ART, ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURE UNDER THE MUGHALS (JAMA MASJID DELHI)
(Jama Masjid Delhi ) The Mughal Age is famous for many-faceted cultural developments and has been called the ‘Second Classical Age’, the first being the Gupta Age in northern India. The Timurids had a great cultural tradition behind them. Their ancestral kingdom at Samarqand was the meeting ground of the cultural traditions of Central and West Asia. Babur himself represented that cultural tradition. India with a very rich cultural heritage of its own was an ideal place for the upsurge and mingling of new cultural traditions. The Mughals brought with them the Turko-Iranian cultural traditions which were amalgamated with the Indian traditions and that was the composite Mughal Culture. Three most important aspects of cultural developments during the Mughal period were: (a) the Mughal culture was largely secular and aristocratic, (b) in the growth and enrichment of this culture people from different parts of India and outside contributed equally; and (c) the cultural norms which the Mughals introduced in India in the field of architecture, painting, music etc. deeply influenced the future course of Indian culture during the subsequent centuries. The Mughal emperors were keen lovers of nature, and in the art and culture of the age their love of nature as well as their personality is amply reflected. Architecture The history of Mughal architecture begins with Babur, who is said to have undertaken many building projects at Agra, Dholpur, Gwalior and other places. He, however, did not usher in any new style or movement and left hardly any impression on Indian architecture. The adverse political circumstances did not afford much opportunity to Humayun to undertake any significant architectural activity. In the early years of his reign, he built a city at Delhi called the Dinpanah (World Refuge); but no remains are available of this first Mughal City. Thus the contributions of both Babur and Humayun to the growth of Mughal architecture are most negligible. Akbar: The Mughal architectural style began as a definite movement under Akbar. The mausoleaum of Humayun in Delhi heralded the new movement. In spirit the structure of Humayun’s tomb stands as an example of synthesis of two great building traditions of Asia, namely the Persian and the Indian; and the full efflorescence of Mughal architecture depended on this happy synthesis. But Akbar’s policy and ideas with regard to architecture were fundamentally different from those reflected in the tomb of Humayun. He wanted to create a style with an independent Indian character. Akbar the founder of several fortified royal residences, each of which served as his capital during the period. The first of such royal residences to be erected was the fortress palace at Agra which was completed in eight years (1565-73). Abul Fazl writes in the Ain-i-Akbari : “Within the fort the emperor built upwards of five hundred edifices of red stone in the fine styles of Bengal and Gujarat.” Thus was developed a unified and national style of building art in which each distinctive tradition, imperial as well as provincial, played an important role. Only a few of Akbar’s numerous buildings at Agra have survived. Among those that have escaped destruction, mention may be made of two palace buildings known as Akbari Mahal and Jahangiri Mahal. In general character, the fort at Agra greatly resembles the fortress at Gwalior. The forts that Akbar built almost at the same time at Lahore and Allahabad appear to have been executed on the same grand scale. Akbar’s most ambitious and magnificent architectural undertaking, however, was the new capital city that he built on the ridge at Sikri, 36 km west of Agra. To commemorate Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat in 1572, the city was subsequently named Fatehpur (City of Fatehpur). The monuments of Fatehpur Sikri may be divided into two classes, one religious and the other secular. The secular monuments, such as palaces, office buildings, sarais, pavilions, etc. are by far the most numerous and they illustrate various designs and shapes. Undoubtedly the most impressive creation of this new capital city is the grand Jami Masjid which has been described as the glory of Fatehpur Sikri. The southern entrance to the Jami Masjid is an impressive gateway known as the Buland Darwaza. The total height of this gateway, including that of the supporting terrace, is 53 metres. Like most other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, the fabric of this impressive gateway is of red sandstone which is relieved by carving and discreet inlaying of white marble that gives an emphasis to the bold lineaments of the composition. With its immense bulk and towering height that Buland Darwaza presents an imposing appearance from whatever angle it is viewed. Two other additions were later made within the mosque enclosure. One of these is the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the patron saint of Sikri. It is a small, square and attractive building in marble. The pierced screens of the corridor of this tomb are very finely worked. Close by and to the east of the tomb of the Shaikh attends the mausoleum of Islam Khan, a grandson of the saint, built in 1612. At Fatehpur Sikri the civil and residential structures are by far the more numerous. They are singularly interesting as elegant types of office and domestic buildings of the period. In the former class mention may be made of at least two fine structures, one known as the Daftar Khana or the Office and the other Diwan-i-Khas or the hall of private audience. In the latter, the arrangement of a hanging throne platform connected with hanging galleries by radiating passages represents a novel and original conception. Of the palaces and other residential buildings in the city mention may be made of Jodha Bai’s palace, houses of Birbal and Mariam and the Panch Mahal, which is a fantastic five-storeyed pillared structure. The design of this building has been derived from old assembly halls of India. In the buildings of Akbar there is a predominance of indigenous designs, motifs and practices. His architectural style, built upon the traditions of the soil, was a truly national art movement. Jahangir: Jahangir’s contributions to the building art appear to be rather insignificant compared to the vast and important projects of his father. Jahangir’s chief interest lay in painting rather than in architecture. He was also fond of laying gardens. One of the most famous gardens laid by him was Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir. One if the earliest building projects of Jahangir was the completion of the tomb of his father at Sikandra near Agra. It is an unconventional type of tomb and “is unimpressive because it lacks the quality of mass which is one of the principles of beauty, and of coherence which is the basis of style”. In the history of Mughal architecture Jahangir’s reign marks the period of transition between its two grand phases, namely, the phase of Akbar and that of his grand son Shah Jahan. The most important feature of this period is the substitution of red sandstone by white marble. Jahangir also loved colour and this was imparted to the buildings of his period by encaustic tiling and the system of pietra dura, i.e., the inlaid mosaic work of hard and precious stones of various hues and shades, which began towards the end of his reign.