Timeline: Mughal {1526 - 1858}

The Mughals were an Indian Islamic dynasty which ruled most of northern India (including the area of present-day Pakistan) from the beginning of the sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. As patrons of architecture the Mughals commissioned some of the finest buildings known to the world including the Red Fort at Delhi and the Taj Mahal. They ruled from 1526 to 1858.

The earliest Muslim presence in India dates from 712/94 AH with the Arab conquest of Sind which was a part of the original eastward expansion of Islam. However, it was not until the eleventh century that Muslim warriors first penetrated to the Indian heartland under the leadership of Mahmud of Ghazni. For the next 150 years the Punjab and Lahore were part of the Ghaznavid Empire although the Rajput princes of Rajasthan prevented further penetration into the subcontinent. In 1192/588 AH an Afghan sultan, Mahmud of Ghur, defeated an alliance of Rajput princes and captured Delhi, one of their principal cities. Although Mahmud soon left India he made his Mamluk (slave) general Qutb al-Din Aibak governor of Delhi. For the next 500 years this part of India was ruled by various competing Islamic dynasties including the Timurids.

Public buildings of the Mughal period were usually of a utilitarian design with very little embellishment. The roads were one of the primary concerns of the Mughal administration and during the 1570s Akbar initiated a programme of road improvements including the provision of milestones, wells, reservoirs and caravanserais. The best examples of this are the caravanserais built at Chata near Mathura and Chaparghat. These buildings have a fairly uniform design consisting of a large rectangular enclosure with octagonal corner towers. Inside there are iwans leading on to cells along the side of the walls. The cells are usually arranged in pairs with a connecting door in between, thus forming units of four (two iwans and two closed rooms). In addition to the standard rooms there are usually at least two larger sets of rooms for more important travellers. Most caravanserais have one entrance; where there are two these are usually opposite each other. Sometimes the central axis of the caravanserais are built as bazars for the visiting merchants. The only areas of architectural elaboration are the gates or mosques which were attached to the buildings. One of the most magnificently decorated gateways is that of the Nur Mahal caravanserai by Nur Jahan between 1618/1028 AH and 1620/1030 AH. Its design resembles funerary and mosque architecture of theperiod, with a central iwan flanked by three tiers of side iwans; however, the decoration, which consists of carved human, animal and mythical figures, is more reminiscent of palatial architecture of the period. Milestones, known as kos minar (small towers), were used to mark the roads. These are usually very plain structures with an octagonal base and a tapering cylindrical shaft. One of the main routes which received attention during Akbar's reign was the Agra to Ajmer pilgrimage route which was provided with road markers and small resthouses. Under Jahangir the improvement of roads continued with trees planted on the road from Agra to Bengal, the construction of wells and kos minar on the road from Agra to Lahore and the provision of small stations on the Pir Panjal pass into Kashmir. During the reign of Aurangzeb the roadside facilities were extended and improved, with particular attention paid to the roads between Agra and Aurang-bad and Lahore to Kabul. Repairs carried out on bridges, caravanserais and roadside mosques were paid for out of the emperor's private income.

The first Mughal ruler was Babur who traced his descent on his mother's side from Chengiz Khan and on his father's side from Timur (Tamurlane). Babur was a Central Asian prince who ruled the area of Fargahna but had some claim to Samarkand which he repeatedly tried to capture. In addition to his dream of taking Samarkand Babur also believed he had some claim to the Delhi sultanate through his Timurid ancestors. At the battle of Paniput in 1526/933 AH Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the Muslim sultan of Delhi, with a small force which had, however, the additional advantage of artillery and gunpowder. A year later this victory was consolidated by Babur's defeat of the combined forces of the Rajput princes at Khanuna. Three years later, in 1530/937 AH, Babur died at Agra leaving the sultanate to his son Humayun. Despite the enormous advantages bequeathed by his father Humayun did not have his father's ruthlessness and in 1540/947 AH lost the throne to the Bengali ruler Sher Khan. For the next fifteen years Delhi was ruled by Sher Khan and after his death by his son Islam Sher Sur. Humayun had lost the throne mostly through the treachery of his brothers and it was only after he had defeated them by recapturing Kabul and Kandahar in 1545/952 AH that he was in a position to retake Delhi which he did in 1555/963 AH defeating Sher Sur. Unfortunately, Humayun was only able to enjoy his position for a year as he died in 1556/964 AH falling down a stairway in his library in Delhi.

