Indian architecture is heavily influenced by the Mughal Empire. Indo Islamic and Mughal architecture is a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Arabic, Central Asian, and indigenous Indian styles of architecture. The symmetry of the structures and courtyards is a distinctive feature of Mughal architecture.
From the 10th Century and beyond, Islamic culture has had a lasting impact on India. The Mughal Empire is perhaps one of the most famous examples of this cultural exchange. In fact, the Mughals were Persian-speaking Central Asian Turks who came to India from Iran in the 1500s with their sights set on establishing an empire here. They succeeded – for a time – but their legacy permeates every corner of modern-day India.
Unmistakably Islamic in nature, Mughal Architecture can be seen throughout Delhi and its satellites, Agra and its Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, as well as a number of other cities.
Their influence is so great that many Indians today simply refer to all things Islamic as “Mughal” – even though it wasn’t exclusively representative of them.
Graana.com brings you an introduction to Indo-Islamic and Mughal Architecture by covering common features and examples across India.
Introduction to Indo-Islamic Architecture
The Mughal rule in India can be traced to the 16th century, when the Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia established rule in parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Their rule extended over an area of at least 90 million people in today’s India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, making it the largest-ever Muslim empire in history after the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s Arabian caliphate in the 7th century.
The Mughal architecture flourished in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal rule. Mughal Architecture can be described as a fusion of Islamic and Indian architecture.
The Mughals were keen to build architectural edifices, both for their aesthetic value as well as to serve as symbols of the world’s Islamic and Imperial power.
Although Mughal architecture has its roots in Central Asia, it took on a unique form as it was influenced by the specific culture and aesthetic sensibilities of the Indian subcontinent.
The Mughal Empire and its influence on Indian Culture
The Mughal Empire was a Central Asian Turkic dynasty that ruled parts of South Asia from the 16th century to the early 19th century.
The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids who had migrated from Central Asia to Afghanistan and then to the Indian subcontinent. The Mughal Empire controlled areas that are now Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and northern and eastern parts of Indian subcontinent.
As the Mughal Empire grew, various parts of India were influenced by their architectural style.
Not only did the Mughals bring their architectural style, but they also brought their artistic traditions, their progressive approach to architecture, their advanced scientific methods, and their liberal social ethos, which promoted religious tolerance and equal rights for women.
The Mughal architectural style
The Mughals were great patrons of architecture, and the Mughal architecture style was heavily influenced by both Islamic and Indian architecture. The Mughals used the Indo-Islamic architectural style, a combination of Persian and Indian architecture.
The major characteristics of the Indo-Islamic architectural style are the use of Indian architectural elements like the rooftop and the dome, along with the use of designs that are typical of Islamic architecture.
However, the Mughal architectural style also includes features that are unique to the Indian subcontinent and have no equivalents in Persian architecture.
The Mughals were greatly influenced by the Rajput architecture. They used Rajput architecture to construct their forts and palaces.
Common features of Mughal architecture
Mughal architecture is a beautiful amalgamation of Hindu, Persian and Islamic elements.
The major features of the Mughal architectural style are as follows:
Vaulted Embellished Ceilings
The roofs of buildings in Mughal architecture were made of baked bricks and were either domed or pyramidal. They were covered with ornate designs made of terracotta tiles. The buildings with pyramidal roofs had small openings at the top.
The buildings with domed roofs were topped with finials. The walls of Mughal buildings were made of baked bricks. The walls of some buildings were covered by stucco.
Bulbous domes are a common feature in all Mughal architectural marvels. Rows of diminutive cupolas over frontages and gateways can often be seen.
The geometrical and floral elements were superbly executed. The decoration in the early Mughal period is dominated by mosaic patterns made of different colored stones or glazed tiles.
Mughal architecture features expensive ornamentation and embellishments. Red sandstone and white marble were widely employed by the Mughals. Baked brick was used to build domes and arches.
The late Mughal period is renowned for its particular painting styles and the practice of embellished and glittered tiles. Color was used in stucco-medullation and arabesque traceries.
Magnificent Gates and Tall Minarets
Magnificent and ornamented gates can seen during this era. The Tomb of Humayun, Red Fort, Moti Masjid, Tomb of Safdar Jang, Wazir Khan’s Mosque of Lahore and Shalimar Gardens are the principal representations of Mughal architecture with tall minarets and magnificent gates.
The Mughals also used gardens in their architecture. The gardens might be located in the center of a building or around the building. Mughal gardens were influenced by the Persian gardens. They were constructed in a structure called a “char bagh,”.
Char bagh concept was based on the four gardens of Paradise stated in the Qur’an. It has a quadrilateral garden design. Such representation creates a harmonious balance of nature and humanity.
The Mughals ruled India for over three hundred years, but their architectural legacy may be even greater. The Mughals are credited with bringing Persian and Indian architecture together in new ways, combining them to create a whole new style.
It is for this reason that the Mughal era is sometimes referred to as the “golden age” of Indian architecture. Indo-Saracenic and the Rajput style were also later influenced by Mughal architecture. Now that you understand the basics of Mughal architecture, you can begin to appreciate this unique style and understand why it is so important to architectural history.