The association of the Muslims with India dates back to the twelfth century AD. This long association produced far-reaching effects among other things, on the country’s architecture also. The saga of Indo-Islamic architecture is a living proof of the synthesis and fusion of what was best in two of the great building traditions of the world, the Indian and the Islamic. This illustrated book, offers a detailed study on the subjects and is also a useful text for students of architecture. The large number of photos of various mosques, minars and minarets with exquisite workmanship add vitality to the text.
The author Ziyaud-Din A. Desai is a former Director (Epigraphy) Archaeological Survey of India.
The permanent association of the Muslims with India started decade of the twelfth century A.D. when Muhammad bin Sam, the Ghori King, conquered Delhi and the neighbouring parts. With his successor Sultan Qutbud-Din Aibak (1206-11), started what is known in the history of India as the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. After a rule of about a century (1206-90), the Mamluks were succeeded by the Khaljis (1290-1320) whose rule extended to a large part of the country. Then came the Tughluqs who having ruled for about a hundred years (1320-1412) were finally replaced by the Sayyids (1414-51) and the Lodis (1451-1526). It was during the rule of the Tughluqs themselves that there arose in the Deccan a new dynasty of Muslim kings known as the Bahmanis, which ruled first at Gulbarga and then at Bidar for about two centuries (1347-1538) until it was replaced by five dynasties with capitals at Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar and Gawilgrah (Berar): after enjoying authority for more than a century and a half, these kingdoms were in their turn annexed to the Mughal empire.
Likewise, the close of the Tughluq regime saw the establishment of independent kingdoms in other provinces like Gujarat, Malwa and Jaunpur. These kingdoms were also annexed one after another by the mighty Mughals (1526-1858) who exercised authority, first complete and then on a much smaller scale, until 1858 when the British officially assumed control. The Mughal rule was interrupted in its early years for a decade and a half (1540-55) during which the Suris under Sher Shah and his successors held away.
This long association of Muslims, who had brought their own traditions with them, was bound to produce far-reaching effects on the cultural, social and religious life of the country. Architecture, like other aspects of the country’s cultural life, was no exception.
The saga of Indo-Islamic architecture is living proof of the synthesis and fusion of what was best in two of the great building traditions of the world, the Indian and the Islamic. By the time the new comers had settled down permanently in Delhi and the neighbouring region in an aura of power and political authority, the building they had left behind already reflected the mighty building traditions of the great empires of Egypt and Persia and through Turkey, those of Greek Roman and Byzantine empires. On the other hand, India had an equally illustrious, exuberant and fully developed architectural style represented through a number of edifices and buildings.
The establishment of Muslim rule in the north brought face to face two great architectural traditions. However, like other aspects of their cultures, there was little in common between these two traditions in almost every field, right from the buildings material and method of construction to form and spirit of the buildings themselves. For example, the mosque and the mausoleum or tomb, round which, for the greater part, centres the interest of Indian Islamic architecture were completely unrelated to Indian tradition; not that secular architecture was overlooked or lacked the great aesthetic and architectural value which was its due, but the House of Worship and he last Resting place have from the earliest times exercised the imagination and creative power of man, and have again by their very nature, in contrast to buildings of secular character, withstood in great measure the ravages of time.
The essentials of Muslim worship, for example consisted in offering prayers in congregation; their rituals were simple and straightforward. Hence, their, their places of worship, the mosques were open and spacious, mostly comprising large halls. Similarly, the Muslims buried their dead; this gave rise to the practice of erecting remains in the form of tombs over the graves.
Also, the methods of construction of both the people differed : In view of the fact that the buildings in Islamic countries were constructed of brick, lime and mortar, the Muslim style of architecture was arcuate, that is to say, it was based on arches, vaults and domes, while here, the building materials beings stone, the Hindu style was trabeate employing pillars, lintels and pyramidal towers or slender spires. Likewise, building materials like concrete and mortar, hardly used in Hindu building materials like concrete and mortar, hardly used in Hindu building, were freely used by the Muslims.
Even their concept of decoration and ornament which formed an essential part of their building arts, had not much in common, depending as it did in the case of the Muslims, upon their different religious beliefs. The Hindu style of ornamentation, very rich in character, was expressive of natural, particularly human, forms. The decoration of the Muslims, under religious injunction, avoided representation of living beings and look the form of flat surface ornament depicting arabesque or geometrical and floral patterns, inscriptions in various styles of writing, gilding and paintings, encaustic tile-mosaics, and multiple designs in stone and marble by the artistic of inlay through opus sectile or pietra dura.
The Islamic architecture of Indian is an interesting story of these two seemingly opposite styles mingling with each other in a spirit of give and take in varying degrees in different parts of the country at different periods of time, depending upon climatic conditions, type and availability of material and similar other factors. It is for this reasons that the features of Indian style are found freely employed in the Muslim monuments of India. The qualities of strength and grace, typical of the Hindu monuments, were borrowed by the Muslims, who also did not infrequently use the trabeate system. On the other hand, the conceptions of breadth and spaciousness and the methods of spanning big spaces with arches and covering large areas with domes were essentially Islamic. Among the other features that the Muslims introduced in their buildings are the minar and the minaret, the squincharch - pendentive, stalactite, half-domed double portal etc., on the structural side.
The interesting and not less instructive story of this fusion is unfolded in the panorama of Islamic monuments dotting the vast expanse vast expanse of the country, those mute and yet eloquent witnesses to the genius and untiring Zeal of the master architects that conceived, and to the hand of master-builders that gave concrete shape them. It is this part of India cultural heritage which has literary speaking , provided, unchanged and unaltered, unlike perhaps some other aspects of the country’s cultural life, the most glorious and conspicuous monuments to its composite culture.
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