Humayun left the empire to his 13-year-old son Akbar and his Turcoman guardian Bairam Khan. For the next four years, the prince and his guardian had to fight off rival claims to the throne whilst securing the boundaries of the kingdom. Akbar's first concern on assuming full power was the pacification of the Rajput princes who constantly threatened the Delhi sultanate. In 1562/970 AH Akbar married the daughter of the Raja of Amber (the nearest Rajput state to Delhi later known as Jaipur) who became the mother of the Sultan's heir Jahangir. This was the beginning of a policy that he continued with other Rajput princes so that by the end of his reign all were under his overlordship although with varying degrees of independence. In addition to marital alliances and diplomacy Akbar also gained territory by force conquering Gujarat in 1573/981 AH. Bengal in 1576/984 AH, Kashmir in 1586/995 AH, Sind and Baluchistan between 1591/1000 AH and 1595/1004 AH. The southern part of India was added in the latter part of his reign and included Berar and part of Ahmadnagar.

Akbar's territorial victories were consolidated by an efficient system of government with a paid non-hereditary civil service. In addition Akbar abolished the 'jizya', poll tax payable by Hindus and other non-Muslims, in order to integrate and unify the differing peoples of his expanding empire in the same way that the Rajput dominions had been incorporated. Religious toleration became a central principle of Akbar's government to the extent that in 1570/978 AH he convened a conference between the different religions at his newly established city of Fatehpur Sikri. The conference included scholars from Hindu and Muslim sects as well as Jains, Zoroastrians and Catholic Jesuits from Goa. The result was a new religion conceived by Akbar himself and known as Din Ilahi (Divine Faith) which drew elements from all the sects. Although the religion was not successful it shows Akbar's concern to create an empire free from religious divisions. Akbar died in 1605/1014 AH leaving the empire to his son Jahangir who had recently been in open revolt of his father. On his accession to the throne Jahangir left his son Shah Jahan in charge of the military campaigns, a pattern which was later repeated when as emperor Shah Jahan delegated control of the south to his son Aurangzeb. Both Jahangir and later Shah Jahan continued the policies of Akbar so that the empire remained relatively stable despite more or less constant warfare in the south of the country. Shah Jahan failed in his attempt to create a united Sunni state incorporating India with Central Asia, but managed to keep the empire more or less intact for his son Aurangzeb.

The last of the great Mughals, Aurangzeb, departed from the pattern of government set by Akbar and precipitated the decline of the empire. Aurangzeb devoted a great deal of energy and manpower to continuing the conquest of the south of India at the expense of all other policies. The empire reached its greatest extent during this period and included the whole subcontinent with the exception of the southern tip. However, this brought increased problems of communication and military control which the empire was not able to manage. These problems were exacerbated by Aurangzeb's fanatical Muslim zeal which meant that he reversed the policy of religious tolerance exercised by his great-grandfather by introducing the poll tax (jizya) for non-Muslims. Similarly he encouraged the destruction of Hindu temples and other religious shrines and his southern conquests became one of the greatest iconoclastic excursions in India's history. Although Aurangzeb may have been a pious Muslim, this policy was not successful in an empire which depended on the co-operation and toleration of different ethnic and religious groups. Perhaps the best example of Aurangzeb's policy was the Great Mosque built to tower over the Hindu holy city of Banares.

