NCERT / CBSE NOTES : Chapter Summary
Rulers And Buildings
Engineering Skills and Construction
The Qutub Minar was built in an era when other than manual labour, very few engineering tools were available for construction. The first storey of Qutub Minar was constructed in 1199 by India’s first Muslim ruler Qutubuddin Aibak, while the rest were built by Iltutmish in 1229.
Between the 8th and the 18th centuries, kings and their officers usually built two kinds of structures: the first were forts, palaces and tombs, and the second were structures meant for public use. Several rooms, doors and windows were built in mosques, tombs, temples and buildings attached to large stepped-wells or baolis. This was done by using the “trabeate” or “corbelled” style of architecture.
In the corbelled technique, roofs, doors and windows are made by placing a horizontal beam across two vertical columns. This technique is also used to construct an arch. The structure above the ground is called a superstructure.
The weight of the superstructure above the doors and windows were supported by arches. This style of architecture is called arcuate. From the beginning of the 12th century, the arcuate style of architecture came into being, and limestone cement was used in construction.
Two stylistic developments took place in the twelfth century, i.e. the arcuate style of architecture and the usage of limestone cement. An example of this is the Kandariya Mahadev temple of Khajuraho built by King Dhangadeva of the Chandela dynasty in 999 for Lord Shiva. The Rajarajeshvara temple at Thanjavur, one of tallest shikharas, or pinnacles, has a stone weighing 90 tonnes at the top of the shikhara.
Constructing Temples and Mosques
In the medieval period, kings constructed places of worship for two reasons, 1. to showcase theirwealth, power and devotion to god and 2. To earn the gratitude of their subjects by building for them areas of use, comfort and need. A temple complex represented the real world order about how the ruler controlled the allies and the subordinates.
Muslims didn’t believe in idolization and strongly believe that God is the greatest architect. Mosques were symmetrical structures showcasing their ability to bring about order and symmetry from chaos.
As each new ruler wished to prove his worth, he would build bigger and grander temples and mosques. As these structures were a symbol of a king’s power and wealth, they were the first places to be attacked by an enemy. Some temples and mosques had tanks in their premises, such as the Golden Temple and the Jami Masjid.
Kings attacking places of worship used to send a message to the subjects that if the old ruler could not protect his own god, he was fit to rule them no more.
Constructing Gardens, Tombs and Forts
As mentioned in Baburnama, Babur’s autobiography, Babur enjoyed planning the layout of gardens called as chahar baghs, which means four gardens, as they were symmetrically divided into four smaller parts. Mughal kings like Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan built beautiful chahar baghs in Kashmir, Delhi and Agra.
Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, built during Akbar’s reign, was placed between huge formal chahar baghs. Humayun’s tomb was built in the tradition known as the “eight paradises” or Hasht Bihisht, meaning a central hall surrounded by eight rooms. A central dome and a tall gateway called Pishtaq, a Persian influence became a part of Mughal Architecture.
The reign of Shah Jahan is considered to be the golden age of Mughal architecture. The river-front garden in the layout of the Taj Mahal in Agra is recognized as the grandest masterpiece of Shah Jahan’s reign. The nobles in Agra constructed their garden palaces on the river banks of the Yamuna.
Shah Jahan also built the ‘walled’ city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi, with the Red Fort as its centre. The audience halls resembled a mosque, and were placed within a large courtyard, known as Chihil Sutun, or forty-pillared halls.
The pedestal on which Shah Jahan’s throne was placed was referred to as the qiblah, the direction that the Muslims face at the time of prayer. This was an architectural reminder to indicate that the king was a representative of God on earth. Behind the emperor’s throne, there are a series of pietra dura inlays in the audience hall. Pietra dura is an art of coloured hardstone which are exquisitely cut to create beautiful, ornate patterns.
Adopting New Ideas for Construction
During the medieval period, there was an increase in construction activity. The intermingling of cultures influenced the art and architecture of the time. For instance, the elephant stables of the rulers of Vijaynagara, resembles the structure of the monuments of the Bijapur and Golconda Sultanates. Similarly, the temples in Vrindavan, near Mathura, seem to be inspired by the Mughal palaces in Fatehpur Sikri.
When large empires were created, several small regions came under a single rule. This brought about a confluence of art forms and styles of architectures of various regions. Some regional architectural styles even impacted the Mughal architecture from Gujarat and Malwa like some palaces in Fatehpur Sikri.
After the decline of Mughal Empire too, some rulers adapted their architectural style, but couldn’t keep up the finesse and consistency of Mughal architecture.
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