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During the patronage of the Mughals in India from the 16th to the 18th century, Indian architecture was greatly influenced. The Mughal architecture is a beautiful amalgamation influenced by the Persian, Turkish, Indian and some other provincial styles.

And even today, Mughal architecture is prevalent in a lot of historic Mughal monuments, palaces, tombs, and forts throughout the country; especially in the northern and central parts of India. The monuments built during this period were works of superior quality and refinement.

Some striking features of the Mughal art and architecture include the bulbous domes, large halls and minarets with cupolas at four corners. Almost all the Mughal rulers were great builders and each ruler had his own distinctive style.

If art and architecture intrigues you as well, then read along. Here, we discuss the splendid Mughal architecture in detail.

Mughal Architecture under Emperor Akbar’s rule (1556 to 1605):

Emperor Akbar was the son of Humayun and the grandson of Babur. He is believed to have had  a great passion for art and architecture. During his rule is when the early Mughal architecture first started developing.

The monuments, Mughal art and Mughal paintings made during this time period were a beautiful combination of Indian Hindu, Muslim, Persian, Turkic and Central Asian styles. The architecture during the reign of Emperor Akbar is also quite popular for its large-scale use of red sandstone. And the use of red sandstones is made quite lavishly in Akbar’s own tomb and in the construction of his royal city, Fatehpur Sikri.

Some of the most stunning examples of the Akbari architecture include the Humayun’s tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, Buland Darwaza, Agra Fort and Akbar’s tomb.

Akbar's Fort
Akbar’s Fort – Pic Native Planet

The tomb of Akbar’s father, Humayun is considered to be one of the most outstanding works of Mughal architecture under the rule of Akbar. Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu Begum commissioned the tomb and it was designed by a Persian architect.

Humayun’s Tomb is also the first-ever garden tomb in India. A particularly striking feature here is the use of Rajasthani decorative elements with small dome structures surrounding the central one. Semi-precious stones in geometric and arabesque patterns are used on the facade of the monument along with latticed stone-carved decoration. 

Fatehpur Sikri was built between 1569 and 1585. It was built with the intention of being made the joint capital of Agra. However, the plan didn’t work out due to water system issues. Nevertheless, Fatehpur Sikri remains as one of the most visited cities today.

Owing to its architectural brilliance, Agra fort was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. 

Yet another masterpiece of the Mughal architecture is Akbar’s tomb, located in Sikandra in Agra. The intricate detailing of the carvings and paintings on the ceilings are truly spectacular.

Mughal Architecture under Jahangir’s rule (1605 to 1627)

Jahangir was believed to be more passionate about art and paintings rather than architecture. However, some very significant architectural works were commissioned under him. One of the most remarkable buildings constructed by him includes the Akbar’s tomb. Even though Akbar planned the tomb, after his death, Akbar’s son Jahangir continued and completed its construction. The four corners of the mausoleum have marble minarets. 

The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah at Agra is yet another great example of architecture under Jahangir’s rule. This structure is built entirely using white marble and decorated using semi-precious jewels in mosaic style.

Itmad-ud-Daulah
Itmad-ud-Daulah Pic – Wikipedia

Mughal Architecture under Shah Jahan’s rule (1628 to 1658)

The reign of Shah Jahan was a turning point for the Mughal architecture. We all know about the stunningly beautiful Taj Mahal that he built for his wife. However, Mughal architecture under Shah Jahan’s rule consists of a lot more than just the Taj Mahal. This period is often referred to as the ‘Golden period of Architecture in India’. The buildings created during his reign are believed to have unmatched exquisite beauty, grandeur and elegance. White marble was the most preferred material for construction during this time. 

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Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife, Mumtaz. This great work of architectural wonder is situated in Agra. This monument was built between 1632 and 1648. It took around 20,000 men to construct this beautiful monument.

The Taj Mahal is believed to be the greatest achievement of the Mughal architecture. It is placed on a huge square-shaped plinth. This magnificent monument has four facades and each of the facades has an arch-shaped doorway.

