In this article we will discuss about the development of Mughal architecture in India during the medieval age.
With the advent of the Mughals, the Indian architecture entered a new phase in which the austerity and simplicity of the early Sultans period was subdued and the Persian influence became predominant. The enormous wealth and power available with the great Mughals enabled them to construct buildings of supreme beauty and lay out extensive pleasure gardens and new cities.
The buildings of the Mughal period unlike those of the Sultanate period bear no manifestation of provincial or regional styles. They possess uniformity in their architectural character. The chief characteristics of the Mughals buildings was the bulbous graceful dome, the cupolas at the corners standing on slender pillars, magnificent palace hall and the lofty vaulted gateway.
The Mughals introduced for the first time the practice of constructing mausoleums in the centre of a large park-like enclosure. There is a lot of controversy amongst scholars and historians regarding the presence of the foreign influence in the Mughal style of architecture.
Ferguson believes that the Mughal style of architecture was purely foreign in origin. However, Havell does not agree with this view and maintains that the art and culture of foreign countries with which India had established relations had, no doubt, influenced the Indian art but inspiration of the Indian craftsmen were not entirely foreign.
In fact, the foreign influence on the architecture continued to differ under different rulers. While Humayua liked Persian style and used it increasingly in his buildings but Akbar modified the Persian ideas to the tradition of Indian craftsmanship. In the architecture of the subsequent years, the Indian character was still more predominant.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad has rightly said, “The Mughal style, which was an amalgamation of many influences, was more sumptuous and decorative than the style that preceded it, and its delicacy and ornamentation furnish a striking contrast to the massiveness and simplicity of the art of pre-Mughal days”. Dr. S.M. Jaffar also accepts the manifold influence on the Mughal architecture.
He says, “The style of their architecture, so wide and varied was a medley of many influences— combining in itself all that was good in other styles from their point of view. It was more sumptuous and decorative than the styles that preceded it, and its delicacy and ornamentation furnish a striking contrast to the massiveness and simplicity of the art of Mughal days.”
Prof. Kalikinkar Datta says, “The Mughal period was not entirely an age of innovation and renaissance, but of a continuation and culmination of processes that had their beginnings in the later Turki-Afghan period. In fact, the art and architecture of the period after 1526 A.D., as also of the preceding period, represent a happy mingling of Muslim and Hindu art traditions and elements.”
Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India spent most of his time in India in military campaigns and as such could not pay much attention to the construction of buildings. But he was a man of critical taste. He had not appreciation for the buildings constructed by Afghan and Turkish rulers nor did he appreciate the irregular haphazard buildings of the Hindus. Despite his critical taste, the buildings constructed during his time lack any distinctive architectural character.
Although most of the monuments built during his time have since perished but at-least two buildings which have survived and deserve our attention are Jam-i-Masjid in the village of Pilkhana to the east of Aligarh and Supurd-gah at Agra. Pilkhana mosque was built in the style of Quwwalu’l-Islam mosque at Delhi, although it is much smaller in size.
The mosque has straight pillars of the Hindu Style. According to Prof. Sherwani “Probably these pillars belonged to the pre-Mughal period, though the entrance to the mosque is a Mughal innovation, and the domes of a much later period.” Another structure of Babur is Supurd-gah at Agra. This is the place where his mortal remain were temporarily interned and subsequently transplanted to his permanent grave near Kabul.
Humayun, the next Mughal ruler had an unsettled life and remained fugitive for most of the time. Consequently, he could not leave any prominent architectural monument- No doubt, he built certain buildings but they were constructed in a hurry and lack quality as well as durability. His Palace at Delhi known as Din Panah was constructed without any proper thought and was destroyed by Sher Shah.
He built two mosques—one at Agra and the other at Fatehabad in Hissar. Both these mosques soon perished and their ruins do not show any originality of design and execution. However, it can be discovered from the ruins that the structures were decorated in Persian style with enameled tiles.
Sher Shah Suri who replaced Humayun also made valuable contribution to the Medieval architecture. He built a mausoleum at Sahasram in Bihar. Though the building is Muhammedan in design but its interior is decorated in Hindu style.
According to the critics, “Sher Shah Suri’s mausoleum constitutes an intermediary between the austerity of the Tughlaq building and the feminine grace of Shah Jahan’s masterpiece.” Another building constructed by Sher Shah was Purana Qila at Delhi.
