(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "Mughal Architecture"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: Mughal Architecture


Though Babur is known to have commissioned the construction of several monuments, he was more fond of gardens. Babur issued instructions that gardens and orchards be laid out in all large cities in his domains.


Humayun laid the foundation of the city Din Panah at Delhi. Humayun’s tomb is called the proto type of Taj Mahal. It has a double dome of marble, while the central dome is octagonal. It was built by his widow Haji Begum. The garden and the gateway are to be found in all Mughal-style tombs.

Sher Shah

Sher- Shah probably complete’ the fort and also built the Qala-i-Kuhna mosque within its precincts, Also attributed to Sher Shah is the huge mausoleum of his father at Sasaram in Bihar. Sher Shah constructed his own mausoleum at Sasaram, which was then the largest tomb in India.


Building’s built by Akbar are Agra Fort (1565), Lahore Palace (1572), Fatehpur Sikri’, Buland Darwaza and Allahabad Fort (1583). The architecture at Fatehpur Sikri is an excellent blending of Persian, Central Asian and various Indian (Bengal and Gujarat) styles . It is also known as Epic poem in red sandstone. Indian tradition includes deep eaves, balconies and Kiosks. Central Asian Style is evident in the use of glazed blue tiles. Two unusual buildings at Fatehpur Sikri are Panch Mahal & Diwan-i-Khas. The Panch Mahal has the plan of Buddhist Vihara. The Jodhabai’s Palace, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas are Indian in their plan. Buland Darwaja (built after Gujarat victory), formed the main entrance to Fatehpur Sikri. It is built in the Iranian style of half dome portal.

Salim Chisti’s tomb (redone in Marble by Jahangir is the first Mughal building in Pure marble), palaces of Birbal, Anup Talao, Mariyam Mahal are also inside the Fatehpur Sikri. He built the Jahangiri Mahal in Agra fort according to Hindu design based on Man Mandir. Haroon Minar—Tower built by Akbar in memory of his elephant (Haroon). He also began to build his own tomb at Sikandara which, was later completed by Jahangir.


Jahangir was a patron of painting rather than architecture.The most well known building of his reign was the mausoleoum he built for his father at Sikandara, near Agra, which is said to resemble the Parch Mahal at Fatehpur Sikri. Jahangir’s buildings at Agra fort were later pulled down by Shah Jahan.We do know, however, that beneath the viewing balcony (jharoka) from which he gave darshan to the public, he had installed life-size marble statues of the defeated Rana of Mewar, Amar Singh and his son, Karan, much as Akbar had placed statues of the Rajput heroes Jaimal and Fatha outside Agra Palace.

Jahangir was immensely interested in gardens; the most famous of those associated with him being in Srinagar. His queen, Nur Jahan’s most well known architectural project is the white marble mausoleum she built near Agra for her father, Itimad-ud-daula. It is a magnificently carved monument, inlaid with semi-precious stones in marble, a technique known as pietra dura. The style of architecture used by both Jahangir and Shahjahan is known as Indo Persian. Important features of this style are Curved lines, Bulbous dome, foliated arches vigorous use of marble instead of red sand stone and use of pietre dura for decorative purposes. He built Moti Masjid in Lahore and his own mausoleum at Shahdara (Lahore).

Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan commissioned the Jami Mosque within the precincts of the dargah of the Sufi Saint Muinuddin Chisthi at Ajmer and paid regular homage at the shrine till the end of his reign. Mosque building activity reached its climax in Taj Mahal. He also built the Jama Masjid (sand stone). Some of the important buildings built by Shahajahan at Agra are Moti Masjid (pniy mosque of marble) in Agra, Khaas Mahal, Musamman Bun (Jasmine Palace where he spent his last years in captivity) and Sheesh Mahal with mosaic glasses on walls and ceilings.

