Short essay on the architecture during the mid-14th century

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Of all the provincial styles that developed in archi­tecture in the mid-14th century, the Gujarat style is the most elegant.

The Gujarat rulers evolved a synthesis of Islamic and Jain styles. The characteristic features of this style include extensive use of pillar- and-lintel system, device (a clerestory or wall with series of windows) to admit light into the central pan of the hall-type mosque, semi-circular engrailed arch on two pillars, systematic use of graceful minarets and heavily sculpted buttresses, rich and delicate jali in arches, windows, etc. and frequent use of balco­nied windows.

Some fine examples of this style are the Rani Rupmati (c. 1460) mosque and the tomb and mosque of Rani Sabrai or Rani Sarai (1514).

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In architecture, the Malwa style is essentially arcuate. Some of its features are the skilful and elegant use of arch with pillar and beam, lofty terraces approached by well-proportioned stairways, impressive and dignified size of the buildings and their fine masonry, frequent use of domed cupolas round a central dome and restrained ornamentation with pleasing colour decoration.

The minaret is absent in this style. Some famous monuments of this style are Ashrafi Mahal, Hindola Mahal, Jahaz Mahal, Baz Bahadur’s Palace, the Nilkanth Palace and Kaliadeh Mahal.

The Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur created a fine style in architecture which was marked by lofty gates and huge arches. It was deeply influenced by the buildings of the Tughlaq period.

The distinctive features of the structures here are square pillars, small galleries and absence of mina­rets. During the time it was under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, many buildings were constructed among which the fort and the palace of Ibrahim Naib Barbak are prominent. Among the buildings of the Sharqui rulers, the Atala Masjid of Ibrahim Shah Sharqi, the Jami Masjid of Husain Shah and the Lai Darwaza mosque convey the best impression of Jaunpuri style.

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As bricks were used to raise the structures in Bengal, they lack the imposing grandeur which even the ruins have elsewhere. The main features of the Bengal type of architecture were arches pointed at the apex, decoration by essentially Hindu motifs and (because they were made of bricks) Hindu tech­niques of construction.

Among the famous buildings constructed during the period, were the Adina masjid of Sikandar Shah at Pandua, the Ekalakhi mauso­leum at Hazarat Pandua and also the tomb of Jalaluddin Muhammad there.

At Gaur, there were quite a few; the Gunamant and Darasbari mosques; the Bari Sona and the Lotan Masjids; and the Dhakhin-Darwaza and Qadam-Rasul built by Nusrat Shah. There was also the well-known Shut-Gumbad (sixty-domed) mosque at Bagerhat in Khulua district, now in Bangladesh (along with Gaur).

The Kashmir style of Indo-Islamic architecture is different from other provincial styles in the use of timber as the main building material and in its Buddhist influence.

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The Deccan developed a distinct architectural style in the 14th to 17th century. The first phase of the Deccan style shows Tughlaq influence. Later it was influenced by the building art of Persia. Mahmud Gawan’s madrasa in Persian style at Bidar is note­worthy. But of the five successors to the Bahmanis in the Deccan, the most noteworthy in architectural terms were the Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi.

Features special to the Adil Shahi architectural style are the three-arched facade, the bulbous dome almost spherical in shape, the graceful, tall and slender minaret, frequent use of a masonry pier of considerable size instead of a pillar, substantial bold, projecting chhajjas or cornices, and ceilings that seem to be built without any apparent support as the slabs of stones are bound together by iron clamps and strong mortar. Also typical is the richly artistic stucco or stone carving.

Outstanding monuments of the Bijapur style are the mausoleum of Ibrahim Adil Shah and that of Muhammad Adil Shah or the Gol Gumbaz which is said to possess the largest single dome. Bijapur court paintings rose to great heights under Ibrahim Adil Shah. Ibrahim Adil Shah II was deeply interested in music. He invoked Saraswati in his songs. He compiled the Kitab-i-Nauras and built a new capital, Nauraspur.

The Golconda or Qutb Shahi style is noted for the design and luxuriant ornament in stucco of the facade of buildings including minars and parapets. The Hindu influence in this style is evident in its motifs of decoration; the architectural forms and artistic devices are, however, Persian.

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Notable Qutb Shahi monuments include the tomb of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah and the stately gateway built by him, the Char Minar, in about 1591-92 in Hyderabad. In painting, the Golconda portraits show the royal taste in fruits and scented flowers.

The Vijayanagara rulers built numerous mag­nificent well-decorated palaces and temples. Unfor­tunately, none of these buildings remain except in the form of ruins; after the battle of Talikota, the victorious Muslim army destroyed everything in their sight.

The few elements that escaped the destruction of the vandals are the throne platform, the king’s audience hall with its roof over 10 x 10 rows of pillars and the Hazara Ram and Vithala temples. The Vithala temple built by Krishnadeva Raya is regarded as the finest specimen of Vijayanagara architecture. During the Vijayanagara period, the art of construction of gopurams devel­oped further along with assembly halls known as kalyana mandapas.

Fine examples of kalyana mandapa can be seen at Vellore as also in the Varadarajaswami and Ekambaranatha temples at Kanchipuram and in the Jambukesvara temple at Thiruchirapalli.

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While the grandeur of architecture dominates sculptural decoration in these Vijayanagara monu­ments, sculpture had an important part in the scheme of things. Sculptures of this period are exemplified by large monolithic carvings.

The reclining Nandi near the Lepakshi temple is believed to be the largest monolithic Nandi in the country. Even more impres­sive is a gigantic representation of seated ‘Ugra Narsimha’ at Vijayanagara.

Hindu architecture in Rajasthan during this period obviously used some of the constructional techniques of the Muslims, but kept the designs and the style absolutely free from the Muslim influence In fact, it seems the designs became more exquisite as can be seen in the carvings and the lattice work of the Jaina stambha at Chittor.

Another tower at Chittor, the Kirti Stambha, built partly of marble and partly of red stone, is also famous for its decorative aspects. The Ranas of Rajasthan built many forts and palaces, of which the forts remain. Rana Kumbh of Mewar was one such prolific builder. His fort Kumbhalgarh is the most famous among the man he built.

The best preserved and famous paintings are those at the Virabhadra temple and the Lepakshi paintings, which are characterized by earth tones and the absence of primary colours in this general. Realism does not seem to be the main concern in painting style.

The Nayakas who rose on the fall of the Vijayanagar empire continued the artistic traditions of the Vijayanagar rulers. The most famous archi­tectural landmark of the age is the Meenakshi- Sundareswara temple at Madurai, built largely in the time of Thirumala Nayak in mid-17th century. A major contribution of the Nayaka artists was the building of ‘prakaramaf, roofed ambulatory passage­ways, at many temples.

Typically, a Nayaka ‘prakaramd has massive columns with elaborate corbelled brackets and extensively carved (and some­times painted) surfaces. One of the most famous of these passageways from the Nayaka period is at Rameswaram.

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