Islam as an independent religion made its emergence in the first half of the 7th century A.D. Prophet Mohammad was the founder of this religion. He gave a cultural and spiritual unity to the people of Arab who accepted this new religion. The followers of Islam are called the Muslims.
The Arab invasion of Sindh in 712 A.D. was a notable event in the annals of Indian history because for the first time the Muslims attacked India under the leadership of Muhammad Bin Kasim.
Consequently the Muslims acquired political supremacy over the land and continued to rule over India for about five centuries.
Of course, this was not the first foreign rule in India. Long before the arrival of the Muslims, foreign rulers like Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Indo-Parthians and Kushanas had ruled over significant parts of the Indian sub-continent. Though these outsiders ruled India politically, soon they were influenced by the socio-cultural traits of Hinduism. Hinduism with its all- assimilative force Indianised these alien invaders and brought them into its fold.
As these early foreigners lacked a clearly defined religious system, on their arrival in India they readily embraced the spiritual ideals of the country. They were never proselytized to accept Hinduism but became indivisible members of this great religion without any hesitation. The situation, however, was different with Islam. It was a full-fledged religious faith with proper language, script, laws, customs and even a theory of state. Naturally with the growth of Islam, the other pre-Islamic states of central Asia came under the powerful spell of Islam and they were all Islamized.
In India, therefore, Islam remained as a unique exception to the strong assimilative force of Hinduism. The idea of absorption into Hinduism became quite ineffective when it came in contact with Islam. These Muslim invaders remained as a distinct unit being conscious of their own identity.
The Muslim rulers maintained their courts, officials, bureaucracy, legal system, language, practices, customs and beliefs in their own style. The Sultanate period, ranging from the 13th century till the advent of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. was very eventful. During this period due to the influence of Islam two religious movements, namely Sufi and Bhakti, brought about a tremendous change in the socio-cultural scenario of India.
It is a fact of history that whenever two communities with separate backgrounds, civilizations and cultures stay together for centuries, it is quite natural that they influence each other mutually. History is replete with such phenomena. However opposing or different their outlooks may be, a cultural interaction does take place. Exactly the same process took place in the medieval period of Indian history.
The Sufi saints from the Muslim community and the Bhakti preachers of Hinduism tried to bridge the gap by asserting the oneness of two religions with emphasis on devotion and true piety. They asserted the effectiveness of two religions, which were but different paths leading to the realization of the same invisible power-God or Allah. Sarkar and Dutta rightly remark, “The Hindus and the Mohmmedans of India had come to be considerably influenced by each other’s thoughts and customs and mutual toleration was taking the place of medieval fanaticism.”
Both the communities now began to imbibe each other’s thoughts, traditions and customs. This Hindu-Muslim unity left tremendous impact on the cultural domain of India.
Language and Literature:
One of the most significant results of Hindu-Muslim co-existence was felt in the realm of language and literature. During the time of Muslim rule in India, the rulers introduced their own languages like Arabic and Persian into Indian administration. The existing Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Guajarati etc. were considerably influenced by Persian, Arabic and Turkish languages of the Muslim community. In this process of linguistic intermingling, the literary tradition of the country underwent a sea-change. Many books in different Indian languages were translated into Persian and Arabic and the vice versa.
The court language of the Muslim rulers in India was Persian. So much importance was given to the writing of history of India in Persian. Further, the rulers patronized the growth of Persian learning and arts. As a result, monumental historical accounts were compiled during this period that serve as invaluable historical sources even today.
Prominent among them are:
1. Taj-ul-Maasir by Hasan Niazami
2. Tabaqat-i-Nasiri by Minaj Siraj,
3. Tarikh-i-Firujsahi and
4. Fatwah-i-Jahangiri by Ziauddin Barani
5. Tarikh-i-Firujsahi by Afif
6. Futuh-us-Salatin by Isami
7. Tarikh-i-Mubaraksahi by Yahya Sirhindi
8. Khajain-ul-Futuh and
9. Thugug Nama by Amir Khashru
Besides such historical accounts, noteworthy Sanskrit works too were translated into Arabic and Persian.
