Main Thrusts of the Royal Funerary Architecture of the Mughals (Part Two)

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia

Akbar tomb complex

Four towering white marble minarets surmount the gate pavilion of emperor Akbar’s tomb complex. 


Of all the monumental royal mausoleums of the Mughals, domed and vaulted canopies (chhatris), pavilions and, to an extent, turrets were, arguably, most extensively and most ingeniously used in Akbar’s mausoleum. One gets a feeling that such was the case due to the overall design of the building which rendered it a five-tiered structure much like a truncated pyramid enveloped by low galleries. The extensive and creative use of those canopies, pavilions, galleries and somewhat turrets was resorted to in order to accentuate the dissection, orderliness and harmony of the tomb’s spaces. Their abundant and fetching presence gives a beholder liberty to familiarize and move freely his vision from one segment of the building to another without following any particular rigid order or sequence, while at the same time maximizing the experience and absorption of the aesthetic and rhythmical qualities of the tomb. Moreover, a beholder’s vision and thus emotional attachment to the building are at once spontaneous and total, from the beginning of the process of beholding and interacting with it till the end. They are also instantaneous and non-developmental. Apart from the relatively impressive pishtaqs which mark the central bays of the four sides of the tomb, the building has no real focal point towards which a beholder’s attention could develop, or could be drawn. The building’s entire contour of a truncated pyramid is its chief lure. The building in its intricate totality is that focal point to which a visitor’s attention and mind are instantly drawn and from which they last depart when he physically departs from the symmetrical charbagh and its watercourses that house the tomb. It goes without saying that thus built, Akbar’s tomb resembled especially a Dravida style of Hindu temple architecture where the rising tower, or shikhar (mountain peak), consists of progressively smaller storeys of pavilions. Dravidian temples are also called pyramid shaped temples. Lastly, due to their unusual and indeed out-of-place position, the four white marble minarets that surmount the gate of Akbar’s funerary complex rather appear as though they are four massive outgrown turrets crowned by octagonal chhatris. The minarets thus could be viewed as an amalgam, as it were, of the two fundamental functional and ornamental elements generally in Mughal architecture: turrets and chhatris. Furthermore, the minarets thus could be viewed as a sign and symbol of virtually everything that Mughal funerary architecture stood for, as well as a sign and symbol of its strong integration, amalgamation and hybrid disposition.


Hence, it follows that Akbar’s tomb evokes most the quintessence of the indigenous Hindu temple architecture. The tomb was built in Akbar’s own image as Akbar, more than anybody else, possessed a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs, especially Hinduism. One of his powerful wives, Mariam uz-Zamani, and the mother of his son and successor, Jahangir, was a Hindu princess, daughter of Raja Bharmal who was a ruler of Amber in Rajastan, India. Her dwelling place at Fatehpur Sikri, briefly the capital of the Mughal empire built by Akbar himself, contained several Hindu symbols and motifs, including some Hindu deities. Consequently, while many orthodox Indo-Muslim historians damned and vilified Akbar, the mystically inclined and the members of a peace movement founded on a belief in the essential unity of everything, revered him as “the shadow of God on earth” and the greatest of all the Indo-Muslim rulers.[1] The great masses of Hindus were won over by Akbar’s myriad conciliatory, tolerant and equitable programs and policies. The way his tomb was built exemplified, as it were, his life orientation and mission. The tomb was always visited and revered by both Muslims and Hindus.

