Front facing view of Fatehpur Sikri mid day with blue skies in background

An Overview of Prominent Architectural Monuments From the Mughal Era

Introduction

From the 16th to 18th centuries, the Mughals already had a large impact on India. One such impact still remains in the architecture during that era in the Indian, the distinctive Indo-Islamic style. The northern and central parts of India still reflect the beauty of that reign, which was very systematically a combination of Persian, Turkish, and Indian architectural styles. The articulation of such styles can still be felt in a few places in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan also.

The Mughal Empire was founded after the conquest of Panipat by Babur in 1526. During the five years of his reign, Babur was very interested in building architecture, but very few survived. His grandson Akbar well-crafted this further,and the beautiful style developed more during his reign. His achievements include Fort Agra, the fortress city of Fatehpur Sikri and Buland Darwaza. Even the few successors after them have contributed a lot. We will see further about each of them.

The finest memoirs from the period were completed during the reign of Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Lahore Shalimar Park and renovated the fort of Lahore. The last great Mughal architect was Auranzeb. He built the Badshahi Mosque, Bibi ka Macbara, Moti Masjid and others. The art of Mughal inlays is a symbol of Mughal architecture in India,and the art of inlays was a tool of power during the great Mughal dynasty.

Agra depicts all these memoirs being built at the same place, of its historical importance from the 16th to the 17th centuries, as it was done under Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627) and Shah Jahan (1628-1658).

Let’s talk about what makes these Persian-Islamic-styled monuments so different.

What special features lie behind it?

Mausoleum of Shah Ali Akbar-Historical shrine of Multan, Pakistan.
Credit: Researchgate.net
  • Use of fragile decorative-ornamental work, including  jali-latticed screens(term for perforated stone) and pachin kari( a form of stonework)
  • Monumental buildings surrounded by gardens on all sides
  • Large courtyard-styled monuments.
  • Verses from the Quran are inscribed in Persian and Arabic languages on monuments.
  • Large gateways paved the way to the main building.
  • Two or four sides- Iwans.
  • Decorative chhatris to glorify beauty.
  • Use red sandstone and white marble.
  • Surrounded by four smaller domes is a large bulbous, sometimes.

Even later Indian architectural styles under the Britishers,Rajputs and the Sikhs have been largely influenced by the Mughals.

Lets talk about how the Mughal Rulers were such admirers of Architecture in different ways

Babur’s Architecture

Although,not much has been developed in terms of Monumental Architecture during Babur’s reign.Fact also remains that while he was much impressed by the Indian artisans and stone-cutters;he had built very few compared to his successors. But he built beautiful gardens during his era,too.

Akbar’s Architecture

Indo-Islamic Architecture is better crafted through Akbar’s style. His successors even contributed by adding their texture. Few fine examples are –

  1. Humayun’s Tomb
  2. The Allahabad Fort
  3. The Lahore Fort
  4. Fatehpur Sikhri
  5. Akabr’s Tomb

History of the style

It can be rightly said that Akbar was the founder of the Mughal Architect in India. Although he could not read or write, heshowed a keen interest in literature and art. India as a homeland, combined with the pride and curiosity of the Timurid ancestors and the desire to accept and love India as it is, was the beginning of philosophy and religious civilization during his era.The origin of his styles included combinations from the Hindu,Jain,Buddhist,Timurid and Persian kingdoms.Even the famous “nine gems” in Akbar’s courts, described those designers and architects as beyond skilled and scientifically driven.

Indigenous Styles

  • The modern styles in this country were brought from Persia, initially.
  • The extravagant use of red sandstone seeks to reduce the mix of styles due to the amalgamation of these different elements.
  • All of these rightly express his craft and philosophy. This system is “Akbari” style.
  • Grandeur getaways, good use of every pretty corner, beautiful works by Jali (beautiful stone screens with perforated holes),beautiful French design, charbagh garden (very close to the main building) Garden structure) normal.
  • The use of chhatri (the shape of a small rotten dome supported by pillars) and a curtain of airspace reflects the influence of the area in most of his forts.These are also found in Agra and Akbar Fortress in Fatehpur Sikhri.
  • Like every other administrative and political event of the Akbar kingdom, it is inspired by the architecture of Sher Shah Suri. Suri also continued the beautiful architecture in the older Lodi style.