He built this building after razing to ground the Palace of Hamayun (Din Pariah). The Purana Qila is a more refined and artistically ornate type of edifice than had prevailed for some time. Inside Purana Qila Sher Shah built a mosque Qila i-Kuhna which ranks very high amongst the Muslim buildings of Northern India. It reflects Persian influence in its recessed portal, small minarets round the dome and in its fine masonry, though in other respects it is Indian. Thus in the times of Sher Shah Suri an effort was made to blend the Hindu and Muslim architecture ideas which set the pattern for Akbar the Great.
Architecture under Akbar:
The law and order prevailing in the country during the time of Akbar and the policy of toleration adopted by him in the religious affairs had its impact in the field of architecture. As V. A. Smith has said, “Each architect was at liberty to adopt any style that he fancied, the edifices erected consequently included examples purely Muhammedan in conception, others purely Hindu, and a great number executed in different varieties of an eclectic style—sometimes designated as Hindu-Muhammedan, which combined the characteristic features of Muhammedan architecture, the dome and pointed arch, with the equally characteristic Hindu horizontal construction and many peculiarities of Indian decoration.”
One of the earliest buildings of the Akbar’s reign was the tomb of Humayun at Delhi built by his widow, Haji Begum in 1569 A. D. The tomb initiate a new departure in the Indian architecture and was designed on the model of the tombs of Timur and Khanm at Samar-Kand.
It had a double dome with slightly swelling outlines, standing on a high neck. Writing about the architectural design of this building, Dr. Ishwari Prasad says, It is more Persian than Indian in design and its principal novelty consists in its four towers at the four angles of the main building and the narrow necked dome- features which reached their high water mark during Shah Jahan’s reign.
It is different from the Persian style in that it has no coloured tiles, and marble has been freely used in it. The art of stone inlay in this building indicates a type of decoration which found its fullest development in the reign of Shah Jahan.
Another outstanding feature of Humayun’s tomb was the large geometrical garden which surrounded the mausoleum and was enclosed by a high wall. This garden is divided into four main parterres by broad causeways provided with narrow water channels, and is subdivided into small plots.
Each fall of the level is indicated by a water-chute. This arrangement, according to Prof. Sherwani may be said to be an ancestor of the Shalimar gardens at Lahore and Srinagar, as well as of the ornamental gardens of Akbar’s tomb, of the gardens within the Agra Fort, and finally of the broad marbled garden adorning the Taj.
Another outstanding building of contemporary period (which was not built by Akbar) is the tomb of Muhammad Ghaus, a saint, At Gwalior. The hexagonal tower is attached by an angle to each corner of the building is 100 feet square.
The tomb chamber in single and a square of 43 feet each side having a deep verandah Around it. The exterior is couched in Persian fashion. The dome if of the Pathan style, rather high with sides vertical for some distance. There is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim features in the form of kiosks.
The Agra Fort:
The earliest specimen of Akbar’s new style of architecture is the Red Fort at Agra. This Fort was started in 1565 A.D. under the supervision of Qasim Khan and took 15 years to be completed. It cost thirty five lakhs of rupees in the then current currency.
It is nearly 11 miles in its circuit and the inner walls, entirely made of hewn red sand-stone, are nearly 70 feet high. The second and outer wall which is much shorter in height, is said to have been added during the times of Aurangzeb. It may be noted that the fort was not built according to any regular plan. Originally it had four gates, two of which were subsequently closed.
The main gate on the western side was completed in 1566 A. D. and is popularly known as the Delhi Gate. The other gate is smaller one and is known as Amar Singh Gate. This gate was mainly used for private purposes.
Within the enclosures of the Fort, Akbar built more than 500 buildings of red sand-stone. Most of these beautiful buildings were pulled down by Shah Jahan, who erected white marble structure in their place.
The most important building in the Fort is Jahangir Mahal. This building was either built by the Emperor for the resident of his son, Jahangir or Jahangir started residing there after the death of Akbar. This Palace is a square building measuring 249 feet by 260 feet and surmounted by four large kiosks, one on each of its four corners.
The gate of the Palace is simply designed but in embellished with patrons carried out in white marble in-lay. The Palace is wholly Hindu in design and workmanship. The roofs are flats and the arches have been avoided as far as possible.
