindu architecture based on the post and beam structure and Islamic architecture based on pure geometry, an unprecedented striking mausoleum came into being.

If we compare this monument with Taj Mahal and other monuments, we can say that Akbar’t tomb is the most Indianized Islamic architecture. This method, called “Akbar Style” was in fact inspired from the buildings in Fatehpur Sikri.

Importance of Chhatri in Mughal Architecture

Chhatri is an architectural decoration that developed and became quite popular in Indo-Islamic architecture, particularly under the Mughals. It is a small turret with stone columns, principally four, supporting a dome with Chajja under the dome.

The Islamic architecture is known to support the domes with walls. But Indian had been working on the wooden architecture since ancient times. They adhered to a wooden-like post and beam structure and that is how created such a light architectural component, using stone columns, to embellish all kinds of buildings, on the roofs, walls, and towers.

Chhatris are commonly used to depict the elements of pride and honor in the Rajput architecture of Rajasthan. They are widely used, in palaces, in forts, or to demarcate funerary sites. Originating in Rajasthani architecture where they were memorials for kings and royalty, they were later adapted as a standard feature in all buildings in Rajasthan, and most importantly in Mughal architecture. As a component of buildings, Chhatri continued in the colonial architecture of Indo-Saracenic style also.

1 Comment

  1. ani1987

    April 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    great work.keep it up

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