The Taj Mahal has a huge double dome on its top. Surrounding its central dome are four smaller domes and each of these domes has a lotus motif on it. On every corner of the huge square plinth is a tall minaret.

On the exterior, the Taj Mahal is decorated with vegetable motifs, calligraphy, verses from the Koran and various abstract forms. This is executed using semi-precious stones, paint and carvings. As for its interiors, precious and semi-precious stones are used. The Taj Mahal is truly a work of unparalleled beauty.

Other architectural works by Shah Jahan include the Red Fort in Delhi which began its construction in 1638 and was completed in 1648.  Very fine red sandstone was utilized for the construction of this fort.

For about 200 years, the Red Fort was the main residence of the Mughal emperors. Today, the Lal Qila or the Red Fort is one of the most popular and most visited tourist spots in Delhi. 

Although the Red Fort was constructed much before, it underwent major renovations during Shah Jahan’s rule. Many structures were demolished and new ones were built in its place.

Yet another stunning Mughal monument built during Shah Jahan’s reign was the Jama Masjid, which is one of the largest mosques in India. Its striking features are its super tall minarets and the vast courtyard. 

Yet another monument that Shah Jahan built is the Jama Masjid in Agra. He built it in his beloved daughter Jahanara Begum’s honor. 

The Moti Masjid inside the Agra Fort is yet another architectural wonder built by Shah Jahan. It is made completely using marble and hence, often referred to as ‘Pearl Mosque’. 

Mughal Architecture under Aurangzeb’s rule (1658 to 1707)

During his reign, marble and squared stones were replaced by brick and rubble for building materials. He also built one of the 13 gates of the Lahore fort and the Badshahi mosque. However, the Mughal architecture is believed to decline during Aurangzeb’s reign.

Now that we saw Mughal architecture through the reign of various Mughal Emperors, let us now delve a little deeper into the Mughal paintings.

Mughal Paintings:

Mughal Paintings are a style of painting that developed in the court of Mughal Empire. These are usually confined to book illustrations or are single sheets preserved in albums.

The Mugal paintings can be categorized into four categories as follows: the Akbar period, the Jahangir period, the Shah Jahan period and the Aurangzeb period. Different painting styles developed under these different rulers and that is how the paintings came to be categorized.

The Period of Akbar (1556 to 1605):

Akbar set up the first workshop of court painters and staffed the painters from various parts of India. The painters he staffed were responsible for illustrating books on various subjects ranging from romance and poetry to history and legend. 

During Akbar’s reign, the greatest Mughal paintings can be found in the illustrations of Hamzanama. Out of about 1,400 illustrations only 200 remain today. 

The Period of Jahangir (1605 to 1627):

Emperor Jahangir was believed to be quite fond of Mughal art and paintings and thus, the Mughal paintings developed quite a lot during his reign. Having an artistic inclination, he was believed to be greatly influenced by the European paintings. Jahangir encouraged his royal atelier to create paintings that depicted the various events in his own life. He also encouraged individual portraits as well as portraits on studies of birds, animals and flowers. Jahangirnama, an autobiography of the Emperor Jahangir contains several Mughal paintings that were created during his reign.

The Period of Shah Jahan (1628 to 1658):

The Mughal paintings continued to develop throughout Shah Jahan’s reign. However, the style became more rigid. Illustrations belonging to ‘Padshahnama’, an Islamic manuscript that is a part of the Royal Collection at Windsor were painted during Shah Jahan’s reign. It contains the portraits of the royal courtiers and servants. Paintings during this reign had more contemporary themes such as music parties, portraits of lovers etc.

The Period of Aurangzeb and the later paintings (1658 to 1809):

Never a painting enthusiast, Aurangzeb did not encourage Mughal paintings. Mughal paintings still continued to survive but were declining slowly. By the end of the Mughal rule, the art of the Mughal paintings was almost lost.

Today, Mughal architecture is an integral part of India and its rich history. It has influenced Indian architecture quite a lot. The Mughal Emperors, through the Mughal art and architecture, have left a long-lasting legacy of monuments, palaces, and forts behind.

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