In this article we will discuss about the contribution of Ala-ud-Din Khilji towards architecture during the medieval age.
The reign of Alla-ud-Din Khilji marked a new phase in the history of medieval architect. His architectural design was an improvement upon that followed by the previous Sultans. Even his successors (the Tughlaqs) could not produce as magnificent structures as were raised by Ala-ud-Din.
Most of these monuments were built in the Arabian style of architecture. Ala ud-Din was an ambitious builder and started the construction of a huge Minar near the Qutab Minar. However, he could not implement this project due to his death. However, he succeeded in completing Alai-Darwaza which is one of the most treasured gems of Islamic architecture.
This building consists of square hall covered by dome, which arched doorways on each of its four sides. The building was built with red- stone, while its surface was made of white marble. It contained calligraphic inscriptions and decorative patterns. According to Prof. Srivastava, The planning, design and execution together with its artistic decoration make the Alai Darwaza a splendid monument.
This darwaza was only a part of Ala-ud-Din’s ambitious architectural project, which, if completed, would have been one of the grandest architectural achievements of the Muslim rule in India In 1296 A. D. Ala-ud-Din built a Hauz-i-Khas or Hauz i-lllahi, a tank covering in area of nearly 70 acres. It had stone and masonry wall around it and provided water to the city during the year.
Another important construction of Ala-ud-Din Khilji was Siri (the second of the 7 cities of Delhi). This city was situated in the north of Qutab and its construction was started in 1303 A.D. The most outstanding feature of this city was the palace of Thousand pillars. This city was built mainly with a view to protect the overgrowing population of the suburbs.
The city was destroyed by Sher Shah in 1548 and is now in complete ruins. “But even these few remnants, with their round and tapering bastions, their lines of loopholes, their flame-shaped battlements inscribed with the Kalian and their inner beams supported on an arched gallery, give and idea of the grand architecture of this Khilji monarch.”
Another important building of Ala-ud-Din was the famous mosque Jamait Khanm built within the enclosure of Nizam-ud-Din Aulia’s shrine.
This has been described by Marshall, “as the earliest example of a mosque in India built wholly in conformity with Islamic ideas and with material specially quarried for the purpose. Built of red sand-stone, it has three compartments adjoining one another, the middle one being square and the side ones oblong in shape, each approached through a broad arched entrance in the falcade.”
Prof. K.S. Lal also says that, “the mosque was constructed wholly in accordance with Islamic ideas, and with materials specially quarried for this purpose.” He further says that, “the inscriptions are excellently done, and are described by Mr. Beglar as the most beautiful in Delhi.”
In the words of Prof. Srivastava, “Alai Darwaza and Jamait Khana mosque are basically built after the same pattern, and show a preponderance of Muslim architectural ideas.” Ala-ud-Din also made extension of the Quwwat-ul-Islam and almost doubled its size.
According to Hermann Goetz, “The Mamluk and Khilji Sultans of Delhi built cubic buildings with painted arches “and squat domes in red sandstone. They decorated with complicated arabesques and reliefs and later with painted scalloped arches and walls overlaid with coloured stone and marble.”
Dr. Ishwari Prasad says, “It may be safely asserted that with the growth of Muslim culture, the art began to modify itself to suit the taste of its new patrons, and although the Hindu craftsmen may not have borrowed largely from foreign countries of Western Asia, they freely accepted the decorative suggestions, and allowed the Arabian calligraphist to follow his own rules of ornamentation”.
He further says, “From the cultural point of view it may be said that Islam gave a new impulse to Indian art. The architects whom the Muslims employed in their service expressed in stone and mortar spirit of the age and incidentally and unconsciously revealed in their creation the new ideals, which were a curious blending of the gorgeous splendour, romance, and poetry of Hinduism with the simplicity, rigidity and the puritanical spirit of Islam.”