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Mughal Architecture and Buildings

It was an amalgam of Islamic, Persian, and Indian architecture. Mughal buildings have a uniform pattern of structure and character, including large bulbous domes, slender minarets at the corners, massive halls, large vaulted gateways and delicate ornamentation. Examples of the style can be found in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Mughal dynasty was established after the victory of Babur at Panipat in 1526. During his five-year reign, Babur took considerable interest in erecting buildings, though few have survived.

Akbar built widely, and the style developed vigorously during his reign. Among his accomplishments were Humayun’s Tomb (for his father), Agra Fort, the fort-city of Fatehpur Sikri, and the Buland Darwaza.

Akbar’s son Jahangir commissioned the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir.

Mughal architecture reached its zenith during the reign of Shah Jahan, who constructed the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, and the most famous Mughal monument, the Taj Mahal, as well as many other fine examples of the style.

While Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb commissioned buildings such as the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, his reign corresponded with the decline of Mughal architecture and the Empire itself.

Agra fort is a UNESCO world heritage site in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The major part of Agra fort was built by Akbar The Great during 1565 AD to 1574 AD. The architecture of the fort clearly indicates the free adoption of the Rajput planning and construction. Some of the important buildings in the fort are Jahangiri Mahal built for Jahangir and his family, the Moti Masjid, and Mena Bazaars.The Jahangiri Mahal is an impressive structure and has a courtyard surrounded by double-storeyed halls and rooms.

Humayun’s tomb

14 years after the death of Humayun, his widow Hamida Banu Begum built the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi. The mausoleum of Humayun is located in the centre of a square surrounded by typical Mughal garden in Fatehpur Sikri. It is said to be first mature example of Mughal architecture.

Buland Darwaza, also known as the Gate of Magnificence, was built by Akbar in 1576 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat and the Deccan. It is 40 metres high and 50 metres from the ground. The total height of the Structure is about 54 metres from the ground level. The Buland Darwaza is approached by 1,000,000 steps. The Buland Darwaza is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and inlaying of white and black marble. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwaza is based on Christian belief (advice given by Jesus Christ), and hence shows Akbar’s broad mindedness in matters of religion.


The Haramsara, the royal seraglio in Fatehpur Sikri was an area where the royal women lived. The opening to the Haramsara is from the Khwabgah side separated by a row of cloiters. According to Abul Fazl, in Ain-i-Akbari, the inside of Harem was guarded by senior and active women, outside the enclosure the eunuchs were placed, and at a proper distance there were faithful Rajput guards.6

Jodha Bai’s Palace

This is the largest palace in the Fatehpur Sikri seraglio, connected to the minor haramsara (where the less important harem ladies and maids would have resided) quarters. The main entrance is double storied, projecting out of the facade to create a kind of porch leading into a recessed entrance with a balcony. Inside there is a quadrangle surrounded by rooms. the columns of rooms are ornamented with a variety of Hindu sculptural motifs. The glazed tiles on the roofs from Multan have an eye catching shade of turquoise.7 The mosque was built in honour of Jodha Bai, mother of Jahangir and wife of Akbar. Her Mughal name was Mariyam Zamani Begum and this being the reason that the mosque was built in her honor in Lahore’s walled city. Jahangir built his mother Mariyam Zamani Begum’s mosque and is just 1 km away from the tomb of Akbar near Agra at a place called Sikandra.

Buland Darwaza dominates the landscape. Historian `Abd al-Qadir Bada’uni writes that it was the highest gateway in Hindustan at that time until today.


A chronogram is inscribed on the central archway composed by Ashraf Khan, one of Akbar’s principal secretaries that reads,

‘In the reign of King of the world Akbar, To whom is due the order in the country. The Sheikh -ul-Islam adorned the mosque, Which for its elegance deserves as much reverence as the Ka’ba. The year of the completion of this magnificent edifice, Is found in the words, “duplicate of the Masjidi’l-Haram”‘

Sheikh Salim Chishti Tomb

The Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti is famed as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India, built during the years 1580 and 1581, along with the imperial complex at Situated near Zenana Rauza and facing south towards Buland Darwaza, within the quadrangle of the Jama Masjid which measures 350 ft. by 440 ft.[1] It enshrines the burial place of the Sufi saint, Salim Chisti (1478 – 1572), a descendant of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, and lived in a cavern on the ridge at Sikri.[2] The mausoleum, constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, who foretold the birth of his son, who was named Prince Salim after him and later succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal Empire, as Jahangir.


