Medieval India

Delhi Sultanate Architecture

Architecture under the Sultanate

The Turkish rulers utilized the services of the local designers and craftsmen who were among the most skilful in the world. The new fusion that started to take place avoided the extreme simplicity of the Islamic architecture and the lavish decoration of the earlier Indian architecture. Among the first buildings to be erected were the mosques at Delhi and Ajmer by Qutbddin Aibak. The mosque built in Delhi was called the Quwwatul Islam mosque. It measured about 70×30 meters. The central arch of this mosque which is decorated with beautiful sculptured calligraphy still stands and is about 17 meters high and about 7 metres wide. The successor of Qutbuddin Iltutmish was a great builder. He further extended the mosque. He also completed the building of the Qutb Minar which had been started by Qutbuddin and now stood in the extended courtyard of the mosque.

This is a tower rising to a height of about 70 meters and is one of the most renowned monuments of India. The next important buildings belong to the reign of Alauddin Khalji. He enlarged the Quwwatul Islam mosque still further and built a gateway to the enclosure of the mosque, the Alai Darwaza. Decorative element was introduced to beautify the building. He also started building a minar which was designed to be double the height of Qutb Minar but the project remained unfulfilled. The Tughlaqs concentrated on the building of new cities in Delhi like Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah and Ferozabad. A number of buildings was erected which differed in their style from the earlier buildings. Massive and strong structures like the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and the walls of Tughlaqabad were built. The buildings of the Tughlaq period were significant from the point of view of the development of architecture. They were not beautiful but massive and very impressive.

Mughal Architecture

The process of synthesis was completed under the Mughals and the new architecture which had started taking shape with the establishment of the Sultanate reached the pinnacle of glory. Babar and Humayun the first two Mughal kings erected a number of buildings with the help of Persian architects and these now in ruins are not very impressive. Humayun had to flee the country in the face of the rising power of the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri. There was a short Afghan rule before Humayun recovered the Indian territories for the Mughals. The most important buildings is the mausoleum of Sher Shah at Sasaram. It is well-proportioned building and stands in the middle of a tank.

The Mughal architecture began in the reign of Akbar. The first important building of Akbar’s reign is Humayun’s tomb at Delhi. In this magnificent tomb the Persian influence is very strong particularly in the construction of the dome. Indian builders used stone and marble. The two significant features of the Mughal architecture are the large gateways and the placement of the building in the midst of the large park. The tomb provided many architectural ideas for the building of the Taj Mahal later. Akbar also built the forts of Agra and Lahore. He built his palace within the Agra fort. Many new buildings were constructed in the fort and old ones altered by his successors. For the first time living beings -elephants, lions, peacocks and other birds were sculptured in the brackets. The crowning achievement of the reign of Akbar was the building of his new capital at Fatehpur Sikri about 40 kms from Agra. The buildings at Fatehpur Sikri have been built in a variety of styles making it one of the most magnificent capitals in the world. It had a circumference of over 10 kms. The arch of the Buland Darwaza is about 41 meters high and is perhaps the most important gateway in the world. The tomb of Salim Chishti built in white marble is exquisite in its beauty. Another notable building is the Ibadat Khana or the House of Worship where learned people belonging to various religions gathered together and discussed questions of philosophy and theology in the presence of Emperor. Then there is the Panch Mahal a five storeyed building modelled on the Buddhist viharas.

During the reign of Jahangir the mausoleum of Akbar was constructed at Sikandara. This is a magnificent monument as after a long time minar became architecturally significant. It has beautiful arches and domes.

But the whole structure is inspired by the Buddhist viharas. Jahangir also extended the palace buildings in the Agra fort and built the beautiful tomb of Itmad-ud-daula the father of NurJahan. The tomb was built in marble and is notable for its beautiful coloured inlay work. NurJahan built a beautiful mausoleum for her husband at Shahdara near Lahore.

Mughal Paintings

The great era of in the art of painting was ushered by the Mughals. the great painter Behzad. They came into contact with their counterparts in India and under Akbar the synthesis of two styles was encouraged. He gathered together a number of painters from Persia, Kashmir and Gujarat. The Ain-i-Akhbari mentions a number of artists-Abdus Samad, Mir Saiyid Ali, Miskin, Daswant, Basawan, Mukand and many others. They illustrated manuscripts like the Dastan-i-Amir Hamza and Babarnama. Individual pieces were also painted. By the end of Akbar’s reign an independent Mughal style of painting had been developed. Jahangir was a poet and patron of painting. Under him the Mughal School of painting was fully developed and made remarkable progress.

The painting was no longer confined to book illumination. Portrait painting and depiction of subjects drawn from life and nature became popular. Some of the finest painters in this period were Nadir, Murad, Bishan Das, Manohar, Goverdhan, Mansur and Farrukh Beg. The competence and skill of the Indian artists are evident from the incident which Sir Thomas Roe who came to the court of Jahangir mentions. The artists of Jahangir’s court made several copies of a painting which Roe had presented to the emperor on the same day. The copies were so perfect that Roe found it difficult to spot the original.

In the course of few decades fine works of paintings were created. The development continued under Shah Jahan. Dara Shikoh son of Shah Jahan was a great patron of paintings. With Aurangzeb the art declined in the Mughal courts. With the withdrawal of court patronage many artists went to different parts of the country and influenced the development of new schools of painting. Two of the most important schools of painting that emerged were the Rajasthani and the Pahari schools. The subjects of the paintings of these schools were drawn from the epics, myths and legends and love themes.

Music in Medieval India

The medieval period witnessed development in Music in India. Music was not a part of the original Islamic tradition but it developed under the influence of the Sufis and became a part of court life. Many new forms and instruments were developed. Mir Khusrau who had contributed to literature and historical writings is believed to have invented some of these musical instruments. He developed the early form of the popular musical style known as Qawwali. Khayal one of the important forms of Indian classical music is also believed to be his contribution. The legendary figures of Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Malwa and his queen Rupmati were accomplished musicians and also introduced many new ragas. The most notable figure in music in Medieval India as Tansen the court musician of Akbar. His attainments in music have become a legend.

The patronage of music continued at the courts of rulers in the 18th century and the traditions evolved through the centuries were kept alive. The contributions of the Bhakti and Sufi saints in the development and promotion of music is very important. The growth of Indian classical music has been a major force of India’s cultural unity. Apart from Hindu elements some of the greatest masters of music have been Muslims. The Kitab-i- Nauras a collection of songs in praise of Hindu deities and Muslim saints was written by a 17th century ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Both in vocal and instrumental music two main classical styles evolved -Hindustani and Carnatic. Some of the greatest figures in Carnatic music were Purandaradasa, Thyagraja, Muthuswami, Dikshitar and Syamasastri.

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