In this article we will discuss about the downfall of architecture under Sultans and Lodis in India during medieval age.
After the invasion of Timur, the medieval architecture suffered a setback. No doubt, the Sayyids and Lodis made an attempt to revive the architectural style of the Khilji period but the deadening effect of the Tughlaq period could not be completely shaken of Khizraband and Mubarakbad, the two cities founded by the Sayyid rulers were built with poor materials and have not withstood the ravages of time.
The only monuments of this period which have survived are the tombs. These tombs broadly consists of two categories, first, those built after the octagonal design of the Tilangani mausoleum; second, of the orthodox square type. The important mausoleum, of the first style was the tombs of Mubarak Shah Sayyid Muhammad Shah Sayyid and Sikandar Lodi.
The tombs of the square designs were Bara-Khan-ka-gumbad, Bara-Gumbad, Shish gumbad, tomb of Shihab-ud-Din Tajkhan, Dadi-ka-gumbad and Soli-ka-gumbad.
According to Prof. S.K. Saraswati, “Tombs of this class are usually higher than those of the octagonal kind, though horizontally their dimensions are lesser. Yet, in spite of their added elevation and diversified treatment of the facade, they lack the solemn dignity of the octagonal tombs.”
The most notable mosque built during that period include Moth-ki-Masjid, which was built by Sikandar Lodi’s Prime Minister in early years of the 16th century. It is the largest building constructed during this period and is noteworthy for its facade, which was 5 arched openings.
The tombs of the mosque have a pleasant appearance and the tapering turrets on the back wall have refined contours.
According to Marshall, “The mosque epitomizes in itself all that is best in the architecture of the Lodis; and displays a freedom of imagination, a bold diversity of design, an appreciation of contrasting light and shade and a sense of harmony in line and colour which combine to make it one of the most spirited and picturesque buildings of its kind in the whole range of Islamic art.”
With the downfall of the Delhi Sultanate, number of Indian kingdoms sprang up. These kingdoms patronized architecture and constructed a number of buildings. The architecture of these kingdoms have certain original manifestations which was quite distinct from the imperial style of architecture.
Though most of the buildings of the various provinces were subordinate to the main style, yet some of the buildings exhibit remarkable beauty and originality. The materials used in the erection of the building in the various provinces also differed. It is desirable to deal with the architecture in the various kingdoms separately.
Punjab was the first to evolve a style of its own. In fact, Punjab first came into contact with Islam, and the Muslims constructed the earliest buildings in the cities of Multan and Lahore. According to Percy Brown, while the Muslim structures of Lahore were of Ghaznavide-Suljuqian origin, those at Multan were Arab- Persian derivation.
The structures at both the places had much in common yet they differ from each other in many respects. The structure at Lahore were built of timber and brick. At Multan the earliest buildings were two mosques. The first was built by Mohammad-bin-Qasim and the second was constructed on the ruins of the famous temple of Audihtya destroyed by Karmathians.
The other important monuments were the tomb of Shah Yusuf Gardezi built in 1152 A.D., the tomb of Baha-ul-Haq built in 1262 A.D , the tomb of Amir Khan built in 1572 A.D. and the tomb of Nawab Amir Khan built in 1640 A.D. In addition to this Giasuddin Tughlaq constructed the shrine Shah Rukh-i-Alam which is considered as one of the most splendid memorials ever erected in the honour of the dead.
In Bengal when the artists possessed an inborn sense of art and adaptability, the architecture underwent frequent changes and a mixed style of architecture was developed. It combined the outstanding elements of the Muslim and the Hindu art.
It was characterised by “the use of pointed arches on short pillars and the Muslim’s adaptation of the traditional Hindu temple style of curvilinear cornices copied from the bamboo structures, and of beautifully carved Hindu symbolic decorative designs like the lotus.”
The earliest Muslim structures in Bengal are the tomb and the mosque of Jafar Khan Ghazi, which were built mainly out of the material from the Hindu temples. Another specimen of the Bengal architecture was Adina Masjid built by Sikandar Shah around 1370 A.D. It was a huge and ambitious structure.
It is considered as one of the wonders of the world in its design. It is as big as the 8th century great mosque at Damascus. It covers an area of 507′ and 6″ by 285′ and 6″. The central courtyard itself consists of 397 feet by 159 feet.
The central nave of the sanctuary 70 feet by 34 feet, with its pointed archway 50 feet high and 33 feet wide, and trefoil arched mihrab at the western side, bearing Hindu designs, all point to a work of rich imagination.
