The human life and its style of functioning are bound to be marked by the architecture of the period, and in that regard, architecture is that unique time-stamp, which one cannot hide, even if one wants to distort or tamper it; instead one ends up providing its activities as the periodic evidence. This is what one would find in the case of the South Asian architecture, where there is a distinct existence of a series of architecture of the older times, ranging from early Vedic era to the twelfth century A.D. though most of them bearing the stamp of periodic ‘doctoring’ by the Arabic and Mughal rulers.
Such was done, understandably, to utilize the already available resources by modifying them according to their need. This act of theirs in most of the places even ignored, or had to ignore the principles of Saracenic architecture, the style they were groomed at. Thus, most of the South Asia, predominated by a chain of Hindu architecture bearing the legacy of their art, culture, history and the nuances of their philosophy has severely been modified and renamed, which at places, can even befool its observer.Accordingly, the written history has also been twisted while accommodating the doctored work without much scrutiny. But then, civilization with its advancement would go on unraveling the truths from the beguiling examples, and the same has now been happening in the field of South Asian architecture, where the modern means of carbon-dating or the utilization of periodic historical data are being systematically used by the researchers worldwide to unfurl the hidden stories of life and time of this region. More stunning are the facts that the architecture itself here is coming out with amazing truth about how they were doctored by the Arabic rulers and forcing the psyche of the region to administer changes in the history. This essay picks up four such examples to put forth the fact that unless raised to the ground, an organized and well-founded architectural style cannot be transformed into another style to the extent of violating the history forever.
Origin of Architecture in South AsiaThis region had been a compact and complete example of the Vedic culture, dating back to the earliest possible period of civilization, since when the culture itself nourished and flourished, while its architecture had also been chronicling that journey of civilization, which Arabic rulers tried to abolish firstly with sporadic invasion, and later when they could establish their footing here. The architecture of this region, however, has also chronicled that, again reestablishing the fact that a society’s perception about life and living is bound to reflect in its application and the first and foremost tangible exponent of that application has to be its architecture, because it is also a continuous developing process which accommodates or facilitates the not only the perception of the society, but also its evolution. That is why, the examples of the original society and it’s life and time can still be found in series of widespread ordinary and grand architectures here, conforming the same style and architectural principle, which belong to the Hindu culture.The Four Constructions Influenced by Arabic RulersThe four constructions that are chosen for the discussion are all from the northern region of India and around Delhi, the present capital of the country, which also has the record of serving as the capital of various rulers ranging from Vedic period to the British, let alone the short and moderate stints of the Arabic and Mughal rulers. According to the recorded evidence, the Tomar king Anangapal built the 1st town at the Dillika village in 737 AD, called it Lal Kot and founded his kingdom. In the 12th century, the kingdom passed away from the Tomars to the Chauhan Rajputs. The last Chauhan king, Prithviraj III built the 2nd town Kila Rai Pithora enclosed by a wall near the Qutab Minar.
This essay within its limitation tries to delve into the all-available versions of the origin of the four constructions of this region, viz., Qwwat al-Islam, Qutab Minar, Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal, before reaching its conclusion.The Qwwat al-Islam MosqueAccording to the recognized definition, the Quwwat-ul-Islam (meaning might of Islam), was constructed following the establishment of Muslim rule from Delhi, which according to the approved data was begun by Qutb-ud-Din Aibak in 1193 and completed 4 years later on the site of Rai Pithora’s Hindu temple. The approved document states that twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples were leveled to provide enough masonry for the new structure. As a result, the Hindu influence has permeated into the whole complex. Motifs such as tasseled ropes, bells, tendrils, cows and leaves can all be traced on the masonry in richly carved detail. The mosque was enlarged a century later by Sultan Alauddin Khalji, although the extension was never completed.
From some researchers’ point of view, however, this mosque is a doctored presentation over an earlier structure with elements collected from invasion. As for example, the Iron Pillar (23ft high, situated in the courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam) of the mosque is dated back to the Gupta period with Sanskrit inscriptions from the 4th or 5th century. This pillar was supposedly taken from a Vishnu temple and placed at this site before the construction of the complex. The nature of the materials and style (sandstone, Hindu architectural motifs), etc. also suggest about the same.
