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Home > Reference > History of India > Medieval History of India > Mughal Dynasty > Mughal Emperors > Aurangzeb > Mughal Architecture During Aurangzeb
Mughal Architecture During Aurangzeb, Islamic Architecture
Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb was a mottled and much-talked one, with secularism and Islamic zealotry visible to.
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 Mughal Architecture During Aurangzeb, Islamic ArchitectureMughal architecture during Aurangzeb was one of the most unusual, rather precedented kind of sort, which had become evident since Aurangzeb's early years. Indeed, becoming too much devoted and fervent in the propagation of Islam and the rather 'Islamisation of the Mughal architectural style', Aurangzeb has forever become legendary as an individual, with extending and broadening his Mughal Empire gradually turning into one sole aim. Indeed, the singular and most rare instance in the history of Mughal dynasty, Aurangzeb was that baadshah, who had reigned for a considerable period, with his realm even extending towards the southern Indian portions, a first of its kind from a central Indian administration, based in Delhi or Agra.

Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb and its spread makes one comprehend that the emperor was much less involved in architectural production than his predecessors were. However, the emperor did sponsor momentous monuments, especially religious ones. Most notable amongst them are mosques that date prior to the Mughal court's shift to the Deccan. Some of these, such as the Idgah in Mathura were built by the ruler himself, others by his nobles to proclaim Mughal authority in the face of opposition. On Aurangzeb's palace mosque one can witness an elaboration of floral and other patterns derived from those on Shah Jahan's palace pavilions. But these forms are no longer intended to suggest the 'semi-divine' character of ruler, a notion that little concerned Aurangzeb.

Indeed, such an enigmatic personality as the emperor was Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb also just as enigmatic as the man's mirror image, exhaustively unlike his predecessors. Early during Aurangzeb's reign, the harmonious balance of Shah Jahan-period architecture is thoroughly rejected in favour of an increased sense of spatial tension with an emphasis on height. Stucco and other less expensive materials emulating the marble and inlaid stone of earlier periods cover built surfaces. Immediately after Aurangzeb's accession, the use of forms and motifs such as the baluster column and the bangala canopy, earlier reserved for the ruler alone, are found on non-imperially patronaged monuments. This suggests both that there was relatively little imperial intervention in architectural patronage and that the expressions of imperial and divine symbolism established by Shah Jahan, was devalued by Aurangzeb. Mughal architectural activity under Aurangzeb, at the same time, by the nobility proliferated as never before, suggesting that they were eager to fill the role previously dominated by the emperor.

Contemporary histories relate that Aurangzeb's Mughal architecture during those times was firstly begun with repairing numerous older mosques. The frequent mention of his repair and construction of mosques suggests that this was the architectural enterprise he most highly valued. He reputedly had repaired more mosques than any of his predecessors, not just Mughal mosques but also those built under the Tughluq, Lodi and Deccani sultans as well. In other cases, Aurangzeb was attentive to the maintenance of mosques. Once he had ordered a lamp for a mosque in an old outpost and on another occasion, he had written to his prime minister (wazir) to express dismay that the carpets and other furnishings of the palace were in better condition than those of the palace's mosque!

Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb though had started with humbled elements, was not one that would be remaining in such positions. Aurangzeb's architectural prowess as his illustrious Mughal predecessors soon would begin to unfold its petals. As a result, after capturing the Maratha forts, Aurangzeb often is known to have ordered the construction of a mosque. In part they were erected from religious fervour and in part they served as a symbol of Mughal conquest. These mosques were probably constructed quickly from locally available materials. Other mosques he had built, filled a genuine need. For instance, in Bijapur city he had built an Idgah, since there was no suitable one there. In the Bijapur palace he had added a mosque for his personal use. To gain special merit, the emperor even had laid some of the stones himself. Concerned that all remaining materials should not be used for impious purposes, Aurangzeb also religiously ordered them buried.

