Art and Culture
The Medieval Age in Bengal began with the assumption of power by the Muslims. Before the advent of the Muslims, people belonging to the Hindu and the Buddhist religions lived in Bengal.
The Muslims under the leadership of Bakhtiar Khalji entered Bengal as a royal power in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Even five to six hundred years before that the Arab Muslims who had come to do business were living on the coastal belt in Southeast Bengal.
The Sufis and the Saints began to come to Bengal to preach Islam from the eleventh century. Many of the common Hindus and Buddhists embraced Islam at the time. Thus, gradually a Muslim social structure developed in Bengal. The Hindus and the Muslims lived side by side all over Bengal at the time. As a result, a sort of mixture began to take place between one another’s thoughts and rituals. The culture which evolved in this way is called the Bengali culture.
The rulers of the Jaunpur Sultanate were great builders and patrons of learning. The Sharqi kings of Jaunpur were great patrons of learning and under them Jaunpur became the home of Muhammadan culture and refuge for men of letters. But they are best remembered for the splendor of their architecture.
The Atala Mosque built by Ibrahim Shah, the Lal Darawaja built by Mahmud, and the magnificent Jami Masjid built by Husain are amongst the finest monuments of architecture erected in pre-Mughul days. These splendid mosques ‘are designed in peculiar style, including many Hindu features’. They are very massive and have imposing gateways and are without minarets.
The Islamic style of architecture flourished in Gujarat for a period of some two hundred and fifty years from the time early in the fourteenth century.
This Indo Islamic style entered in Gujarat for the first time when the Governors appointed by the Khalji Sultans of Delhi established themselves in the towns of the western seaboard. They developed their architecture until the independent rule of the Ahmad Shahi dynasty declined, and the country in the last half of the sixteenth century was absorbed into the empire of the Mughals.
Some of the famous Indo-Islamic architectures in Gujarat of this era are: Tomb of Shikh Farid, Jami Masjid, Hailal Khan Qazi’s Mosque, Tomb of Darya Khan, Tin Darwaza or Triple Gateway, Mosque of Sarkar Khan, Bai Hari’s wav or step-well, Mausoleum of Shah Alam, Mosque at the mausoleum of Shah Alam, Paldi Mochrab Masjid, the Rani Rupavati Rauza or Queen’s Mosque, the Isanpur Rauza, the Sarangpur Rauza, and the mosque at the mausoleum of Shah Alam
The Indo-Islamic architecture in Malwa province took place with the invasion of the Muslim rulers in the late medieval period.
The province included the cities of Dhar and Mandu where a large number of Islamic architectures developed during the Sultanate period.
The major architectures among them are the Kamal Maula Masjid built in 1400, the Lal Masjid built in 1405, Dilawar Khan’s Masjid built in 1405, the Masjid of Malik Mughis built in 1452 in Mandu, Taveli Mahal with two wells, Jahaz Mahal built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji, Dilawar Khan’s Mosque, Hindola Mahal, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, the Jami Masjid built by Mahmud Shah Khilji I, and Ashrafi Mahal.
The major architectures during the development of Indo Islamic architecture in Malwa were constructed in the Mandu city. This city was popularly known as ‘City of Joy’ and was famous for the romance of Rani Roopmati and the poet-prince Baz Bahadur.
The presence of Baz Bahadur’s palace and Roopmati’s pavilion in the city shows the devotion and respect for these two people. The city is famous for several other Islamic architectures such as the Alamgir and Bhangi Darwaza, Jahangir Gate, the Delhi Darwaza, and Tarapur Gate.
One of the earliest Islamic monuments in the Deccan is an audience hall in the Kakatiya fort of Warangal that has been identified as a Tughlak structure built during the 14th century occupation of that site.
But this is a rare example of a building in the north Indian Islamic style. In general, Islamic buildings of the Deccan were relatively unaffected by either indigenous Hindu architecture or by contemporary Islamic architecture of north India. Instead, the many independent dynasties that ruled this region from the 14th century looked for both political legitimacy and cultural inspiration to the west, particularly the influential Iranian courts.
In the early 14th century, Muhammad bin Tughlak’s, military governor Zafar Khan rebelled against him. The resulting dynasty, known as the Bahmanids, ruled from Gulbarga and later from Bidar. Among the earliest productions of the Bahmanis was the Jami Masjid at Gulbarga (mid 14th century), with its extraordinary cloisters consisting of wide arches on low piers. A series of tombs built in two separate complexes were built as mausolea of the early Bahmani rulers. They are all in the austere Tughlak style with sloping walls and flattened domes, but the effect is distinctly less austere in the magnificent double tomb of Firoz Shah Bahmani whose walls are divided into tiers of arched niches some of which have windows with elaborate jali decoration.
Bidar fort in the northern plateau of Karnataka is the historical monuments created in the ancient times of the Bahmani Kingdom in the Deccan plateau in 1347; and most of the architectural style is of Persian architecture.
Bidar fort has seven gates in the fort and there are many places of repute inside the fort as Takht Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Diwan-I-Am and Solah Khamba Mosque.
Vijayanagar city was surrounded by seven fortifications. The space in between was used for various purposes such as laying gardens and growing vegetables etc. The total area of the city was estimated at 64 square miles. There were beautiful lakes, open gardens, broad and well-laid roads and buildings.
The palace was the most impressive building in Vijayanagar. There were halls of public and private audiences. The halls were decorated with beautiful painted pictures. Usually the walls and pillars were ornamented with sculptures made of stone or wood.
Unfortunately, most of the city of Vijayanagar is now in ruins.
Temple architecture received a new impetus and reached to new heights under the patronage of the Vijayanagar rulers. About the architecture of the period, Prof. S.K. Saraswati has observed, “The most frequent design is one in which the shaft becomes either a central core or background for a group of statuary, of substantial proportion and carved practically on the ground.
Important features of the Vijayanagar style of temple and architecture were monolithic pillars, ornate brackets, decoration on exterior side of the walls, etc.