Further, the fact that the windowless and dark burial chamber in Akbar’s tomb is accessed only through the southern pishtaq, and that it is a small room where one arrives through a long and rather narrow corridor, suggests the esoteric, mysterious and recondite nature of the tomb’s kernel. One cannot help but feel that such a plan and design, as well as the prevailing psychological and spiritual aura and ambiance of the place, were intensely sought and deliberate. And herein lies another very significant resemblance of Akbar’s tomb with Hindu temples. Hindu temples, too, are poorly lighted, sometimes to the point that one at times intuits that they prefer relative darkness over light. Their interiors, likewise, seem esoteric, mysterious and secret. Their kernel is the secret shrine of an idol god whose mysteries are known only to a few initiated priests and are not for public display.[2] Whereas, correspondingly, it was never a secret that much of emperor Akbar’s legacy revolved around personality cult building. The way his tomb was erected and functioned implied both the pinnacle and a relative success of such an endeavor. It was a testimony of Akbar’s colorful personality and his all-embracing accomplishments. It embodied a character, values and a philosophy. Undeniably, moreover, it was owing to this emphatic personality cult paradigm that some of the decorative themes of the colossal gate of Akbar’s tomb feature, among other things, eulogizing Akbar, his reign and thought, as well as Jahangir, Akbar’s son, successor and the patron of the tomb. The tomb itself is also praised. 

Without a doubt, the Mughal genius stepped to the fore most spectacularly in devising a unique synthesis of two, previously unlinked architectural ideas: the charbagh or four-square garden of Persian origin, and the royal funerary tomb, “both of which had been utilized by Timur himself, though never together in a single complex.”[3] However, it seems as though combining the charbagh concept and the royal tomb into one multiplex contributed a share in impelling the Mughals to eventually confer on their funerary centers an aura of undue exclusivity and extra secularity, and herein lies another notable Mughal innovation in the realm of royal funerary architecture. When one examines the genesis and growth of Muslim royal funerary architecture one discovers that although such was always a repulsive religious innovation, the major royal funerary trends that anteceded the Mughals never shied away from affiliating themselves as much and as intimately as possible with the institutions that embodied pure religious substance and meaning. Consequently, lest they should end up being regarded as sheer secular and mundane structures, and thus lest they should be forsaken and abandoned as soon as their limited scopes and purposes ended, most of the pre-Mughal royal memorial edifices, especially in the middle east, Iran and Turkey, were built as part of larger ensembles dominated by mosques, madrasahs (religious schools) and Sufi khanqahs. This way, it was thought, such monumental edifices would ensure longer survival, as they were associated with the largest part of the community whose programs and vision transcended those of petty dynasties many of which began to wane as soon as they rose to power, as well as an extra measure of political legitimacy which all of those dynasties were desperately looking for. Even the dynastic mausoleum of Timur, which is viewed as one of the precursors for a trend of fashioning individually standing and secularized royal funerary monuments, contained in its immediate vicinity a madrasah (religious school) and a Sufi khanqah. A mosque, it seems, was there too, near the madrasah. They were all loosely interrelated, combining into a fine funerary ensemble.

Besides, most of those dynasties which at once historically and geographically anteceded the Mughals in Northwest India, they, too, with most of their monumental royal tombs subscribed to the above-explained predominant trend. Not many exceptions are known. One of them is the tomb of Muhammad Shah, the second last of the Sayyid dynasty rulers, which as a royal tomb still stands today alone in Lodi gardens in New Delhi with no religious or any other institution apparently associated with it. Of those earlier mentioned royal tombs, the tombs of Iltutmish and Ala’uddin Khilji stood as part of the massive Quwwat al-Islam (power and authority of Islam) mosque complex in New Delhi. As for the royal tomb of Sikandar Lodi, it was somewhat imposing, set in a non-charbagh garden and surrounded by an elaborate enclosure with walls 3.5 meters high. Yet the middle part of its enclosure’s western wall was built so as to function as a wall mosque with qiblah (direction of prayer) indicated through arches and a paved area in front of it extending almost to the tomb proper. Moreover, just outside Sikandar Lodi’s tomb-garden, next to its main portal, there might have existed another smaller scale mosque, or just a qualified space earmarked for worship, on account of a diminutive qiblah arch which still stands there today as part of a square platform before the tomb’s enclosure. On the same platform, two pavilions (chhatris) also stand. During the Lodi period — it is believed — mosques and some other religious institutions were often erected as adjuncts to the royal tombs. Gardens in which some of them were set were not of the charbagh type. It stands to reason, therefore, that in some funerary architecture legacies of both the Sayyids and Lodis, there were indications as to what was yet to come following the assertion of the Mughal administration. It could also be conjectured, accordingly, that the Mughals were greatly and directly influenced by certain royal funerary traditions of some of their Indian predecessors as well, especially the Sayyids and Lodis.