With Aurangzeb's death at the age of 90 in 1707/1119 AH the empire passed to his son Bahadur Shah who only lived another five years. During the next half-century the rapidly disintegrating empire was ruled by eight sultans. The weakness of the empire was shown in 1739/1152 AH when Delhi was sacked by the Persian emperor Nadir Shah who carried off the peacock throne along with countless other treasures. The latter part of the century witnessed the conflict between a variety of forces including the Mughals, the Hindu Marathas, and the British East India Company. In 1803/1218 AH the East India company occupied Delhi and Agra thus ending Mughal power in India. For the next half-century, the powerless Mughals were retained by the British as 'Kings of Delhi'. Finally in 1857/1274 AH the last Mughal Bahadur Shah II was stripped of even this title and was removed from Delhi for his part in the sepoy mutiny.

Mughal architecture was derived from three main sources: native Indian Islamic, Persian Central Asian and local Hindu architecture. It is difficult to determine the extent to which any feature or building type used by the Mughals derives from any of these particular sources, partly because earlier Indian Islamic architecture contains both Hindu and Islamic elements. What is clear, however, is that Mughal architecture does incorporate many elements from local Hindu architecture, in particular the art of the Rajput palaces.

Distinctive Hindu features incorporated into Mughal architecture include trabeate stone construction, richly ornamented carved piers and columns, and shallow arches made out of corbels rather than voussoirs. In addition, there are particular constructions usually associated with Hindu buildings, including chatris, chajjas and jarokhas, which became characteristic of Mughal architecture. A chatri is a domed kiosk resting on pillars which in Hindu architecture is used as a cenotaph but in Islamic architecture is placed as decoration on top of mosques, palaces, and tombs. A chatri is a sloping stone overhang at roof level, used to deflect rain water away from the walls of a building and usually supported on heavily carved corbels. A jarokha is a projecting balcony supported on corbels with a hood resting on columns. Whilst all of these features may be paralleled elsewhere in Islam, the particular form which they assume in Mughal architecture shows a clear derivation from local Hindu architecture. In addition to Hindu features, there are some elements derived from the pre-existing Islamic architecture of India. The best example is the curved do-chala roof derived from Bengali huts which was first used in this stone form in the sultanate architecture of Bengal. Another Indo-Islamic feature is the cusped arch which can be found in the pre-Mughal architecture of Delhi and Gujarat.

Obvious Persian influences in Mughal architecture are the extensive use of tilework, the iwan as a central feature in mosques, the use of domes, the charbagh, or garden, divided into four and the four-centrepoint arch. The form of buildings and some of the decorative motifs also suggests obvious Persian influence.

The materials used for Mughal architecture varies widely depending on the region and the type of construction. As with most other areas, many of the original buildings have not survived because they were made of less permanent materials such as wood, as well as having been subject to deliberate destruction as a result of wars or rebuilding. However, the material which stands out as characteristic of Mughal architecture is the use of hard, deep-red sandstone. This material is very strong under compression and so can be used for trabeate construction where roofs are made of flat stone slabs supported on stone columns. When domes were built these were sometimes constructed in the Persian tradition using squinches or pendentives, but more commonly they rested on horizontal flat beams laid over the corners of the structure. Despite its strength and hardness the Indian masons trained in the Hindu tradition of building ornate temples were able to carve this sandstone with intricate details as seen in the columns of the Jami Masjid in Delhi. White marble is the other type of stone often associated with Mughal architecture. It is first used in conjunction with red sandstone as a stone cladding for the front of monumental buildings such as the tomb of Humayun in Delhi where it is used as an inlay and outline for the red sandstone ground. Later, during the reign of Shah Jahan in the seventeenth century, white marble facing was used to cover entire buildings, the best-known example of which is the Taj Mahal. In addition to the fine-cut stone masonry used for facades coursed rubble stone construction was used for the majority of walls. Baked brick was also used for some elements of the construction like domes and arches although this was usually covered with plaster or facing stones


