Mughal schools of painting and architecture

Mughal Architecture

Akbar

The advent of the Mughals brought a new era in architecture. The synthesis of style which began earlier reached its zenith during this time. The architecture of Mughal style started during Akbar’s rule. The first building of this rule was Humayun’s Tomb at Delhi. In this magnificent building red stone was used. It has a main gateway and the tomb is placed in the midst of a garden. Many consider it a precursor of the Taj Mahal. Akbar built forts at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. The Bulund Darwaza reflects the grandeur of the mighty Mughal empire. This building was made following Akbar’s victory over Gujarat. The Arch of the Buland Darwaja is about 41 m high and is perhaps the most imposing gateway in the world. The tomb of Salim Chishti, Palace of Jodha Bai, Ibadat Khana, Birbal’s House and other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri reflect a synthesis of Persian and Indian elements.

Jahangir

During the reign of Jehangir, Akbar’s Mausoleum was constructed at Sikandra near Agra. He built the beautiful tomb of Itimad-ud-daula which was built entirely of marble.

Shahjahan

Shahjahan was the greatest builder amongst the Mughals. He used marble extensively. Decorative design in inlay work, (called pietra duro) beautiful arches and minarets were the features of his buildings. The Red Fort and Jama Masjid of Delhi and above all the Taj Mahal are some of the buildings built by Shahjahan. The Taj Mahal, the tomb of Shahjahan’s wife, is built in marble and reflects all the architectural features that were developed during the Mughal period. It has a central dome, four elegant minarats, gateway, inlay work and gardens surrounding the main building.

The Mughal style of architecture had a profound influence on the buildings of the later period. The buildings showed a strong influence of the ancient Indian style and had courtyards and pillars. For the first time in the architecture of this style living beings- elephants, lions, peacocks and other birds were sculptured in the brackets.

Mughal Paintings

The art of textual illustration got a new look under the Mughals. Akbar and his successors brought revolutionary changes to painting and sensual illustrations. From this period book illumination or individual miniatures replaced wall painting as the most vital form of art. Emperor Akbar patronised artists from Kashmir and Gujarat; Humayun brought two Persian painters to his court. For the first time painters’ names were recorded in inscriptions. Some great painters of this period were Abd-us-Samad Dasawanth and Basawan.

Beautiful illustrations are found on the pages of Baburnama and Akbarnama. Within a few years an integrated and dynamic style resulted from the synthesis of Persian and Indian style and the independent style of Mughal painting was developed. Between 1562 and 1577 a series of nearly 1400 cloth paintings were produced representing the new style and were placed in the imperial studio. Akbar also encouraged the art of making portraits.

The art of painting reached its climax during the period of Jahangir who himself was a great painter and connoisseur of art. Artists began to use vibrant colours such as peacock blue and red and were able to give three dimensional effects to paintings. Mansur, Bishan Das and Manohar were the most gifted painters of Jahangir’s time. Mansur had made an outstanding portrait of the artist Abul Hasan and specialised in paintings of birds and animals.

Though Shah Jahan was more interested in architectural splendours, his eldest son Dara Shikoh patronised painting like his gradfather. He preferred depicting natural elements like plants and animals in his painting. However withdrawal of royal patronage to painting under Aurangzeb led to the dispersal of artists to different places in the country.

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