The Mughal Empire Art and Architecture -Medieval India Part 16


  • Architectural progress during the Mughals is a landmark in world art.
  • Mughal buildings were noted for the massive structures decorated with bulbous domes, splendorous minarets, cupolas in the four corners, elaborate designs, and pietra dura (pictorial mosaic work).
  • The mosques built during the time of Babur and Humayun are not of much architectural significance.
  • The Sur dynasty left behind a few spectacular specimens in the form of the Purana Qila at Delhi, and the tombs of Sher Shah and Islam Shah at Sasaram in Bihar.
  • The Purana Qila with a raised citadel and the tombs on a terraced platform surrounded by large tanks were novel features.
  • During Akbar’s reign, Humayun’s tomb was enclosed with gardens and placed on a raised platform.
  • Built by Indian artisans and designed by Persian architects it set a pattern to be followed in the future.
  • The Agra fort built with red sandstone is a specimen where Rajput architectural styles were also incorporated.
  • The new capital city of Akbar Fatehpur Sikri enclosed within its walls several inspiring buildings. The magnificent gateway to Fatehpur Sikri, the Buland Darwaza, built by Akbar with red sandstone and marble is considered to be a perfect architectural achievement.
  • The mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra near Agra started by Akbar and completed by Jahangir includes some Buddhist architectural elements.
  • The tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, father of Nurjahan, built by Jahangir was the first Mughal building built completely with white marble.
  • Mughal architecture reached its apex during the reign of Shah Jahan.
  • The Taj Mahal is a marble structure on an elevated platform, the bulbous dome in the centre rising on a recessed gateway with four cupolas around the dome and with four free-standing minarets at each of its corners is a monument of universal fame.
  • The Red Fort in Delhi, encompassed by magnificent buildings like Diwan-i Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Moti Mahal and Hira Mahal reflect the architectural skills of the times of Shah Jahan.
  • The Moti Masjid inside the Agra Fort made exclusively of marble, the Jama Masjid in Delhi, with its lofty gateway, series of domes and tall and slender minarets are the two significant mosques built by Shah Jahan.
  • He also established a new township, Shah jahanabad (present-day Old Delhi) where Red Fort and Jama Masjid are located. Aurangzeb’s reign witnessed the construction of Badshahi mosque in Lahore and the marble tomb of Rabia ud daurani, known as Bibi-ka-maqbara (Tomb of the Lady) at Aurangabad.
  • The Shalimar Gardens of Jahangir and Shah Jahan are showpieces of Indian horticulture.
  • Apart from the many massive structures, the Mughals contributed many civil works of public utility, the greatest of them being the bridge over the Gomati river at Jaunpur.
  • The most impressive feat is the West Yamuna Canal which provided water to Delhi.
  • Mughal architecture influenced even temple construction in different parts of the country.
  • The temple of Govind Dev at Vrindavan near Mathura and Bir Singh’s temple of Chaturbhuj at Orchchaa (Madhya Pradesh) display Mughal influence.


  • The Mughals achieved international recognition in the field of painting. Mughal miniatures are an important part of the museums of the world.
  • Ancient Indian painting traditions kept alive in provinces like Malwa and Gujarat along with the central Asian influences created a deep impact in the world of painting.
  • The masters of miniature painting, Abdu’s Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, who had come to India from Central Asia along with Humayun inspired Indian painters. The primary objective of painting was to illustrate literary works.
  • The Persian text of Mahabharata and Akbar Namah were illustrated with paintings by various painters.
  • Daswant and Basawan were famous painters of Akbar’s court. European painting was introduced in Akbar’s court by Portuguese priests. During Jahangir’s time portrait painting and the painting of animals had developed. Mansur was a great name in this field.
  • The great Dutch painter Rembrandt was influenced by Mughal miniatures. While Shah Jahan continued the tradition of painting, Aurangzeb’s indifference to painting led to dispersal of the painters to different parts of the country and thereby led to promotion of painting in the provinces.

 Music and Dance

  • According to Ain-i-Akbari, Tansen of Gwalior, credited with composing of many ragas, was patronised by Akbar along with 35 other musicians.
  • Jahangir and Shah Jahan were patrons of music. Though there is a popular misconception that Aurangzeb was against music, a large number of books on Indian classical music were written during his regime. His queens, princes and nobles continued to patronise music.
  • The later Mughal Muhammad Shah was instrumental in inspiring important developments in the field of music.
  • Paintings in Babur Namah and Padshah Namah depict woman dancing to the accompaniment of musical instruments.