Decoration of buildings was carried out using a variety of techniques including ceramic tilework, carved and inlaid stonework, pietra dura inlay with coloured and semi-precious stones. Tilework was applied to the exterior of buildings in the Persian manner using Chinese, Persian and Indian tiles. Two main types of tile were used - cuerda sec using coloured glazes, and tile mosaic which used cut pieces of monochrome tiles to produce a pattern. Mughal architecture excels in the quality of its carved stonework, from shallow relief depictions of flowers to intricate pierced-marble screens known as jalis. It has previously been thought that the pietra dura work in Mughal architecture was an Italian introduction because Shah Jahan used some Italian examples of the technique in his palace in Delhi, however this technique had an independent development in India which is obvious when the Italian panels are compared with Indian examples. The main types of building designed for the sultans included palaces and forts, mosques, tombs and gardens. The range of buildings indicates the image the emperors wished to project of themselves as all-powerful rulers close to heaven. One of the most important types of building was the fortified palace as seen at Delhi, Agra, Ajmer, Fatehpur Sikri, and Lahore. Although differing substantially in details the palaces share a common overall design where severe external walls conceal a series of courtyards, pavilions, and gardens which convey an impression of paradise on earth. The standard plan was of a monumental outer gate that leads inside to another gate known as the 'Hathai Pol' where visitors dismount from elephants. From here there was access to the Diwan-i Amm or public audience hall behind which were the private areas of the palace. The private areas of the palace were usually raised up above the rest of the complex for increased privacy and to catch any breezes in the summer heat. This part of the palace usually included a private audience hall, a bath house, several courtyards with pavilions based around pools, and a separate area for the women, known as the zenana. On one side of this private area was a tower projecting from the outer walls known as the Mussaman Burj (octagonal tower) from which the emperor appeared once a day to show that he was still alive.

Babur, the first Mughal emperor, only reigned for four years, during which time he was too busy securing his empire to spend time on major building projects like palaces and instead governed from tented encampments. The earliest Mughal palace is the Purana Qila in Delhi built by Humayun and continued by the Bengali usurpers Sher Sur and Islam Sur. The palace is surrounded by a huge wall 1.5 km long with three huge gateways. Each gateway consists of an arched opening flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers with battered walls, arrow slits and pointed crenellations. Little remains of the original structures inside the fort with the exception of the mosque and a domed octagonal pavilion known as the Sher Mandal so that it is not possible to tell much about the building's layout. The next imperial palace to be built was Akbar's fort at Agra where enough remains to show that it was the basic model for subsequent Mughal palaces. The palace is built next to the river Jumna and is surrounded by huge walls fortified with semi-circular towers. There are two gates, an outer gate with a drawbridge and complex bent entrance leading to an inner gate called the Hathai Pol where visitors were required to dismount from their elephants. Most of the buildings inside the complex belong to Akbar's successor Shah Jahan with the exception of the court known as the Jahangiri Mahal. This structure was built in the style of a Hindu Rajput palace with carved stone beams and giant corbels supporting chajjas. This tendency is carried further in Akbar's new city of Fatehpur Sikri founded in 1570/978 AH where the whole palace is overwhelmingly Hindu in its form with Islamic elements reduced to a minimum. Of the same period is the fort at Ajmer in Rajasthan, this is much smaller than the imperial palaces and consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosure measuring 85 by 75 m with four octagonal corner towers and a half-octagonal gateway. In the centre of the courtyard is a rectangular pavilion built of yellow stone and divided into nine chambers in the form of a Hindu mandala. Hindu elements were also predominant in Akbar's other palaces at Allahabad and Lahore although little of Akbar's original work survives at either of these palaces.