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Many stone buildings were destroyed by him and replaced by marble. He laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad in 1637 where he built the Red Fort and Taqt-i-taus (Peacock throne). In 1648 the court, army and household moved from Agra to the newly completed imperial capital Shahajahanabad. It was a new addition to the old residential city of Delhi, with the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, a tree­lined esplanade with bazaars (Chandni Chowk) and spacious homes for the nobility. Shah Jahan’s new city was appropriate to a more formal vision of a grand monarchy. Most richly ornamented building in Red Fort was the Diwan-i-Khas or Rang Mahal. He laid the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. Shahjahan built Nahar-i-Fuiz. He built his father’s mausoleum at Lahore, and ordered fresh construction at the forts of Lahore and Agra. Shah Jahan too was fond of gardens and ordered a number of them to be laid, the most famous of them being the Shalimar Garden in Kasmir, but the monument by which he is best known is the Tai Mahal built in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Laid out in the midst of a beautiful char bagh garden evoking the gardens of paradise, the all-marble structure was proportionately designed. ‘Mughal architecture reached its zenith under Shah Jahan.


Aurangzeb is said to have repaired more mosques than any other Mughal Emperor. He also ordered the construction of the Moti Mosque inside Shahjahanabad fort. He commissioned the Badshahi Mosque at Lahore, which is the largest mosque in the sub-continent. Aurangzeb destroyed several Hindu temples like the Keshava Rai temple built by Raja Bir Singh in Mathura, the Vishwanath temple constructed by Raja Man Singh in Banaras, besides several others in Kuch Bihar, Udaipur, Jodhpur and other centres in Rajasthan. In place of the Keshwa Rai temple Aurangzeb built an Idgah on its foundations.

Only monument associated with Aurangzeb is Bibi ka Makbara which is the tomb of his wife Rabbia-ud-daura in Aurangabad. He also built the Badshahi mosque in Lahore. A number of magnificent palaces built by Hindu princes in medieval’ times have survived. Among the most exceptional is the palace within Gwalior fort, built by Maharaja Man Singh in the early sixteenth century, and known as the Man Mandir.

Mughal Painting

The Mughals introduced new themes depicting the conn, battle scenes and the chase and added new colours (Peacock blue and Indian red). The Mughal pictures were small in size, and hence are known as ‘miniature paintings’. Though the Mughal art absorbed the Indian atmosphere, it neither represented the Indian emotions, nor the scenes from the daily life of the Indian. It was mostly courtly and aristocratic. A keen appreciation of nature was another characteristic of the Mughal School. Remarkable excellence achieved by the Mughal school in portrait-painting.


The Mughal School of painting began with Humayun, who became familar with Persian art during his exile at the Safavid court. The ruler, Shah Tahmasp was a great patron of painting, but gradually turned orthodox. Hence, many of his painters joined Humayun on his return journey to Hindustan.

The most renowned among them were Mir Sayyid Ali. Abdus Samad, Mir Musavvir’and Dost Muhammad. Artists from Iran also made their way to Mughal India. Some were brought to the Mughal court, as in the case of Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad, who were made to accompany Emperror Humayun to Delhi.


Akbar was the real founder of the Mughal School. Akbar commissioned the illustrations of several literary and religious texts. Akbar gave employment to many artists. A hundred and fifty or so are known since the illustrations in the manuscripts produced during Akbar’s Teign bear the names of the artists. The chief painters were Mir Sayyid Ali, Abd-al-Samad and Baswan, a Hindu. Mir Sayyid Ali and Abd-al-Samad drilled the craftsmen in all the technical details of Persian miniatures. Many Indians such Baswan, Miskina and Daswant attained great positions as court artists.

Early projects of Akbar’s reign include the Hamza nama, the story of Amir Hamza, an uncle of Prophet Muhammad, who tried to convert the world to Islam. The manuscript comprised of fourteen volumes, each having one hundred illustrations. At least fifty painters are believed to have worked on the project. Among the major painters at Akbar’s court was Daswanth who illustrated the Razmana (the Persian translation of the Mahabharata). After the Razmnama, Akbar’s interest shifted to historical works. Among the historical projects now sanctioned were the Tarikh-i-Alfi (a history of the first thousand years of Islam) and the Timur Nanza an illustrated account of the life of Timur.

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