Historic architecture is witness to the aesthetic and cultural history of a city, helping to give people a sense of place and connection to the past. Historic buildings often represent something famous or important to people who live in a city or those visiting.
Mughal style architecture refers to the architectural style which is a unique blend of Islamic, Indian and Persian styles. It flourished in India under the patronage of the Mughal emperors from the mid-16th to the late 17th century. The unique structure of Mughal buildings featured large halls, large vaulted gateways, delicate ornamentation, bulbous domes, slender Minarets with cupolas at the 4 corners – all of which gave them a uniform character.
Let’s take a look at some of the finest works of Mughal architecture.
1. Humayun’s Tomb
The Humayun’s Tomb is a mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun (ruling period 1530-1540 and 1555-1556). The Emperor’s widow Bega Begum built it in 1570. It later on became the earliest example of Mughal garden-tombs in the Indian subcontinent. In 1993, UNESCO declared the garden-tomb as a World Heritage Site for its architectural grandeur. The Humayun’s Tomb is located in Delhi near the Old Fort (Purana Qila).
2. Taj Mahal
Shah Jahan built the crown-jewel of Mughal architecture and one of the most famous buildings in the world between 1632 and 1653 as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. UNESCO recognised the white marble monument of the Emperor’s love for his wife as a World Heritage Site in 1983. The Taj Mahal, which is also the final resting place of Shah Jahan (next to his beloved wife), is in the city of Agra, about 125 miles south from New Delhi.
3. Lahore Fort
Mughal Emperor Akbar (ruled 1556-1605) built the Lahore Fort in the 1560s on a site of an earlier citadel that had been built, rebuilt and demolished by several Mughal rulers. His successors, and later the British rulers, modified it as well. In 1981, UNESCO inscribed it on the World Heritage Site List as one of the greatest examples of Mughal architecture. The Lahore Fort is located in the city of Lahore, the capital of the province of Punjab in Pakistan.
4. Red Fort
The Red Fort, or Lal Qila, was the principal residence of Mughal rulers from 1648 when it was built until 1857 when the last Mughal Emperor (albeit only by the title) Bahadur Shah II’s exile from Delhi by India’s British rulers. Shah Jahan built the fort as he decided to move the capital of his empire from Agra to Delhi. In 2007, UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site for its architectural splendor.
5. Jama Masjid of Delhi
Shah Jahan built the Jama Masjid as well, widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of the unique Mughal architectural style. Completed in 1656, the spectacular mosque is still the largest mosque in India. Dominating the skyline of Old Delhi with its four towers, three colossal domes and two 131 feet tall minarets, the Jama Masjid can hold as many as 25,000 people.
6. Shalimar Gardens
Less than 5 miles from the beautiful Lahore Fort is another masterpiece of Mughal architecture – the Shalimar Gardens. Commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1642, the nearly 40 acre walled gardens remained exceptionally well preserved thanks to the Mian Family that took care of it until the early 1960s when it was nationalised. In 1981, the gardens was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Lahore Fort.
7. Badshahi Masjid
Built by Shah Jahan’s son and successor Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707), the Badshahi Mosque was the largest mosque in the world when completed in 1673. It lost the title of the world’s largest mosque in 1983, however, it remains one of the top 10 largest mosques in the world. Its style is reminiscent to that of Jama Masjid in Delhi but it is much larger as it has a capacity for 100,000 people.