When the Mughals embarked on creating their memorial complexes, they introduced vast gardens as their physical milieus. The complexes thus served as spacious natural frameworks whose elaborate and symmetrical landscapes were dominated by correspondingly elaborate and symmetrical royal mausoleums. All the networks of paths and waterways in those funerary complexes led to the royal mausoleums, resulting in every visitor’s attention and excitement to be also channeled primarily towards those midpoints. Notwithstanding the vastness of their spaces, not many Mughal memorial centers contained mosques. Yet when they did, those mosques were rather nominal. Further, those comparatively simple mosques stood conspicuously separated from the tombs, the nearest and, at the same time, grandest one being a mosque in the Taj Mahal ensemble. In Humayun’s and Jahangir’s memorial complexes, on the other hand, the mosques stood adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, main entrances to the complexes. Akbar’s mausoleum might not have any mosque in its immediate environs. On visiting the places, therefore, one gets a feeling that the tombs were meant to be primary and mosques auxiliary buildings. In terms of awareness and appreciation, the latter was supposed to play the second fiddle to the former. The practical roles and services of the mosques in those particular contexts – one also gets the impression – were subjected to the conceptual and practical purposes and functions of the tombs. This assessment could be easily gauged even today by casually visiting the places in question. Whereas the tombs are almost perfectly preserved and painstakingly attended to, the same could not be said of their mosques. Only part-time and half-hearted attention and care have been accorded to them, at the hands of both visitors and authorities. Even that has become the case not because those structures are mosques, but because they constitute a part of reputed royal funerary complexes which acquired international fame and recognition. Those mosques stand virtually idle except, perhaps and only to some extent, the mosque in the Taj Mahal ensemble. The mosque near the gateway to the tomb-garden of Humayun is completely defunct.

As mentioned, the mosque in the Taj Mahal funerary complex is as grand as it gets. The mosque was built of red sandstone except its bulbous or onion domes which were built of white marble. It employed as its main components a huge central iwan, single arch entrances that flanked the iwan, ornamental arches, bulbous domes, two front octagonal towers attached to the two front corners, four octagonal chhatris surmounting the two front octagonal corner towers and the two corresponding rear corners, turrets as well as mosaic and inlaid rich and colorful floral and geometric decoration. The mosque served as a subsidiary building on the western side of the main white marble tomb. On the eastern side of the tomb, there is an exact replica of the mosque, another auxiliary building called Mehman Khanah (guesthouse). This building is same as the mosque except that it does not have those elements as are associated purely with the language of mosque art and architecture like central mihrab (praying niche), minbar (pulpit), separate section for women to pray, notable calligraphic embellishments depicting certain excerpts or full chapters from the Qur’an, etc. Both the mosque and Mehman Khanah stand on a significantly lower ground than the Taj Mahal, the entire high plinth of the latter having been made of white marble plausibly in order to give unmistaken emphasis to its higher ground as well as separation from the rest of the complex’s buildings. The mosque and Mehman Khanah, it appears, were meant but to perfectly flank the superb white marble Taj Mahal and to thus enhance its monumentality and aesthetic grandeur and appeal. They were meant but to underline the Taj Mahal’s intended perfect proportion and symmetry. So – ultimately — it follows that the Mughals were the most responsible party for augmenting and somewhat solemnizing exclusivity and secularity in the field of royal funerary architecture, more than any other faction or ruling elite before and after them, such as the Ayyubids, Abbasids, Saljuqs, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks, Safavids and even the Timurids, their predecessors.