Another beautiful building is the tomb of Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah at Sandva. It is considered as one of the finest tombs in Bengal. It is mainly built of bricks picked from other Hindu buildings and is a single-domed square edifice. The Dakhil Darwaza at Gaur is another monument of Bengal.
It is a superb example of brick and terracotta work and displays a surprising boldness of design and masterly skill. It “shows that the Muslim rulers still retained their grandiose ideals which found expression in spectacular monuments, not however devoid of architectural dignity and power.
The other important buildings in Bengal include Chota Sone ki Masjid carved inside and out with chiselled designs built in 1510 A.D., a building of great simplicity and impressiveness and Qadam Rasul built in 1530 A.D.
In the Kashmir valley the Islamic structures were constructed mainly out of wood and assumed a distinctive form. Sir John Marshall says that Kashmir architecture like other provincial style, displays a happy fusion of Hindu and Muslim architectural ideas.
The tomb of Mandani with a mosque attached to it and built in the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin’s at Srinagar is a building built in typical saracenic style. Jam i-Masjid built by Sikandar Shah with brick, stone end timber is another building of Kashmir style. The mosque of Shah Hamdan at Srinagar was built only of wood.
At Jaunpur a new style of architecture was evolved in the 15th century. This style revealed a happy blending of the Hindu and Muslim architectural ideas. It has massive sloping walls, square pillars, smaller galleries and cloisters. These are clearly Hindu features designed by Hindu masons.
The Jaunpur style of architecture resembles that of Tughlaq period with the difference that they are more ornate and chaste in some cases. Dr. Ishwari Prasad writes, “The kings of Jaunpur were great patrons of art and learning. The buildings which they have left behind bear eloquent testimony of their magnificent architectural tastes.
Their distinctive feature is that they show an interesting and original synthesis of Hindu and Muslim structural ideas which had its parallel in the attempt made by Hussain Shah of Gaur to found a religious cult Satyapir with the object of uniting Muhammedan and Hindu in Divine worship.”
One of the brilliant specimen of the Jaunpur style Is the Atala Masjid built on the site of the Hindu temple of Atala Devi. Atala mosque has a curious blending Hindu and Muslim traditions. Although the structure has no original character and some of the Tughlaq features are present in it, it has the freshness and vigour of a new style.
The Jam-i-Masjid constructed under patronage of Sultan Hussain Sharqi is another fine specimen of the Jaunpur style. It is the largest and most ambitious of the Jaunpur mosque. It has a height of 85 feet and breadth of 77 feet at the base.
Another building built after the style of Atala Masjid is Lal Darwaza Mosque. It was built around the middle of the 15th century. The mosque is known as ‘Lal Darwaza’ because of the colour of its gate. Although the Lal Darwaza Masjid is built on the pattern of Atala Masjid, it differs from the later in many respects.
It has a single prophylon lower in height in comparison to its breadth at the base. There are certain ladies galleries in the mosque which are situated in the parts of the transepts adjoining the nave, and not at the far ends as in the Atala Masjid. There are other minor differences which make the Lal Darwaza mosque an original monument.
Jhanjhiri Masjid is another important religious shrine built by Ibrahim Shah Sharqi about 1438 A D. Although the monument is cow in ruins its remains suggest that it was a massive structure. It was also built in the pattern of Atala Devi Masjid and in the interior of its surface was covered with profuse carvings.
All the Jaunpur mosques have no minars of the general Muslim type, but galleries; beautiful open-work screens were provided there for the accommodation of ladies. The Jaunpur style of architecture has been greatly admired by critics. For example, Sir John Marshall has admired the rich decoration of the structures of this style, Havell also holds that Jaunpur architecture is an interesting synthesis of the creative impulse of the Hindus and Muslims.
According to Ferguson “The Jaunpur style is distinguished by its use of pylon or gateway of almost Egyptian mass and outline.” A. A. Hekmat says that, “No wonder, that Jaunpur with its magnificent mosques, built during a short span of sixty years, has acquired great name and fame as one of the important centres of Muslim architecture.
It developed a special style of structure, known as Jaunpuri which has travelled to many Islamic cities of India. Dr. P.K. Saraswati says that though the style begins with a fresh spirit and high aspirations but the builders themselves seem to have been incapable of achieving what they attempted to do.
According to him the chief defects in the Jaunpur style are: “The small height of the domes of the mosques which are hidden from view by the towering height of the massive propylons, the coarse execution of the schemes, and a lack of sense of structural propriety.” On account of these defects, the buildings, though beautiful and impressive, are not as well integrated structures as one should expect them to be.
