Architecture in Iran is distinguished for for its refinement and delicacy. Contrary to the huge and massive monuments built by the Mughals and Turks, Persian architecture has a gracefulness all its own.
Persian Muslims who formed the vanguard of all cultural and artistic movements in the Islamic world introduced many innovations and beautiful designs in architecture. Unfortunately Persia had never been the seat of any of the Islamic Caliphates or great empires, hence one does not come across big palaces, mosques and.other grand buildings as are found in Baghdad, Damascus, Istanbul, Cairo, Cordova and Delhi. But, in spite of this handicap Persia did not lag behind in producing some of the greatest intellectual and artistic luminaries of the Islamic world and whatever architectural monuments are found in Persia have their own peculiar charm and style.
In Islamic countries such buildings as monastries, mosques, tombs and palaces are found in large number. The Persians brought about a great change in the style and architectural design of mosques. Due to ever increasing number of mosques, congregations had very much decreased and Persians were obliged to design a new type of mosque in order to meet the requirements of the time. This is called the Persian type of Mosque which had a Madrassa attached to it. In this typical Persian design, the mosque courtyard used for ablution as well as for prayers is surrounded by two storeyed verandahs behind which are situated small rooms for teachers and students. From the middle of each side run open halls, open to the front and roofed with a vault of ogee arches. Each hall called Iwan, containing Mahrab and Minbarserves as lecture room.- Such iwans, twice ashigh as the adjacent part of the Building are splendidly ornamented and flanked by small minarets. A smaller iwan of the same type serves as the gateway. The main iwan is crowned with a dome narrowed at the bottom and it contains the founder's Tomb or Mahrab..
Writing about these mosques a well-known European writer says, "With their slender minarets their magnificent iwaras and gateways and their lofty domes (often gilded)--these buildings are among the most astonishing buildings Of the East". The walls of these mosques are always overlaid with mosaic of dull or glazed bricks and smooth tiles of various colours which are artistically decorated with lines of carved Arabic script and flower arabesques. The slender pillars Immensely add to the charm of the buildings. Un, fortunately these buildings are in a state of decay. The most celebrated of this type are "The Blue Mosque of Tabriz" and the "Masjjd Shah" at Tabriz which were constructed in the 15th century A,D. Other mosques of similar or slightly older type are the great mosque of Veramin (1322 A.D.) that of Isfahan (11--14 century) the mosque containing the Tomb of Imam Raza at Mashhad (1418 A.D.) and the Masjid Shah at Isfahan (1600 A.
In the Juma Mosque of Isfahan, a quadrangle surrounded with four iwans of Persian madrassa was added to the old Piered Mosque. This mosque was originally built in pillared mosque and frequently, enlarged and as usual was surrounded with bazaars.
The ancient Friday Mosques have not survived in Persia except a few old parts standing in a great complex of buildings that formed the great mosques of Isfahan and Shiraz. Abu Muslim in the reign of Caliph Mamun built two big mosques in Merv and Neshapur of which the latter was built on pillars of wood and designed in typical PerSian style. An old mosque of the 1Oth century A.D. has survived in Naizin, an old desert city of Isfahan. The iwan and mahrab court were added to the mosques of Persia in the 11th century. The Friday Mosque of Isfahan built in the 12th century A.D., is one of the finest and largest congregational mosques of the East. This is built of bricks and decorated with plastered Reliefs and Polished Tiles. Its minarets being cylindrical in shape and placed in pairs are covered with glazed tiles and are not very high. It was in Persia that the art of ornamentation and arabesque in architecture was most developed and Persians made the greatest use of glazed coloured tiles in their buildings. From the 13th century onward Persia and India made the greatest advancement in architecture and Persia developed its own style. The art of arabesque which became very popular in Islamic architecture was widely adopted by the Western world.
The favourite form of princely Tomb in Persia from the 1Oth to the 14th centuries A.D. was that a Tower was constructed over the grave surrounded with circular ground plan. A conical roof rested on the projected ornamented walls beneath which was the grave on which was inscribed in beautiful carved letters the name, titles and date of death of the deceased. The finest tomb of the kind is that of Momina Khatoon at Nakhichavan.
Among the old type of Persian Palaces are Qasr-e-Amra with vaulted baths adorned with frescoes and the HIRA found at Mshatta. These are rectangular Castles and in order to reach the hall of audience one has to pass through a number of ante-rooms. Attached to the hall are the princes apartments and Harem.
At the back is a private garden and soldiers quarters are on both sides.
Caravansarais in Persia which were fortified hostelries for travellers were built on the plan of a Iwan mosque--the rooms were used as stalls and guest rooms. There were carved streets in the attached bazaars, . and they had pillars with round arched vaulting in the west and long rows of curved arched vaults in the east. The Old type of sarais found in Istanbul were decorated with tiles copied from Persia.