Moreover and despite everything, the Mughal royal tombs served as the signs of the permanent presence of Islam in India, in general, and of the Mughal imperial ambitions, in particular. They served as the signs of the Mughal tightening of their grip on power. They were important ideological and physical landmarks. They emitted the message that Islam and the Mughals were in India to stay, heralding a new era of stability and longevity. The royal tombs thus signified effective means for decisive propaganda crusades. Hence, when Akbar began the construction of his father Humayun’s tomb — the first Mughal royal mausoleum — he had just started to assert control over his nascent and hitherto vulnerable empire, having fended off all the substantial threats from within and without. Political instability during the first six years of Akbar’s reign, and in total thirty-six years of the precarious Mughal rule, delayed the commissioning of the first tomb. But afterward, the symbolic potential of royal funerary architecture proved irresistible.[4] Its potentials were too much and too many to be passed over by the ambitious and power-hungry Mughals. Their memorial enterprises showed furthermore that they became confident in themselves and their political prospects. The former was meant both to typify and further underline and reinforce the latter. So assertive and self-confident had the Mughals become that their funerary structures did not even need to directly affiliate themselves with other social and religious institutions and establishments, as it was the case with most Muslim rulers who were the precursors of the royal funerary culture. The Mughal memorial complexes radiated self-belief, fortitude, pride and ambitions. They were a signature of their political ascent. The Mughals’ faith in their not only survival, but also resilience and intransience, became unwavering. It became their socio-political ethos. Indeed, herein lies the reason why when the Mughal power and dominance started to decline, no new royal mausoleums worth mentioning have been erected for any of the subsequent Mughal rulers. Three of them: Jahandar Shah (d. 1125 AH/ 1713 CE), Farrukhsiyar (d. 1132 AH/ 1719 CE) and Alamgir II (d. 1173 AH/ 1759 CE), were even buried inside Humayun’s tomb, though the tomb was never meant to become a dynastic tomb. Many other emperors availed themselves of some other tombs and shrines that belonged to certain prominent personalities, most of all Sufi sheikhs and saints. In any case, it appears as though the staunch orthodoxy of Aurangzeb functioned as an interlude between the two Mughal epochs, and between the two funerary architecture approaches and outlooks. Irrespective of whether it was owing to invigorated orthodoxy tendencies or to growing political insecurities and weaknesses that after emperor Aurangzeb’s reign the monumental funerary architecture of the Mughals came to a virtual end.

Perhaps nothing symbolized the above-explained Mughal doctrine better than the presence of towering minarets in most of the mentioned Mughals’ funerary ensembles, which was yet another Mughal innovation whose seeds had been sown by the Timurids. Minarets are associated with mosques and the language of mosque architecture, not with mausoleums and its own architecture vocabulary. However, the Mughals seem to have readily incorporated that distinctive mosque architecture component because it fitted the bill of symbolically radiating the projected meanings and ideas that royal mausoleums embodied. It fitted the bill of characterizing, promoting and inviting both Muslims and non-Muslims to the Mughal socio-political agendas meant for the Indian sub-continent. Various forms of minarets normally functioned as lighthouses, watchtowers and, most importantly, as the places from which the call for prayers is made. Thus, if the minarets of the Mughal mausoleums did not, at least symbolically, serve the purposes of spreading the luminosity of their cause, of beckoning the masses to embrace and aid their mission, and of intending to impose and cement their omnipresent power and authority, the minarets would have appeared as a functional misfit and structural peculiarity when juxtaposed with the total of funerary complexes’ environments. The minarets’ functions revolved around all the three mentioned factors and features. To say that they were erected just for the purpose of enhancing the structures’ symmetry and proportion, would be both inadequate and superficial an explanation. Likewise, as an example, the four marble-clad minarets that flank the Taj Mahal, one at each corner of the mausoleum plinth, are said to have a slight outward tilt, believed to be a design measure intended to protect the main mausoleum from damage should a minaret collapse. This interpretation could be true; however, it could also be construed as the four minarets’ symbolic leaning towards the prospect of ideologically impacting the outside world, especially the minds and hearts of the arriving spectators and visitors. Thus, it seems as though the minarets and their meaning and messages belonged as much to the outer public orb, adjoining the royal mausoleum complexes, as much to the inner central orbs. They stood at the intersection of the two spheres. That could be one of the reasons why the four minarets of the Taj Mahal are physically separated from the mausoleum proper, flanking it from a distance at its four corners, and having a slight outward tilt. As it could be one of the reasons why the mausoleum of Akbar does not have any minarets attached to the building proper. Rather, there are four towering white marble minarets surmounting the funerary complex’s gate pavilion, one at each corner of the structure. The gate pavilion and its towering minarets greet the visitors upon their entering the funerary ensemble. They are likewise the last components the visitors behold upon leaving the place.