Amongst the provincial architectures of India, Gujarat architecture is the most remarkable. Percy Brown says that the pre eminence of the architecture form in Gujarat was due to “assiduous patronage and building ambition” of the dynasty and “the profound artistic traditions” of the inhabitants, coupled with “the unrivalled aesthetic resources of the country.”
The Gujarat style is noted for its fine wood-carving, elaborate ornamentation and delicate graceful lattice work, all elements of Hindu architecture The Hindu influence over the Muslim buildings in Gujarat may be due to Hindu ancestry of the Sultans.
The city of Ahmedabad was founded by Ahmed Shah in the first half of the 15th century. He adorned the city with many buildings, the most important Building at Ahmedabad erected by Ahmed Shah was Jam-i-Masjid.
It occupies a large quadrangle and has four cloister on four sides of the open courtyard. The sanctuary proper consists of an immense hill with 250 tall p liars and galleries are richly carved. According to Percy Brown with this mosque the medieval architecture reached the high water-mark of the mosque design in Western India, if not in the entire country.
The facade of the mosque with its well-proportioned parts, beautiful and extensive arches, shapely buttresses, carved moulding; and stringcourse and battlements combine to make it one of noblest edifices in the whole world.
The tomb of Ahmed Shah located in the enclosures of the Jam-i-Masjid, is another important monument. It has a square building with portico projecting from the middle of each side. The tomb is covered with a large dome. Though the monument does not possess any special architectural merits it is an elegant building. But probably, the most important building in Ahmedabad is the tomb of Rani Sipri.
It is very small but is ornamented with the most exquisite stone carvings. Marshall has praised the architecture of this small building and said “East or West, it would be difficult to single out a building in which the parts are harmoniously blended or in which balance, symmetry and decorative rhythm combine to produce a more perfect effect. The mosque is a small one, only 48 feet by 19 1/2 feet—but this smallness is an asset in its favour, since the delicate traceries and jewels—like carving of Gujarat, suggestive as they are of an almost famine grace, show less advantage in bigger and more virile structures.”
Tin-Darwaza or Triple gateway, a triumphal arch building outside the royal citadel is another specimen of rare architecture. The Darwaza is known for its fine balancing and delicate forming. Another outstanding building was the mosque at Champanir built by Mahmud Bigarha.
According to Rawlinson this mosque is probably the most imposing of the Muhammedan buildings in Western India, Ferguson also describes the Jami Masjid at Champanir as: “architecturally the finest in Gujarat.”
However, Marshall says: “Its parts are neither so well proportioned nor so successfully coordinated. The elevation of the prayer chamber is too cramped; the minarets flanking the main archway over poweringly heavy, and the transition from the side wings to the central halt altogether too abrupt.”
The buildings constructed by the Sultans of Malwa, though mainly on the Delhi style, are not a duplicate copy of the Delhi architecture. They possess distinctive style of their own. These buildings are mainly found at Dhar, Mandu and Chanderi.
The early buildings at Mandu like Kamal Maula Masjid, the Lat Masjid, located in Dhar and Dilawar Khan’s Masjid and the Malik Mughis Masjid at Mandu were mainly built out of the material obtained from the destruction of Hindu temples. They betray great Hindu influence particularly in their pillars. However, the later buildings at Mandu display a greater impact of Islamic architecture.
The Jami Masjid at Mandu constructed in 1454 A D. is a great and beautiful mosque. It has three tombs standing on 12 pillars each. The great courtyard has 5 arches in the West, three in the north and two in the east. Martin S. Briggs says, “This is an essentially Muslim building, free from Hindu treated construction, and is carried out in red sandstone with marble enrichments.”
According to Ferishta this tomb was built by Mahind Khilji. However, Marshall is of the opinion that Hushang himself built it.
Another building attributed to Hushang is Hindola Mahal or the swinging palace. According to Percy Brown, “Few buildings in India present a more striking appearance or are more solidly constructed than this amazing pile.”
Another important building of Mandu is Jahaz Mahal which possess arched walls, roofed pavilions and beautiful reservoirs. It has a distinctive feminine grace, its surfaces are gay with friezes of whitely coloured glaze.
In addition, the Palaces of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati are also specimens of Malwa architecture. These buildings seem to have been built by Sultan Nasir-ud-Din and became the favorite resident of Baz Bahadur on account of its beautiful location.
