The Magnificence: A Journey through the History of Indo-Islamic Architecture

Indo-Islamic architecture refers to the Islamic architecture of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the present-day states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Islam had already gained a foothold on the west coast and far northwest of the subcontinent by the early Middle Ages, but the current phase of Indo-Islamic construction began with the subjugation of the Northern Gangster by the Ghurids at the end of the 12th century.

Islam made contact with the Indian subcontinent through trade contacts between Arabia and the Indian west coast, initially limiting its influence to the Malabar coast in the extreme southwest. In the early 8th century, an Islamic army led by the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sindh (now Pakistan), forming the eastern frontier of the Islamic sphere of influence. The entire Gangese plain came under the control of the Persian Ghurid dynasty in Bengal, marking the beginning of the true Islamic era in India.

The Sultanate of Delhi was built in 1206, and it was the most important Islamic state on Indian soil until the 16th century.

The Mughal Empire, established in 1526, gradually subjugated other Muslim subcontinental states until the 18th century, becoming the hegemonic power destined for India’s destiny. Other Islamic empires emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The last Islamic dynasties were defeated in the 19th century by the rise of British colonial power, moving to British India or existing as partially sovereign princely states until the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Islamic architecture in India was developed during the Middle Ages when Persian and Central Asian architectural styles were combined under the influence of Muslim kingdoms. The Mughal Empire, which ruled India for over three centuries, introduced Islamic architecture to India, which was characterized by simplicity and firmness in structures, extensively using patterns and handwriting in designing layouts. Famous Islamic architectural features used in this blend between the two cultures include qibla, mihrab, minbar, courtyards, minarets, arches, domes, and arabesque patterns.

The Indo-Islamic architecture was marked by several interesting styles, including the Imperial Style, which emerged from the Sultanate of Delhi. The Sultanate’s architectural styles were closely linked to the reigning dynasty, with the Slave dynasty and the Khilji dynasty dominating at the beginning of the Sultanate. The Tughluq dynasty expanded the Sultanate but was weakened in 1398 by a Mongol invasion. The Sayyid dynasty and the Lodi dynasty reigned at the end of the period. After the removal of the sultanate by the Mughals in 1526, the Surids temporarily restored the empire between 1540 and 1555.

The best-preserved example of a mosque from the infancy of Islam in South Asia is the ruined Banbhore mosque in Sindh, Pakistan, from 727. The beginning of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206 introduced a large Islamic state to India, using Central Asian styles. The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, now a ruin, was the first structure, reused elements from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. The Qutb Minar, a large minaret or victory column, was the nearest comparator to the Delhi tower.

The Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra in Ajmer, Rajasthan, is an early mosque built for Delhi rulers in the 1190s. It features corbelled arches and domes, with Hindu temple columns stacked in threes to achieve extra height. Both mosques had large detached screens with pointed corbelled arches added in front of them, possibly under Iltutmish a few decades later. By 1300, real domes and arches with voussoirs were under construction, with the ruined tomb of Balban in Delhi possibly being the first survival.

The Alai Darwaza janitor’s house in the Qutb complex from 1311 showcases a cautious approach to new technology, featuring thick walls and a shallow dome. It introduces Indo-Islamic architecture with bold colors, pointed arches, and openwork stone screens, replacing polychrome tiles in Persia and Central Asia.

Under the Slave dynasty, spolia from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples were used to build mosques on a grand scale. However, the Islamic conquerors left Hindu masters to carry out their building projects, as Indian masons were far more experienced in domestic stone than building materials than the architects of their homeland. The details of the mosques’ facade decoration, unknown in contemporary Near Eastern buildings, show an unmistakable Indian influence from the outset.

The Quwwat al-Islam Mosque, located within the Qutb complex on Delhi’s southern fringe, is one of the most complex and controversial monuments of its kind. While the Qutb Minar boasts of its towering presence, the mosque is infamously seen as a reminder of a violent and communal past.

Visitors to the mosque are guided through a graphic tour of Muslim conquest of Hindustan, with the most controversial part being the foundational inscription on the eastern gate.