The palaces of Shah Jahan by contrast have a more familiar Islamic appearance as can be seen in his modifications to Akbar's fort at Agra where he added several new courtyards, the most famous of which is the Anguri Bagh (grape garden). This is a square garden divided into four sections with a central rectangular pool with lobed sides which provides water for the garden. The garden is surrounded by various pavilions the most prominent of which are the Khas Mahal (private audience hall) and the Sheesh Mahal (glass pavilion). Although these pavilions have many of the same Hindu features seen in Akbar's architecture (i.e domed chatris and chajjas) they are less prominent and tempered with more Islamic forms like lobed arches and the curved Bengali do-chala roofs. In addition the white marble facing of the buildings produces a new lighter appearance which is not found in the earlier buildings of Akbar or in Hindu architecture. The most lavishly decorated building of the palace is the Mussaman Burj which overlooks the river at the east side of the palace. The tower has an octagonal copper dome and inside is lined with carved marble dadoes, pietra dura inlay, pierced screens above the doorways and decorative rows of niches. From inside there is an uninterrupted view of the river and the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

In 1638/1048 AH Shah Jahan chose the site of his new city at Delhi based around his palace which became known as the Red Fort. By 1648/1058 AH the fort was completed at a cost of ten million rupees. The layout and design of the Red Fort bear a striking resemblance to the Agra Fort on which it was probably based. Like the Agra Fort, the Red Fort has rectangular open pavilions with cusped arches, white marble dadoes carved in relief, and pietra dura work. However, the Red Fort has a more regular symmetrical design, reflecting the fact that it was planned and built mostly by one patron (with a few additions by Aurangzeb) unlike the Agra Fort which gradually developed under two emperors. The most magnificent of the rooms at the Red Fort is the Diwan-i Amm or public reception room where the enthroned emperor would receive audiences. This room was approached from the main gate via an arcaded passageway, a large courtyard, another gateway, and an even larger courtyard so that visitors were suitably awed by the time they reached the emperor. The room consists of a hypostyle hall nine bays wide and three bays deep supported by twelve-sided columns spanned by cusped arches. The throne occupies a special position in the middle of the back wall and consists of a raised platform covered by a dome supported on columns. The area behind the throne is decorated by pietra dura panels imported from Italy. Within the palace is the Diwan-i Khass or private audience hall which is equally lavishly decorated and originally had a silver-clad ceiling inlaid with gold.

Unlike the palaces, the mosques of the Mughals were built to accommodate the public and were thus more restrained in their decoration although equally monumental. Delhi contains some of the earliest examples of Mughal mosques in India which clearly show their derivation from earlier Sultanate mosques. The Mahdi Masjid is one of the earliest examples of a Mughal mosque and its architecture resembles that of the Lodi Sultanate which preceded the Mughals. The mosque is built like a small fort with corner turrets and a monumental gateway built in the style of Lodi tombs. The arrangement inside is unique and consists of a rectangular courtyard with two prayer halls at the qibla end on either side of a central piece of a blank wall. Nearby is the Jamali Kamali Masjid built between 1528/935 AH and 1556/964 AH which has a more distinctively Mughal appearance. The building is faced in red sandstone with white stone outlining the details to relieve the intensity of the red. The sanctuary facade consists of an arcade of four centrepoint arches resting on thick piers; the heaviness of the facade is relieved by rosettes in the spandrels of the arches, two-tier blind arches on the piers and a row of smaller blind arches running in a line above the arches. The central arch leading onto the mihrab is the same size as the other arches but is emphasized by a tall pishtak-like facade with engaged columns. The area behind this arch is covered by a squat masonry dome typical of Rajput and earlier Sultanate architecture.

