Mughal art and architecture

Mughal art and architecture

Mughal art and architecture, a characteristic Indo-Islamic-Persian style that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal empire (1526–1857). This new style combined elements of Islamic art and architecture, which had been introduced to India during the Delhi Sultanate (1192–1398) and had produced great monuments such as the Qutb Minar, with features of Persian art and architecture. Mughal monuments are found chiefly in N India, but there are also many remains in Pakistan. This article discusses these distinctive forms of art and architecture as they developed under a succession of Mughal emperors.


The school of Mughal painting began in 1549 when Humayun(1530–56) invited two Persian painters to his court, then at Kabul. They came to direct the illustration of the Amir Hamza, a fantastic narrative of which some 1,400 large paintings were executed on cloth.

Achievements under Akbar

In architecture the first great Mughal monument was the mausoleum to Humayun, erected during the reign of Akbar (1556–1605). The tomb, which was built in the 1560s, was designed by a Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas. Set in a garden at Delhi, it has an intricate ground plan with central octagonal chambers, joined by an archway with an elegant facade and surmounted by cupolas, kiosks, and pinnacles. At the same time Akbar was building his fortress-palace in his capital, Agra. Native red sandstone was inlaid with white marble, and all the surfaces were ornately carved on the outside and sumptuously painted inside.

Akbar went on to build the entire city of Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory) in which extensive use was made of the low arches and bulbous domes that characterize the Mughal style. Built in 1571 the choice of the site of Sikri reflected Akbar's gratitude to a Muslim saint at Sikri for the birth of his son. Courtiers soon followed suit and built homes surrounding the palace and mosque. The new city became the capital of the empire, but in 1585 it was abandoned.

Under Akbar, Persian artists directed an academy of local painters. The drawings, costumes, and ornamentation of illuminated manuscripts by the end of the 16th cent. illustrate the influence of Indian tastes and manners in the bright coloring and detailed landscape backgrounds. Modeling and perspective also began to be adapted from Western pictures. Basawan, Lal, and Daswanth were Akbar's most famous painters.


Jahangir (1605–27) favored paintings of events from his own life rather than illustrated fiction. He encouraged portraiture and scientific studies of birds, flowers, and animals, which were collected in albums. Mansur and Manohar were among his famous painters. Jahangir, who resided at Lahore, built less than his predecessors but effected the significant change from sandstone to marble.

Shah Jahan

It was Shah Jahan (1628–58) who perfected Mughal architecture and erected at Agra its most noble and famous building, the tomb of his favorite wife, which is known as the Taj Mahal. A huge white marble building of simple, symmetrical plan, it is inlaid with colorful semiprecious materials and is set in an equally beautiful and symmetrical garden. The Taj Mahal continues the tradition of Mughal garden tombs, of which Humayun's tomb was the first. Shah Jahan established (1638) Delhi as his capital and built there the famous Red Fort, which contained the imperial Mughal palace. Painting also flourished during Shah Jahan's reign. Portraiture was most highly developed at his sophisticated court, and ink drawings were of high quality.

Decline under Aurangzeb

Under the orthodox Aurangzeb (1659–1707) the decline of the arts began, although his ornate Pearl Mosque (1662) at Delhi is worthy of mention. During his reign the Mughal academy was dispersed. Many artists then joined Rajput courts, where their influence on Hindu painting is clearly evident.

See Indian art and architecture.


See also S. C. Welch, Imperial Mughal Painting (1978); M. Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings from the Mughal Court (1982); E. Koch, Mughal Architecture (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Influence ran both ways: The Rathores, it's obvious, were greatly influenced by Mughal art and architecture. But the Mughals also learned from -- and participated in -- the Hindu culture of the Rathores.
In the cultural and artistic domain, the Indus Valley civilization and Mughal Art and Architecture have prevailed and prospered.
Bengaluru, Karnataka, March 10, 2011 /India PRwire/ - Fabindia brings you Darbar - an exclusive collection of products for you and your home, inspired from the mughal art and architecture. This collection recreates the majestic mughal designs, giving it a contemporary twist.