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India produced a unique style of art and architecture under the patronage of its Mogul emperors, in which indigenous traditions of Idian art and architecture were brilliantly transformed by influences derived from imperial Safavid Persia.


The Mogul style of architecture is characterized by such Persian-inspired elements as arched entryways and bulbous domes, as seen in the splendid Delhi tomb (begun 1561) of Humayun (reigning from 1530-56), the son and successor of the first Mogul emperor Babur (reigning from 1526-30). Generally considered the first great monument of Mogul architecture, the tomb is composed of red sandstone, the principal Mogul building material in the 16th century, and embellished with marble inlay. Under Humayun's son Akbar the Great (reigning from 1556-1605) many massive forts were erected, of which those at Agra, Allahabad, and Lahore are the finest. The new capital city Akbar established (1569) at FATEHPUR SIKRI was a remarkable achievement in both planning and execution. In general the Hindu elements dominate the structural forms as well as the decoration of Akbar's monuments. Akbar's own tomb (completed c.1614) at Sikandra near Agra consists of four lower stories of red sandstone dressed with marble inlay, with the uppermost section of marble openwork. This monument provided the structural prototype for the Shadera tomb (c.1625) of Akbar's son Jahangir (r. 1605-28) and for the even grander Agra tomb (1626) of I'timad ud-Daula, the father of Jahangir's wife Nur Jahan. The overall effect of these two monuments--the first Mogul tombs to be faced entirely in white marble--is in striking contrast to that of earlier tomb architecture. The inlay of semiprecious stones, depicting trees, flowers, and scent-bottles, dominates the walls of I'timad ud-Daula's tomb, and the intricate marble latticework admitting light into the interior of the tomb creates additional highlights. Jahangir's son Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58) is considered the greatest patron of Mogul architecture. He built (1638-48) a new capital city at Delhi with a vast array of marble palaces within its Red Fort. At Agra, Shah Jahan replaced a large number of red-sandstone buildings erected by his grandfather with marble ones; the new structures were often connected by colonnaded porches and surrounded by geometrically laid out gardens and water fountains. The culmination of Mogul tomb architecture is the TAJ MAHAL, a mausoleum that Shah Jahan commissioned (1631-48) for his favorite wife. The Persian-inspired ground plan is laid out in the shape of a cross inside two superimposed squares, with minarets at the four outer corners and in the center a high dome. The towering edifice, exhibiting both simplicity and strength, is set in a symmetrical garden with fountains and reflecting pools; its white-marble facade is inlaid with semiprecious stones.


The art of Mogul miniature painting evolved mainly out of the indigenous Indian fresco tradition associated with AJANTA and out of the imported Persian miniaturist art of Kamal al-Din BIHZAD. Only dim outlines survive of the wall paintings in Akbar's palaces at Fatehpur Sikri, but references to fresco paintings in contemporary Persian literature are numerous. Among the Persian painters whom Akbar's father Humayun was able to attract to his court before his death were Mir Sayyid 'Ali of Tabriz and 'Abdu's Samad of Shiraz. In Akbar's reign they trained about a hundred Hindu painters, of whom BASAWAN and Daswanth were the most outstanding. In 1585, Akbar's studio was further strengthened by the immigration of an accomplished Central Asian painter, Farrukh Beg Qalmaq. Early Mogul miniature painting consists largely of illustrations for the many historical manuscripts commissioned by the emperor. The enormous Hamza-nama, begun (1567) under the supervision of Sayyid 'Ali and 'Abdu's Samad, contained over a thousand painted illustrations on cotton cloth of the life and legendary exploits of the Islamic hero Hamza. The work, which took 15 years to complete, displays markedly Persian stylistic elements. However, by the end of the 16th century a distinctly Mogul miniaturist style had emerged, in which the plasticity associated with the Ajanta style is harmoniously fused with the symmetry, proportion, and subtle coloring of the school of Bihzad.

Beginning in the 16th century a number of European prints, portraits, and other paintings were brought to the Mogul court, and late in his reign Akbar often commissioned portraits of himself and his nobles. European influence included the use of shading and chiaroscuro and the introduction of distant views of cities forming the background in some Mogul scenes. A clear sense of realism came to dominate late-16th- and early-17th-century Mogul painting, with the gradual abandonment of the flat, highly conventional Persian figure style. The Indian sculptural heritage also seems to have promoted the Mogul artists' apparent desire to express depth and volume in painting.

Mogul painting reached its greatest refinement under the patronage of Jahangir. His imperial studio produced the first full-length portraits, in profile or three-quarter view, set against a turquoise blue or dark-green background. He commissioned numerous scientific studies of birds and animals, notable for their lively naturalism, and frequently had artists accompany him on his tours in order to make paintings of special events or hunting scenes. The trend continued in Shah Jahan's reign; his court scenes are grand and the portraits impressive, though lacking in the spontaneous quality that characterized much of the work of the Jahangir period. Mogul traditions in both art and architecture gradually declined during the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), an orthodox Muslim who discouraged the practice of the arts at his court.