The early Indo-Islamic style of the Slave dynasty in India was characterized by stricter, fortress-like features, with notable examples such as the Adhai din ka Jhonpra mosque in Ajmer (Rajasthan, northwest India). This mosque, built around 1200, included a Jain Mandapa as a courtyard mosque with columnar temple pole entrances and an arched maqsurah. It was only in the second half of the 13th century that true arches with radially arranged stones prevailed.

The Tughluq dynasty (1321-1413) extended the Delhi Sultanate’s area of power to the south and east of India, with important mosques built during the reign of Firuz Shah. The Begumpur Mosque in Delhi represents this style, with its rectangular arcaded courtyard and deep revelation of the pishtaq arch.

The Khirki Mosque in Delhi breaks with traditional courtyard mosque construction, divided into four covered parts with their own courtyards. Decorative elements influenced by Hinduism disappeared during Tughluq’s time, but structural features like narrow interior spaces, horizontal chutes, brackets, and tiled ceiling structures reveal Hindu craftsmen’s participation in the construction work.

After the conquest and sacking of Delhi by Mongol conqueror Timur in 1398, the mosque style of Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh, North India) became a monumental sequel. The Atala Mosque and the largest Friday Mosque (Jama Masjid) have a high maqsurah, cantilevered brackets on the flat-roofed courtyard arches, and plastic facade decorations suggest Hindu influences.

Following the Lodi dynasty’s temporary resurgence of the Delhi Sultanate, mosque construction in the heart of the country was revived with innovations, such as augmented domes, archivolts, and a change in the shape of the minaret.

The Mughal Empire, which ruled northern India from 1526 to 1722, incorporated Persian-influenced culture into mosque architecture while also incorporating non-Islamic elements on an unprecedented scale. The first great mosque of the Mughal period is the Friday Mosque in Fatehpur Sikri, built between 1571 and 1574 under the tolerant ruler Akbarwas. This mosque illustrates the original type of mosque in the Mughal style and the symbiosis of Indian, Persian, and Central Asian building elements during the Mughal era.

The Mughal Empire promoted development in many fields, including architecture and culture, creating the Indo-Islamic-Persian style, combining architectural styles of early Muslim dynasties of India with Turkish and Persian architecture and Hindu-style architecture. The Delhi Juma Masjid, built between 1650 and 1656 by Emperor Shah Jahan, is one of the most famous Indo-Islamic style mosques decorated with white marble and red sandstone.

The Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, is a significant Islamic architectural achievement in India. The Mughal Empire also constructed complexes like the Red Fort, Agra Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, and Fatehpur Sikri, integrating Islamic and Persian cultures while maintaining India’s unique lineage. The Bethalle, with lotus flower-shaped stucco tops, was frequently attacked by later mosques. Chhatris, small, decorated pavilions, originated from Hindu Rajputs secular architecture and date back to classical Buddhist cult buildings’ umbrella crowning.

The Badshahi mosque, completed in 1644 in Lahore, Pakistan, closely follows the construction concept of the Delhi Mosque in Delhi. However, the late Mughal Mosque style was maintained in the 19th century for lack of new, innovative solutions. Examples include the late 18th-century Asafi Mosque in Lakhnau and the 1878 Taj Mosque-in Bhopal.

The Mughal emperor Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, completed in 1571 as the first monumental tomb and building of the Mughal period, pioneered the style of Mughal tombs. It consisted of an octagonal, domed central space with four faces in the pishtaqs directions with two chattris upstream.

The dome, the first in the Indian subcontinent, featured a double shell structure with two domed roofs, causing the inner ceiling to differ from the outer dome’s curvature.

Humayun’s tomb, designed by a Persian architect, features an onion-shaped outer pseudo-dome with four octagonal corner buildings. The structure combines Persian elements with local building tradition, with a large proportion of foreign craftsmen. Indian architraves, brackets, and sculptural ornaments were rejected, favoring keel arches and flat facade decoration.

Persian tomb and Char Bagh-type garden exhibit symmetrical forms, with square layout and four paths dividing the garden into smaller squares.

