• The Qutb Minar is five storeys high with a band of inscriptions in Arabic under its first balcony. The first floor was constructed by Qutb ud-Din Aibak in 1199 and rest by Iltutmish around 1229. Over years it was damaged by lightning and earthquakes and repaired by Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad Tughluq, Firuz Shah Tughluq and Ibrahim Lodi.
• The Temple of Govind Deva in Vrindavan was constructed out of red sandstone. This style of architecture is from north-east Iran (Khurasan) and was used in Fatehpur Sikri.
• Between 8th and 18th Centuries- two kinds of structures built by kings and officers:
1. Forts, Palaces, Garden Residences and Tombs.
2. Temple, Mosques, Tanks, Wells, Caravanserais and Bazaars.
• Kings were expected to care for subjects and hence by building structures for their use and comfort, they wanted to get praise from people. Construction was mostly carried out by others including merchants, they built temples, mosques & wells. However, domestic architecture like large mansions (havelis) of merchants – has survived only from eighteenth century.
Engineering Skills and Construction
• Monuments give insight into technologies used for construction. Roof, for example, is manufactured by placing wooden beams or a slab of stone across four walls.
• However, to make a large room with elaborate superstructure requires more sophisticated skills. Between 7th and 10th centuries, architects added more rooms, doors & windows to buildings. A style of architecture known as ‘trabeate’ or ‘corbelled’, which was used in constructing temples, mosques, tombs & in buildings attached to large stepped-wells (baolis) between 8th and 13th centuries.
Temple Construction in Early Eleventh Century
• The Kandariya Mahadeva temple dedicated to Shiva was constructed in 999 by king Dhangadeva of Chandela dynasty. An ornamented gateway led to an entrance and main hall (mahamandapa) where dances were performed. The image of chief deity was kept in main shrine (garbhagriha). This was place for ritual worship where only king, his immediate family and priests gathered.
• The Rajarajeshvara temple at Thanjavur had tallest shikhara amongst temples of its time. There were no cranes that time that is why architects built an inclined path to top of temple, placed boulder on rollers and rolled it all way to top. The path was dismantled after temple was constructed but even now a village near temple is known as Charupallam, ‘Village of Incline’.
• Two noticeable technological and stylistic developments from 12 th century:
1. Architectural form known as ‘arcuate’ weight of superstructure above doors and windows were sometimes carried by arches.
2. High-quality limestone cement- mixed with stone chips, hardened into concrete-increasingly used in construction- helped make construction of large structures easier and faster.
Building Temples, Mosques & Tanks
• Temples and mosques were beautifully constructed because they were places of worship. They were meant to demonstrate power, wealth & devotion of patron.
• Rajarajeshwara temple was built by King Rajarajadeva for worship of his god, Rajarajeshvaram. The king took god’s name because it was auspicious and he wanted to appear like a god. The temple was a miniature model of world ruled by king and his allies. As they worshipped their deities together in royal temples, it seemed as if they brought just rule of gods on earth.
• Muslim Sultans did not claim to be incarnations of god but Persian court chronicles described Sultan as ‘Shadow of God’. An inscription in Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque explained that God chose Alauddin as a king because he had qualities of Moses and Solomon, great lawgivers of past. Constructing places of worship provided rulers with chance to proclaim their close relationship with God, especially important in an age of rapid political change.
• Sultan Iltutmish won universal respect for constructing a large reservoir just outside Delhii-Kuhna. It was known as Hauz-i-Sultani or ‘King’s Reservoir’. Rulers often constructed tanks and reservoirs – big and small – for use by ordinary people. Sometimes these tanks and reservoirs were part of a temple, mosque (note small tank in Jami Masjid) or a gurdwara (a place of worship and congregation for Sikhs).
Destruction of Temples
• The Kings built temples to demonstrate their devotion to God and their power and wealth; it is not surprising that when they attacked one another’s kingdoms they often targeted these buildings.
