History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 1992: Q.5 (b)

Q.5 (b)  Write a short essay on: “Indo-Islamic architecture during the Khalji and Tughluq period.” 


Khalji Period

The Khalji period saw a lot of building activity. In the evolution of Indo-Islamic architecture, Khalji period occupies a key position as it exhibits a distinct influence of the Selijuq architecture (Turkish tribe ruling over Central Asia and Asia Minor in 11th-13th century) as also certain salient features of composition which were adopted in the succeeding styles.

The characteristics features of this phase are the following:

  1. Employment of true arch, pointed horse-show in shape
  2. Emergence of true dome with recessed arches under the squinch
  3. Use of red sandstone and decorative marbles reliefs as new building materials. Use of white marble in the trellis work and the marble decorative bands to set off the red sandstone give to the building an appearance of grace and strength
  4. Appearance of lotus-bud fringe on the underside of the arch- a Selijuq feature
  5. Emergence of new mansory-facing, consisting of a narrow course of headers alternating with a much wider course of stretchers again a Selijuq feature.
  6. The decorative features characterised by calligraphy, geometry and arabesque now became much bolder and profuse.

Alauddin built his capital at Siri, a few kilometres away from the site around the Qutb. Alauddin planned a tower twice the height of the Qutb Minar but did not live to complete it (Alai Minar). However, he added an entrance door to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. This door, which is called the Alai Darwaza. It was the first building in which the dome was built not on the principle of overlapping courses of masonary, gradually decreasing in size as they rose upwards, but on the basis of radiating voussoirs. The horse-shoe arch used for the first time in the building, is pleasing in appearance.

Mosque architecture was also developed during this period as shown by the Jamaat Khana mosque at the mausoleum of the sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya.

Tughluq Period

There was great building activity in the Tughlaq period which marked the climax of the Delhi sultanat as well as the beginning of its decline.

Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad Tughlaq built the huge palace-fortress complex called Tughlaqabad. By blocking the passage of the Jamuna, a huge artificial lake was created around it.

The tomb of Ghiyasuddin marks a new trend in architecture. To have a good skyline, the building was put up on a high platform. Its beauty was heightened by a marble dome.

A striking feature of the Tughlaq architecture was the sloping walls, called “batter”, and gives the effect of strength and solidity to the building. However, the batter is used sparingly in the buildings of Firuz Tughlaq.

A second feature of the Tughlaq architecture was the deliberate attempt to combine the principles of the arch, and. the lintel and beam. In the buildings of Firuz Tughlaq in the Hauz Khas, which was a pleasure resort and had a huge lake around it, alternate stories have arches and the lintel and beam. The same is to be found in some buildings of Firuz Shah’s new fort, now called the Kotla.

The Tughlaqs did not generally use the costly red sandstone in their buildings but the cheaper and more easily available greystone. In the buildings of Firuz, rubble is finished by a thick coat of lime plaster which was colour washed in white—a method used in buildings till recent times. Since it was not easy to carve this type of stone or lime paster, the Tughlaq buildings have a minimum of decoration. The decorative device found in all the buildings of Firuz is the lotus. Hence a feature of Tughluq architecture was the element of reduced ornament confined mostly to inscribed  borders and medallions in spandrels executed in plaster or stucco.  A devise used in the tomb of Firuz Tughlaq is a stone-railing in front which was Hindu design.

Many mosques were also built during this period, such as the Kalan mosque, in Nizamuddin the Khirki mosque in South Delhi (By Firuz Tughlaq). They were of undressed stone and lime plaster, and hence not very elegant. The pillars were thick and heavy. Also, the Indian builder had not yet developed the confidence of raising the dome high enough. Hence, the buildings appear squat.

Some other features of Tughluq’s architecture were:

  • Emergence of a pointed dome with clearly visible neck in contrast with rather stifled dome of the preceding style.
  • Introduction of encaustic tiles as an element of decoration in the panels of the building.

Another architectural devise which was used for the first time in the tomb of Firuz’s wazir, Khan-i-Jahan Telangani, was the octagonal tomb (later copied and perfected by Mughals). Many features were added to it: a verandah was built around it with long, sloping chajja or eaves as a protection against sun and rain. At each corner of the roof, chhatris or kiosks were built. Both these features were of Gujarati or Rajasthani origin. Both the arch and the lintel and beam are used in their buildings.


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