The Mughals: Jahangir (1605-1627 AD) & Shah Jahan: Part 1: (1627-1658 AD)

Welcome. It’s time once again for the saga of our roots, the ‘Saga In Stone’. It is often believed that during Jahangir's reign, his love for painting took precedence and as a result architecture was neglected. He himself seems to have believed otherwise. His memoirs have more mentions of architecture than of the paintings commissioned by him.

Akbar's Tomb, Sikandara:

Jahangir’s reign was a transition point – from the lively and strongly masculine style of Akbar to a highly luxurious and more feminine style of Shah Jahan.

Akbar had himself planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site at Sikandara, a suburb of Agra. However, its design and plan were altered by Jahangir to suit his own tastes.

[Courtesy: Archaeological Survey of India]

The principal gateway is particularly impressive with its delightful surface ornamentation. The four white-marble minarets add to the effect.

Other gateways, in various states of preservation, are also decorated beautifully.
Completed in 1612-13, this mausoleum is situated in the midst of a conventional char bagh. Today, this char bagh has become a home for a variety of fauna.

The tomb is a five storeyed structure. Ever since the Qutb tragedy in the early eighties where a number of tourists had died, the upper storeys have been closed for public.

Doing justice to a king whose interest in spiritual matters was legendary, his tomb is also a well thought out collage of metaphors.

]The garden was sub-divided by watercourses evoking the rivers of paradise. The tomb is situated metaphorically in the center of a paradisiacal garden located in Behishtbad, the abode of paradise.

White marble is used extensively, with red sandstone forming the backdrop. The richness of these materials are suggestive of the opulence promised to the true believer on the day of judgement.
White marble, in those days, was mainly associated with shrines of the saints. Its usage in Akbar’s tomb may’ve been due to his highly spiritual leanings and the divine connections attributed to him by Abul Fazl, but it certainly served as a precursor to later tombs

The ground floor has been decorated with encaustic painting and incised stucco in floral, stylized and inscribed designs. Quranic text in gold upon a rich blue background is a highlight. It described gardens of paradise as the just reward for the true believer. In its true avatar, it was much more ornate, with extensive usage of gold, silver, precious stones and beautiful carpets. All these were later plundered by jats in the seventeenth century.

In the centre of the tomb chamber is the tomb of Akbar – plain and simple, in brick and mortar.

European visitors of the time report that originally the room was painted with Christian motifs like angles and the virgin Mary.

The tomb, like everything Akbar ever did, shows a lot of originality of thought. Exquisite carvings, artistic paintings in gold and colors, tile decoration- all gel together to create a lively effect. Much like Akbar’s own personality.

Three upper storeys are made in the pyramidal fashion, each smaller than the previous one. The tomb is a worthy resting place for this giant among kings.

Itimad ud Daula, Agra:

A small gem of Jahangir’s reign is this tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, his father in law. This compact masterpiece conforms to the adage that small is beautiful.

Ghiyas Beg’s tomb is popularly known as by the title of its occupant- Itimad ud Daula or the 'Pillar of the Empire'. It is situated on the left bank of Yamuna. Built by his daughter, Empress Nur Jahan, this marble structure is decorated extravagantly with exquisite inlay work.


This tomb forms a connecting link between the style of Akbar and that of Shah Jahan. The mausoleum stands in the middle of a conventional char bagh.

The roof of the tomb is unconventional. Instead of the usual dome, there is a pyramidal structure. This adds to the charm of the tomb.

Tomb’s highlight is the incredibly beautiful pietra dura work or inlay in precious stones, depicting different motifs like rose-water vessels, grapes, wine-cups and flasks, the cypress, etc. These motifs were derived largely from Persian mystical poetry which used consumption of wine as a metaphor for spiritual intoxication resulting from the intense love for the beloved. This beloved is God. The cypress tree has also been used in this genre of poetry as a reference to God.

These motifs also have their quranic connection. Though wine consumption is prohibited in Islam, the promised nectar in paradise according to the Quran will be a pure wine which will not be inebriating. Also, fruit is a promised commodity in paradise, as given by a number of Quranic verses.

These depictions establish this lively tomb as a precursor of Shahjahan’s age- the age of luxury.

Agra Fort:

Soon after his accession in1628, Shah Jahan went on a demolition drive. He destroyed most of the structures in Agra fort, leaving only the gateways and the Jahangiri Mahal. It was as if he wanted the throne only so that he can build to his pleasure.

Diwan-i Aam, Agra Fort:


The Hall of Public Audience or Diwan-i aam marked Shah Jahan’s building debut in the Agra Fort. The construction is in red sandstone, finely plastered with stucco in order to give the effect of white marble.

Throne Chamber is built of white marble, beautifully designed with trefoil shaped arches. This use of white marble marked the beginning of a life long love affair with the stone. A love affair, which ultimately resulted in the biggest monument to love- the Taj. Shah Jehan used the best marble in his buildings, called the makrana marble.

Diwan-i Khas, Agra Fort:


The Hall of Private Audience or the Diwan-i Khas was constructed in 1635. It is built entirely in marble. The beautiful multifoiled arches make this Diwan-i Khas really khas (special).