Shortly after his accession, Aurangzeb is known to have ordered a small marble chapel, today acknowledged as the Moti or Pearl Masjid, to be constructed inside the Shahjahanabad fort (the present-day Red Fort). Shah Jahan had built no mosque inside this fort, using instead the large Jami masjid nearby for congregational prayers. Aurangzeb, however, wanted a mosque close to his private quarters. Five years under construction, his exquisite mosque was completed in 1662-63, at considerable personal expense. It is enclosed by red sandstone walls, which vary in thickness to compensate for the mosque's angle, necessary to orient the building toward Mecca, and at the same time to align it with the other palace buildings. Entered on the east, the compound of the Moti Masjid consists of a courtyard with a deep-set pool and the mosque building itself. Evidences towards par excellence Mughal architecture of Aurangzeb had begun to gain momentum in quite a short period.

Mughal Architecture During Aurangzeb, Islamic Architecture Although the Moti Masjid and its courtyard are small, approximately 9 by 15 metres internally, the high walls, over which nothing can be seen, emphasise the sense of compact verticality creating a sense of spatial tension - a repeated a characteristic of Aurangzeb's architecture during Mughal times. This is further underscored by the three bulbous domes on constricted necks, the central one rising above the others. These domes were originally gilt-covered copper that resembled gold, drawing much unwanted attention to the height. They later were replaced with white marble domes, still in place.

Aurangzeb's Badshahi mosque also reveals ornateness in his architectural style. Adjoining the Lahore Fort, the Badshahi mosque remains the largest mosque in the subcontinent. An inscription over the east entrance gate indicates that it was built in 1673-74 by Aurangzeb under the supervision of Fidai Khan Koka, the emperor's foster brother. It is proved thus yet again in a repeated manner that, just like his ancestors, Aurangzeb could not just dodge Lahore and stay their importance onto Delhi and Agra only. In fact, the bulk of Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb was based in Lahore itself. However, present times in the world have constrained such brilliant architectural splendours into geographical divisions between India and Pakistan, hugely unlike in Mughal Indian era.

Aurangzeb's mosques built in close association with palaces - primarily those dating to the time of his father, Shah Jahan - are considerably more ornate than the mosques of Shah Jahan's reign. Their decor, however, is inspired by Shah Jahan's palace architecture. 'Ornateness' formerly reserved for palaces was now found in mosques which, to Aurangzeb were the most significant architectural kind. As has already been mentioned previously, Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb had been so enigmatic, as to consistently shift focus in a periodic manner. From architecture of humble mosques, the emperor then became passionate about 'architecturing' palatial masjids. However, as palaces were less important to him, Aurangzeb had curtailed some of the earlier court ritual. For example, during his eleventh ruling year, Aurangzeb had abolished the practice of jharoka. Significantly after this time, his most elaborate mosque, the Badshahi Masjid, was built. For Aurangzeb, personal devotion and the ritual of prayer were more meaningful than courtly ritual, such as the viewing of the emperor at the jharoka that had developed to bolster the semi-divine character of earlier Mughal rulers. Thus, by extension, features formerly associated with royalty were now associated with piety and Islam. Most telling is the use of the baluster column and fulsome floral forms found earlier on the marble throne in the Shahjahanabad palace's Public Audience Hall, but now found in what Aurangzeb must have considered a strictly religious realm.

By contrast to the ornateness of Aurangzeb's palatial Mughal architectural mosques is the impressive red sandstone Idgah in Mathura, also certainly sponsored by Aurangzeb. This Idgah, a mosque for the annual Id celebration, had replaced the temple of Keshava Deva, destroyed in 1669-70 by Aurangzeb's command to avenge on-going insubordination by Jats. One chronicler notes that after the temple's destruction a large sum was spent on the construction of a mosque. The patron's name is however not mentioned by the Mughal chronicler. The structure's size, 52 by 20 metres, as well as its appearance suggest very imperial patronage. Situated high atop hill palatial masjid architecture during the times of a Mughal Aurangzeb - the Idgah is erected on the foundations of the destroyed temple. The facade is similar to that of the contemporary Badshahi mosque. For instance, all the entrances are cusped, but they possess no inlaid marble work. The Mathura Idgah's double-aisled multi-bayed interior also bears little ornamentation; a large recessed tripartite central mihrab is its most striking feature.