Shedding more light on some aspects of the essence of the above discussion, Glenn D. Lowry wrote that the architecture of Humayun’s tomb, for example, to a large extent reflects Akbar’s attempts to articulate both the range and the scope of his empire, while at the same time defining his personal associations and aspirations. It was meant, furthermore, to be a statement affirming the Mughals’ intentions to revitalize Delhi and to restore the rule of the Mughal empire over the rest of India.[5] Moreover, both Humayun’s and Akbar’s interest in astrology had a few implications especially for the conceptual and decorative strategies of Humayun’s tomb. As an illustration, Glenn D. Lowry discussed the case of six-pointed stars, which were consistently used as isolated motifs invariably placed on, or near, entrances to buildings. “While it is not clear why this star became identified first with Humayun and then with the dynasty at large, it may be that its auspicious symbolism in Islamic astrology as a sign reflecting the union of opposing elements was appealing to the Mughals.”[6] The six-pointed star motif symbolized the conjunction of opposing social, religious and even political forces in the Mughal empire and how delicate an enterprise it was maintaining peace and harmony among all of them. The Mughals, nonetheless, were aptly up to the challenge, and that is where another symbolic meaning of the six-pointed star was entailed. The motif symbolized both Humayun and his descendents, especially Akbar, the patron of Humayun’s tomb. Akbar’s need to associate himself with his father may have been a reflection of his belief that through Humayun he possessed a divine light that distinguished him from all of his rivals, including his brothers. This light originated with the semi-mythical Mongol queen Alanqua, who, after having been widowed, was reposing on her bed one night when a glorious light cast a ray into the tent and entered her mouth and throat. She became pregnant by that light in the same way as did the Virgin Mary. This light initiated a line of noble rulers that included Genghis Khan and Timur as well as the Mughals and was the beginning of the manifestation of emperor Akbar.[7] Akbar, therefore, is projected as a ruler of a divine nature who had been divinely chosen to rule. He is alleged to have a supernatural origin, a heavenly descent and supernatural powers.[8] Accordingly, the kingship of Akbar showered on him an extraordinary, divine and mythical status distinguishing him from his other half-brothers and cousins.[9] Emperor Jahangir, his son, and to a lesser extent, Shah Jahan, later followed the same dogma as well.[10] Around the same time and for the reasons explained above, using a halo,a glow or ring of light, around the head of a sovereign in art started to find its way into the Mughal art and culture.With a long history in the arts of India, Iran and beyond to Europe, the halo began to be used in portraits of Mughal emperors either during Akbar’s or Jahangir’s reign. The halo sign indicated that haloed persons enjoyed a level of holiness and saintliness.[11]

Surely, this was a segment of Akbar’s measures towards establishing a cult of personality of himself. Towards this end was also the setting up of the eclectic religious movement, Din-i-Ilahi, as mentioned earlier. Some people eventually ended up regarding Akbar as a saint and as God’s regent on earth. He was the biggest authority in the state, bigger than scholars and even popular saints. He was above the law. He was the subject to no earthly authority. The whole process of personality cult creation culminated in the construction of his tomb after his death where his coffin was richly embellished with gold. William Finch, an European traveler in India in 1017-1020 AH/ 1608-1611 CE, observed that everyone who approached Akbar’s tomb, which was yet to be then completed, made reverence and put off his or her shoes. The people used to bring some sweet smelling flowers to bestrew on the carpet or to adorn the tomb. The tomb was “worshipped” by Muslims and Hindus alike who considered Akbar a saint.[12] In the same vein, Abu al-Fazl, the author of an official biographical account of Akbar, referred to Akbar as “lord of spiritual and temporal world.”[13] When Akbar died, Abu al-Fazl wrote that Akbar “withdrew the shade of his heavenly self from the heads of mortals, and spread out the shadow of his benevolence over the heads of the celestials. The men of this world sat down in the dark days of failure, while the inhabitants of the other world attained their long-cherished wishes. The report of this disaster caused lamentations in heaven and earth…Darkness took possession of the earth, and the evening of sorrow fell upon mortals in the midday of contentment… What a personality he was! He was pure from every stain and endowed with all perfections. What a jewel free from every blemish and pure of every stain!”[14] The working of conspicuous miracles was also ascribed to Akbar.[15]