The tomb of Emperor Akbar at Sikandra (Uttar Pradesh) takes strong links in Hindu architecture, built on a square plan, rising like a pyramid in five recessed storeys. The first floor uses the formal Islamic idiom, while the upper floors are modeled after Hindu temple halls as open rooms, enriched by Islamic vaults. The usual domed roof is missing.

In the 17th century, Persian stylistic traits were revived under Akbar’s successors, with white marble replacing red sandstone as the main building material. The Taj Mahal, completed in 1648, is considered the most impressive Mughal building.

The Deccan style of architecture emerged during the Deccan era, when the Bahamians of the Delhi Sultanate dissolved and established their own empire. This led to the emergence of five Deccan sultanates in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The strongest of these sultanates, Bijapur and Golkonda, maintained their independence until they were conquered by the Mughal Empire in 1686 and 1687 respectively.

The early, strongly Persian architecture of the Shiite Deccan states was simple and appropriate. From the 16th century onwards, the local Hindu building tradition turned towards softer features and playful decoration, without supplanting the basic Persian character. The architecture of the Deccan sultanates of the 16th and 17th centuries has a strong Safavid (Persian) character, but was sometimes enriched by Hindu building techniques such as the lintel and cantilever roof with chajja.

The mature mosque style of the Deccan Sultanate is characterized by perfect domes and the repetition of the main dome as a miniature tower. The buildings erected in the Deccan region of India belonged to several pre-Moghul kingdoms that ruled the Deccan from the mid-14th century onwards. The Deccan Islamic architecture thrived during the rule of Gulbarga (1347-1422), Bidar (1422-1512), Golkonda (1512-1687), Bijapur (16th and 17th centuries), and Khandesh (15th and 16th centuries).

The influences of this style came from two main sources: the Delhi style, brought south by Muhammad Tughluq’s forced migration from Delhi, and the Persian style, brought south by Persians.

The Deccan style can be divided into three main phases: the Gulbarga phase (Bahmani Dynasty), Bidar phase (Bahmani and Barid dynasties), and Golkonda phase (Qutub Shahi dynasty).

The Adil Shahi kingdom, which was born in Bijapur during the reign of Adilshah, developed over 50 examples of fine monuments in the city’s architectural style. The most important example is the Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of Muhammad Adil Shah (1627-1657), which is the largest domed construction in the world. It covers a total interior area of over 1,600 square meters and features a large hemispherical dome surmounted by seven tiered octagonal towers at the corners.

Tombs continued to develop on a square plan until the 17th century in Bidar, Bijapur (Karnataka), and Golkonda (Andhra Pradesh, southeast India). Taut drum domes accentuated the growing mountain trend, while lotus decoration and other decorative elements of late Deccan architecture were due to Hindu influence. The Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur bore Ottoman influence, as the ruling family of the Bijapur Sultanate and some of the craftsmen involved in its construction were of Turkish origin.

The Khandesh style, a distinct style, was created by craftsmen from the small region between Deccan, Malwa, and Gujarat. The main innovations of this style include changes in the position of openings, emphasis on parapets above eaves, and raising of domes by elevating them on octagonal drums and stilts on their sides.

The primary buildings constructed in this style are Jami Masjid in Burhanpur and Bibi Ki Mosque.

West Indian Gujarat, an independent sultanate from the 14th to 16th centuries, characterized by a profound blend of Islamic and Hindu-Jain features, is known for its court mosques. Columnar constructions feature Islamic arches and vaults alongside console-based architraves, with columns, portals, and minarets finely subdivided and decorated by Hindu-Jainist influence. Jewel motifs are borrowed in part from non-Islamic art, such as the plants in the Jali window of the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque in Ahmedabad.

Ahmadabad Mosque, completed in 1424, is one of Gujarat’s most outstanding monuments, featuring columnar Mandapa halls with cantilevered roofs. Champaner’s Friday Mosque of 1450 reveals a distinctive blend of styles, with its layout resembling a Jain temple in elevation.

