The Evergreen Mughal Architecture

Mughal architecture, is a characteristic Indo-Islamic-Persian building style that flourished in Northern and Central India under the patronage of the Mughal emperors from the mid-16th to the late 17th century. This new style combined elements of Islamic art and architecture, which had been introduced to India during the Delhi Sultanate (1192–1398) and had produced great monuments such as the Qutb Minar, with features of Persian art and architecture. Mughal monuments are found chiefly in the northern parts of India, but there are also many remains in Pakistan. The Mughal period marked a striking revival of Islamic architecture in northern India. Under the patronage of the Mughal emperors, Persian, Indian, and various provincial styles were fused to produce works of unusual quality and refinement.

The tomb of the emperor Humayun (1564) at Delhi inaugurated the new style, though it shows strong Persian influences. The tomb was designed by a Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas. Set in a garden at Delhi, it has an intricate ground plan with central octagonal chambers, joined by an archway with an elegant facade and surmounted by cupolas, kiosks, and pinnacles. 

The first great period of building activity occurred under the emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605) at Agra and at the new capital city of Fatehpur Sikri, which was founded in 1569. The latter city’s Great Mosque (1571; Jami Masjid), with its monumental Victory Gate (Buland Darzawa), is one of the finest mosques of the Mughal period. The great fort at Agra (1565–1574) and the tomb of Akbar at Sikandra, near Agra, are other notable structures dating from his reign. Most of these early Mughal buildings use arches only sparingly, relying instead on post-and-lintel construction. They are built of red sandstone or white marble.

Mughal architecture reached its peak during the reign of the emperor Shah Jahan (1628–1658), its crowning achievement being the magnificent Taj Mahal. This period is marked by a fresh emergence in India of Persian features that had been seen earlier in the tomb of Humayun. The use of the double dome, a recessed archway inside a rectangular fronton, and parklike surroundings are all typical of the Shah Jahan period. Symmetry and balance between the parts of a building were always stressed, while the delicacy of detail in Shah Jahan decorative work has seldom been surpassed. White marble was a favored building material as is evidenced with the Wonder of the World. After the Taj Mahal, the second major undertaking of Shah Jahan’s reign was the palace-fortress at Delhi, begun in 1638. Among its notable buildings are the red-sandstone-pillared Diwan-I-Am (“Hall of Public Audience”) and the so-called Diwan-I-Khas (“Hall of Private Audience”), which housed the famous Peacock Throne. He established Delhi as his capital (1638) and built there the famous Red Fort (1639) which contained the imperial Mughal palace.

The architectural monuments of Shah Jahan’s successor, Aurangzeb (reigned 1658–1707), were not as numerous, though some notable mosques, including the Badshahi mosque in Lahore, were built before the beginning of the 18th century. Subsequent works moved away from the balance and coherence characteristic of mature Mughal architecture. In general, however, Mughal architecture had begun to decline during his reign, a process that would accelerate after his death. “Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.” The Mughal architecture truly was a revolutionary blend of different cultures and till the present day. Some of the buildings constructed under the reign of the emperor’s are some of the most famous and well known and continue to inspire and attract millions towards its timeless design.