Jahangir features architecture vanished from the style; his great mosque at Lahore is in the Persian style, covered with enameled tiles. At Agra, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, which was completed in 1628, was built entirely of white marble and covered in pietra dura mosaic. Jahangir also built the Shalimar Gardens and Nishat Bagh, and their accompanying pavilions on the shore of Dal Lake in Kashmir. He also built a monument to his pet deer, Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura, Pakistan and due to his great love for his wife, after his death he went on to build his mausoleum in Lahore.

Shah Jahan

Rather than building huge monuments like his predecessors to demonstrate their power, Shah Jahan built elegant monuments. The force and originality of this previous building style gave way under Shah Jahan to a delicate elegance and refinement of detail, illustrated in the palaces erected during his reign at Agra and Delhi. Some examples include the Taj Mahal at Agra, the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) in the Lahore Fort and the Jama Masjid at Delhi are imposing buildings of his era, and their position and architecture have been carefully considered so as to produce a pleasing effect and feeling of spacious elegance and well-balanced proportion of parts. Shah Jahan also built sections of the Sheesh Mahal, and Naulakha pavilion, which are all enclosed in the fort. He also built a mosque named after himself in Thatta called Shahjahan Mosque. Shah Jahan also built the Red Fort in his new capital at Shah Jahanabad, now Delhi. The red sandstone Red Fort is noted for its special buildings-Diwan-i-Aam and Diwan-i-Khas. Another mosque was built during his tenure in Lahore called Wazir Khan Mosque, by Shaikh Ilm-ud-din Ansari who was the court physician to the emperor.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, a World Heritage Site known as the “teardrop on the cheek of time” according to writer Rabindranath Tagore, was built between 1630–48 by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Its construction took 22 years and required 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. Built entirely of white marble at a cost of approximately 32 million rupees[citation needed], it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The building’s longest plane of symmetry runs through the entire complex except for the sarcophagus of Shah Jahan, which is placed off centre in the crypt room below the main floor. This symmetry extended to the building of an entire mirror mosque in red sandstone, to complement the Mecca-facing mosque placed to the west of the main structure. Shah Jahan used “pietra dura”, a method of decoration on a large scale-inlaid work of jewels.

Shalimar Gardens

The Shalimar Gardens (1641–1642) built on the orders of Shah Jahan in Lahore, Pakistan, is also on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Aurangzeb and later Mughal architecture

main article: Bibi Ka Maqbara In Aurangzeb’s reign (1658–1707) squared stone and marble was replaced by brick or rubble with stucco ornament. Srirangapatna and Lucknow have examples of later Indo-Mughal architecture. He made additions to the Lahore Fort and also built one of the thirteen gates which was later named after him (Alamgir). Aurangzeb also built the Badshahi Mosque which was constructed in 1674 under the supervision of Fida’i Koka. This mosque is adjacent to the Lahore Fort and is the last in the series of congregational mosques in red sandstone and is closely modeled on the one Shah Jahan built at Shahjahanabad. The red sandstone of the walls contrasts with the white marble of the domes and the subtle intarsia decoration.