It is located on the slope of a hill and consists of rectangular compositions of arched cloisters and an outer court and a gateway in front. Though the building does not possess architectural grandeur they have added to the beauty of Mandu city, and have earned for it the title of the ”fortress city of India”.
A few Muslim structures were also erected at Chanderi in northern Madhya Bharat.
These included Kushak Mahal and Jam-i-Masjid. Both these buildings followed the pattern of architecture at Mandu. Commenting on the Malwa architecture, Marshall says that the buildings of Malwa Sultanate, particularly those at Mandu are “truly living and full of purpose, as instinct with creative genius as the models themselves from which they took their inspiration.”
“Part of their distinctiveness,” he continues, “they owe, no doubt, their impressive size and part to the remarkable beauty of their stone works which under the transforming effect of time and weather taken on exquisitely beautiful tints of pink and orange and amethyst, but in a large measure their distinctive character is due to peculiarities of construction and ornament, to the happy proportions of their component parts or to other more subtle refinements that do not readily admit of analysis.”
In Deccan, the Bahmani sultans evolved a peculiar type of architecture which combined elements of Indian, Turkish, Egyptian and Persian architecture. In fact it would not be wrong to say that no provincial style of Muslim architecture in India was less influenced by the surrounding indigenous style than the art of the Bahmani kingdom.
The buildings of Bahmi Sultans are mainly found at Gulbarga, Bidar, and Bijapur. The earliest Muslim buildings were Jam-i-Masjid at Daultabad and two devil mosques near Hyderabad. These buildings were constructed out of material from Hindu buildings or conversion of Jain temples.
In Gulbarga, the Jam-i-Masjid was built in a purely Islamic style. It is a rare example of mosque with no open courtyard. As the whole of its areas has been covered with roof light only comes through its sidewalls pierced through the arches.
The mosque has stilted domes and narrows entrances typical of Persian style but otherwise belonging more to Delhi than to Persia. Broadly speaking, two types of architecture are found in Gulbarga, the tombs of Ala-ud-DlQ Hasan Bahmani, Muhammad Shall II etc. and Haft Gumbad (Seven domes) containing the tombs of Mujahid Shah, Daud Shah,. Prince Sanjar, Ghiasuddin and his family.
In Daultabad the Yadava, the Tughlaq and the Bahmani architecture were combined. For example, in the Chand Minar, the Persian styles were adopted. The Madrasa of Gawan is another example of the Persian style.
It has three storeys with towering minarets at its two front corners. It is 200 feet by 180 feet and with airy and well lighted lecture-rooms, a library, quarters for Professors and students, and a mosque. The facade is inlaid with coloured tiles and decorated with Quranic texts.
On the decline of Bahmani kingdom, new State like Bidar, Golconda, Ahmed Nagar, Brar and Bijapur came into existence. These cities tried to develop the architecture on fresh lines and adopted some of the Hindu features as well .The finest structure of this type is Gol Gumas, the resting place of Muhammad Adil Shah.
Towards the close of the 16th century, Ibrahim Rauza built a large structure including a tomb of the Sultan and a mosque. The tomb with a bulbous dome has an artistic finish with carved decoration-Mihtar Mahal is another small mosque which has an outstanding specimen of the Bahtnni architecture.
Ferguson considers this mosque as superior to any other mosque found in Cairo. The other outstanding buildings at Bijapur are Sat Manzil, a small building decorated with mural paintings; and Gagan Mahal a monument with a notable archway.
At Hyderabad, the Char Minar (Four Minar) a triumphal archway is another striking example of the Deccan architecture. There is certain aesthetical excellence in the design and conception of this building. It is strong without being aggressive, is dignified yet spirited.
A survey of the various schools of the architectures leads us to the conclusion that the Muslim brought the architecture of various countries (Arabs, Persian, Turks, Western and Central Asia, Northern Africa and South-Eastern and South-Western Europe) in touch with the indigenous system of architecture prevailing in various parts of India, and thereby helped in the growth of numerous Indian styles of architecture like the Jaunpur, Bijapur, Gujarat etc. Prof. Sarkar and Datta rightly say, “What we usually call the Mughal art architecture is nothing else but the continued growth of these fresh Indian styles in a somewhat modified setting.”
Will Durant says, “It is true that the ‘Afghan’ dynasty used Hindu artisans, copied Hindu themes and even appropriated the pillars of Hindu temples, for their architectural purposes and that many mosques were merely Hindu temples rebuilt for Muslim prayer; but this natural imitation passed quickly into a style so typically Moorish that one is surprised to find the Taj Mahal in India rather than in Persia, North Africa or Spain.”