The Mughals were great builders. Architecture reached the pinnacle of its glory in the Mughal period. The Mughal architecture is a mixture of the Islamic architecture of Central Asia and Hindu architecture of India. Architectural styles were borrowed from Persia but Hindu ideas were adopted so their style of architecture is known as the Indo-Persian style. Akbar was responsible for its origin and development.
Some of the basic features of Mughal architecture were the construction of round domes, high minarets, mihrabs, pillars of varied types, open courtyards, gardens, baolis, etc. During the early period, red sandstone was used for the construction of buildings and attempt was made to make them large and strong but during the later period, white marble replaced red stone and emphasis was laid on beautifying buildings with the help of colored designs, gold and silver plating and minute carvings.
Architecture Under Babur and Humayun
Babur was fond of constructing buildings. However, he constructed only small buildings like fountains, bathrooms, wells, etc. Most of them were destroyed. Only three mosques have been traced which were constructed by him. One of them is in Panipat, the second is in Sambhal and the third in Ayodhya. But none of these mosques have been regarded as a fine specimen of architecture. Humayun also could not contribute anything towards the growth of this art.
The mausoleum of Sher Shah which he himself got constructed at Sasaram in Bihar is a fine specimen of the architecture of this period.
Architecture Under Akbar
Akbar built many forts and palaces. He employed designers and architects and gave them complete freedom to construct his buildings on the model of Hindu, Muslim or mixed art. The first building which was constructed during the reign of Akbar was the mausoleum of Humayun at Delhi. It was constructed by Humayun’s widow, Haji Begum. It clearly exhibits the influence of Persian art. The rest of the buildings constructed during his time were under the patronage of Akbar. He constructed the forts of Agra, Allahabad and Lahore and many buildings within these forts. His finest buildings were constructed at Fatehpur Sikri, the city which he himself established near Agra. Red stone was used for the construction of these buildings and Hindu and Islamic styles have been freely combined in their construction.
Diwan-i-aam, Diwan-i-khas, Panch Mahal, Khas Mahal, Jodha Bai Mahal, Hiran Mahal, Jami Masjid, Buland Darwaza, Ibadat Khana and Mausoleum of Shaikh Salim Chishti are a few buildings raised by Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri.
The Panch Mahal is a pyramidal structure of five storeys, each storey designed as an open pavilion supported on a cluster of pillars. The Jodha Bai Mahal gives us a hint concerning the life styles of the members of the royal household. The Jami Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri occupies a place among the most renowned mosques constructed in India. The Buland Darwaza was constructed to commemorate the victory of Akbar in Gujarat.
Thus, all buildings in Fatehpur Sikri are among the best buildings of the Mughal period in grandeur, beauty and art.
Architecture Under Jahangir
Jahangir was more interested in painting than architecture. Therefore, he did not do much in this field. He completed the mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra. He also built Moti Masjid and his own mausoleum at Lahore. The most important building constructed during the reign of Jahangir was the Tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah at Agra, father of Nur Jahan. It was made of white marble and has beautiful carvings which have been extensively done in every part. It is a double storey building and has an extensive garden around it. Jahangir was fond of gardens. He laid some very beautiful gardens in Kashmir such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh.
Architecture Under Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb
Mughal architecture reached its perfection during the reign of Shah Jahan. Its style and spirit also changed which is clearly reflected in the striking contrast offered by their respective buildings. The manly vigor, simplicity and varied originality of Akbar’s buildings stand wide apart from the extreme grace and sumptuous appearance that characterize the pretty creations of Shah Jahan. Besides, red sandstone was substituted by white marble and other precious stones, maximum carvings were attempted and costly colors were used to beautify buildings.
Shah Jahan built Moti Masjid in Agra Fort. It is made of white marble and is as beautiful as a pearl. He also constructed the Red Fort at Delhi which is made of Red sandstone and other buildings namely Diwan-i-aam, Diwan-i-khas, Moti Mahal, Rang Mahal inside the Red Fort. He founded a new city called Shahjahanabad and constructed Jami Masjid at Delhi. But among all the buildings constructed by him, the best one is the Taj Mahal at Agra. He constructed this mausoleum on the grave of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Its dome and four minarets are the chief glories of the beautiful mausoleum. The building is on the bank of river Yamuna and is surrounded by gardens. Designs in pietra dura are made on the outer walls. The main building has been constructed in pure white marble. Unesco writes the following about Taj Mahal," it is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage." Shah Jahan also got built monuments in Kabul, Ajmer, Kandhar, Kashmir, Ahmedabad and other places as well. All these buildings have been regarded as fine specimens of Mughal architecture.
Aurangzeb had no interest in artistic skills. He only built a few mosques namely Moti Masjid in the Red Fort and Badshahi Masjid in Lahore. Bibi Ka Makbara was constructed during his reign which is the tomb of his wife Rabbia-ud-Daura in Aurangabad.
Thus, architecture progressed well during the rule of the Mughals as a large number of mosques, mausoleums and other monuments were constructed. Mughal Architecture occupies a significant place in the history of Indian architecture and it also influenced the provincial architecture of its times. It was a mixture of Indian and foreign elements and produced a number of finest buildings in India.