Lets take a few insights into the Monuments-

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi, India

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi, India
Credit: Ajay Sood (Travelure)
  • The first garden tomb of the Mughal Emperors at that time was the Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi,India.
  • Built in the years 1569-1570, the designer behind this magnificent piece was Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid.
  • It was reported under the guidance of Humayun’s first wife and chief, Empress Bega Begum.
  • Red sandstone was used in large numbers for this craft.
  • In 1993, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The complex is above the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, and also the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and also Dara Shikoh, the son of the later Emperor Shah Jahan.

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra

Front facing view of Fatehpur Sikri mid day with blue skies in background
Credit: https://www.tajmahal.gov.in/
  • One of Akbar’s greatest architectural glories was in the construction of Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of Agra, and the construction of the Jain pilgrimage.
  • The construction began in 1569 and was finished by 1574.
  • Akbar was already renowned for his secular and religious thoughts that co-existed and his most beautiful buildings depicted that.
  • The royal women of that time lived in the Haramsara.Outside the place,there were enclosures for faithful Rajput guards.
  • Jodha Bai’s Palace was double-storied, leading to quadrangles outbounded by rooms.It is also supposedly the Largest Palace in Fatehpur Sikri.

Akbar Fort

Agra Fort
Credit: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Agra-Fort

Spread over a length of 1.5 miles (2.5 km), this fortress palace is famous for its massive walls. It is faced with dressed stone. Technically, the first designated UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE Site in India was the Agra Fort (1983).

Jahangir’s Architecture

From 1605-1627, Mughal architecture looked more Persian than Indian under the rule of Jahangir. The Persian style is reflected in much of his work at one of his mosques in Lahore and is covered with white tiles.The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, in Agra,in 1628, was built completely of white marbles and with elaborate mosaic decoration,(Using cut and fitted coloured stones,an inlay technique)

Begum Shahi Mosque, Lahore

Begum Shahi Mosque, Lahore
Credit: https://www.stocksy.com/1801339/begum-shahi-mosque-lahore
  • Situated in Lahore, is The Begum Shahi Mosque.
  • Built between 1611 and 1614 during the reign of  Jahangir to honour his mother.
  • A larger Mosque- Wazir Khan Mosque, was later built decades later which was influenced by the Begum Shahi Mosque.

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah
Credit: https://blog.msc-sahc.org/meet-the-baby-taj-mahal-in-agra-the-itmad-ud-daulahs-tomb/
  • Called the “Jewel Box” or the “Bachcha Taj”, it is often crafted like the younger version of the Taj Mahal.
  • Built somewhere between 1622 and 1628, it has both gardens and outbuildings.
  • Marble decorations along with red sandstone were used.
  • Along with the main building, the structure consists of numerous outbuildings and gardens.
  • The wife of Jahangir,Noor Jahan, commissioned the mausoleum.

Shahjahan’s Architecture

The kind of outlook Shahjahan had for the detailing and the elegance; not everyone in the Mughal Empire had it. Moti Masjid, located within the Agra Fort and the Sheesh Mahal in Lahore Fort, are fine examples of marvellous mirror work, where Petra dura was used.Taj Mahal is an evergreen beauty of all times, of course.Red Fort was also built by him , in his then capital- “Delhi”.Spacious sophestication and proper-balanced architecture could be beautifully reflected in all his works.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
Credit: https://www.heritagehotelsofindia.com/blog/mughal-architectures-in-india/

Who doesn’t know of this mesmerising beauty, already?