Bengal, which was Islamized relatively late, retired in 1338 as the first province of the Imperial Association of the Delhi Sultanate. It was less influenced than other regions by Delhi architecture, so it developed a regional style strongly influenced by local traditions. Fired bricks were the main building material in Bengal, and in the 13th and early 14th centuries, the first temple poles were used to build mosques based on the early Sultanate and Tughluq styles.

The Adina mosque in Pandua, India, is a testament to the Indian court mosque type. Later mosques in Pandua and Gaur are smaller and more compact, with domes resting on convex curved roofs. Kashmir, a mountainous region in India, came under Islamic rule in the 14th century but was never part of the Delhi Sultanate. Islamic architecture in Kashmir was heavily influenced by indigenous traditions. Many mosques are difficult to identify as such, built on the model of Hindu temples in wood and brick. They feature curved roofs, pillars, and a slim tower structure, often designed as umbrella-shaped crowns.

Tomb architecture in India is influenced by Hindu and Muslim traditions. Muslims do not burn their dead but bury them, with influential figures such as rulers, ministers, or saints often receiving monumental funerary monuments during their lifetime. Smaller mausoleums were often designed as canopied tombs in the style of Hindu-Jain pavilions, with a pillared roof with a hemispherical or slightly conical cantilevered dome erected over the cenotaph. Larger tombs were built incorporating Persian features in the masonry, resulting in remarkable buildings, some of which are among India’s most important architectural monuments.

The tomb of Sultan Iltutmish, built around 1236 in Delhi, is the beginning of the development of the Indo-Islamic mausoleum. The cenotaph is located in the middle of a massive cube-shaped space whose square plan has been transformed into an octagon by kielbogen-shaped trumpets. The octagonal floor plan prevailed in Delhi too, as seen in the tomb of the minister Khan-i-Jahan from the time of Firuz Shah.

The Mughal Empire’s architectural style was influenced by the mausoleum of Emperor Humayun in Delhi, completed in 1571 as the first monumental tomb and building of the Mughal period. The tomb consists of an octagonal, domed central space with four faces in the pishtaqs directions with two chattris upstream. The dome is the first on the Indian subcontinent with a double shell, allowing for the inflating of the outer pseudo-dome into an onion shape. Four identical octagonal corner buildings fill the niches between the pishtaqs, creating a square structure with beveled corners and recessed pishtaqs.

Humayun’s tomb combines Persian elements inherited from local building tradition, outweighing the fact that many earlier construction projects employed foreign craftsmen. The Persian preference for symmetrical forms is reflected in both the tomb and the walled and enclosed garden, which corresponds to the Char Bagh type with a square layout and four paths.

The tomb of Emperor Akbar at Sikandra (Uttar Pradesh) takes strong links in Hindu architecture, built on a square plan and rising like a pyramid in five recessed storeys. The first floor uses the formal Islamic idiom, while the upper floors are modeled after Hindu temple halls as open rooms, enriched by Islamic vaults. The usual domed roof is missing.

Under Akbar’s successors in the 17th century, there was a return to Persian stylistic traits without abandoning the Indo-Islamic symbiosis.

White marble replaced red sandstone as the primary building material, resulting in softer forms and a change in the overall appearance. The transition from Mogul mausoleum to mausoleum was marked by the tomb of minister Itimad-ud-Daula in Agra (Uttar Pradesh), built between 1622 and 1628.

The Taj Mahal, completed in 1648, surpasses all Mughal buildings before in terms of balance and magnificence. It combines the features of various predecessors but deliberately avoids their weak points. The Taj Mahal’s expansive drummed dome, featuring a lotus-tipped dome, square base with four tall minarets, and white marble walls with pietra-dura marble and semi-precious stone inlays, connects to earlier mosques and Mausoleums.

The first mosques were built to serve as the Prophet Mohammad’s house, with an open courtyard (sahn) and a covered prayer room (haram). The prayer room in Mecca has a niche, pulpit, minbar, and minaret, borrowed from the Christian church. The first mosque built by Arabs in India, Banbhore, dates back to 727. Many features of later mosque buildings are missing due to low Arab architecture knowledge. Sindh, located on the eastern periphery of Islamic empires, was once part of the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Samanid Empires. There is no significant regional architectural tradition developed in this region, unlike Persia and Central Asia.