Akbari Mahal, is another building which is situated to the south of Jahangir Mahal. Though the building has since been destroyed, its general plan is clear enough. Its design is on the pattern of Jahangir Mahal except that it is a little coarser and bolder in its treatment compared with the finer and more ornate handiwork of the Jahangir Mahal.
The city of Fatehpur Sikri was built on the summit of a hill near Sikri in honour of Shaikh Salim Chishti in 1569 A.D. This city, spread in seven miles, is walled on three sides. As compared to the building of Agra Fort, there is more unity in the architecture of Fatehpur Sikri and it has been described by critics as “an epic poem in red sand-stone”.
This royal city apart from certain religious edifices has number of residential buildings.
The prominent monuments of this city include the Sonhala Mahal or the House of the princess of Amber, the place of Turkish Sultana, the Diwan-i-Khas, Jami Masjid, Buland Darwaza, Ranch Mahal. It is very difficult to give even a cursory description of all the styles of architecture represented in these buildings and we shall deal only with some of typical structures.
Jam-i-Masjid, which is one of the largest mosque in India was modelled on the pattern of mosque at Mecca. This mosque measures 542 feet by 438 feet and has been described as the “glory of Fatehpur”. It was surrounded with large number of small domed cells which accommodated Muslim teachers and their pupils.
Aldous Huxley says, “The building is superb in proportion and details and is certainly one of the finest pieces of interior architecture on a large scale to be seen in upper India.” V. A. Smith has also observed, “The noble gateways of the mosque, perhaps, may be reckoned as being the most purely Muslim in character of Akbar’s buildings designed on a considerable scale.”
The Buland Darwaja, a structure which is 176 feet high from the level of the ground and 134 feet above the raised plinth, dominates the entire city of Fatehpur Sikri. This structure is said to have been erected in 1601 A.D. to commemorate the victory of Akbar in the Deccan.
It is the highest gateway in India and one of the biggest in the world. It has a semi-domed portal in which the gates are set and having pendentives with intersecting arches in the semi-dome. It is built of red sand-stone.
The tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti was built within the quadrangle of the Jami Masjid. This white marble square-domed sepulchral is a mausoleum of the zealous Musalman having Hindu features such as columns and struts of the porch. The tomb has been provided with marble lattices, rich mosaic flooring and pietra dura. The inlay of mother-of-pearl and ebony on the canopy is wonderful and unique work.
The tomb is 16 feet in diameter and is surmounted by a Melon-shaped dome. It has ornamental pillars and pilasters and elaborate struts which support the wide spreading caves. The shafts of the pillars are covered by a zigzag pattern. Obviously these architectural details were borrowed from Hindu temples.
A great historian, V. A. Smith, was surprised to find unmistakable Hindu features in the architecture of the tomb of one of the most zealous Muhammedan saints and was compelled to own that the “whole structure suggests Hindu feeling.”
The house of Birbal, a double storied edifice, was built in 1572 A.D. It combined the best of the features of Hindu and Muslim architecture and is rich in decoration. It has four rooms and two porches on the ground floor while there are only two rooms on the first floor.
The roofs and the tombs are designed on the modified principle of double dome, that is, “an inner and outer shell with an appreciable empty space between.” The building has been greatly appreciated by the art critics on account of the architectural treatment of its exterior.
In no other building of Fatehpur Sikri “has this structural and decorative element been so liberally employed or so elaborately designed and executed as in this relatively small but lavishly devised ministerial abode.”
The Diwam-i Khas, which was meant exclusively for the use of the Emperor, his household and the other servants of the State is a sort of red sand-stone terrace. The building is distinctive in the sense that it looks to be a double storeyed building from outside with a tomb kiosk at each corner but from inside it is single storey with an opening from floor to roof. Percy Brown has appreciated the architectural beauty of this building and said, “From this Central platform stone bridges radiate along each diagonal of the ball to connect with hanging galleries which surround its upper portion. The idea underlying such a curious structural contrivance was that the emperor would’ sit on a throne on the central platform while listening to arguments from the representatives of the different religious communities gathered there, the whole arrangement signifying what has been termed his ‘dominion over the Four Quarters,”
Dowan-i-Am is situated at a very high plinth and is a richly carved structure. It has a single ablong room with Verandah on the front, covered by a slanting roof of red sand-stone and shielded by, beautiful stone screens. Whenever Akbar held his general Darbar, he would sit on a throne in the balcony and address the people gathered in the courtyard.
