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.
 
The construction of qutb tower was begun by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1192. He was then the viceroy of Mohd. Ghori, the invader from Afghanistan.  In 1192 Sultan Aibak laid the foundation of the Qutb Minar to celebrate Ghori’s victory, over the Rajputs. He built the Minar as an ode to Islam’s victory. It is possibly called Qutb Minar because it was started by Aibak Sahib. Aibak Sahib also had deep respect for Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, who is lovingly called as Qutub Sahib. So he could have named it in the honour of Qutub Sahib.  Qutub Sahib was the famous Sufi saint who was greatly venerated by many rulers of Delhi who held him in great esteem. The construction of the tower was then completed by Sultan Iltutmish.

Balconies on the Minar are actually one of the most interesting and effective features. The boldly projecting balconies at every stage are linked with the tower by a devise called ‘stalactite honey combing’. Simply put, the walls are sloping in order to make the tower stronger.

Qutb Minar has definitely suffered more than its share of damage from earthquakes and lightning strikes. It was repaired and renovated by various rulers. In 1368 the top storey of the Minar got hit by lightning and the red sandstone structure came falling down. Firoze Shah Tughlaq, the then ruler repaired it using white marble instead of the original red sandstone. Therefore, the top 2 storeys of the Minar are different in style than the rest of the storeys. Thereafter in the year 1505, an earthquake struck the Minar and it was repaired by Sikandar Lodi. But unfortunately the cupola came crashing down during another earthquake in 1803. The British engineer, Major Robert Smith had replaced Firoze Shah Tughlaq’s cupola by a flaming Mughal Pavilion, which is also known as the Bengali chattri.  But Lord Hardinge, the Governor General of India from 1844-88 found it a bit incongruous with the Minar and got it removed. It was much later that the top of the Qutb Minar was replaced by an iron railing that we see now.

The inscriptions the Minar bears, gives us an almost complete history of the Qutb Minar from the commencement of its construction right down to its repair by various rulers.

By, Abbas Muzaffar & Tanul Dilwali

 
The name of the City Bombay came from the Portuguese word ‘Bom Baia’ meaning the ‘Good Bay’. In the early 16th century, the Mughals were growing powerful across India, and the Gujarat emperor handed the islands and some surrounding territory to the Portuguese, in return for protection.

The islands had nothing – no minerals, no town, nothing save a few small fishing villages. The Portuguese did nothing more than build a church in every village. They brought in the Catholic religion.

In about 1550, a Portuguese physician and botanist – Garcia da Orta – leased the large H-shaped ‘Bombay’ island for his private residence. He built himself a Manor house close to here, not far from the present Lion Gate of the dockyards. The house is now in restricted naval area.

And now, the tale gets romantic! In 1661, the Portuguese gave away the seven islands as dowry with their princess, who got married to then Prince Charles II of England. Such a hefty dowry!

The islands were now with the British crown. In 1668, the East India Company leased the islands, and started building a port here – which they needed because Surat in the North was becoming crowded and silted.

And Garcia da Orta’s mansion became the nucleus, around which Bombay took shape.

One of the first things the Englishmen did when they built their port was to build a castle, and then a fort, complete with a moat and drawbridges, around it. In 1687, they transferred their headquarters from Surat to Bombay.

Following the success of the port, the Portuguese realised the potential in these islands that they had given away, and so did the French. There were repeated attempts, but the British fought them off. By 1782, the British had extended their control to the areas north of the city, including Bassein and the Salcette Island.

In 1784, a project to amalgamate all the seven islands of Bombay into a single mass – the Hornby Vellard project was launched. It was completed by 1845, and the first train started from Bombay to Thane on the mainland, in 1851.

From useless swamps, meaningless to anybody, to the site of India’s first passenger rail, and the most ambitious civil works ever, in less than 200 years! This city has been a miracle child, from the day it was born.

Business via the port grew stupendously, and the East Company opened its doors to any who wished to trade anything at all. The city’s first important commodities were cotton and, ahem, Opium!

In 1869, the Suez Canal opened, and put Bombay in easy access from Europe, and on a direct route to Southeast Asia. Now that, as they say, really set things afire. The civil works in the city got a major boost, supported greatly by the wealthy Parsi traders who were making their fortune here.

Ever since, the city has never looked back. It has always been India’s financial capital, and a major trading port.

By Abbas Muzaffar & Tanul Dilwali
 
The story of the Mughals in India started in the year 1526, when Emperor Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur invaded the country. 

It is said that Emperor Babur, apart from being a great military strategist, was also an extremely strong man. There are legendary tales of how, during his exercise regimen, he would carry two men, one on each shoulder, and then climb slopes on the run.  Emperor Babur also swam across every major river he encountered, including twice across the Ganges River in North India.  No wonder he was able to conquer a land that many foreign invaders had failed to do in the past.  

After setting the foundations of the Mughal empire, which went on to become the most dominant power in the Indian sub-continent  from mid 16th century  till the early 18th century, Emperor Babur died in 1530.
 
The first Islamic rule in the country started with emperor Qutub-ud-din Aibak. The interesting thing about Aibak is that he used to be a slave of a Tajik ruler, Muhammad Ghori who captured Delhi in 1193. 

It was from there that the city saw the rise of what is known as the ‘Delhi Sultanate’. The powerful Sultanate lasted for over two and a half centuries covering five dynasties. These dynasties are the Slave dynasty, the Khilji dynasty, the Tughlaq dynasty, the Sayyid dynasty and the Lodi dynasty. 

And you’ve heard of the famous Battle of Panipat right? Yes! The battle where Babur defeated the last of the Delhi Sultans, Ibrahim Shah Lodi in 1526. It marked the end of the Delhi Sultanate rule and the beginning of the mighty Mughal dynasty.
 
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