In Punjab, from the early 11th century, part of the Ghaznavid Empire, only fragmentary evidence of architecture inspired by Samanid models has survived. Characteristic features include the dome, but it was only much later that it became a fully-fledged component of Indo-Islamic architecture.

Minarets are a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic Mosques and have become an essential and integral part of the mosque in the Indian sub-continent as like anywhere in the world. They evolved in Islamic Architecture at very early times, although they were not an essential part of the mosque during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and even for some time after him. There are many conflicting views as to exactly where, when, and by whom the first mina-rets were built.

Minarets, originally built for monumental purposes, became permanent features of mosque buildings. Muslim architects refined existing forms with the highest proportion and integrity. Place architecture in India, except for Tughluqabad, has not survived. Fatehpur Sikri, founded in the 16th century, features staggered courtyards and important buildings like the Public Audience Hall, Private Audience Hall, and Panch Mahal. The interior layout is unique, with a pillar rising like the branches of a tree supporting the platform on which the throne of the Mughal emperor Akbarwas once stood.

The transition from red sandstone to white marble as the preferred building material for palaces in the second quarter of the 17th century under Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was a significant change in Indian architecture. Islamic forms returned to normal, with open column pavilions retained as the design of Fatehpur Sikris palaces but replaced by sweeping consoles. The playful manipulation of spatial distribution and geometry at Fatehpur Sikri also led to axe-like oriented court arrangements and strict symmetry.

Indo-Islamic architecture, produced for Islamic patterns and purposes, originated in Delhi when Muhammad of Ghor made Delhi a Muslim capital in 1193. The sultans of Delhi and the Mughal dynasty were accustomed to Central Asian styles of Islamic architecture largely derived from Iran. The types and forms of large buildings demanded by Muslim elites, such as mosques and tombs, were very different from those previously built in India. Both types of buildings consisted of a single large space under a high dome and avoided the figurative sculpture so important to Hindu temples.

Islamic buildings in India adapted Indian traditions to their own designs, utilizing skilled builders. The Mughal period saw Islamic style influence Hindu temples, using scalloped arches and domes. Indo-Islamic architecture has influenced modern Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi architecture, and was the main influence on Indo-Saracenic Revo architecture introduced in the British Raj’s last century. It features Indian, Islamic, Persian, Central Asian, Arab, and Ottoman Turkish influences.

Islam introduced new forms of construction, such as the mosque and tomb, and building techniques from Asia Minor to India. Islamic architecture differs from the sacred art of Indian religions, which reflects cosmological and theological ideas in the form of symbolic language and iconography. However, the fundamentally different beliefs of Hindus and Muslims did not prevent fruitful artistic cooperation or cultural exchange, leading to the emergence of a specific Indian expression of Islamic architecture.

The general characteristics of Perso-Islamic architecture, such as the use of arches to span openings, domes and vaults as space closers, and vertical facades with flat decoration, vary according to the period and region of traditional Hindu construction. The secular architecture of North Indian and West Indian Hindus and the sacred architecture of the Sikh religion also have a distinct Indo-Islamic character.

Materials used in pre-Islamic times were dry stone, with sandstone being the predominant material in northern India. White marble was used for decorative purposes, and the Mughals were at their height in the 17th century, building complete projects in marble.

The Deccan region uses grey basalt for building, while bricks and mortar dominate in Bengal and Sindh. Natural stone and brick structures exist in Gujarat. Stability is achieved through strong cement-based mortars for large domes and vaults, and mortar for ceilings and roofs.

The most important feature of Indo-Islamic architecture is the arch, which was originally built in the traditional Hindu style as a false cantilevered arch of stacked stones but cannot withstand major tensile stresses. Hindu craftsmen in Delhi deformed upper stone joints perpendicular to the arch line, resulting in a true arch with stones laid radially.

In conclusion, when these two diverse cultures and architecture came into contact, a new architecture emerged, which has been described as Indo Muslim, Indo-Islamic, or Indo-Saracenic architecture.

