The Mughal era began in India in the 16th century.

In 1526, in the famous Battle of Panipat, Emperor Babur was the first Mughal ruler who defeated the last of the Delhi Sultans, Ibrahim Shah Lodhi. Babur was a Conqueror from Central Asia. His rule was relatively short.

Humayun succeeded the throne after death of Babur at the age of twenty three. His reign was interrupted by political turbulence and an enforced exile by an Afghan leader, Sher Shah.

 After the death of Humayun, his 13 year old son Akbar was crowned. Akbar the great was a military genius and was considered the first great patron of the jeweled arts in that era. He also gained control over Rajput through diplomacy and marriage alliances. He was a great patron of art, architecture and literature.

Akbar’s reign was followed by his son Jahangir. Jahangir derived his name from a Persian word which means "world conqueror". He was ranked as a Mansabdar of ten thousand, which is the highest rank in military after the Emperor at a very young age. At the age of twelve, he commanded a regiment independently in the Kabul campaign.  Like Akbar, Jahangir managed diplomatic relations on the Indian sub-continent. He loved art, science and architecture and contributed to their growth during his reign.

Jahangir’s reign was followed by his son, Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan's thirty years of reign from the year 1628 to 1658, is often referred to as the golden period of the Mughal dynasty - a peaceful era of prosperity and stability.

Aurangzeb is considered the last great ruler of the Mughal dynasty. He was among the wealthiest of the Mughal rulers. During his reign, the Mughal empire reached its greatest extent with victories in the south. However, his intolerance to religions other than islam led to various revolts by Marathas, Sikhs and Jats which in turn led to the downfall of Mughal Empire.
Some accounts mention a fort at Agra as far back as the 11th century AD, but we know for sure that in the 15th century, a Rajput king ruled from here, and it was called “Badalgarh”, after his name. In the early 16th century, the “Lodhis” from Delhi conquered it, and were the first to move their capital from Delhi to Agra.

In 1526, Babur – the first Mughal in India – defeated the Lodhis, a Pashtun dynasty that was the last dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate in the famous battle of Panipat. Babur came to Agra – the Lodhis’ capital, and found great wealth in the treasury here. Among other things, it included the diamond that was later known as the “Koh-i-noor”. The 105 carat diamond, the root cause of many wars, originally Indian treasure but now a part of the British Crown Jewels, a jewel bestowed to the then proclaimed Empress of India, Queen Victoria. Such has been our luck  safeguarding a sparkling part of our heritage!  Anyhow, his son Humayun, who had been sent ahead to secure the fort, presented the diamond to Babur upon his arrival. Did you know that this is the first time ever the stunning Kohinoor was mentioned in history?

The Mughals hailed from the Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas, where lush meadows and fresh streams were everywhere making the heat and dust of Agra difficult on them. However, on the other hand Babur was tired from a life of fighting for a throne over and over and over again… He saw military significance in Agra, and a country he could rule without warring with his own extended family.

He made Agra his home, and lived at the palace the Lodhis had built for themselves. He wasn’t much for building grandiose structures, but he did build several gardens in the city. He died of an illness in 1530, and was succeeded by his son Humayun. It had only been about ten years and Humayun was defeated at a battle in 1540, and for some time, even retreated to faraway Kabul. Agra’s rulers once again changed hands. It was now ruled by an Afghan clan – the Suris, until they were defeated at Panipat in 1556. It was none other than Humayun’s son Akbar who had come back with a vengeance.

Emperor Akbar or Akbar Baadshah, brought the Agra fort to life. Winning back the empire, Akbar Badshah arrived in Agra in 1558.  Unfortunately he found the fort here in a run-down condition, with the brick ramparts crumbling, and some of them even fallen.

This was when Badshah Akbar ordered for the Fort of Agra to be constructed again.

By, Tanul Dilwali & Abbas Muzaffar

If you ask us to define love we will tell you that the Taj Mahal is Love. When you think of India, you immediately think of Taj Mahal. What even a ten year old child can tell you about Taj Mahal is that a King made a monument for his Queen.

Emperor Shah Jahan moved by the monument wrote:

“Should guilty seek asylum here, Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.

Should a sinner make his way to this mansion, All his past sins are to be washed away.

The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.

In this world this edifice has been made; To display thereby the creator's glory.”

Amongst all Mughal emperors Shah Jahan had a keen eye for architecture. Conceptualized by some architects such as Amanat Khan, Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.(Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer)- and commissioned in the year 1632 , completed in the year 1653 at Agra - the Taj Mahal is truly an ingenious work of art. Made of the best makrana marble -which was also the Emperor’s favourite stone-the elegant and clever design and architecture of the Taj Mahal leaves you awestruck.

The tomb is not a sombre place. If one was not told that it was a tomb- one could easily mistake it for a palace- Taj Mahal’s literal meaning too is the “crown of palaces.” Upon seeing the tomb of Shah Jahan and and Mumtaz Mahal, one feels as if they still are living in this magnificent home. Throughout the monument’s edifices one can see inscriptions from the Qu’ran adorning the frames of its gates and entrances. The Arabic inscription is cleverly inlaid with black marble and constructed so that the alphabets appear of the same length to the eye-whereas they’re not! The text is written in the 'thuluth' script, in a style associated particularly with the Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan, who was resident at the Mughal court. (His signature appears in colophons within the marble inscriptions). Persian influence is clearly visible in the making of the dome which was bulbous in shape and constricted at its base. While the delicate white marble was decorated painstakingly with many semiprecious stones. The size and the grandeur of the Taj signify the grandeur of the reign of Shah Jahan, which was the Golden Age of the Mughals.

The art used to decorate the mausoleum are plant motifs, herringbone designs on the columns, jalis or screens around the cenotaph visible majorly amongst other works of art and design. Also noticeable is the unique inlay work done on the marble called the parchin kari or pietra dura-an art form which originated in Rome. The extent of the parchin kari on the marble makes one wonder at the number of hours and skilled craftsmanship it must have taken to decorate the delicate makrana. In 1983, 400 years after it was built, the Taj Mahal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you feel that the Taj looks beautiful in the day time, it looks glorious at night. The makrana marble glows when the moon’s soft white rays fall on it. Visit its glowing visage in the full moon night and fall in love with the Taj. Shah Jahan must have imagined the Taj at such a night so as to inscribe an invitation to the reader to enter Paradise, the abode of the faithful and reward for the righteous.

Come visit the Crown of Palaces!

Post Contributor:
Ila Mishra Badoni