This article discusses the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as architect king. Let’s explore and make a brief but comprehensive analysis of the architecture that Shah Jahan patronized during his reign.
Who was Shah Jahan?
Born on January 5, 1592, to a Rajput princess, Shah Jahan was the third son of Mughal emperor Jahangir. He ascended to the throne after Jahangir’s death in 1628. His grandfather and then great Mughal King Akbar named him Khurram which means joyous in Persian. On orders of Akbar, Khurram was taken over from her mother to grow under the care of Akbar’s first wife Ruqaiya Sultan who predicted the Khurram to be destined to imperial greatness even before he was born.
Why Shah Jahan was called the architect king?
Scholars call Shah Jahan, the architect king for the monumental structures that he commissioned during his reign including the breathtaking marble structure, the Taj Mahal.
Structures constructed during his period include Red Fort, sections of Agra Fort (Delhi), the Muhabat Khan Mosque, Jama Masjid, Wazir Khan Mosque (Peshawar), the Moti Masjid, the Shalimar Gardens (Lahore), Shah Jahan Mosque (Thatta), and his father’s tomb, the Jahangir Mausoleum.
All these architectural structures could not be possible without the artisans and masonry workforce available in his empire then. He brought architects from around the world to create masterpieces for the world to admire for a long long time into the future.
It would not be an exaggeration if I say the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan out of love for his wife Nur Jahan is a reflection of all the beauty, elegance, and magnificence of the architectural beauty of the entire Mughal period. No building before and prior to the reign of Shah Jahan can match its majesty and attraction.
Apart from architectural structure, Shah Jahan also commissioned and developed landscape architecture by building Perian-styled gardens called Charbagh with and without the majestic structures built during his rule.
There are a number of important architectural monuments that Shah Jahan patronized during his rule. They include the Taj Mahal, Red Fort (Delhi), Jama Masjid, Pearl Mosque, gardens commonly known as char bagh, etc.
Main features of the Architectural style of Shah Jahan
The salient features of the architecture of the Shah Jahan period include extensive use of white marble, double domes, recessed archways. The interior of the buildings carried a facade of a rectangular shape whereas a Persian-designed garden surrounded the structure from outside. Furthermore, the structures carried fine symmetry and balance between different parts with rare ingenious and exquisite details.
Thus Shah Jahan left behind a grand legacy of architectural monuments for the future Mughals and the world to admire. The excellence in architectural art achieved during the Shah Jahan period has earned him the title of ‘the architect king’. He was the greatest patron of Mughal architecture.