1. Tutt Nama (Book of the Parrot)
2. A collection of Fifty-two short stories by Zia Nakhshabi
3. Translation of Bliagavat Pur ana by Raja Todarmal
4. Translation of Atharva Veda and Ramayana by Mullah Abdul Qadir Badani
5. Translation of Panchatantra by Ibn-ul-Muquaffa
6. Translation of classical works on mathematics of Lilibati into Arabic by Faizi
7. Translation of certain parts of Mahabharat into Arabic by Abu Salih Ibn and later by Abul Hassan Ali
Firoz Tughlaq had ordered the translation of certain books on medicine in Sanskrit into Persian. Abul Fazal and his brother Faizi translated the Sanskrit works into Persian usually with the help of Sanskrit pundits and scholars. Translation of Arabic, Turkish and Kashmiri works were also undertaken.
During the reign of Sultan Zainul Abidin of Kashmir, Mahabharata and Rajtarangini were translated into Kashmiri language. The famous adventures of Sindbad the sailor were translated and included in the Arabian Nights which was partly of Indian origin.
The translation of Sanskrit works into Persian continued with similar momentum throughout the entire Muslim period. The Mughal rulers even patronized the famous Hindi poets like Sunderdas, Chintamani, Kavindra Acharya, Jagannath Tripathy, Indrajit Tripathy and Samant. Amir Khushru, Amir Hasan, Dihalvi and Malik Muhammad Jaisi were Persian poets of repute who penned their immortal works during this period.
The tradition of writing history got impetus during the Mughal period. The famous chroniclers of the period were Abul Fazl, Nizamuddin Ahmad, Badauni, Abdul Hamid Lahori, Khafi Khan and Saqi Mustaid Khan. Moreover, rulers like Jahangir and ladies from the royal family like Gulbadan Begum too recorded socio-political accounts of their age for posterity.
Birth of Urdu:
The most remarkable impact of foreign languages on the indigenous literary tradition was the birth of Urdu language. It was popularly called the camp language during the Mughal period. It was born out of military necessity to understand each other when the Rajput’s and Muslim soldiers camped at one place to fight a war or suppress a rebellion on behalf of the emperor.
The common language of the Indians was Hindi and under the Sultans Persian was the court language. By continuous interaction between, the two languages a mixed variety of language called Urdu was born having Persian script and many resemblances with Hindi language and style. Thus Urdu became the most volatile and lyrical language which was basically a product of linguistic synthesis. Urdu rose to prominence during the early phase of British rule in India. In subsequent years, the British authorities elevated Urdu to the status of court language. Since then it has retained its status as a powerful and flourishing language of India.
Indian vernacular language had been benefitted by Islamic influence to a great extent. The Muslim rulers of Bengal and Lucknow were great patrons of Bengali and Hindi literatures. In the South the Sultans of Bijapur and Golconda also encouraged this trend. Muslim influence on Hindi language, grammar, rhetoric and style are now accepted facts. Similarly in Guajarati, Marathi and Punjabi languages, the imprints of Persian and Arabic languages are quite obvious. It has been rightly noted by Prof Sarkar and Dutta,
“Muslim writers wrote in vernaculars on subjects of Hindu life and tradition as Jaisi did on Padmini and Hindu writers too produced works after Muslim literary tradition in Persian languages as Rai Bhanamal did in the line of chronicles.”
Art and Architecture:
With the establishment of Muslim rule in India there was a marked growth in cultural excellence in the realm of art and architecture. The Muslim rulers of India were great patrons of art. They brought with them significant impressions of Islamic style of art. New designs, new modes of construction like spherical domes, arches, tall minarets, open courtyards, pillared caves, huge walls etc. were introduced in architectural creations following the Islamic style. But these changes in designs were carried out by Hindu craftsmen. As a result a fusion of Hindu and Muslim styles of art took place. From this interaction a new style of art called Indo-Islamic art tradition gradually evolved. To quote Sir John Marshall,
“Indo-Islamic art was neither merely a local variety of Islamic art nor a modified form of Hindu architecture. It derives its character from both sources though not always in an equal degree.” Thus with a new majestic spirit Indo-Islamic art manifested itself through different channels that included two types of structure, namely,
(i) Religious structure
(ii) Secular structure
Religious structures mainly consisted of mosques and tombs. Secular structures included those meant for public and civic purposes like palaces, forts, town gates etc. The first phase of Muslim rule in India, i.e., from 1206 A.D. to 1526 A.D., otherwise called the Sultanate period, is marked by three styles of architecture:
(i) Imperial or Delhi style of architecture
(ii) Provincial style, of architecture
(iii) Hindu style of architecture
Imperial or Delhi Style of Architecture:
Imperial or Delhi style of architecture is to be found in Delhi and its neighbouring areas.