  • Persian, Sanskrit and regional languages developed during the Mughal rule.
  • Persian was the language of administration in Mughal Empire and the Deccan states. It influenced even the Rajput states where Persian words were used in administration.
  • Abul Fazal patronised by Akbar compiled the history of Akbar in Akbar Nama and described Mughal administration in his work Ain-i-Akbari.
  • The Ain-i-Akbari is commendable for its interest in science, statistics, geography and culture.
  • Akbar Namah was emulated by Abdul Hamid Lahori and Muhammad Waris in their joint work Padshah Nama, a biography of Shah Jahan.
  • Later Muhammad Kazim in his Alamgir Nama, a work on the reign of the first decade of Aurangzeb, followed the same pattern.
  • Babur’s autobiography written in Chaghatai Turkish was translated into Persian by Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan.
  • Dabistan is an impartial account of the beliefs and works of different religions. Persian literature was enriched by translations of Sanskrit works.
  • The Mahabharata was translated under the supervision of Abul Faizi, brother of Abul Fazal and a court poet of Akbar.
  • The translation of Upanishads by Dara Shukoh, entitled Sirr-I-Akbar (the Great Secret), is a landmark. The Masnawis of Abul Faizi, Utbi and Naziri enriched Persian Poetry in India.
  • The Sanskrit works produced during the Mughal rule are impressive.
  • Sanskrit literature of this period is noted for the kavyas and historical poetry. Rajavalipataka, a kavya, written by Prajna bhatta which completed the history of Kashmir belonged to reign of Akbar.
  • Graeco-Arabic learning was transmitted to India through Persian works in the form of Sanskrit translations.
  • Akbar’s astronomer Nilakantha wrote the Tajika Neelakanthi, an astrological treatise. Shah Jahan’s court poet Jaganatha Panditha wrote the monumental Rasagangadhara.
  • The greatest contribution in the field of literature during the Mughal rule was the development of Urdu as a common language of communication for people speaking different dialects.
  • Regional languages acquired stability and maturity and some of the finest lyrical poetry was produced during this period.
  • Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan composed Bhakti poetry with a blend of Persian ideas of life and human relations in the Brij form of Hindi.
  • Tulsidas who wrote in Awadhi, the Hindi dialect spoken in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, was very popular for his devotional ideals.
  • Marathi literature had an upsurge due to the literary contribution of Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas and Mukteshwar during this period.
  • Eknath questioned the superiority of Sanskrit over other languages. The verses of Tukaram kindled monotheism. Mukteshwar composed Ramayana and Mahabharata in literary Marathi.
  • Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagar ruler, through his Amuktamalyada (an epic poem on the Tamil woman poet, Andal) and his court Poet Allasani Peddana with his Manu Charitra were the leading beacons of Telugu literature during this period.
  • Malayalam which had separated from Tamil as a language received a separate literary identity during this period.
  • Ramayana and Mahabharata were composed in Malayalam. In Assamese language the tradition of Bhakti poetry was emulated by Shankara Deva who initiated a new literary tradition.
  • Assamese literary works were produced in the fields of astronomy, arithmetic, and treatment of elephants and horses. Ramayana and Mahabharata were also retold in the Assamese language.
  • The Chaitanya cult which portrayed the love of Krishna and Radha in poetic verses promoted Bengali literature.
  • The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs compiled by Guru Arjun in which the verses of the Sikh Gurus as well as Shaikh Farid and other monotheists are a landmark in the evolution of Punjabi language.
  • During this period Tamil literature was dominated by Saivite and Vaishnavite literature. Kumaraguruparar, a great Saiva poet, is said to have visited Varanasi in the late seventeenth century.
  • He composed important literary works such as Meenakshiammai Pillai Tamil and Neethineri Vilakkam.
  • Thayumanavar wrote highly devotional verses with compassion for all humanity and he formulated a sanmarga that tried to bridge differences between the various Saivite sects.
  • The Christian missionaries like Roberto de Nobili and Constantine Joseph Beschi contributed much to Tamil language.
  • The empire the Mughals built at the national level made an everlasting impact on India as they knit the fragments into a single political unit, well aided by an effective central administration.
  • Multiple identities also got synthesized in the process leading to the evolution of a unique culture that is Indian.

Facts 1

Artillery is an army unit that uses large cannon-like weapons, transportable and usually operated by more than one person. Gun powder was first invented by the Chinese and found its way to Europe in the 13th century A.D. (CE). It was used in guns and cannons from the mid-fourteenth century onwards. In India we have no instances of artillery being used in war before Babur.

Facts 2

There is a story about Babur’s death. His son Humayun was ill and Babur in his love for him is said to have prayed, offering his own life if his son got well. Humayun recovered.