The other important buildings in Fatehpur Sikri include the building of Jodhabai, the house of Mariam, the Panch Mahal, Turkey Sultans buildings, Hathi pole (the elephant gate), Hiran Minar etc.
According to Prof. Sherwani, “The most prominent feature of Fatehpur Sikri is the profusion of minute carvings, nearly all different to each other, not merely on the pillars but also on dadoes, friezes, plasters, and even the ceilings of certain palaces and other buildings. These contain geometrical patterns, flowers, fruits, leaves and sometimes even figures of birds and animals.”
Prof. E.W. Smith, who has made a full survey of the monumental buildings in Fatehpur Sikri has pointed out that “no two buildings are alike in design, and each presents a totally different study to the other.”
According to Prof. Ferguson, “Taking it together this palace at Fatehpur Sikri is romance in stone, such as few, very few, are to be found anywhere ; and it is a reflex of the mind of the great man who built it more distinct than can easily be obtained from any other source.”
According to Prof. Srivastava, “The great buildings of Fatehpur Sikri, including its palaces, assembly halls and public offices, its schools, hospitals, baths and water works, its spacious caravanserais for travellers, its Jama Masjid, most of which are extent even to-day, constitute the most notable building achievement of the Mughal age, next only to that of the Taj Mahal, and bear witness to Akbar’s unquestionable capacity as a great builder and as a great organizer and ruler of men.”
These buildings are built mainly of red sand-stone with insertions of white marble for purposes of decoration and emphasis. All the secular structures in the city are of the trabeate order and the application of arch is “mainly in its capacity as decorative arcading.” Monious blending of the actuate and trabeate styles in which the latter style preponderates but without destroying in any way the pleasing effect of the blending of the foreign with the indigenous architectural forms. The domes are Indianised, and the ornamentation, whether carved or inlaid, breaks new ground. This style of architecture visualizes in stone Akbar’s policy of uniting and fusing the diverse elements in India’s age long culture.”
V.A. Smith also holds that, “nothing like Fatehpur Sikri ever was created before or can be created again. It is a “romance in stone—the petrification of a passing mood in Akbar’s strange nature begun and finished at lightning speed while that mood lasted, inconceivable and impossible at any other time or in other circumstances. The world may well feel grateful to the despot who was capable of committing such an inspired folly.”
In addition to the above buildings Akbar also constructed certain other forts, palaces and shrines. The most important forts built by Akbar include the forts at Lahore, Allahabad and Attock. He constructed a number of mosques which include one constructed in the premises of the Khwaja’s shrine at Ajmer, a mosque at Merta and Ambar.
At Batala, Akbar built a large mausoleum on the tomb of Shamsher Khan, his army general. This tomb popularly known as Hajira, is one of the beautiful Mughal style structures. The entry into the building is so small that a visitor has to pass through the door in a manner to make him bow before the grave and one cannot pass through it while standing erect.
Architecture under Jahangir:
Jahangir had more interest in painting and gardening than in architecture. Hence his contributions to the Mughal architecture are limited. No doubt, he built a number of buildings but from the architectural point of view they were much poorer than the buildings of Akbar. However, some of the structures built during his time deserve special mention.
The first great architectural achievement of Jahangir is the construction of Akbar’s mausoleum at Sikandra about three miles from Agra. This building took 14 years to be completed. The principal gateway on the south is a structure in the form of rectangle built of red sand-stone.
It is 74 feet high and has four minarets of white marble. The gate is profusely decorated with white marble and its calligraphic ornamentation deserve special note.
The mausoleum proper is five storeyed building erected on a 30 feet high arcaded platform of marble. It is a pyramidal structure with no dome on its roof but with a small kiosk at each corner. The storeys above the ground become smaller and smaller diminishing in size as the tomb ascends higher.
The lowest storey is well-built and masculine, while the storey at the top is smaller in size and famine. The jails used in this building have intricate geometrical design intertwined with the Hindu swastika.
According to Prof. Sherwani, “The marks of three cultures, Muslim, Hindu and Christian, form a part of the Emperor’s mausoleum in conformity with his own ideal of a composite Indian culture with the elements of all the cultures existing in his vast empire.”
As Jahangir spent most of his time at Lahore, he extended the Palace at Lahore Fort considerably. He built a new city of Shahdara near Lahore around his mausoleum. In the fort he also constructed Moti Masjid which was mainly meant for the ladies of the Harem.
