An Outline Of Mughal Architecture

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Throughout its history, Mughal architecture blended local Islamic and Hindu building traditions with those of Central Asia and Iran and is known as Indo-Islamic architecture.

The Mughal dynasty of India was founded by Emperor Babur (1526-1531), who was a descendant of Timur and Chingiz Khan. The Mughal emperors moved between their imperial capitals of Delhi, Lahore, and Agra, where they constructed a variety of building types including palaces, gardens, mosques, forts and whole urban schemes in addition to celebrated mausoleums. In fact, the remarkable flowering of art and architecture under the Mughals is due to several factors including:

1. The Mughal Emperors were unusual and strong patrons of art and architecture.

2. All Mughal dynasties generally enjoyed a prosperous periods and enjoyed unparalleled wealth in the history of Indian.

3. Consequently, artists and architects enjoyed a secured and comfortable environment within which they generated their artistic ideas and creativity.

Throughout its history, Mughal architecture blended local Islamic and Hindu building traditions with those of Central Asia and Iran and is known as Indo-Islamic architecture. However, to better understand the development of Mughal architecture, we should define and differentiate between the influences that helped the flourishing of this architecture.

Hindu architecture influences:

1. Stone construction.

2. Shallow arches made out of corbels.

3. Ornamented carved piers and columns.

4. The chhatris (a domed kiosk resting on pillars).

5. The chajjas (a projecting balcony supported on corbels).

6. Ornamented stone screen.

Persian architecture influences:

1. Extensive use of tile-work.

2. The iwan as a central feature in mosques.

3. The charbagh or garden, divided into four parts.

4. The use of domes.

5. The grand arcaded portal (pishtaq)

The first representative building in Mughal architecture was Babur mosque at Panipat (1528), which was built to celebrate Babur’s victory over Ibrahim Lodi. The mosque is partially demolished and only a stone gateway in the north wall of the courtyard of the mosque survives.

Babur Mosque, Panipat, India, 1527-1528

After Babur’s death, his son Humayan ascended the throne and ruled India from 1531 to 1556. During Humayan rule, Mughal architecture was successfully established and flourished in India. The tomb of Humayan, at Delhi (1562-1571), built by his son Akbar, represents an outstanding landmark in the development and refinement of the Mughal architectural style. This tomb featured elements of Timurid architecture as well as architectural vocabulary from the regional tradition.

Tomb of the Emperor Humayun, Delhi, (1562-1571)

Emperor Akbar, Humayan's son ruled India after the death of his father between 1556 and 605. During his reign, Mughal Architecture flourished and developed to a large extent, and exhibited a synthesis of Persian and Hindu architectural features. One of the most distinctive examples of his architecture was the establishment of a new city at Fatehpur Sikiri in the late 16th century. It was an expressive compound, which best illustrated the significance of the Indo-Islamic architecture.

Fatehpur Sikiri in the late 16th century

Between 1605 and 1627, Jahangir, Akbar’s son, ruled the Mughal Dynasty. In his time, some Hindu features began to disappear from the style. One of the most wonderful examples of his work is the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, which was completed in 1628 and built entirely of white marble and covered by mosaic (Persian feature), instead of red sandstone (Indian feature).

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, Agra

The Emperor Shah Jahan, Jahangir's son, ascended the throne after his father’s death and ruled India between 1627 and 1658. During his reign, architecture was characterized by its monumental scale. The most important architectural change was the use of marble instead of sandstone. Shah Jahan’s magnificent architectural achievements are represented by two important buildings; the Taj Mahal (1630-1653), and the Jami Masjid (1648).

The tomb of Taj Mahal, built between 1630 and 1653) in Agra, is the most renowned building in India as well as one of the wonders of world architecture. It is characterized by the extensive use of precious and semiprecious stones as inlay and the huge quantity of white marble, as well as the emphasis on symmetry in both plan and elevation.

The Taj Mahal (1630-1653), Agra, India

Similarly, the Jami Masjid is considered as the most beautiful and imposing building in India. It exhibited many of the Mughal architecture features such as the white marble and the pointed domes and the incorporation of Hindu architectural features such as the ogee arch, the use of red sandstone and the use of projecting eaves on minarets and pavilions.

Jami Mosque façade, 1648

Unfortunately, Shah Jahan's excessive architectural projects led the country into heavy taxes and this was what his son Aurangzeb inherited from him. During his reign, which extended from 1658 to 1707, opportunities for monumental architectural projects were very limited. Although the hardship of his time, Aurangzeb built the Badshahi Masjid (Royal Mosque) in (1674), which is considered as one of Lahore's best known landmarks. The design of

Badshahi Masjid was inspired from Jahan’s Jami Masjid and was also built by similar building materials such as red sandstone decorated with white marble. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire rapidly declined under a rapid succession of short-lived and feeble rulers.

The Badshahi Masjid, Lahore, 1674

The preceding discussion revealed many of the characteristics of the local Hindu architectural features as well as defined the imported Persian architectural vocabulary. Both features formed the characteristics of Mughal architecture.

 Characteristic of Mughal architecture:

1. Overhanging balcony used in Indian architecture, typically Mughal architecture and Hindu architecture.

Residential blocks

2. Dome shaped pavilions (canopy) used as an element in Indian architecture. They are basic element of Hindu as well as Mughal architecture. It may consist of a simple structure of one dome raised by four pillars to a building containing many domes.

Cenotaph of Scindia Rulers at Shivpuri,India

3. Slightly pointed domes & Projecting eaves

Slightly pointed domes rather than hemispherical ones and projecting eaves usually supported on large carved brackets, as used in Indian architecture to provide shade. It is also s reflection to the influence of Persian architecture.

The tomb of Salim Chishti, Fatehpur Sikri, India.

4. Perforated stone screen, usually with a geometrical and floral ornamental pattern, as used in Islamic architecture and particularly in Indian architecture.

Perforated stone screen, Sidi Saiyyed mosque, Ahmedabad, India

5. Persian-style garden layout, the quadrilateral garden is divided by walkways into four smaller parts. In Persian, "Ch?r" means 'four' and "b?gh" means 'garden'. The Chahrbagh in Isfahan built by Shah Abbas the Great in (1596) along with the garden of the Taj Mahal are the most famous examples of this style.

Pavilion in Shalimar Garden, Lahore, Pakistan

6. Bilateral symmetry

Akbar's Tomb, 1605-1612, Sikandra

7. Red sandstone with white marble inlay and later, pure white marble surfaces were more favorable.

Jehangir Tomb, 17th century, Lahore, Pakistan

8. The Ogee Arch.

Ogee Arch, Friday Mosque of Old Delhi, 17th century, Delhi, India.



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