Category Archives: Mughal

Floral forays : glimpses from the Taj

         Much has been written about the Taj Mahal, India’s iconic Mughal monument. A testament to love as it is believed, made by an emperor, Emperor Shahjahan for his favourite queen, Mumtaz Mahal or Arjumand Bano Begum. One is awestruck on seeing the Taj made from marble from Makrana which depicts so many elements of art and architecture. One can see domes, arches, minarets, windows, ceiling designs, parchin kari or pietra dura, calligraphy, Islamic geometry. Also jaali or trellis work. The finial on top of the biggest dome is also very ornate. Different views from the Taj show the beautiful embellishment and the exquisite use of marble to create this awesome wonder of the world. This mausoleum or rauza is one of the finest monuments of the world.

          This famous edifice is at an important Mughal city, Agra on the banks of the Jamuna river. Agra also has an awesome fortress, the tombs of Emperor Akbar, his consort, Jodha Bai and Vizier I’timad-ud-daulah of Emperor Jahangir. The chief architect of the Taj was Ustad Ahmed Lahori. The design is a synthesis though the Persian element is predominant.

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Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

 The Taj Mahal

Aye, build it on these banks,” the monarch said,
“That when the autumn winds have swept the sea,
They may come hither with their falling rains,
A voice of mighty weeping o’er her grave.”

They brought the purest marble that the earth
E’er treasured from the sun, and ivory
Was never yet more delicately carved :
Then cupolas were raised, and minarets,
And flights of lofty steps, and one vast dome
Rose till it met the clouds : richly inlaid
With red and black, this palace of the dead
Exhausted wealth and skill. Around its walls
The cypresses like funeral columns stood,
And lamps perpetual burnt beside the tomb.
And yet the emperor felt it was in vain,
A desolate magnificence that mocked
The lost one, and the loved, which it enshrined.

……………..Letitia Elizabeth Landon

   The Taj Mahal is situated a mile distant from the Agra Fort at a bend of the river Jamuna. The Taj was built on a large square area out of Raja Jai Singh’s garden. The Taj is considered a place of pilgrimage because Mumtaz Mahal had died during childbirth, ie. it is both a rauza and urs, hence it was designed keeping in mind the needs of both. there is designed place for pilgrims to stay, poor to receive food and gift of clothes etc. The Taj has a forecourt and gardens. The charbagh, mosque and tomb were built in the larger portion, ending in an open platform and raised terrace with the river in view. The mausoleum was placed on this terrace. The gateway at the southern end was the public entrance. The gateway at the northern wall of the forecourt is a three storeyed gateway.

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          Floral arabesques on spandrels, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

     The Taj unfolds as one walks through the monument. The outer gateway opens to a  large quadrangle surrounded by arcaded rooms and adorned by four gateways This monument took 22 years to build. A broad pavement leads to a gateway made of red stone and inscribed with verses from the Holy Quran. As one moves on, one can see  beauty and embellishement. There are the jaalis, pietra dura works as beautiful arabesques. Some views here are testimony to some splendid floral designs at the Taj.

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         Floral arabesques on spandrels,Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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        Floral arabesque in border and plant motifs on a dado, Taj Mahal, image, 21st  century.

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 The flowers which are depicted in the precincts of the Taj including the interiors and exteriors show floral compositions. Some of them resemble the iris flower if one looks closely or probably inspired by this flower ! Some patterns resemble the fuschia too.
Related image        Fuschia flower, illustration.

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Chevrons and vegetal motifs, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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          Petals, inverted, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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           Vegetal and floral arabesques,Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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        Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Vegetal scroll, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Floral scroll, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Ornamental scrolls, vegetal design, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Detail, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Detail, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.poetry.net/
  2. Wikipedia.org
  3. Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Posted by –

Soma Ghosh

©author

Arabesque in architecture : glimpses from Mughal India

        The arabesque holds a special meaning. The Cambridge dictionary says that it is ‘a type of design based on flowers, leaves, and branches twisted together, found especially in Islamic art’.  The architecture of Mughal monuments in India offers many examples of arabesque art. The Taj Mahal, tomb of Emperor Akbar, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, the Fatehpur Sikri, the Agra Fort, the Red Fort and several others. The arabesque has also been defines as a vegetal design consisting of full and half palmettes as an unending continuous pattern in which each leaf grows out of another. It is symbolic of the unity of faith of Islam.

         The beautiful and striking designs created on many Mughal monuments are actually a combination of the arabesque-vegetal, geometric patterns and Islamic calligraphy.  Islamic art is diverse and made up of stunning patterns, due to the absence of figures which could make it an object of worship, which is prevented in Islam. However the core of the art is symmetry and harmony. There is an effort to convey the structure of everything through pattern. Geometry is an important element, it is sacred geometry with an inner and outer meaning.

             Arabesque art depictions, mostly combined with geometry and calligraphy have two types, the first is about the principles that govern the order of the world. Geometric forms have a built in symbolism.The principles include the basics of what makes objects structurally sound yet pleasing to the eye. The square has equal sides and represents the important elements of nature, earth, air, fir and water. The physical world is symbolised by a circle that inscribes the square and would collapse upon itself without any of the four elements. The second type is based on the flowing nature of vegetal froms, representing the feminine life giving force. The third type is the mode of Islamic calligraphy. it is also called the art of the spoken word. Many proverbs and passages from the Holy Quran can be seen in arabesque art. The coming together of these three forms create the arabesque in its entirety. The art is not just mathematically precise but beautiful and symbolic. Many Islamic designs are based on squares and circles, interlaced to form complex patterns. A common motif is the 8 pointed star made of 2 squares, one rotated 45 degrees with respect to the other. Another basic shape is the polygon, mostly pentagon and octagon. Islamic artwork is found in jaali work or trellis tilings, woodwork, kilims or rugs, leather book bindings, metalwork, ceramics  and ceilings.

A glimpse into this fascinating world of visual art includes images from two important tombs in Agra, North of India, both from 17th century Mughal era.

Tomb of Emperor Akbar 

Emperor Jalalluddin Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, born in 1542 A.D, who ruled from 1556 to 1605 A.D. Akbar’s reign significantly influenced the course of Indian history. During his rule, the Mughal empire tripled in size and wealth. Akbar promulgated Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic creed derived mainly from Islam and Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. His tomb is at Sikandra, Agra, a structure with ornate and stunning Islamic art and architecture.

Tomb of Emperor Akbar, main entrance with  artwork, 17th century, Agra.

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Emperor Akbar, miniature painting,  17th century, MFA, Boston, U S A

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Detail, tomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

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Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”,tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

Inlay panels on South Gate, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

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               Jaali work, tomb of Akbar complex, 17th century, Agra.

 

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

          Mirza Ghiyas Beg also known by his title of I’timad-ud-Daulah  was a vizier in the Mughal empire, whose children served as wives, mothers, and generals of the Mughal emperors.He was the father of the famous ‘Nur-Jehan’ and grand father of ‘Mumtaz-Mahal’ of the Taj Mahal fame. He was made ”Vazir” after Nur Jehan ‘s marriage with Jehangir in 1611.

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I’timad-ud-Daulah, painting, 18th century.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, 8-pointed star pattern, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, a quarter of each 6-point star is shown in each corner; half stars along the sides, 17th century, Agra.

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Gate, arabesques on spandrelsTomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Jaali design with 6 point stars and arabesques on the sides, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Arabesques on exteriors, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

 

 

References :

 

 

 

Posted by

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author