The earliest surviving imperial Mughal mosque is the Qala-i-Kuhna Masjid in the Old Fort (Purana Qila) in Delhi although ironically it was begun in 1541/948 AH during the Shah Sur period. Like the Jamali Kamali Masjid the sanctuary of this mosque consists of five bays running north-south parallel to the qibla with the central bay emphasized by a dome. The arrangement of the arcade is the same although here the arches are set within taller pointed arches of differing sizes to lighten the appearance of the facade. The next imperial mosque is attributable to Akbar's reign and rather surprisingly shows more signs of Hindu influence than mosques of the earlier period. This is the mosque of Fatehpur Sikri, the palace-city built by Akbar in the 1570s, where Hindu influence was at its most pronounced. The basic plan of the mosque conforms to the established pattern of Mughal mosques with a large courtyard surrounded by an arcade and a centrally placed iwan set into the arcade of the sanctuary on the west side of the courtyard. However, the details of the mosque are mostly Hindu in their associations, from the richly carved columns and corbelled arches in the arcades and the sanctuary to the domed chatris lining the roof. With the reign of Jahangir and later Shah Jahan the appearance of mosques returns to a more overtly Islamic form. In the Jami Masjid of Shahjahanabad built in 1650/1061 AH the use of Hindu elements is drastically reduced to two chatris on the roof whilst other more Islamic features such as the minarets, the central iwan, and cusped arches assume a higher prominence. The domes have a taller pointed appearance familiar in Islamic buildings elsewhere instead of the squat Hindu-style domes used in earlier Mughal mosques. The design of the Shahjahanabad Jami Masjid was a major influence on later Indian mosque architecture with its use of three domes over the sanctuary in conjunction with a raised central arch, or iwan, and engaged minarets. During the reign of Aurangzeb this form was developed as the standard mosque form. The Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) built by Aurangzeb in the Red Fort at Delhi was too small to incorporate all the features found at the Jami Masjid but incorporated a three-domed sanctuary with a raised central arch and mini-domed pillars projecting out of the roof to resemble minarets. In the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore built by Aurangzeb in 1674/1085 AH the pattern of the Jami Masjid was copied with the addition of more minarets making a total of eight.

An important function of imperial Mughal architecture was to overawe people with the power, wealth, and sophistication of the sultans; in no area was this more effective than in the design and construction of the sultans' tombs. The earliest tombs of the Mughal period resemble those of the previous Muslim sultans of Delhi and typically consist of an octagonal domed structure sometimes surrounded by an open veranda. One of the first Mughal examples is the tomb of Adham Khan built by Akbar for his wet nurse and her son who was killed in a palace dispute. Another example of this tomb type is the mausoleum of Sher Shah Sur at Sasaram built before 1540/947 AH. This has the same basic plan as the Adham Khan tomb with a central domed octagonal chamber surrounded by an octagonal arcade with three arches per side. The tomb is made more elaborate, however, by its location in the middle of a specially made moat and its use of domed chatris to mark the corners of each side of the octagon. Other related tombs with a similar design include the tomb of Sayyid Lodi (1517/923 AH), the tomb of Isa Khan in Delhi.

Later Mughal tombs were also based on an octagonal form but instead of sides of equal length, four of the sides were shortened thus producing a square shape with cut off corners. An early example of this type is the Afsarwala tomb in Delhi, situated in the garden of the Arab serai near the tomb of Humayun. Humayun's tomb built in the 1560s is the first example of the imperial Mughal tomb complexes which came to characterize the splendor of the dynasty (Babur was buried in a simple garden grave and later his remains were transferred to Kabul). Humayun's tomb is composed of four-square octagonal shapes built on two storeys around an octagonal domed space. Between each octagon is a deep iwan giving access to the central domed space which contains the tomb of Humayun. The central structure is surrounded with arcades forming a low square with chamfered corners. In turn this central structure is set in the middle of a square garden divided into quarters which are further subdivided into thirty-two separate sections. The tomb of Humayun was a model for later Mughal tombs, although the tomb of his immediate successor Akbar differs greatly from this model. Akbar's tomb, located in the district of Sikandara (8 km outside Agra) was begun in 1605 and completed seven years later. It is not known whether Akbar took any part in the design of the tomb although it is known that his ion Jahangir may have altered the original design. The outer part of the building is a rectangular structure with engaged octagonal towers at each corner and a tall iwan in the centre of each side. The central part of the complex is very different from any other tomb as it lacks a central dome. It consists of a five-storey pavilion with an open rectangular courtyard at the top containing a tomb-like cenotaph. This architecture is characteristic of Akbar's reign and can be compared with the Panch Mahal in the palace at Fatehpur Sikri where there is also a conglomeration of pavilions five storeys high. The outer form of the complex can be compared with the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah's tomb completed in 1628/1038 AH which consists of a low building with a square plan and short engaged octagonal corner towers. In the centre, raised one storey above the rest of the structure, is a vaulted pavilion.