The following important structures come under this style:
1. Qutab Minar
2. Quwwat-al-Islam Mosque
3. Alwai Darwaja
4. Kali Masjid
5. Begumpuri Mosque
6. Sikri fort and city
7. Tombs of Mubarak Sayyid and Sikandar Lodhi
8. Bada Gumbad Mosque
The Qutab Minar was the most impressive among them all. In the words of Percy Brown,
“Qutab Minar as a whole is the most impressive conception, the vivid colour of its red sandstone, the changing texture of its fluted storeyes with their overlay of plain masonry and rich carvings, the shimmer of the shadows under the balconies, all combine to produce an effect of marked vitality.”
Provincial Style of Architecture:
After the decline of the Sultanate of Delhi the rulers of provincial dynasties asserted independence and began to build tombs, mosques and palaces on their own. Hence these structures had their respective regional trends and manifestations that were quite different from the Delhi style of architecture. They formed a separate category called Provincial style of architecture. This style was enriched with local artistic traditions and technical differences.
Within this district category the following structures deserve specific mention:
1. Tomb of Sah-Rukn-i-Alam in Punjab,
2. Adiana Masjid, Dakliil Darwaja, Chhota Sona Masjid and Bada Sona Masjid of Bengal,
3. Jami Masjid, Teen Darwaja, Tomb of Ahmad Shah in Gujarat,
4. Jahaj Mahal, Ashrafi Mahal, Hindola Mahal, Tomb of Hushang Shah in Malwa,
5. Biwi-ki-Masjid in Khandesh,
6. Chand Minar of Daulatabad, Gol Gumbaz, Mithar Mahal, Zenana Mahal and Deval Mosque in the Deccan.
Hindu Style of Architecture:
When the Sultanate of Delhi lavishly patronized the architectural growth of the country, the Hindu rulers also did not lag behind. Different Hindu ruling dynasties extended their helping hands for the growth of structures of art. These Hindu structures had their own peculiarities marked by narrow pillars, cornice or chhaja, corbel brackets, tapering arches, decorative designs and figures with liberal doses of religious sanctity. This style of architecture flourished mainly in Rajasthan and at Vijaynagar in the South.
Some examples of this style are:
1. Tower of Victory at Chittor
2. Fort of Kumbhalgarh
3. Jai Stambha in Rajasthan
4. Vithala Temple
From 1526 A.D. to 1707 A.D. the Mughal rulers ruled over India. It was during this period that Indo-Islamic architecture reached the pinnacle of glory and magnificence. The artistic temperament of the rulers and economic prosperity along with liberal royal support brought in its wake an outburst of architectural activities.
Prominent structures of the Mughal period include the following:
1. Purana Qilla in Delhi
2. Tomb of Sher Shah at Sasaram
3. Tomb of Humayun at Delhi
4. Buland Darwaja, Diwan-i-khas at Fatehpur Sikri
5. Tomb of Akbar at Sikandara.
6. Jama Masjid
7. Red Fort at Delhi and Agra
8. Taj Mahal
9. Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula at Agra
The architectures of the Mughal period are marked by splendor and form, graceful domes, magnificent palace halls, decorated gateways of slender pillars. These pieces of architecture reveal a splendid synthesis of Persian and Indian style – Muslim structure with Hindu decoration. To quote Tara Chand,
“The craftsmanship, ornamental richness and general design remained largely Hindu while the arches, plain domes, smooth’ faced walls and spacious interiors were Muslim superimposition.” The other side of the picture is equally interesting. From the second half of the 16th century Hindu buildings showed traces of Mughal architecture. The romantic city of Amber, the palaces of Bikaner, the fortresses of Jodhpur and Orchna are the most notable instances of this style.
The art of Indian painting got a new lease of life during this period. Of course long back during the ancient period of Indian history painting had formed a part and parcel of Indian tradition. It had always been a specialty of the Indians to maintain the tradition of pictorial art. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains had carried on their paintings with carved statues and murals. The Ajanta paintings of the Gupta period are the most glorious examples.