Additional monuments from this period are associated with women from Aurangzeb’s imperial family. The construction of the elegant Zinat al-Masjid in Daryaganj was overseen by Aurangzeb’s second daughter Zinat-al-Nissa. Aurangzeb’s sister Roshan-Ara who died in 1671. The tomb of Roshanara Begum and the garden surrounding it were neglected for a long time and are now in an advanced state of decay. Bibi Ka Maqbara was a mausoleum built by Prince Azam Shah, son of Emperor Aurangzeb, in the late 17th century as a loving tribute to his mother, Dilras Bano Begam in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The Alamgiri Gate, built in 1673 A.D., is the main entrance to the Lahore Fort in present-day Lahore. It was constructed to face west towards the Badshahi Mosque in the days of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

Another construction of Mughal era is the Lalbagh Fort (also known as “Fort Aurangabad”), a Mughal palace fortress at the Buriganga River in the southwestern part of Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose construction started in 1678 during the reign of Aurangzeb.

Mughal Gardens

Mughal gardens are a group of gardens built by the Mughals in the Islamic style of architecture. This style was influenced by Persian gardens and Timurid gardens. Significant use of rectilinear layouts are made within the walled enclosures. Some of the typical features include pools, fountains and canals inside the gardens. The famous gardens are the Char Bagh gardens at Taj Mahal, Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, Delhi and Kashmir as well as Pinjore Garden in Haryana.

Mughal Bridges

Shahi Bridge, Jaunpur was constructed during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Buildings by Babur:

Built two mosques: one at Kabulibagh in Panipat and the other in Sambhal in Rohilkhand.

Buildings by Humayun:

  • Laid the foundation of the city Din Panah at Delhi.
  • Built Jamali Mosque and the Mosque of Isa Khan at Delhi.
  • Humayun’s tomb is called the prototype of Taj Mahal. It was built by his widow Haji Begum.

Buildings by Akbar:

  • Built Agra fort (in red sandstone).
  • He also built Fatehpur Sikri (city of victory) near Agra. In Fatehpur Sikri are the Panch Mahal, Diwan-I-Khas, Diwan-I-Aam, Jodhabai’s palace and Sheikh Salim Chishti’s tomb. Buland Darwaza (53 m high) is located here, commemorating the emperor’s conquest of Gujarat.
  • Built his own tomb at Sikandra, near Agra.
  • Built the temple of Govindadeva at Vrindavan.

Buildings by Jahangir:

  • With Jahangir’s reign, the practice of putting up buildings in marble and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones started. This method of decoration was known as Pietra Dura.
  • Nurjahan built the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula at Agra.
  • Jahangir built Moti Masjid at Lahore and his own mausoleum at Shahdara (Lahore).

Buildings by Shahjahan:

  • Built Taj Mahal, Moti Masjid at Agra, Jama Masjid and Red Fort at Delhi, Shalimar Bagh at Lahore and city of Shahjahanabad.
  • Also built Mussaman Burz at Agra (where he spent his last years in captivity), Sheesh Mahal, etc.
  • He got the peacock throne built by Bebadal Khan on which Amir Khusrau’s couplet – ‘If there is a paradise on earth, it is here’, inscribed on it.

Buildings by Aurangzeb:

  • Built Moti Masjid at Delhi and Badshahi Mosque at Lahore.
  • Built Bibi ka Makbara in Aurangabad.


Ancient Buddhist Universities

The six Buddhist universities of ancient India-
1. Nalanda (500 CE to c. 1200 CE)

Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire as well as emperors like Harshavardhan and later, the rulers of the Pala Empire. At its peak, the school attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia. It was very likely ransacked and destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1200 CE.

We get a comprehensive account of Nalanda university from Hieun Tsang, the brilliant Chinese scholar, who came there for his studies during the reign of King Harsha-Siladitya. I – Tsing (675-685) was another Chinese monk who came to India and studied at Nalanda

At the time of Fa-Hian visit it was an ordinary Buddhist monastery.  Lama Taranata the Tibetan historian also gives an account of Nalanda in his works. It appears that King Kumara Gupta (AC 415-455) built the first monastery at Nalanda. It was a seminary for training Buddhist monks. Admission to Nalanda was by oral examination. This was done by a professor at the entrance hall. He was called Dvara Pandita. Proficiency in Sanskrit was necessary, as it was the medium of instruction. Casts, creed and nationality were no barriers in keeping with the Buddhist spirit. Nalanda was maintained by the revenue from seven villages which were granted by the king. The study of Mahayana was compulsory for Buddhists. One could also study secular subjects like science, medicine, astrology, fine-arts, literature etc. The six systems of Hindu philosophy were also taught. One could study Hinayana forms of Buddhism.
Nalanda university occupied an area of 30 acres. There were three large libraries bearing the names Ratna-Sagara, Ratna-Nidi and Ratna-Ranjana.