The classic form of tomb was returned to the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1651/1062 AH. The basic form of the tomb recalls that of Humayun's Tomb at Delhi and consists of four octagonal structures joined together by iwans and grouped around a central domed area. As in Humayun's Tomb, the central building is two storeys high, but here the central dome is more than double the height of the rest of the structure. Instead of being surrounded by arcades the lower part of the structure is raised on a terrace, the sides of which are marked by blind arcades. At each corner of the square terrace is a tapering cylindrical minaret on an octagonal base. The basic forms used in the Taj Mahal were re-used in later tombs but never with the same success. The Bibi ka Maqbara tomb, built less than forty years later, has the same design as the Taj Mahal but the octagonal minarets are thicker and higher in proportion to the central complex which consequently loses some of its significance. A later tomb in this tradition is that built for Safdar Jang in 1753/1167 AH. In this building, the minarets are incorporated into the central structure as engaged corner turrets whilst the terrace becomes an arcaded substructure.

One of the most important aspects of Mughal architecture was the design of gardens which provided the setting for tombs and palaces or stood on their own as places for relaxation. Babur, the author of the first Mughal architecture, was a lover of gardens and laid out several after his conquest of Delhi. One of the earliest Mughal gardens is known as the Rambagh or Aram Bagh in Agra and was planned by Babur. Although the original form of the garden may have been altered the narrow water channels are indicative of its early date. The usual form of Mughal gardens was derived from the Persian char bagh which consists of a square walled garden divided into four equal units around a central feature usually a pool or fountain. The geometric form of gardens meant that the plant borders assumed a certain importance as can be seen at the Anguri Bagh in Agra Fort where the flower beds are made of interlocking cusped squares like a jigsaw puzzle. Also, the form of gardens meant that the plants were usually kept quite low so that the shape of the arrangement was visible. In Kashmir, Mughal gardens assumed a less formal and more natural appearance, with tall trees and shrubs and architecture hidden within the garden rather than dominating it as was the case with the more formal gardens of Delhi and Agra. At Srinagar, there were once several hundred gardens built around the Dal Lake although only a few still remain. One of the most famous of these is the Shalimar Bagh laid out during the reign of Jahangir in 1619/1029 AH. The form of the garden echoed that of palace architecture and consisted of a terraced system where the garden was divided into three parts; the lowest part was accessible to the public, the middle section was for the emperor and his friends, whilst the highest part (which was totally out of view) contained the zenana or women's private area. In the centre of the women's area, in the middle of a formal pool, is the Black Pavilion built by Shah Jahan. The building has a three-tiered tiled roof and is built in the style of local Kashmiri wooden mosques.

Like his ancestor Babur, Aurangzeb was more concerned with garden architecture than the construction of palaces. One of the most impressive of these gardens was that of Fatehbad near Agra which although now largely derelict contains a central arcaded pavilion surrounded by a crenellated wall with a monumental entrance.


Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Related Resources:

Faith and Places: Mughal Architecture in India

Mughal Gardens

Additional Reading:

Jodidio, Philip, editor. Heritage of the Mughal World. Munich: Prestel, 2015. https://archnet.org/publications/10490

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