This building is chaste, simple and majestic with finely swelling domes of marble. It has a court-yard of 50 feet by 33 feet foe worship and the entire floor is made of white marble.
But the most notable building of Jahangir’s time was the tomb of Itimadu’d Daulah built by Nur Jahan as a tribute to her father. This building marked a transition between the red sandstone cum marble constructions of Akbar and Jahangir, and the pure marble creations of Shah Jahan.
According to Prof. Sherwani, this building became the forerunner of the Taj. It has opened up new vistas for the assimilation of different styles into one system.
It is a comparatively small mausoleum built on a modest platform just 76 feet square. But it has certain striking characteristics of its own. In the words of Sherwani, “Its broad minaret-like low towers on the four corners crowned with Hindu capitals, blazoned with pictradura an overflow of pierced marble jalis, Persian arched openings and alcoves, some real and some simulated, a three-arched vaulted roof with three kalastae on the top and a broad chkatri with two kalasat, all these at once make the mausoleum a milestone (A the development of Mughal art.”
Although V. A. Smith does not consider this work as a striking piece of architecture but even he admits that it possesses a rare beauty.
According to Percy Brown, “There is no other building like it in the entire range of Mughal architecture, the delicacy of treatment, and the chaste quantity of its decoration placing it in a class by itself whether regarded as an architectural composition of matchless refinement, as an example of applied art displaying rare craftsmanship, or as an artistic symbol of passionate filial devotion, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula expresses in every part of it, the high aesthetic ideals that prevailed among the Mughals at the time.”
Another monument which, according to Muhammad Latif, ranks only next to Taj and Qutab is the mausoleum of Jahangir at Lahore. The mausoleum is built on a square platform of a reddish freestone, it has a spacious entrance through a handsome gateway of marble and enamel.
The whole structure is surrounded with corridors, and rooms for the use of visitors. The corridors are decorated with profuse marble ornaments. Opposite to this mausoleum there is another mausoleum of Asaf Jah, the brother of Nur Jahan. This monument is built of brick in the form of octagon supporting a bulb dome of the same material.
Architecture under Shah Jahan:
During the time of Shah Jahair a perfect assimilation of the Hindu and Muslim architecture took place. He made use of Makrana marble in the construction of buildings. That is why Percy Brown calls the reign of Shah jahan as “a reign of marble”.
The real distinct of feature of the architecture of the Shah Jahan’s reign is not the use of the marble but the innovation made by him and the details introduced by him. The innovation, according to Sherwani, “In the technique of the pietra dura in some of the finest inlay work in the world, the well-proportioned minarets which he boldly placed in four corners of the platform of the Taj instead of the entrance to the garden as in Akbar tomb or on both sides of the facade as in the case of some of the mosques in Gujarat, the nine-pointed cusped arch instead of the five-pointed, bulbous domes of the finest outline, profuse use of chhatris, base with correct proportion of lotus leaves, pillars with tapering shafts and various other media which make Shah Jahan’s art not merely resplendent but also distinctive.
Dunbar says, “He (Shah Jahan) gave his country its finest examples of the lndo-Persian style of architecture in the tomb of Jahangir at Shahdara, the Jama Masjid at Delhi, the Pearl mosque at Agra and there on the bank of the Jamuna, the most beautiful memorial ever raised to a woman, the Taj Mahal. It has been supposed that the Taj was, in part at least, the work of French or Italian experts. But there is sufficiently good evidence that in conception of design and in its building, the credit for the emperor’s superb tribute to his queen Mumtaz Mahal, is entirely Eastern.”
Shah Jahan built a new city of Shah Jahanabad near Delhi in 1638 A.D. this city was built in accordance with detailed plan. The most outstanding feature of this city was the Red Fort, containing fifty palaces. However, only 20 of these palaces have survived. This Fort was modelled on the pattern of the Agra Fort and had three gateways.
While the main gate was used for ceremonial purposes, the other two were meant for private use. The Fort has a private and a public Darbar Hall, in addition to private enclosures for residential purposes of the royal family. The most notable palace built in the Fort include Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and Rang Mahal all built in the same style.
Another monument built by Shah Jahan at Delhi was the Jama Masjid. Its foundation was laid in 1644 A.D. and it took fourteen years to be completed. This mosque was meant for the ceremonial attendance of Shah Jahan and his courtiers.