It is said that the famous peacock throne was kept here in the times of Shah Jehan According to the French traveller Jean -Baptiste Tavernier, this throne boasted of a huge number of diamonds along with 108 rubies, 116 emeralds and the golden peacock which gave the throne its name. This was taken to Delhi when the capital shifted there in the later part of Shahjahan’s reign. Nadir Shah looted it in his invasion in the eighteenth century. Today, this throne of legendary extravagance is missing, its copy at the Shah’s house in Tehran considered by many to be the original version.

Machhi Bhawan, Agra Fort:


Machhi Bhawan, as the name indicates, was originally a beautiful water-palace. It had lily ponds, water-channels, fountains- the works. These were looted by the Jats during the 18th century, and carried to Dig, near Bharatpur. Today, it is a garden. An ordinary garden. A beautiful pavilion with marble pillars is its only remnant of those great days.

Nagina Masjid, Agra Fort:


Nagina Masjid, the personal Masjid of Shahjahan, is a small but exquisite creation. It is built completely of marble.

Khas Mahal, Agra Fort:

Khas Mahal is Shah Jahan’s best work at Agra Fort. This white marble structure is situated in the middle of a terrace. This was his bedroom, the place where his love for Mumtaz Mahal blossomed. The love which ultimately led to the creation of Taj.

Angoori Bagh, Agra Fort:

Angoori Bagh, the 'Garden of Grapes', is located opposite this beautiful monument outstretched at its feet.

Musamman Burj, Agra Fort:

Musamman Burj, a pentagonal tower facing the river has a lot of romantic appeal. Shah Jahan was imprisoned here by Aurangzeb. And it was here that the former king died in 1666, in full view of his beloved’s resting place. Mussamman Burj stands behind the Diwan-i-Khas. With excellent decorations all over the wall, it is probably a precedent for today’s VIP prisons.

Red fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

Red fort, Shah Jahan’s creation in his new capital Shahjehanabad has regained its lost importance in the state matters after Indian independence. From the historical ‘tryst with destiny’ speech to the independence day 2000, the Indian prime minister has been unfurling the flag from the ramparts of red fort’s Lahori gate every year.

The Fort with a red sandstone facade, is an irregular octagon. It is a living guidebook to the Indian history of the Mughal and the post Muhal period. It was a lot of upheavals in the Mughal times and later served as a prison for hundreds of freedom fighters during the quit India movement in 1942. It was also the place where the officers of Azad hind Fauj were tortured and killed by the britishers.

Foundation of the Red Fort was laid along with that of the city, in 1639 AD. Both were designed by prominent architects of the era- Ustad Hamid and Ustad Ahmad, neither of whom lived to see the completion. It is said to have cost one crore rupees. Half of this amount was spent on the walls and other half on the buildings inside. This busy market was modelled on the covered markets Shah jahan saw at Peshawar.

Naubat Khana, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

The Naubat Khana served as the main entrance to the Diwan-i-Aam. Its third storey was originally used as the music gallery. Here music announcing the emperor and other important nobles was played. It now houses a War Museum.

Diwan-i Aam, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

Diwan-i Aam or The Hall of Public Audience is 80 ft long and 40 ft in width. It is built throughout of red sandstone. The eastern wall features exquisite designs in pietra dura or stone inlay work, with representations of trees, flowers and birds. This marble dais is said to have been used for presenting the petitions to the Emperor stands in front.

Rang Mahal, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

This was the largest apartment of the Imperial Harem. During Shah Jahan's time, it was called Imtiyaz Mahal or the 'Palace of Distinction. It is also called Rang Mahal or 'the Palace of Colors' because of the colored decoration with which its internal walls were originally adorned. Today, though, it looks more like a black and white palace. A marble water channel runs down the center of the building with an elegant central marble basin.

Tasbih Khana, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

The Tasbih Khana consists of three rooms facing the Diwan-i-Khas. The inscriptions on the central room call these 'painted mansions and charming residences, a part of the high heaven'.

Musamman Burj, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

Musamman Burj is an octagonal tower. Earlier it was known as the Burj-i-Tila or the 'Golden Tower' due to its gilded copper dome that originally covered the structure. Its three sides have been cut off by the Khwabgah, hence the name Musamman Burj or the 'Five-sided Tower'. From here the Emperor gave darshan to the public assembled below.

Diwan-i Khas, Red Fort, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

Diwan-i-Khas is the famous Hall of Private Audiences, where the Emperor gave audience to his most select courtiers and nobles. Pietra dura work is freely used on the lower portions of the arch piers.

The last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah II was tried here for sedition.

Today one has to be content with stealing glances at the structures from far away. Most of the structures are now barricaded and no one is allowed to venture inside.

Jama Masjid, Shahjahanabad (Delhi):

Though Shah Jahan was not exactly known for his mosques, he made the Jama Masjid of Delhi, one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the subcontinent. Shah Jahan announced the building of this mosque in 1650. It took six years for completion. This mosque was influenced by the Jama Masjid at Fatehpur Sikri, and Shah Jehan was the first one to admit that. The steep high stairs, the facade, the interiors, all are inspired by the great Sikri mosque. This is not to say that this mosque is a plain and simple copy of the earlier mosque. The Jama Masjid of Delhi has a charm its own. The great minarets of the mosque blesses it with extravagance.

And then, there is peace….

All these creations were elegant testimonies of Shah Jahan’s love for building. The masterpiece was waiting to happen. His aesthetical sense went on to redefine aesthetics.

Shabba khair and take care till we return next week and take you to watch him doing this.

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