Almost all the old Persian bridges have disappeared. The two very beautiful bridges joining Isfahan and Zulfa constructed in the 17th century still exist and have two storeyed superstructures and pavilions.
Private houses are of varied type--reception and living rooms are Separated from female apartments and a second courtyard is provided for them. There are different devices for cooling apartments in the East and West. In Mediterranean countries where water is in plenty there are constructed half darkened inner halls containing springs while in dry Persia and Iraq there are underground summer apartments with projecting ventilators.
A dome is the favourite feature of Islamic architecture. In Cairo It was pompous while in Persia it was bulbous and carved with glazed tiles. The cylindrical shaped minarets Of Persia were not much used in other Islamic countries.
In Muslim countries mostly horse-shoe or pointed horse-shoe arches were designed. The semi-circular or two centred arches were not much employed. The typical Persian arch of which the springing curve turns into straight lines was commonly used in Persia for a long time and at times resembles the "Tudor" arch.
Battlements in buildings were fully decorated with floral forms or cut into saw-teeth. The windows of old Persian buildings were carved with lattice work in which coloured glasses were fixed.
In Persia buildings are generally made of bricks and glazed tiles too are frequently used here. These tiles were primarily of geometrical forms but later diverse floral forms were introduced.
One of the most popular branches of Muslim architecture is that of ornamental writing, which is employed with great success in the decoration of mosques, tombs and palaces where lines from the Holy Quran are carved or inlaid round domes and minarets, doors and arches. Persians developed this art to a great extent and widely used ornamental writings in the decoration of tombs and mosques.
In beauty and grace, in design and simplicity, Muslim architecture is superior to any in the world.
The Mughal Architecture in East Pakistan
The great Mughals who splendidly ruled over the Indo-Pak Sub-continent for more than four centuries are known as the greatest builders in history. Their ancestor Babar founded a vast Empire in India which rivalled in prosperity and splendour the great Caliphates of Abbasids and Omayyads in Spain. Delhi their metropolis, along with Baghdad and Constantinople, Cairo and Cordova was considered one of the finest cities of the known world. The Mughals who are well-known for their pomp and pageantry have raised some of the most magnificent architectural monuments in the East. Delhi houses the splendid Jamma Masjid (Grand Mosque), the Majestic Red Fort and the matchless Pearl Mosque, all built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He is also the distinguished builder of the immortal Taj Mahal of Agra. In Lahore stands the magnificent Badshahi Masjid (King's Mosque) built by the celebrated emperor Aurangzeb. Dacca which had the privilege of being the headquarter of the Mughal viceroy governing the Eastern Provinces possesses some striking Mughal buildings .
The earliest contacts of the Mughals with the Eastern province may be traced back to the close of the 16th century A.D., when Afghans who dominated over these parts yielded to the Mughals and they established their headquarters at Tanda near Gaur, about 15 miles South-west of Malda in West Bengal. It was in 1612 A.D., that the Mughals got complete supremacy over Bengal and Islam Khan, the Mughal governor transferred his Capital to Dacca.. This caused a great change in the life of Bengal and added immensely to the prosperity of the people.
The oldest Mughal monument in Bengal is a ruined mosque erected in 1582. A.D. in Chatmohar, District Pabna. It contains three arched entrances, which still exist, The central arch has traces of having been richly decorated with ornamental designs.
Another monument of the same period is a mud fort constructed in 1595, A.D. by Raja Man Singh, the Bengal Governor of the Mughal Emperor Akbar at Salim Nagar, in Bogra District.
The best massive monument of this period is a mosque known as Kherua Masjid which is situated at a short distance from the Tomb of Saint Bande Saheb. This mosque, which was built in 1582 A.D. by Murad Khan Qasshaly, measures 57x24 1/2, and has 6 feet thick walls. The mosque is rectangular in shape and the central gateway contains an inscription. The arches are decorated with floral designs which greatly contribute to their charm.
Later Mughal Monuments
Dacca which was the headquarter of the Mughal viceroys possesses some of the finest Mughal architectures in East Pakistan. Shaista Khan, the maternal uncle of the great Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and Prince Muhammad Azam, the third son of the celebrated emperor who were successive viceroys in the Eastern Provinces of the Mughal Empire were the two persons credited with enriching East Pakistan with grand Mughal monuments rarely visible in these parts of the Sub-continent. It is futile to compare the Mughal architectural monuments of Dacca with those of Delhi Agra and Lahore which for long periods, had the privilege of being the metropolis of the great Mughal Empire. Being a Provincial Capital, Dacca may favourably be compared with any other Provincial Capital and to that extent it possesses more than its share of Mughal monuments. Bogra and Mymensing, too, possess a few buildings built by the Mughals.