This masterpiece Mathura instance from Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's architectural domain, bears considerably less ornamentation than do the other two built by Aurangzeb, but they were associated with imperial palaces. The Mathura Idgah, however, was situated nowhere near any palace. Rather, it was built in Mathura, a city then of secondary importance, on top of a demolished temple, to remind rebel forces that non-Muslims would be tolerated only so long as Mughal authority was obeyed.

Despite Aurangzeb's principal concern with religious building, he had maintained a lifelong interest in secular structures. Contrary to popular belief, Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb was not only frozen upon Islamic wonders. For instance, the emperor had built and repaired serais, wells and bridges - structures all necessary for the welfare of the state, in a universal manner. In addition, the construction of fortifications was well in keeping with this emperor's interests in territorial expansion. During the first few years of his reign, Aurangzeb is known to have erected outer defensive gates before Shah Jahan's Lahore and Delhi Gates of the Shahjahanabad palace (referring to the Red Fort). Reputedly, the imprisoned Shah Jahan, upon hearing of this, wrote, "You have made the fort a bride and set a veil before her face."

These monumental gates, composed of red sandstone, had obscured Shah Jahan's ceremonial entrances into the fort and their original direct alignment with the city's main bazaar, its canal and Jahan Ara's gardens. Aurangzeb's entryways, however, did lend military strength to the fort. Aurangzeb also had ordered an outer defensive wall (sher hajji) erected around the Agra Fort. It was built in three years under the supervision of Itibar Khan. True to his earlier entitling, Mughal architecture during Aurangzeb was primarily based upon repairing and renovations, barring a few exceptions. Later during his reign, Aurangzeb had ordered fortresses to be constructed during the campaign against the Afghans and in 1705 another was built in conjunction with the campaign against the Marathas. In various Deccani cities additional fortification was provided to evade Maratha Confederacy. In 1683, Ihtamam Khan was charged with building walls around the city of Aurangabad, Aurangzeb's most prized and legendary Mughal architectural showpiece. These masonry walls circumventing Aurangabad today have virtually disappeared, but several of the original thirteen gates still exists. The Delhi Gate, marked by a wide entrance arch and engaged polygonal turrets surmounted by a domed chattri on each side, follows an older regional form, not one characteristic of contemporary Mughal architectures elsewhere in India.

Aurangzeb's concerns for Mughal architectural spread did extend beyond the military security of a locale. In Delhi, he had banned any construction that did not have his prior approval and went so far as to dismantle a structure erected by a lady of the court without his permission! Even after his permanent departure from Shahjahanabad, Aurangzeb had ordered Aqil Khan - governor {subadar) of Delhi, to maintain its gardens, palaces and serais. The emperor had also ordered reports on their condition and had drawings of them prepared in right earnest. The rooms of the palace were cleaned, locked and the carpets stored to prevent future damage.

Mughal architecture from Aurangzeb's reign, in order to upkeep the prestigious name of the empire did travel much further ahead. The emperor had new ones built, including the palace in Aurangabad. In addition, Aurangzeb had repaired the residences of others. For example, in 1685 he had ordered renovations to an earlier palace near Ahmednagar. Aurangzeb, just like his predecessors, clearly felt that palatial residences were a necessity for a man in power. He however also objected to the misuse of palatial settings, stating that dissipated rulers were of the habit to spend inordinate time in the pleasures of a palace.

Like his precursors, Aurangzeb had simply adored garden settings and rewarded gardeners for honourable work. Aurangzeb had built only a few gardens, mostly when still a prince, including a garden and tank in the vicinity of Bijapur as well as one in Ujjain. The emperor, again like earlier Mughals, was taken by the beauty of Kashmir and its gardens, although he decreed in the sixth year of his reign that no king should visit there unless on military or administrative business; the pursuit of pleasure, he believed, was inadequate reason for going to Kashmir. Hence, it is successfully comprehended that Aurangzeb's Mughal architecture was one of splendid and brilliant pursuit, at times filled with dichotomous thoughts of country's well being and yet again plundering in destruction.

(Last Updated on : 28/01/2012)
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