Undeniably, the Mughals succeeded to a great extent in putting into effect their schemes, both locally and internationally. Despite the continuous protestation of the proponents of religious orthodoxy, the legacies of the great Mughals cemented their reputation as vivid representations of secular affluence, pomp and power. Their royal funerary architecture was one of the most effective avenues for implementing their designs and thoughts. Were it not for the great Mughals, neither India nor the Muslim culture and civilization in South Asia, would have attained such an enthralling and exotic reputation in the West. According to Annemarie Schimmel, “for Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, the great Mughal empire seemed like a wonderland of fabulous riches, priceless jewels and golden treasure. The word Mughal still retains something of this connotation, denoting a man of immense power and ‘exotic’ wealth.”[16] At another place she wrote: “It was the Mughal rulers’ mentality, their gift of harmonizing nature and art, and their refined sense of beauty, which made India into a wonderland admired from far and wide, at least in the two centuries from the reign of Babur to that of Aurangzeb. Mughal came to signify wealth and beauty…Agra and Lahore of the great Mughals became bywords of wealth, pomp and power.”[17] As a result, various aspects of Mughal art and architecture, which in the minds of many people denoted virtual flawlessness and exquisiteness, were extensively imitated and reproduced in mosques, palaces, tombs and other governmental, religious and even private buildings, not only in the Muslim world, but also beyond. In the end, the Taj Mahal, for example, acquired the status of one of the most beautiful buildings ever built by man. In traditional folklore and popular culture, it became the shrine, or the symbol, of love. It has been voted as one of new Seven Wonders of the World.

Notwithstanding popular perceptions and sentiments from both the East and West, the royal funerary architecture of the Mughals was and remained a contentious locus of quite a few centuries-long religious innovations. Some innovations were related more explicitly and more emphatically to architecturally memorializing the dead emperors, and others less. Even though they were not all directly related to the world of memorial complexes, the innovations still needed each other for survival and growth, and thus all of them had to be taken into consideration when dealing with the subject matter of royal funerary architecture. That is why, as an illustration, when Muslim theologians and the advocates of strict religious orthodoxy somewhat prevailed at the royal court during the reign of emperor Aurangzeb, a ban upon some controversial segments of fine arts was placed; all but orthodox Muslim craftsmen and artisans were dismissed from the court; royal astronomers and astrologers, many of whom were Hindus, were also dismissed; singing in the court as well as at public musical parties, together with some excessive forms of religious music on certain religious occasions, were likewise prohibited; garments of cloth of gold were forbidden; saint worship and any other inappropriate services and customs on the tombs of saints and any other persons were strictly prohibited; many superstitious and sacrilegious traditions associated with the emperor and royalty were also rescinded.[18] It’s no wonder, then, that the Mughal royal funerary architecture was seriously affected during Aurangzeb’s reign and afterward.

At any rate, all the mentioned and other Islamic orthodoxy oriented measures achieved mixed results. The situation was too dire and too multifarious to be completely taken care of and mended. Thus, when an outstanding Muslim scholar and reformer, Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, arrived at the South Asian Muslim scene and witnessed some of the most critical and precarious phases of the Mughal rule during which a number of weak emperors succeeded each other, he could not leave out in his criticism many Mughal officials’ grossly inappropriate ways and means while dealing with and discharging their duties towards the masses, and by extension, towards the religion of Islam and the Muslim community taken as a whole. He did not refer to royal funerary architecture, with its essential roles and functions, per se, but the same, certainly, was clearly implied in numerous arguments and contentions of his, by reason of the remarkable significance and stature of royal funerary architecture in several major segments of Mughal culture and society. Shah Waliullah Dehlawi wrote, for example, that a leader must establish a place of honor for himself in the hearts of his subjects and preserve it, and he must see that his good reputation is perpetuated through appropriate and legitimate means. A leader, furthermore, must make obeying his orders and bearing good will towards him accepted practice among people. It is not sufficient that these be merely accepted, but rather there must be external signs of their sincere acceptance to which his subjects should be obliged to adhere.[19]