The Hindu art of mural painting underwent a remarkable change with the arrival of the Mughals who brought with them the tradition of Chinese-cum-Persian painting. It began with the Mughal ruler Humayun who was quite familiar with this tradition. Famous painters of Mughal India were Mir Sayyid Ali, Dost Mohammad, Basawan, Mansur, Abul Hasan et al.
The themes of the paintings were quite varied. They consisted of Razmnama (Persian translation of the Mahabharata), Hamzanama (story of Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Amir Hamza), Turik-i-Alfi (story of the first thousand years of Islam) and Padshanama (description of court ceremonies and other important events).
Towards the later part of the Mughal rule, the Rajput School and Pahari School of painting began to develop under local patronage. Though Rajput school was indigenous by nature, after coming in contact with Muslim painting, it was completely transformed and gave birth to Kanga School of painting in the 18th century. Among Pahari School of painting Basoli, Chamba and Jammu groups were noteworthy.
All these schools centred around representation of mythological themes. Thus in the field of art, architecture and painting Muslim influence maintained its uniqueness and excellence and constituted a significant phase in the annals of Indian art.
The Islamic impact was also felt keenly in the realm of music. The Muslim rulers were great lovers of music. So they openly patronized the growth of music and musicians in the country. During this period Islamic music came in close contact with Indian classical music. From this synthesis a number of new musical regulations and instruments came into existence. Even the Indian musical treatise Raag Darpan was translated into Persian during the reign of Firuz Tughlaq.
The Indian musical instrument veena combined with Iranian tambura led to the birth of a new string instrument called sitar. Besides, various other new instruments were born out of this cultural synthesis like rabab and tabla. Among the regional patrons of music mention may be made of Sultan Hussain Sharqi of Jaunpur and Raja Mansingh of Gwallior. With such a mixed patronage from Hindu and Muslim rulers a lot of changes were introduced in the Indian traditional ‘ragas’ and ‘raginis’ (melodies) to suit the demand of the audiences. The introduction of Thumri, Khayal, Qawafi and Raga Dhrupad made Indian classical compositions more melodious.
Ain-i-Akbari provides a list of thirty six musicians in the court of Akbar who were very talented and were known all over the country. Several preachers of Bhakti cult and Sufism also adopted music as a way of their teachings. Saint Sarangadeva wrote the Encyclopaedia of Indian music known as Sangeeta Ratnakar.
The impact of Islamic culture found another outlet in the setting up of public and royal gardens. The art of gardening reached perfection during the time of Mughals who had great taste for the same.
Prior to the arrival of the Mughals the concept of gardening as a form of line arts had not emerged. The Mughals were not only lovers of nature but also possessed the aesthetic sense to find relief from the toils of daily life through gardening. With due patronage from the rulers a systematic science of gardening with certain forms and designs began to develop.
Geometrically the Mughal Gardens was in the form a square, divided into four fold plots called char-bagh. It had an artificial irrigation system in the form of channels, tanks or dwarf waterfalls. The main pavilion was built either on the topmost terrace or on the lowest one to allow the visitor to have a complete look of the garden. Kabul Bagh and Shalimar Bagh were some of the most famous specimens of such gardens.
Under the Islamic influence various other branches of arts also developed in India. Many new arts and crafts with Islamic origin began to emerge in the Indian cultural scene. The art of making jewelry with setting of pearl and other precious stones on gold and silver ornaments reached its perfection. The Peacock Throne of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls is a legendary masterpiece of the Mughal period.
For embroidery works on dresses and curtains, karkhanas (factories) with labourers, craftsmen and master artists sprang up in different parts of the country. Works on stones, marbles, metals, ivory, enamel paintings, making of paper, floral and other colourful designs on walls and glasspanes were the result of Islamic influences. Art of calligraphy, weaving and dyeing also developed during the Mughal rule. With such innovative techniques, silk brocades, magnificent carpets, muslin clothes and shawls began to be very popular.
Thus, Islamic impact left a lasting influence on various aspects of Indian culture. The indigenous cultural tradition underwent a great transformation after coming in contact with Islamic heritage over several centuries in the realms of literature, art, social customs etc. The effects of this cultural synthesis are no longer alien and have become an integral part of Indian culture.