2. Vikramashila 

A sister institution of Nalanda and was said to have been founded by a monk called Kamapala, under the patronage of King Dharmapala. (AC 770-810). Here preference was given to the Tantric form of Buddhism.
Dipankara Sri Gnana who is also known as Atisha (AC 960-1055) was the famous scholar of Vikramashila .

3. Odantapuri

Odantapuri was considered the second oldest of India’s universities. This was situated in Maghada, about 6 miles away from Nalanda. Odantapuri King Gopala (660-705) was the patron who found this university.

4. Somapura

Somapura was situated in East Pakistan. King Devapala (AC 810-850) is said to have erected the Dharmapala-Vihara at Somapura.

5. Jagaddala

King Ramapala (1077-1129) is said to be the founder of this University. Jagaddala University was the largest construction works undertaken by the Pala Kings. This was a centre for the study and dissemination of Tantric Buddhism.

6. Vallabhi

Vallabhi University achieved as much fame as Nalanda. While Nalanda was the centre for Mahayana Buddhism, Vallabhi achieved fame as the centre for Hinayana Buddhism.


Theravada is a branch of Buddhism that uses the teaching of the Pali Canon, a collection of the oldest recorded Buddhist texts, as its doctrinal core, but also includes a rich diversity of traditions and practices that have developed over its long history of interactions with various cultures and communities. It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma.

The name Theravada comes from the ancestral Sthaviriya, one of the early Buddhist schools, from which the Theravadins claim descent. After unsuccessfully trying to modify the Vinaya, a small group of “elderly members,” i.e. Sthaviras, broke away from the majority Mahasamghika during the Second Buddhist council, giving rise to the Sthavira sect.
Theravadin accounts of its own origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon during the putative Third Buddhist council under the patronage of the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE.

Martial arts in India

Some of the prominent martial arts in India are :

  1. Gatka (Punjab)
  2. Thang Ta (Manipur)
  3. Kalaripayattu (Kerala)
  4. Paika (Orissa)
  5. Choliya (Uttarakhand)
  6. Pang Lhabosol (Sikkkim)
  7. Silambam (Tamilnadu)
  8. Mardani Khel (Maharashtra)
  9. Mushti Yuddha (Uttar Pradesh)

UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

What’s an intangible heritage?

As defined by UNESCO, cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.

As Per UNESCO, Intangible cultural heritage is:

Traditional, contemporary and living at the same timeInclusive – contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity Representative – skills and customs passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation community-based

Indian Arts forms which found their way into the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

1. Koodiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre, Kerala

Koodiyattam is the oldest existing classical theatre form in the entire world, having originated much before Kathakali and most other theatrical formsKoodiyattam was traditionally a part of the temple ritualsTraditionally, Koodiyattam is presented by Chakyars, a temple caste of Kerala, and Nangiars, the women of Nambiar caste

2. Mudiyett: a ritual theatre of Kerala

A traditional ritual theatre and folk dance drama from Kerala that enacts the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon DarikaMudiyettu is a communal undertaking in which each caste of the village plays a specific roleBeing a community based art form it is the community that has traditionally encouraged and trained the next generation to preserve the art form

3. The Tradition of Vedic Chanting

The traditional way of reciting the Vedas is called Vedic chanting. Vedas are the primary source of knowledge on Hindu traditions. They comprise of the Hindu philosophy, myth, poetry and dialogue. The Vedas go back to about 3,500 years to the time of the Aryans, though they were written down much later. There are four chief Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva.

4. Ramlila – the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana

5. Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas

The Ramman is a religious festival manifested in the form of ritual theatre annually held at Saloor Dungra village, in the Painkhanda Valley of Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India. The Ramman is not replicated or performed at any other site in the Himalayas, being specific to both location and time.