According to Ferguson, “It is one of the few mosques, either in India or elsewhere, that is designed to produce a pleasing effect externally. It is raised on a lofty basement and its three gateways, combined with the four angle towers and the frontispiece and domes of the mosque, itself, make up a design where all the parts are pleasingly subordinate to one another, but at the same time produce a whole of great variety and elegance.”
Dr. Ishwari Prasad also says that although Jama Masjid has “none of the magnificence or rich ornamentation usually associated with the gorgeous building of Shah Jahan. Nevertheless the perfection of proportions and the harmony of constructive designs make it one of the purest and most elegant building of its class to be found anywhere.”
Another mosque of distinction built by Shah Jahan was Moti Masjid at Agra. This mosque was built by Shah Jahan in honour of his daughter Jahanara. It measures 243 feet by 187 feet with three bulbous domes of Central Asian design.
It has been described as the loveliest house of prayer in the world. The critics have found in it the Mughal style on the height of glory on account of flawless quality of the material and the modulated disposition of its elements with skill. It appears like a pearl when looked at within, with its white marble veined in blue, grey and white.
In the words of Percy Brown, ”Few religious edifices convey to the beholder a finer sense of purity than this Chapel Royal, which, both on account of the flawless quality of its material, and skillfully modulated disposition of its elements, represents the Mughal style at its zenith. The subordination and contrast of entrance archways to the arcading of the sanctuary, the proportions and arrangement of the kiosks surmounting the cornices, and notably, the subtle raising of the drum of the centre dome in relation to those of either side, are only a few of the aspects of this structure which show in a more emphatic manner that the principles of balance and rhythm were, by this time, thoroughly appreciated by the Mughal builders.”
Shah Jahan built certain buildings at Lahore which are another examples of the Mughal architecture. These include Wazir Khan mosque, tombs of Ali Mardan Khan, Sharafunissa and Nur Jahan. The Masjid of Wazir Khan according to Muhammad Latif, “This is chief ornament of the city of Lahore.” It is an architectural monument of surpassing beauty and elegance. It is entirely covered with arabesque painting and lacquered tiles, and the inlaid pottery decorations and paneling of the walls are as vivid and growing, as bright perfect as ever.”
This mosque is built in Perso Mughal style on a platform. It has five compartments, each having a dome, and an opening upon a court-yard. At each corner of the quadrangle a minaret of great height have been provided.
Shah Jahan also built Sheesh Mahal in the Fort of Lahore to which additions were also made by Aurangzeb subsequently. This building is elaborately decorated with sparkling mosaics of glass, or small convex mirrors of different colours, set in arabesque pattern of white cement, presenting a most brilliant and gorgeous spectacle.
The most outstanding monument of Shah Jahan is Taj Mahal at Agra. It was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum of his favorite queen Mumtaz Mahal. It was built at the cost of 55 lakhs rupees and is considered to be the finest flower of Mughal art and most glorious monument of conjugal love, harmony and fidelity in the world.
The main gate of the Taj standing on a platform 211 feet square is three storeyed building. It is built of pure white marble with a great tomb on the centre over the tomb, surrounded by four smaller domes of the chapel in the four corners of the building. Four minarets stand at the angle of the terrace. The whole of the interior is exquisitely decorated with perfectly laid outside.
According to C.E.M. Joad, “The Taj Mahal, which belongs to this period, is one of the many fruits of the happy marriage of India and Islam, the Islamic influence being seen in the exuberant decoration with which this lovely building is enriched.” ‘It may be noted, writes Percy Brown, ‘that while structural portions seem to have been principally in the hands of Muhammedans, the decoration was mainly the work of Hindus craftsmen, the difficult task of preparing the pietra dura, specially being entrusted to a group of the latter from Kanauj.”
The authors of Cambridge History of India also hold that “The building, though mainly Persian in design, contains some features of Hindu architecture and decoration, “the main dome by its shape is plainly of Timurid extraction; its remote ancestor being the Dome of Rock at Jerusalem; on the other hand, the cupolas with their wide caves are of indigenous origin; being derived from the overlapping rings of masonry which formed the vaulted ceiling of the Hindu temple.”