Facts 3 :


It is a land tenure system developed during the Delhi Sultanate. Under the system the collection of the revenue of an estate and the power of governing it were bestowed upon an official of the state.


The term refers to another land tenure system. The word zamindar means landowner in Persian. In Mughal times the zamindars were drawn from the class of nobles. Akbar granted land to the nobles as well as to the descendents of old ruling families and allowed them to enjoy it hereditarily. Zamindars collected revenue from the tenants and cultivators and remitted a fixed amount to the state.

Facts 4:

Malik Ambar

Brought as a slave from Ethiopia to India, Malik Ambar changed several hands before landing at the hands of the Prime Minister of Ahmad nagar named Chengiz Khan. Malik Ambar learnt about statecraft, military and administrative affairs from Chengiz Khan. After the death of Chengiz Khan his wife set Malik Ambar free. By dint of his hard work Malik rising through several ranks became the Military Commander and Regent of one of the south Indian Sultanates.

In the Deccan Muslims and Marathas had united to resist Mughal hegemony in their bid to preserve their distinct regional and political identity. Malik Ambar was the brain behind this move. Trained by Malik Ambar the Marathas became a force to reckon with after Malik’s death at the age of 78 on 14 May 1626.

Facts 5 :

Deccan Sultanates

After flourishing for over a hundred years the Bahmani kingdom, that covered much of Maharashtra and Andhra along with a portion of Karnataka, disintegrated and powerful nobles carved out new dominions at Golkonda (Qutb Shahs), Bijapur (Adil Shahs), Berar (Imad Shahs), Bidar (Barid Shahs) and Ahmad Nagar (Nizam Shahs), which go by the collective name of Deccan Sultanates or Southern Sultanates

Facts 6:

European Factories/Settlements during Mughal Rule


In 1510, Albuquerque captured Goa from the ruler of Bijapur and made it the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East. Subsequently Daman, Salsette and Bombay on the west coast and at Santhome near Madras and Hugli in Bengal on the east coast had become Portuguese settlements.


The Dutch set up factories at Masulipatam (1605), Pulicat (1610), Surat (1616), Bimilipatam (1641), Karaikal (1645), Chinsura (1653), Kasimbazar, Baranagore, Patna, Balasore, Nagapattinam (all in 1658) and Cochin (1663).


Denmark also established trade settlements in India and their settlements were at Tranquebar in Tamilnadu (1620) and Serampore, their headquarters in Bengal.


Surat (1668), Masulipatnam (1669), Pondicherry, a small village then (1673), Chandernagore in Bengal (1690). Later they acquired Mahe in the Malabar, Yanam in Coromandal (both in 1725) and Karaikal (1739).


The Company first created a trading post in Surat (where a factory was built in 1612), and then secured Madras (1639), Bombay (1668), and Calcutta (1690). Though the Company had many factories, Fort William in Bengal, Fort St George in Madras, and the Bombay Castle were the three major trade settlements of theEnglish.

Facts 7:

Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal, is the epitome of Mughal architecture, a blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. It was built by the Shah Jahan to immortalize his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1631, after having been the emperor’s inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612. The plans for the complex have been attributed to various architects of the period, though the chief architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahawri, an Indian of Persian descent. The complex – main gateway, garden, mosque and mausoleum (including its four minarets)- were conceived and designed as a unified entity. Building commenced in about 1632. More than 20,000 workers were employed from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and Europe to complete the mausoleum by about 1638–39; the adjunct buildings were finished by 1643, and decoration work continued until at least 1647.

Facts 8:

Dara Shukoh, who lost the battle for the throne of Delhi to his brother Aurangzeb, was known as the Philosopher Prince. He brought different cultures into dialogue and found a close connection between Hinduism and Islam. He translated the Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian.

Facts 9:

Gol Gumbaz

Bijapur (modern Vijayapura) was the capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty during1480-1686. It is famous for its magnificent buildings and dargahs. Gol Gumbaz (round dome) is the mausoleum of the seventh ruler of the dynasty Mohammad Adil Shah (1627-1656). Mohammad Adi Shah commissioned the mausoleum in his lifetime. Built of dark grey basalt and decorated plaster, the exterior of Gol Gumbaz is simple but beautiful. On the four corners of the bare walls are four doomed octagonal towers. Each tower has seven storeys and each storey has several windows which give the structure a striking look. The dome is the second largest in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The huge chamber of 135 ft each way and 178 ft high contains an elevated platform on which five cenotaphs are placed. Those are of Muhammad Adil Shah, his wife Arus Bibi, a daughter, a grandson and his favourite mistress Rambha.


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