Architrave constructions with horizontal columns are a key feature of Indo-Islamic architecture, often found in early mosques and heavily Hinduized buildings of later periods. They were given brackets or cantilevers to increase spans and had decorative functions.

Domes are another key feature of Indo-Islamic architecture, with mosque prayer halls covered by one or more, usually three, in the Mughal period. The earliest Indo-Islamic tombs were simple cube-shaped structures, followed by a series of five-domed buildings with a central dome and four smaller domes, similar to Hindu panchayatana shrines surrounding a temple with smaller shrines at the corners.

The first Kragkuppeln were built according to ancient Indian custom from superimposed layers of stone, also known as “ring-layer ceilings.” This type did not continue in northern India until the second half of the 13th century, but was used in Gujarat and Duckhan until the 16th and 17th centuries. Ribbed domes with curved stone beams were used in many Indo-Islamic buildings, reflecting the static structure of wooden dome constructions that preceded Buddhist Chaitya halls.

Persian builders used techniques to transition from angular spaces to dome bases. The trompe, a vaulted niche, supported dome fighters. In India, the first trumpets were made from semicircular arches, deformed to converge parallel to the crown architrave. Later, pointed arches were offset to distribute forces more evenly. Persian and Central Asian architects placed two rows of trumpets to create a corner of sixteen for the dome circle.

The ribbed gusset and Turkish triangle were architectural solutions in later Indo-Islamic architecture, transitioning from wall space to domes and blending corners with pyramidal segments. Indian master builders mediated between the square and the octagon, and the surface of a Turkish triangle was composed of projecting cubes covered with stucco stalactites (muqarnas).

Early Indo-Islamic buildings still have some ceiling constructions in the style of Hindu temple halls, such as lantern ceilings made from layers of four stone slabs. Mirror ceilings, made of stone studs, may date back to old Indian wooden construction. Bengali builders incorporated the convex barrel-shaped roof of the traditional Bengal bamboo hut into mosques’ local architecture, with curvilinear cornices and ridges. The Bangla roof was also used for pavilions of imperial residences during Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb’s time. After the Mughal Empire’s demise, it found its way into regional Indo-Islamic secular building styles as the conclusion of bay windows and pavilions.

Indo-Islamic architecture is characterized by ornamental elements from the Middle East, such as tiles and inlays, which were used for wall decoration in brick tombs and mosques. In the Mughal era, expensive inlays were produced using the pietra-dura technique, where marble and semi-precious stones were placed in fissures. Plastic trimmings were common in all regions, expressed in carved facade decoration, richly structured columns, decorated brackets, and stone lattices.

In the concrete incarnation, Near Eastern abstract motifs and Indian nature were combined. Sacred buildings featured Koranic verses, while northern India used geometric shapes and Hindu symbols. The Deccan region was dominated by soft, curved shapes and script bands, while the northern India region featured star-shaped geometric shapes. Over time, Indo-Islamic architecture increasingly absorbed Hindu-inspired motifs, mainly plant representations. Small arabesques were made of highly stylized leaves of Indo-Islamic sacred buildings, which were later complemented by tendrils and garlands of expansive flowers. The stylized lotus flower was of particular importance to Hindus and Buddhists.

Tughluq architecture, such as the tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan, Pakistan, is a large octagonal brick mausoleum with polychrome glass decoration that remains much closer to the styles of Iran and Afghanistan. The tomb of the dynasty’s founder, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, is more austere but impressive, with a small amalaka and round finial like a kalasha.

The Tughluqs had a corps of government architects and builders, many of whom were occupied by many Hindus. Firuz Shah, the longest-serving ruler and greatest builder of the dynasty, is said to have designed buildings himself, and some buildings from his reign take forms rare or unknown in Islamic buildings.

Islamic architecture in India adopted features of earlier Indian architecture, such as a high plinth, moldings around its edges, columns and supports, and hypostyle halls. After Firoz’s death, the Tughluqs’ decline and weak Delhi dynasties led to the construction of tombs, with regional Muslim states’ architecture often being more impressive.

The most significant pre-Mughal developments include the Bahmanids of the Deccan, who broke away from the Tughluqs in 1347 and ruled from Gulbarga, Karnataka, and Bidar until invaded by the Mughals in 1527.