C. Cross Smith says, “Shah Jahan’s most complete expression was the Taj Mahal, which is a living tomb, a living death. Supremely (and thus deceptively) beautiful, the Taj points back to what was, but will never be again, and points forward to what will have to be. Pointing both ways, it moves only in one, however—toward decadence, corruption, and death. In its reference to the past, it looks back over its shoulder, as it were, but never changes its direction which is down. Shah Jahan was such a man.”
Prof. Havell is of the opinion that, “Neither can the elegance, costliness and superfinement of Shah Jahan’s buildings be taken to indicate progress in art. The Taj Mahal, the sacred shrine in which he guarded the passionate Love—Attachment of his early years, stands in a category by itself. Most of his Other buildings show unmistakable signs of an age of decadence of graceful dilettante accomplishments and intellectual flabbiness.”
The features of Shah Jahan’s architecture have been best brought out by Garret and Kohli They say, “Shah Jahan preferred marble to the red sand-stone which was favoured by Akbar and Jahangir. Another remarkable feature namely, a mixture of Hindu-Muslim style which is so prominent in the buildings of Akbar and Jahangir is much less evident in the architectural works of Shah Jahan. Even construction of purely Hindu temples was prohibited by the order of the emperor in 1632 A.D.”
Architecture under Aurangzeb and after him:
Aurangzeb was a puritan, who had no love for art, which according to him was nothing but idolatry and vanity. In fact he paid more attention to the demolition of Hindu temples than to the construction of splendid edifices of his own.
No doubt, he built certain buildings but none of them compares in architectural merit with the monuments erected by Akbar, Jahangir or Shah Jahan. Therefore, it is held by critics that the Indo-Muslim architecture registered a down- ward trend after Shah Jahan’s death. However, it would be desirable to have an idea about the structures built during Aurangzeb’s reign.
The first prominent building of Aurangzeb was Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque built inside the Red Fort of Delhi in 1662 A.D. It is a small mosque with a court-yard of only 40 feet with high compound walls. It was most probably meant for the private use of the Emperor and the ladies of the harem.
It has three ribbed domes with rather elongated kalasai, three cusped arches and two aisles. The whole mosque is built of white and grey marble. This building is said to be the last building raised in Shah Jahan’s tradition.
Another building of note constructed by Aurangzeb is the tomb of his queen Rabia-ud-Durrani at Aurangabad in the Deccan. This building built in 1675 A.D. was built on the pattern of Taj Mahal, but it is far interior in design, workmanship and execution.
However, Prof. A.L. Srivastava says, “Some features of the structure such as the octagonal screens of white marble that enclose the sarcophagus and the designs in base relief display exquisite workmanship. The floral panels on the iron doors whose borders too are beautifully chiselled furnish an example of first-rate ornamentation in metal.”
A number of notable mosques were also built during the times of Aurangzeb. These include Bndshahi mosque at Lahore, a building known for its sound construction and great size. It was built under the supervision of Fidai Khan. This building when compared to the Jami Masjid of Agra is much poorer in architecture. Another mosque was built under the order of Aurangzeb at Banaras. This mosque was raised on the site of the famous Vishwanath temple and had lofty minarets.
Aurangzeb also built a lofty mosque at Mathura on the site of Keshava Deva temple. It is made of red stone and is a gigantic structure. In addition, Aurangzeb built his own tomb at Aurangabad which is a splendid work of architecture. Aurangzeb, according to Will Durant, cared nothing for art, destroyed its “heathen” monuments with coarse bigotry, and fought, through a reign of half century, to eradicate from India almost all religions but his own.”
Muhammad Latif has brought out the features of Mughal architecture thus: “The essential peculiarities of the Mughal architecture of all periods are the overlapping arches, high Persian domes, tall minarets and substantial vaulted roofs. The Minarets, in most cases, tower high above the front arches and the main domes. The domes themselves invariably crown the mass of the building, giving it a boldness and dignity which testify to the genius of the architect, while the elaborate and intricate paneling and painting inside impart to it a rich and most agreeable appearance.”
Prof. J.N. Sarkar has mentioned the following distinctive features of the Mughal architecture:
(i) The pronounced dome like an inverted bell,
(ii) Long slender turrets at the corners,
(iii) Palace hails supported pillars or following the Baradari (12 doors) principle, that is, combining a room and four corridors in one, and
(iv) The distinctly Indo-Saracen gate, which takes the form of a huge semi-dome sunk in the front wall and hearing an admirable proportion to the building, while the actual entrance is a small rectangular opening under this arch.