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Mughal Architecture: An Outline of Its History and Development (1526-1858).

The wealth of existing Mughal architecture in north India and Pakistan is illustrated by two remarkable recent books. The book under review is a comprehensive synopsis, enlarging upon the author's Encyclopaedia of Islam article. The other, by Catherine B. Asher, is a more inclusive study: Architecture of Mughal India, The New Cambridge History of India 1.4 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992). The books are complementary but opinions and dates sometimes vary.

The patronage of the Mughal rulers is developed by Koch chronologically. Chapters are divided into types of patronage, both secular and sacred, including tombs, fortress-palaces, palaces, mosques, gardens, pavilions and public works (hammams, roads, road markets, bridges, bazaars, caravanserais, wells and tanks). Coverage of regional architecture is limited. The essence of each style incorporated the multiple sources inherited and adapted from indigenous Indian, Sultanate, Central Asian, Timurid, Safavid, and European sources. Mughal architecture emphasized monumentality, grandeur, royal power, wealth, and the Muslim religion.

Seven chapters touch on history and the salient characteristic building types, materials, origins, plans, elevations, and decorations. The author's extensive residence and travel in the areas gave her a unique opportunity to carry out research. The original photos, plans, and elevations are excellent references for study. A glossary, bibliography and an index are appended.

The first ruler, Babur (r. 1526-30), introduced Timurid forms, spatial concepts, symmetry, and the net covered pendentive as well as the walled garden, strategically placed near temporary campsites. Mosques and hammams too were constructed.

Humayun (r. 1530-40, 1555-56) continued Timurid, Sultanate and indigenous traditions but little survived except a mosque in Agra and the so-called Sher Mandal in his fortress at Dinpanah, but this attribution is disputed. The nine-fold/hasht behisht plan for non-imperial tombs with a pishtaq facade and high drum supporting a dome was introduced, as well as a trabeate, pillared hall and veranda with a flat roof, dated to 1533. The plan was used for residential and funerary architecture. The nobility always accentuated the spread of the Imperial styles throughout the empire.

Synthesis and consolidation came under Akbar (r. 1556-1605) in monumental form. Humayun's red sandstone and white marble nine-fold plan tomb (1562-71) was set in a four-part garden evoking paradise. Akbar built fortress-palaces first in Agra (1564 through the 1570s). Little remains of the riverside residence except the "Jahangiri" Mahal, but the setting continued as the place reserved for the royal family. The city complex at Fatehpur Sikri (1571-85) was built to commemorate the conquest of Gujarat, and Gujarati style predominated in the trabeate architecture and decoration. The Chisti tomb (1580-81) was made of white marble, used exclusively for saints' tombs at this time. Here the first monumental Jami Mosque (1568-78) was built, a courtyard type, though other plans were also used elsewhere. Other buildings were constructed, rivalling the number of works built for the Tughluqs (1320-1414).

Jahangir's contributions were more substantial than is generally acknowledged, as is substantiated by his memoirs. Many innovative features were developed in his constructions or reconstructions, especially gardens and palaces. White marble was now used for secular palaces, pillared halls, and tombs. Royal women became patrons of mosques and tombs, gardens, palaces, serais, and public works. Jahangir reconstructed Akbar's tomb at Sikandra (1613), where the multiple minarets were a new feature. Ornate decor is now seen on both interior and exterior surfaces made of white marble, stone inlay, painted stucco or tile. Decorative motifs following Saravid Persian models, such as wine containers and fruit and cypress trees, were introduced, as seen on Itimad ad-Daula's tomb (1626-28). The motifs are identified with paradise as is appropriate in a tomb-garden. References to Solomon, the just and ideal ruler, are found in the imagery in the Lahore Fort.

Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58) was the ruler most intimately involved in the centralized planning of his architectural program. The empire was at its greatest height and its buildings reflect its richness. Classical bi-lateral symmetry and uniform, standardized features were the norm, verging on the ponderous. Marble or chuna was usual for tombs, mosques, forts, and urban planning, for example Jahangir's tomb (1628-38), the Taj Mahal (1632-43), the reconstructed palace in the Agra Fort (1637), and the Delhi Fort (1639-48) and Jami mosques. Sumptuous pietre dure decorated tombs and palaces, but not mosques. Mirror-work emblazoned ceilings and walls of palaces. A "Shah Jahani" column was developed, and a European type baluster column and baldachin decorated the throne in the Delhi public audience hall. The acanthus, and three dimensional relief of natural plants can be traced to European sources. The Bengali bangla, a curved roof, was a royal prerogative. Shah Jahan was the last to use the light symbolism of semi-divinity begun under Akbar. His many mosques confirm his piety by their sober, pristine lines contrasting starkly with his sumptuous palaces.

Aurangzib (r. 1658-1707) and his successors were less active patrons than Shah Jahan. Shah Jahani architectural styles and decorations dominated subsequent structures. Shah Jahan's decorative motifs became more flamboyant and florid. Buildings became more attenuated. No royal palaces were constructed. Aurangzib's best-known works were religious structures, gardens or public works. The last imperial tomb was constructed for his wife in Aurangabad (1660-61) on the model of the Taj Mahal. He built the last major jami in Lahore (1673-74), and a private mosque in the Delhi fort (1663), copying the Nagina Mosque (1640s) in the Agra fort, and several other mosques.

The nobility took over the role of architectural patronage in India. Shah Jahani features were adapted or regionalized and made of cheaper construction materials. Royal features, such as the bangla and balauster column, became common features of non-royal architecture. Raj and British architecture reflect this late style. The brief chapter devoted to this period is an indication of how much a thorough study of this material is required.

This brief review cannot do adequate justice to the wealth of information contained in this book. We all look forward to the author's forthcoming book on the hunting palaces of the Mughals.

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Author:Kane, Carolyn
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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