The remains of the old Idgah, built by Mir Abul Qasim, the Dewan of Prince Shuja in 1640 A.D., still stands about 1 1/2 miles outside Dacca municipal limits. The building is of plastered brickwork, standing on a raised platform 245 x 135' in size.
The remains of Bara Katra built of plastered brick; work in 1644 by Mir Abul Qasim on the north bank of the river, are still visible and remind people of the commercial prosperity of Mughal times. It had 22 big shops and was also used as a caravansarai. Its three storeyed lofty gateway and the river side walls which are 200 feet long, have faced the ravages of time. The chamber of the main gate as well as the interior of the arches are ornamented with plaster net work and floral designs which are preserved in a dilapidated state.
Lall Bagh Fort
On the Eastern corner of old Daccastand the remains of the incomplete Lall Bagh Fort or Fort Aurangabad, whose construction was commenced by Prince Muhammad Azam, the third son of Emperor Aurangzeb, but could not be completed as the Prince was summoned by his illustrious father in 1679 A.D. to join his forces against the Marahttas. The finished part of the fort contains two main gates on the north and south in a 2,000 feet long massive walls. The fort was built of red bricks. The river Purl Ganga, which, in those days, washed the south western corner of this majestic fort, has slightly changed its course, leaving a track of land which has been converted into meadows. The bastion adjacent to the main gateway is of gigantic size and has a raised platform 13 feet wide for the stationing of guns. The stately three storeyed gate on the south, with a four centred arch-way built of stone and crowned with a plastered dome, is the most attractive part of the building. Adequate protective measures were taken in the construction of the building against river Piracy.
Pari Bibi's Tomb
The Tomb of Pari Bibi, standing amid the unfinished Lall Bagh fort is like a lotus flower in a big pond. It is the mausoleum of Bibi Pari (Lady Fairy), the favourite daughter of Shaista Khan. The Mughal Viceroy Shaista Khan whose sister Mumtaz Mahal has been buried in the immortal Taj Mahal, the finest mausoleum ever built on the surface of the earth, raised another matchless Tomb for his beloved daughter Pari Bibi. Built of black, grey and white marble stones brought from,Bihar, U.P. and Rajputana, this mausoleum is the finest specimen of Mughal architecture in the Eastern Provinces. The walls and the floor of the burial chamber are made of white marble lined with black. The walls of the four cornered rooms previously had multi-coloured glazed tiles and were decorated with floral designs, which now are missing. The 'series of corbelled roof', with its excellent timber work is the most striking portion of the building. The grave which is made of white marble in three steps, presents a simple but sober specimen of the arabesque, The doors were originally of carved sandal wood.
Prince Muhammad Azam built in 1678 A.D, a small three domed mosque which is located about 50· yards west of the tomb of Pari Bibi. The walls of the mosque are coated with coloured plasters. Another small mosque and an adjacent tomb built in 1679 A.D, by Haji Khwaja Shahbaz, a business magnate ofDacca are situated at a distance of about half a mile from old Dacca. The walls, which are made of bricks are panelled. The tomb is square in shape, having four central gates, one on each side. This tomb 'represents the average Bengali style of the time of Aurangzeb'.
A red brick mosque built by Khan Muhammad Mirdha in 1706 A.D., stands North-west of the Lall Bagh fort. Another mosque, which is said to have been built by Shaista Khan in 1689 A.D. stands majestically on a low rock near Jafarabad, about two miles outside Dacca. A lot of ornamentation and floral designs, though in decayed form, are still visible inside the mosque.
Idrakpur, a place at a distance of about 15 miles from Dacca still contains the dilapidated remains of a small brick fort built in 1660 A.D. by Mir Jumla, the invincible General of Emperor Aurangzeb, who was posted as the Governor of Bengal. It was constructed to provide a check to Portuguese pirates, who had become a nuisance in that part of the Mughal Empire. The fort is 270 feet x 240 feet, containing a long high platform used probably for mounting the big guns. Two other small forts were also built side by side for similar purposes and throw light on the coastal defence measures taken during the 17th century A.D.
Mir Jumla is also known to have built a plastered brick bridge over a tributary of the Bari Ganga in 1659--63 A.D. about 5 miles south-east of Dacca. On each side of both ends of the bridge are small projected pavilions. Considering the limitations of engineering during the 17th century, this bridge may be cited as an excellent example of workmanship in these parts of the sub-continent. Besides those in Dacca, there are a number of Mughal architectural monuments scattered on other districts of East Pakistan which include the Tomb of Banda Sahib and Polar Masjid in district Bogra; the mosques of Shah Muhammad and Aurangzeb in district Mymensing; and the mosque built by Govind Manikya at Shuja Ganj in district Comilla. All of these bear the characteristics of later Mughal architectural style.
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