The Qutab MinarRegarded as the highest stone tower in India, this construction is 239 ft. high, has a diameter of 14.32 meters at the base and about 2.75 meters at the top.
The first three storeys are made of red sandstone and are heavily indented with different styles of fluting, alternately round and angular on the bottom floor, round on the second and angular on the third. The fourth and fifth floors are made of marble and sandstone. The door on its northern side leads inside the tower to a spiral stairway with 379 steps that wind its way up to the balcony in each floor and culminating in a platform at the top. The intricate balconies held together by stalactite vaulting technique and patterned with honeycombing.
The minar has survived a series of lightening bolts and earthquakes through centuries and consequently was subjected to rejuvenation acts by different rulers ranging from Mughal to British, which have also caused some thematic deviation to it. As for example when Major R. Smith of the Royal Engineers restored the Qutab Minar in 1829, he replaced the cupola with a Bengal style chhattri, which was again removed in 1848, by the Viceroy Lord Hardinge, because that was considered as ‘misfit’ to the architectural style of the rest of the minar. Now it stands to the left of the entry path and is known as ‘Smith’s folly’.In any case, Qutab Minar (axis minaret) is recognized as an “Indo-Islamic architectural wonder of ancient India”.
The historians accredit Sultan Qutub-Din Aibak of Slave dynasty as its founder in the year 1199 A.D, when he completed the first storey, while the rest of the five stories were completed by his son-in -law, Illtutmish in 1230. All said and done, the current band of researchers are of the opinion that the panels in the upper part containing serpentine patterns, speak of Hindu lineage, because it has a distinct name, in Hindu architecture as ‘Makara Torana’, meaning, ’emanating from the mouth of a crocodile’ and this is a common sacred Hindu motif in historic buildings.
They also have documented the reverse sides of the stones that fell from the surface of the Minar, which contain Hindu images.Fatehpur SikriThe royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, stated to be built between 1571 to 1585, by the order of the ruler Akbar. This cluster of buildings speaks of a planned city. Building materials used here are sandstone, red stone, marble, wood, and iron, and it wears a look of compound style of Hindu (the posts) and Arabic architecture (roofs and domes).According to G.E. Kidder Smith, “The mere fact of Fatehpur’s ‘instant’ completion is, of course, prodigious but more impressive to us today are the quality, scale, and diversity of its buildings and the spaces they define.
Its parts are better than the whole: it lacks, for instance, an orienting spine. It is fresh and innovative architecture, with its vast array of building types represents -like most Moghul building-a fusion of Indian and Islamic cultures. The underlying structure is generally of Hindu post-and-beams, in many cases roofed with Muslim vaults and domes. All is carried out here with cohesive and sympathetic scale: note the ‘neighborhood’ atmosphere.
” (82)Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. One of the buildings even reflects the new syncretistic faith (Din-e-ilahi) founded by Akbar. According to the popular legend, Akbar had built this to mark the birth of his son Jangir and so the construction of the new ceremonial capital, with its elaborate palaces, formal courtyards, reflecting pools, harems, tombs and a great mosque, commenced in 1571. A large number of masons and stone carvers worked hard on an area that was over two miles long and a mile wide; they used brilliant red sandstone available locally, which provides the buildings with much of their luster. Shortly after the work was completed fifteen years later, it was realized that there was a lack of an adequate water supply and the pristine complex was abandoned.Fatehpur Sikri is now a World Heritage site.
The Panch Mahal, or Palace of Five Storeys, and the Buland Darwaza, a massive gate, which provides entrance to the complex that is rated even by the researchers as a finest specimen of Mughal architecture, to the extent of being the greatest accomplishment of it. Interestingly, they don’t bring Taj Mahal into consideration in this regard!Taj MahalFrom Ustad Isa to Geronimo Veroneo, a good many names still do round as its chief architect, if one counts its origination under the regime of Shah Jahan (1630-1653) as true, but none could claim the credit of its design that contains onion-shaped domes and flanking towers on a platform 22′ high and 313′ square.The present day mausoleum is 57 m (190 ft) square in plan. “The central inner dome is 24.5 m (81 ft) high and 17.7 m (58 ft) in diameter, but is surmounted by an outer shell nearly 61 m (200 ft) in height.” Corner minarets are 137′ tall, while its main structure 186′ on a side, dome to 187′.