The Gulbarga Fort’s main mosque features 75 small, shallow domes with no courtyard, designed by Persian architect. Later, Bahminid royal tombs were double, featuring two rectangle-dome shapes for the ruler and his family. The Mahmud Gawan madrasa in Bidar is a large ruined madrasa “of entirely Iranian design” founded by a chief minister, decorated with glass tiles imported by sea from Iran. Outside the city, the Ashtur tombs are a group of eight large domed royal tombs with slightly drawn-in domes, in expectation of the onion domes of Mughal architecture.

In Bengal, the Bengal Sultanate (1352-1576) normally used brick, but stone was used for columns and important details, often reused in Hindu or Buddhist temples. Eklakhi’s Mausoleum in Pandua, Malda or Adina is often considered the first surviving Islamic building in Bengal, with features that would become common in the Bengal style. Other buildings in the style include the Nine Dome Mosque and the Sixty Dome Mosque, which were completed in 1449 and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Mughal Empire, an Islamic empire that ruled India from 1526 to 1764, significantly influenced Indian architecture. This era was marked by a blend of Islamic, Persian, Turkish, Arab, Central Asian, and Indian styles. Akbar, the 16th-century ruler, made significant contributions to Mughal architecture, designing forts and cities in similar symmetrical styles, combining Indian styles with outside influences.

During the Mughal era, Persian-Islamic architecture was fused, often leading to playful forms of Hindustani art. Lahore, the occasional residence of Mughal rulers, boasts numerous important buildings from the empire, including the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fortress, Wazir Khan Mosque, and numerous mosques and mausoleums. The Shahjahan Mosque in Thatta, Sindh, also dates back to Mughal times but bears no resemblance to Mughal architecture.

Mughal architecture was widely adopted by rulers of princely states and wealthy individuals of all religions for their palaces and tombs. Hindu clients often mixed aspects of Hindu temple architecture and traditional Hindu palace architecture with Mughal and European elements. Key examples of Mughal architecture include tombs like the Taj Mahal, forts like Red Fort, Lahore Fort, Agra Fort, and Lalbagh Fort, and mosques like Jama Masjid and Badshahi Masjid.

In urban planning and architecture, Hindu urban developers typically base their foundations on a rigorous grid plan, while Islamic foundations generally have only a few special principles of order.

Indo-Islamic cities often feature a central area that divides the city into four parts, referencing the Islamic concept of the four-part paradise garden.

Among the urban residential buildings of Indo-Islamic construction, the Havelis of north-west India stand out as houses of wealthy merchants, nobles, and civil servants that imitate the regional palace style. Large havelis have three or four storeys linked by narrow spiral staircases and a roof terrace, with private salons opening onto courtyards shaded by verandas and covered balconies (jarokas). Inside, havelis are often elaborately painted.

Indo-Islamic architecture, a subtly elegant art form, is characterized by its focus on enclosed space and the use of motifs and handwriting to design its layouts. The Muslim house, for example, is organized around an inner courtyard with high windowless walls interrupted only by a low single door. This architectural style is often seen in urban settings, but some building types were developed for non-urban contexts, such as caravanserai and monumental tombs.

Historical civilizations often identify their architectural creations by their architectural creations that have survived the ravages of time. In India, architecture was influenced by various architectural styles from Muslim kingdoms of western and central Asia. The Mughal Empire introduced Islamic architecture to India over three centuries ago, and the Indo-Islamic architectural style was neither entirely Islamic nor Hindu but a fusion of Indian and Islamic elements. Notable Islamic architectural features include the qibla, mihrâb, minbar, courtyards, minarets, arches, domes, and arabesque motifs.

Indian architecture has undergone significant changes due to the confluence of Islamic and Indian factors. Some striking and unique features include calligraphy used for decoration and the arabesque technique, mortar used in buildings as cementing material, arches and domes replacing the Trabeate architectural style, the Chahar Bagh style in gardens, and the use of water in Islamic constructions for cooling, decoration, and religious purposes.

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