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Mughal Architecture

The Mughal style of architecture in Delhi can be widely recognized as belonging to one period – from Mughal emperors Akbar to Aurangzeb. This was the period when the many buildings, monuments and mosques were built in this style. During the reign of Akbar, the famous Humayun Tomb was built and this was the monument that laid the foundation for all other gigantic Mughal structures in Delhi and various parts of the country. Humayun’s tomb was built by Emperor Akbar, in memory of his father and the great Mughal ruler, Humayun. The Char Bagh (four gardens) pattern was followed the first time here. This architectural pattern, which is Indo Islam in nature, was inspired by many elements from the Persian and Timurid culture. When compared to the subsequent rulers, Emperor Akbar was not interested in architecture. There were only few important monuments built during his rule other than his father’s tomb – Agra Fort and FatehpuriSikri.  He focused on more on improving his spiritual knowledge and on learning more about Allah. Most of his time was spent only on spiritual development and he spared very minimal time in focusing on architecturally brilliant structures.

It was during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries that Mughal architecture grew phenomenally under some of the best Mughal Emperors. This was also the time, when Mughal architectural style became famous not only in India but also in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a style that is a perfect amalgamation of various styles of architecture (Turkish, Islamic, Persian, Islamic and Byzantine).

During 1526, the Mughal dynasty started off its rule in India, with the victory in the Battle of Panipat under the Mughal ruler, Babur. Though Babur built quite a few monuments during his rule, only a few stood steadily. The next ruler, who showed some interest in constructing monuments, was his grandson, Emperor Akbar, under whose reign few important structures like Humayun’s Tomb, Agra Fort and Fatehpuri Sikhri were constructed. The next ruler, Jahangir, son of Akbar, constructed the famous Shalimar Gardens in the northernmost state of Kashmir.

However, the epitome of Mughal architectural style was evident during the rule of the great Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. It was under Shah Jahan’s rule that some of the most reputed monuments like the Taj Mahal (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), Jama Masjid (largest mosque in India), Lahore Gardens and Red Fort, were constructed.

Architecture of Delhi during Akbar’s Reign

Akbar did contribute to a relatively good extent towards architecture during his rule. While it can be said that certain important structures were constructed during his time, it could definitely not be said that Mughal architecture was at its peak during his time. When he handed over the reins of his kingdom to his son Jahangir, the later did a better job than his father in terms of constructing more buildings. However, Jahangir’s focus was mainly on extending or renovating existing legendary monuments like Nizam-ud-din and constructing new tombs and mosques. He didn’t provide undivided attention to showcasing the elegance of Mughal architecture to the outside world. Most of the structures that he built were strikingly similar to the ones that were built by his father. It was only when he passed on the baton to his son, Shah Jahan that Mughal architecture literally reached its golden period. Shah Jahan had a unique taste and had an eye for marble structures and his period proved to be the best for the development of Mughal style structures in Delhi – the best proof of this is the living example today, the Taj Mahal.

Architecture of Delhi during Shah Jahan Reign

Shah Jahan had a limited connection with Delhi than he had with Agra. Even during this reign, he moved his base to Agra and started living there. The first and foremost connection of Mughal architecture in Delhi with Shah Jahan is the construction of the veiled city of Shahjahanabad. This city replete with huge walls and fortresses was planned immaculately and constructed in such a way that it could withstand all kinds of enemy attacks. Red Fort and Jama Masjid (biggest mosque in India) are the other two important structures that were constructed during the rule of Shah Jahan. In addition to this, his royal assistants were also involved in extending and rebuilding the dargah of Nizam-ud-din. By the time Shah Jahan had started to live in Agra, his son, Aurangzeb had already taken control of Delhi and put his father at the backdrop of affairs.

Architecture of Delhi during Aurangzeb Reign

During Aurangzeb’s rule, the growth of Mughal architecture was pretty stagnant as he didn’t build any new structure. However, what he did was confined within the interiors of Shahjahanabad. He built more buildings, extended existing buildings and did considerable refurnishing in the monuments that were constructed during the reign of his father, Shah Jahan. Many tombs, mosques, monuments, madrasas and gardens were established during Aurangzeb’s rule but they were all within the confines of the city that his father created – Shahjahanabad. One of the main reasons as to why nothing of importance happened during Aurangzeb’s time was that, he was too preoccupied with the happenings in Agra and was entirely focused on putting his father down in all matters, due to jealousy burning between the two.

Some of the famous structures with Mughal style of architecture in Delhi currently are:

  • Red Fort
  • QutubMinar
  • Jama Masjid
  • Humayun Tomb
  • Hall of Public Audience - 'Diwan-i-Am'
  • Hall of Private Audience - 'Diwan-i-Khas'
  • Safdarjung's Tomb
  • Old Fort
  • Tughlaquabad

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