Sheesha Mahal

Sheesha Mahal
Credit: https://www.tourmyindia.com/states/uttarpradesh/sheesh-mahal-agra.html

Red Fort, New Delhi

Red Fort
Credit: https://ohfact.com/interesting-facts-about-red-fort/
  • Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the building of  Red Fort on 12 May 1638.
  • It happened when he wanted to shift his capital to Delhi;initially it was Agra.
  • It has been a historical place ever since and also because it has served as a historical abode of the emperors of that time.
  • Architect Ustad Ahamd is the man behind the architecture.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru,the first prime minister of India,raised the Indian Flag on 15th August 1947.

Aurangzeb’s Architecture

The sixth Mughal Emperor had reigned the subcontinent for about 49 years.From being well-known for compiling the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri and a capable military leader.He was not as interested in Architecture as his predecessors were, but he had constructed a few well-known Mosques. Even one of the Mosques in present day Kashmir still remains the largest in the city.

Moti Masjid

Moti Masjid
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
  • It is a white-marble mosque located inside Red Fort,Delhi.
  • Built by Aurangzeb,for his second wife, Nawab Bai.
  • It was made at the cost of Rs.1,60,000 during that time.
  • Having two beautiful aisles,three arches and surmounted with domes, the beautiful place also has a white-marbled courtyard and a prayer hall that is little above the courtyard area.
  • The walls of the mosque are perfectly aligned in symmetry.
  • In the initial years,the domes were covered with glide copper, but later they were lost due to some Indian rebellion in the 18th century.

Badsha Mosque

Badshah Mosque
Credit: https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/Badshahi-Mosque-Lahore/td-p/2114268
  • Located in present day Pakistan, Badshahi Mosque is a remarkable landmark built in the year 1671.
  • With red sandstone carved in its exterior a two-storeyed entrance elaborately built, it is the largest mosque of the Mughal Era.
  • This was basically built to celebrate Aurangzeb’s military campaigns in South India against Shivaji.
  • Although later,the Sikhs took control over the place and then the British also seized control; the place still remains of a lot of importance.

Bibi Ka Maqbara

Bibi Ki Maqbara
https://www.tribuneindia.com

Built by Emperor Aurangzeb in Aurangabad,Maharashtra in the late 17th century , Bibi Ka Maqbara is a mausoleum as a tribute to his first wife, Dilras Bano Begum.It is somewhat analogous to Taj Mahal and was designed by Ata-Ullah.

Mughal Gardens

 

Mughal gardens
Credit: https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/

Strongly influenced by the Persian model, especially the Charbagh Structure-the beauty of Mughal Gardens reflects the co-existance of humans and nature,collectively. Not just flowers and plants, but most Mughal Gardens have canals,pools,fountains inside the gardens. Not just India, but Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan-all of them have very beautiful gardens.

Even the Charbagh structure was a term taken by Babur. For instance,the“Aram Bagh of Agra” is supposedly the first one of its type in South Asia. Babur had built gardens in Dholpur and Lahore also. Even Akbar was fond of making gardens;he had made several gardens in Delhi and Agra. The famous Shalimar Bagh was Jahangir’s creation.

Shalimar Baghs

Shalimar Bagh
Credit: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
  • Located in beautiful Jammu and Kashmir and linked to Dal Lake, this place was built by Jahangir for his wife Noor Jahan in 1619.
  • Even till now, this is considered to be the great point of Mughal Horticulture.
  • The layout of this garden is again in its most reformed Persian style and very well-modified to suit all sorts of elevation,resources and changing things.
  • Often referred to as the “Crown of Srinagar”, the detailing can be precisely seen on the three terraces of the garden.

Mughal Bridge

Mughal Bridge
Credit: https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/558400-bridge-of-history-in-peshawar

During the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, Shahi Bridge Jaunpur was constructed.It was completed in the year 1568-1569 by Munim Khan under Afzal Ali,the Chief Architect at that time.

This was a little into the architecturally built places from the lens of the Mughal Emperors. These places are a must visit when in India to experience mesmerising insights into architectural history.

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