Mughal Empire:Contribution in Arts and Architecture

After the victory of Babur in the war of Panipat in 1526, the Mughal dynasty was established. The rule of Mughal Dynasty from the 16th to 18th century extensively displays art forms, architectural styles that developed vigorously around that time.
Created On: Oct 21, 2015 17:17 IST
Modified On: May 24, 2016 15:44 IST

After the victory of Babur in the war of Panipat in 1526, the Mughal dynasty was established. As noteworthy as their rule and might in the Indian Subcontinent the interest of the rulers in developing the art, culture and architecture is also remarkable. The rule of Mughal Dynasty from the 16th to 18th century extensively displays art forms, architectural styles that developed vigorously around that time, portraying the amalgamation of styles of the Islamic world and India. The pattern and structures is subject of study till date. Some examples of these styles can be found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Fort Building

Under the patronage of Mughal emperors, the architecture of forts and tombs saw a striking resemblance to Islamic architecture.

  • Persian and Indian styles were intelligently fused to create the works of quality and precision.
  • Placed in the walled gardened enclosure the forts had distinct domes, sleek towers at corners with the magnificent halls in the center supported by pillars and broad entrances.
  • Delicate ornamentation with arches, decorative sections with fine geometrical designs and inscriptions were major highlights.
  • The forts had arrangements for soldier barracks, private and public halls for meetings, horse and elephant stables, and gardens at the entrance. An example of which is the Red Fort by Shah Jahan.
  • Use of decorated colored tiles, painted designs on walls and ceiling, profusely carved doorways show the beautiful detailing and taste of the Emperors.
  • Extensive use of red sandstone and white marbles is seen in all the buildings of that time.

Palace Building

The palaces that the rulers inhabited were beautiful synthesis of perfect craftsmanship and inspirations of Indo-Persian traditions.

  • The entrance of the palaces had lush green gardens with symmetrically cut trees and small square structures for water fountains.
  • The palaces stand up on an elevated platform, with staircases and passages for several directions cut in perpendicular manner.
  • The passages of the palaces are broad with slender minarets that hold the domes and ceilings having miniature detailing and inscriptions.
  • The semi-precious stone of varied colors were used on walls of the palaces and the windows are delicately fabricated with designing of stone.
  • Ceilings were given special effect with pictures of flora and fauna in gold, silver and other precious stones.
  • Borders with inscriptions decorated the main archways and rooms of the palaces were well designed to cater natural light and adequate ventilation.

Building of Mausoleums

Mughal culture has seen several Mausoleums in the era like the Humayun tomb, Taj Mahal and others. The blend of artistic capacities with consciously envisioned structures highlights the features and details of these architectural masterpieces.

  • The structure saw the Mughal influence with its pillars, beams and lintels and the blend of Indian architecture of Rajasthan with the decorative brackets, balconies, decorations and chatari or kiosk type structures.
  •  The entrance chamber dome is of a great height with detailing work with symmetrical designs on its inside.
  • The arches at the upper center form balconies or viewing areas
  • The entrance of the Mausoleums like the palaces, have an extensive green garden with walking passages and water courses.
  • Arched lobbies connect the octagonal chambers inside the Mausoleums.
  • Calligraphy on the walls, delicate plant motifs on the stone and the stones or marbles cut into delicate lattice give the monuments the most distinctive feature.
  • Burial chambers employ the Pietra Dura or the technique of using cut polished stones to create images and twin Cenotaphs. Burials were placed in a manner that the head would face towards Mecca.

Development of Mughal Paintings

Patronizing their Persian painters, the Mughals took keen interest in paintings that reflected a collaboration of Indo-Persian synthesis. Originating from the time of Turkish-Afghan Delhi Sultanate, paintings prospered under the rule, Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, the Mughal Rulers. The art of Mughal painting flourished with the time and developed into realistic portraiture.

  • Paintings of the Mughal Era depict a theme from fables of Persian literature and Hindu Mythology, which gradually changed to realistic subjects like portraits of the royalty, events and details of the court life, wild life and hunting scenes, and battle illustrations. 
  • Abundant use of bright colors highlight glory of the era and fine drawing with calligraphic text descriptions on the border enhance the appeal of the artwork.
  • Humayun’s exposure to Persian miniature painting compelled him to get along accomplished Persian artists, Sayyid Ali and Abdus SamadKhamsa of Nizami, his own commission has 36 illuminated pages, with different styles of various artists.
  • Akbar inherited Humayun’s library and court painters; he expanded the art by paying close personal attention to its output. Among the major art pieces of the time were the Tutinama ("Tales of a Parrot"),  The Gulistan, The Khamsa of Nizami,  Darab Nama, and Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Akbar hired many painters to develop and spread the Mughal style painting in the years 1570 AD to 1585 AD.
  • Jahangir’s artistic inclination developed the Mughal Paintings further and the oil paints began being used. He encouraged the single point perspective of European artists and paintings became focused on real life events. The Jahangirnama, his autobiography had several paintings.
  • In Shah Jahan’s reign the Mughal paintings developed but they were rigid with themes of lovers in intimate positions, musical parties etc

Development of Literature

Literature received a boon during the Mughal Period. From the important source books, this period also witnessed the growth in different languages like Persian, Hindi and also contributed to Bengali and Punjabi literature.

  • From the  ‘Tuzak-i-Baburi’ (Memories of Babur) in Turki and ‘Humayunnama’ the biography of Humayun written by Gulabadan Begum, the period witnessed extensive literature growth in Akbar’s reign because of his tolerant attitude. ‘Navratans’ (Nine Jewels) the great literary figures of his court contributed a lot.
  • Abul Fazal (historian, philosopher and scholar of the period) wrote the ‘Akbarnama’ and ‘Ain-i-Akbari’. Badauni, wrote the ‘Muntakhab-ul-Tawarikh’. Nizam- ud-Din (noted historian) contributed with his work ‘Tabaqat-i-Akbari’ and the Hindu epics the Arthava Veda, the Ramayana, the Mahabharat were translated into Persian.
  • Hindu poetry during the Mughal period was also significantly expanding as Akbar wholeheartedly patronized the Hindu poetry too. Sursagar by Sur Das, Ramcharitamanas by Tulsidas and the Persian-Sanskrit dictionary ‘Parsi Prakash’ were documented during this time.
  • Jahangir’s self written autobiography ‘Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri’ and other important literary works like ‘lqbalanam-i-Jahangir and ‘Masir-i-Jahangir’ were written during the Era.
  • Aurangzeb’s reign saw the important work ‘Fatwa-i-Alamgiri’—a summary of Muslim law. ‘Muntakhab-ul ‘-a famous history by Khafi Khan and ‘Nuskho-i- Dilkusha’ by Bhimsen were other important works.

Conclusion: The Mughal Era has extensively contributed to a rich and admirable architectural, literary and cultural history to India.