In other words, the relationship between the rulers and people must be based on mutual understanding, trust and reverence. Each side is to enjoy its due rights and to discharge its pressing duties freely and responsibly, while letting the other side do the same, at the end both sides finely complementing and supporting each other. Surely, there are no short-cuts which either side can have recourse to at the expense of the other, in order to secure its projected position in society. All things considered, however, the royal funerary architecture of the Mughals was one of those rather illusory short-cuts which the Mughal emperors with various degrees of involvement and success tried to explore, so that accomplishing some of their objectives and fulfilling some of their social responsibilities could be thus expedited and smoothened, and that some of their performances and built reputations could thus appear more effective, resourceful and notable than what they in reality were — just as it was the case with all the Muslim dynasties which actively promoted and lived out funerary architecture, albeit some of them being more culpable and others less. This in no way could escape the attention and reaction of someone as insightful and astute as Shah Waliullah Dehlawi. Finally, while dictating and cleverly manipulating the public sentiments and attitudes, royal funerary architecture could work for its executors in the short and perhaps medium term. However, such is its volatile nature that in the long term, nothing is guaranteed. Funerary architecture could easily turn against its perpetrators, tarnishing their overall, but especially religious, legacies. History is an excellent teacher about this; and so is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who warned against erecting structures over certain graves, evolving and associating with them sundry principles and customs, especially those infused with a religious spirit and meaning. Indeed, this whole doctrine has beautifully been put in a nutshell by Jalaluddin al-Rumi who in one of his poems said: “When we are dead,seek not our tomb in the earth,but find it in the hearts of men.” These words form an epitaph inscribed on Jalaluddin al-Rumi’s mausoleum in Konya, Turkey.


Taj mahal Yamuna river

The Taj Mahal is on the south bank of the Yamuna river.

[1] Annemarie Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, p. 17.

[2] John Burton-Page, Indian Islamic Architecture, edited by George Michell, (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 3.

[3] George Michell, The Majesty of Mughal Decoration, p. 23.

[4] Michael Brand, Orthodoxy, Innovation and Revival: Considerations of the Past in Imperial Mughal Tomb Architecture, in “Muqarnas X: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture”, p. 326. Glenn D. Lowry, Humayun’s Tomb: Form, Function and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture, in “Muqarnas IV: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture”, p. 136.

[5] Glenn D. Lowry, Humayun’s Tomb: Form, Function and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture, in “Muqarnas IV: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture”, p. 136-144.

[6] Ibid., p. 143.

[7] Ibid., p. 144.

[8] Abu al-Fazl, The Akbar-Nama, vol. 1 p. 34-41, 178-183. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, Akbar & Religion, p. 6-7.

[9] Neeru Misra & Tanay Misra, The Garden Tomb of Humayun, p. 28.

[10] Mohammad Azhar Ansari, European Travelers under the Mughals, p. 79, 121, 129. Sri Ram Sharma, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, p. 45.

[11] Michael Brand, Orthodoxy, Innovation and Revival: Considerations of the Past in Imperial Mughal Tomb Architecture, in “Muqarnas X: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture”, p. 145.

[12] Mohammad Azhar Ansari, European Travelers under the Mughals, p. 40.

[13] Abu al-Fazl, The Akbar-Nama, vol. 3 p. 1260.

[14] Ibid., vol. 3 p. 1261.

[15] Ibid., vol. 3 p. 1261.

[16] Annemarie Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, p. 15.

[17] Ibid., p. 299.

[18] E. B. Havell, Indian Architecture, p. 37. Sri Ram Sharma, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, p. 107-115.

[19] Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, The Conclusive Argument from God, p. 132-139.

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