• Pandyan king Shrimara Shrivallabha invaded Sri Lanka in early 9 th century and defeated king Sena I (831-851). He removed all valuables from temples, such as statue of Buddha made entirely of gold and golden images in various monasteries.
• Later, Sena II, ordered his general to invade Madurai, capital of Pandyas. The Buddhist chronicler noted that expedition made a special effort to find and restore gold statue of Buddha. Similarly in early eleventh century, when Chola king Rajendra I built a Shiva temple in his capital he filled it with prized statues seized from defeated rulers.
• Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was a contemporary of Rajendra I. During his campaigns in subcontinent he attacked temples of defeated kings and looted their wealth and idols.
• But by destroying temples – especially one at Somnath – he tried to win credit as a great hero of Islam.
Gardens, Tombs & Forts
• Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir & especially Shah Jahan were personally interested in literature, art & architecture. In his autobiography, Babur described his interest in planning and laying out formal gardens. He divided garden into four quarters by artificial channels. These gardens were known as chahar bagh, four gardens, because of their symmetrical division into quarters.
• Beginning with Akbar, some of most beautiful chahar baghs were constructed by Jahangir and Shah Jahan in Kashmir, Agra & Delhi. The central towering dome and tall gateway (pishtaq) became important aspects of Mughal architecture, first visible in Humayun’s tomb. It was constructed between 1562 and 1571.
• The tomb was placed in centre of a huge formal chahar bagh and built in tradition called ‘eight paradises’ or hasht bihisht – a central hall surrounded by eight rooms. The building was constructed with red sandstone, edged with white marble. It was during Shah Jahan’s reign that different elements of Mughal architecture were fused together in a grand harmonious synthesis. His reign witnessed a huge amount of construction activity especially in Agra and Delhi.
• Shah Jahan’s audience halls were specially constructed to resemble a mosque. The pedestal on which his throne was placed was frequently described as qibla, direction faced by Muslims at prayer. Everybody faced that direction when court was in session. The idea of king as a representative of God on earth was suggested by these architectural features.
• The connection between royal justice and imperial court was emphasised by Shah Jahan in his newly constructed court in Red Fort at Delhi. Behind emperor’s throne were a series of ‘pietra dura’ inlays that depicted legendary Greek god Orpheus playing lute. The construction of Shah Jahan’s audience hall aimed to communicate that king’s justice would treat high and low as equals creating a world where all could live together in harmony.
• In early years of his reign, Shah Jahan’s capital was at Agra, a city where nobility had constructed their homes on banks of river Yamuna. These were set in midst of formal gardens constructed in chahar bagh format. The chahar bagh garden had a variation that historians describe as ‘riverfront garden’.
• Shah Jahan adapted river-front garden in layout of Taj Mahal, grandest architectural accomplishment of his reign. Here white marble mausoleum was placed on a terrace by edge of river and garden was to its south. He constructed city of Shahjahanabad that he constructed in Delhi, imperial palace commanded riverfront.
• Only specially favoured nobles, like his eldest son Dara Shukoh were given access to river. All others had to construct their homes in city away from River Yamuna.
Region and Empire
• The construction activity was increased between 8th and 18 th century, there was a considerable sharing of ideas across regions. In Vijayanagara elephant stables of rulers were strongly influenced by style of architecture found in adjoining Sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda.
• In Vrindavan, near Mathura, temples were constructed in architectural styles that were very similar to Mughal palaces in Fatehpur Sikri. Mughal rulers were particularly skilled in adapting regional architectural styles in construction of their own buildings. In Bengal, for example, local rulers had developed a roof that was designed to resemble a thatched hut.
• The Mughals liked ‘Bangla dome’ so much that they used it in their architecture. The impact of other regions was evident. In Akbar’s capital at Fatehpur Sikri many of buildings show influence of architectural styles of Gujarat and Malwa.
• Even though authority of Mughal rulers waned in eighteenth century, architectural styles developed under their patronage were constantly used and adapted by other rulers whenever they tried to establish their own kingdoms.