6. Kalbelia: folk songs and dances of Rajasthan

Kalbelia is actually an untouchable community from Rajasthan who has always lived on the outskirts of villages and relied on entertaining people for their livelihoodThey are also the community who are traditionally snake charmersMost famous for their sensuous form of dancing, also called Kalbelia, which mimics the movements of snakes in some sense

7. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

8. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur

Performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains

9. Traditional brass and copper craft-  Thatheras

The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.

10. Nowruz 

Nowruz is the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranians, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually occurs on 21 March or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed.

11. Yoga

The Chalukya dynasty and architecture

The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. Chalukyas are identified as 3 regional powers-
1. Western Chalukyas- Badami
2. Eastern Chalukyas- Vengi
3. Later Chalukyas- Kalyani
Greatest king was Pulakesi II. The Chinese traveller Hsüan-tsang (Xuanzang) had visited the court of Pulakesi II.

Their style of architecture is called “Chalukyan architecture” or “Karnatak Dravida architecture”.
The group of 8th century monuments in Pattadakal are the culmination of the earliest experiments in the Vesara style of Hindu temple architecture.
The Lad Khan Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is a one of the oldest Hindu temples and is located in Aihole in the state of Karnataka, India. It was built in the 5th century by the kings of the Chalukya dynasty.
Pattadakal also spelled Pattadakalu is a World Heritage site. Pattadakal, place for Chalukyas Coronation, was the capital of the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka in Southern India.
There are ten temples including a Jain sanctuary. Four temples were built in Chalukya Dravidian style, four in Nagara style of Northern India and the Papanatha temple in mixed style.
Virupaksha temple is the largest and grandest of all temples in Pattadakal. The Kailasantha temple at Ellora was built based on the model of Virupaksha temple.
Sangameshwara Temple (was called Vijayewara) is oldest temple in Pattadakal, built by Chalukya King Vijayaditya Satyashraya ( 696-733), it has no sukanasika. The temple is in Dravidian style.
Kasivisvesvara temple was the last to be built in early Chalukya style. This temple was built by the Rashtrakutas in the 8th century. Kashi Vishwanatha temple in Nagara style.
Jain Temple located on the Pattadakal-Badami Road, is built in the Dravidian style by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta.
Badami Caves-
cave 1 SHIV
cave 2 VISHNU
cave 3 SHIV & VISHNU
cave 4 JAIN
In the 11th century, Telugu literature was born under the patronage of the Eastern Chalukyas with Nannaya Bhatta as its first writer.

Lingual history of Indian subcontinent 

Classification of language families:

Indo european > Indo iranian > Indo aryan>

1. Old Indic (ca. 1500–300 BCE)
early Old Indic: Vedic Sanskrit (1500 to 500 BCE)
2. late Old Indo Aryan: Epic Sanskrit, Classical Sanskrit (500 to 300 BCE)
3. Middle Indo-Aryan or Prakrits (ca. 300 BCE to 1500 CE)
4. Early Modern Indic (Mughal period, 1500 to 1800)

1. Late old Indo-Aryan:
The earliest evidence of the group is from Vedic Sanskrit, in preserved texts of Vedas.
In about the 4th century BCE, the Vedic Sanskrit language was codified and standardized by the grammarian Panini, called “Classical Sanskrit” by convention.

2. Middle Indo-Aryan (Prakrits):
Outside the learned sphere of Sanskrit, vernacular dialects (Prakrits) continued to evolve.
The oldest attested Prakrits are the Buddhist and Jain canonical languages Pali and Ardha Magadhi, respectively. The Sravakachar of Devasena (dated to the 930s) is now considered to be the first Hindi book.

The next major milestone occurred with the Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent in the 13th–16th centuries. Persian became very influential. However, Persian was soon displaced by Hindustani.
The two largest languages that formed from Apabhramsa were Bengali and Hindustani; others include Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi, and Punjabi.

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