It used marbles from Makrana region of Jodhpur, famous for its white marbles.The arrangement of the domes, the lotus canopy, the trident pinnacle, the 22 locked and sealed rooms in the building, the direction of the mosque and its triple domes, the “Nagar-khanas,” and the surviving Hindu symbolism indicate that it was originally built as a temple complex. The purpose of the minarets is not functional but decorative, and the inspiration behind them does not appear to be Saracenic. The graves and the Quranic inscriptions upon the marble wall, of course, should be attributed to Shah Jahan.The whole argument about the Taj Mahal being a Mogul construction hinges solely upon the assumption about the origin of the bulbous dome, which certainly is debatable. Havell had emphatically asserted (1-38) that the “prototype of bulbous dome existed in the Buddhist stupa and the carvings of Ajanta several centuries before the Mogul invasion”. He also asserted that “from purely architectural considerations, the inspiration behind the edifice was neither Arab, nor Persian, or, nor European but Indian– more Indian than St. Paul’s cathedral and Westminster Abbey are English”.
(13)A large number of researchers claim with several evidences and explanations that the Taj Mahal was already ancient at the time of Shah Jahan and they point out that the general layout of the Taj Complex resembles a Shiva temple. The researchers also cite the discrepancies in the relevant documents associated with the construction of Taj Mahal, all the while pointing to certain explicitly pertinent questions involving the intention of the construction, by presenting architectural evidences.Thus, the question of antiquity of the Taj Mahal has “powerful bearing upon the study of Indian archaeology. It raises certain pertinent questions about the origin, development, influence and classification of one of the important streams of mediaeval architecture. And since an architectural style carries with it the stamp of the contemporary epoch, the above questions have bearing upon the study of Indian history as well.
Therefore, it calls for a thorough re-examination of the Mogul architecture–particularly that of Shah Jahan, which Fergusson found it so difficult to reconcile with the style of that period”.DiscussionThe major buildings in pre-Islamic India used tradbeate methods of construction. This can be referred to as beam and post construction to reflect its most simple form, which, none of the above four constructions are deviated from.
Architecture is the time stamp of the civilization of a region. It demonstrates the ability of the society it is generated from. As for example a big mansion reflects its originator on many grounds, ranging from its architectural knowledge to the religious beliefs and affordability, let alone tastes of culture and intelligence of application. All earmarks the heritage of community and it is undeniable that heritage takes time to establish itself, in which cumulative architectural presentation of a group takes centuries before it comes to a state to claim its identity.Here in South Asia, the ancient residents, the Hindu rulers had that scope (since 5000 B.
C. approx), while the invaders, i.e., the Arabic rulers did not have that time to establish Saracenic architecture here during their short stint in the region. The main reason, perhaps lies in a package of impediments consisting of climate, contra social situations, constant opposition from the native kings, constraint in garnering material, non availability of the engineers, architects and masons skilled in their style of architecture. These factors perhaps forced them to go for makeshift solutions through doctoring and renaming the existing architecture of the region before propagandizing the proprietary over them.
ConclusionIn summation, the influence of the Arabic and Mughal architecture is not a widespread and accepted phenomenon in this region, because that never came up here through the usual long-standing process; example like Fatehpur Sikri is not sufficient to prove its influence on the local architecture. However, as with the changed socio-economic and political situation with new rulers, the materials or the quality of the construction have varied at some places, which have no bearing with the Saracenic or Arbic/Mughal styles of architecture.This establishes the fact that locomotion of a society under certain climate and culture determines its architecture, which in turn chronicles the journey of civilization in it, which, cannot be abolished totally unless it is totally razed to ground. This is evident in the architecture of the South Asia, where the kings of the earlier times built huge mansions to create the awe in the public mind about their might, the most of which were occupied later by the Arabic and Mughal rulers, who wanted to transform them according to their style, but could not hide the leakage of the history through doctored works. As a result, those structures have become Hindu-Arabic-Mughal compositions, thus chronicling the treatment of time on them.