Mughal Art and Architecture
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Mughal Art & Architecture

Mughal Architecture in IndiaMughal Art & Architecture in India
Mughal art and architecture refers to the Indo-Islamic-Persian style that flourished during the reign of the Mughals who ruled between 1526 and 1857. Prior to the Mughal dynasty which started with Babur, the Delhi Sultanate (1192 to 1398 AD) laid down the foundation of Mughal art in India. The Qutab Minar started by Qutab-ud-din-Aibak in 1193 remains a prominent feature of Delhi's skyline.

The earliest Islamic monuments in India were often built from Jain and Hindu monuments which were plundered and destroyed by the Muslim invaders. The Adhai-Din-Ka Jhompra of Ajmer and the Qutab Minar, both dating back to the 12th century were built over the ruins of a Jain monastery/temple. The former was a centre of Sanskrit learning patronized by the Chauhan dynasty.

The Mughal influence was felt in Bengal too, where the Sultans built several mosques in around the old capitals of Pandua and Gaur during the 14th and 15th century. The Adina Mosque of Pandua and the Eklahi mosque were also built on the vandalized remains of Hindu temples, apparent from the intricate carvings on their structures. The art work on the Adina Mosque shares a striking similarity with the Kakatiya ruins of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh.

In the central Gangetic Plain, the Sharqis who ruled from Jaunpur during the 14th and 15th century patronized the construction of mosques with fine jaali work which influenced the monuments built by Sher Shah Suri. In Gujarat too, the mosques rested on fine intricate carvings of ancient Jain and Hindu temples, evident from the display of Hindu motifs like the Chakra, the Kalpa-Lata or Kalpa-Vriksha, the Purna Kalash, the lotus symbol, and the lamp of knowledge on their mosques.

Samples of Mughal architecture have been found in Chanderi, Hissar and Hansi as well.

Mughal painting has its origins in Humayun's court in Kabul, where 1400 illustrations on the Amir Hamza were expressed on canvas. As for monuments, it was Akbar who initiated their construction on Indian soil, with a mausoleum in honour of his father Humayun in the 1560's. Built under the guidance of Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, this magnificent structure with an elaborate layout of octagonal chambers flanked by cupolas, kiosks and minarets amidst rectangular shaped lawns remains a landmark monument in Delhi.

As Akbar consolidated his empire, he started the construction of his capital at Agra around the same time. Red sandstone has been used exhaustively in the buildings, with white marble for the inlay work on the exteriors. The interiors were lavishly adorned with paintings.

In 1573, when Akbar was blessed with a son, he turned his attention to building a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri in typical Mughal style to honour Sheikh Salim of the Chisti order. However, Fatehpur Sikri's glory was short lived, and by 1585 the capital returned to Agra.

During Akbar's reign, local painters were trained by Persian artists. Gradually, the Indian influence permeated the Persian art form, and artists like Basawan, Lal and Daswanth achieved fame in Akbar's court as skilled painters.

During Jahangir's reign between 1605 and 1627, live events from the Emperor's life became the subject of paintings for Mansur and Manohar, famous painters during his reign. His rule saw the transition from sandstone to marble in the construction of the few monuments that he had built.

Mughal art reached its nadir during the reign of Shah Jahan, who is known for his passion for architecture. He almost re-built the Agra Fort, adding marble to the existing sandstone structure, and went on to build his new capital in Shahjahanabad or the Red Fort, the Pearl Mosque and the Taj Mahal among numerous other monuments. Lapidary and fine pietra dura were new trends set by Shah Jahan.

Mughal art died a natural death during the reign of Aurangzeb and apart from the Pearl Mosque built in 1659; there was no patronage to any art form. However, the practitioners if this art found employment in the courts of the Rajput kings, and Mughal architecture left its mark there.

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