Development of Architecture in Medieval Haryana

In Haryana during the medieval period there has been considerable interest in the construction of buildings mostly in the form of tombs (in the sacred memory of Muslim saints and men of eminence), mosques and other associated religious establishments for prayers, recitation and the teaching of the holy scriptures. These are scatered all over Haryana particularly at Sohna, Jhajjar, Hissar, Narnaul, Hansi, Panipat, Thanesar, Kaithaj, Sadhaura and Pinjore.

 

Situated under the shadow of Aravali Hills, by the Delhi Jaipur road, the hamlet of Sohna has a number of tombs, mosques, sarais and other structures constructed during the medieval period. The Sila Kund at the foot of a perpendicular rock, is one of the very few secular buildings of the Muslim period and is believed to have been constructed in the fourteenth century, though it has been subjected to subsequent heavy alterations and repairs. This was originally the tomb of a saint built in Lodhi architectural style during the early sixteenth century. The Kala Gumbad and the Lai Gumbad built sometime before 1570 A.D. and an eighteenth century fort constructed on the brow of the hill overlooking the town are other notable structures of the place.

 

The monuments at Jhajjar, a group of tombs built mainly of kankar stones in Pathan style, in view of their planning, design and decoration probably belong to the sixteenth century. Commenting on their architectural features Mulk Raj Anand and R.S. Bisht write:

 

The monotony of the facades is relieved by the use of bold outlines. The near hemispherical and proportionate domes over heavy necks make them interesting survivors of the Pathan style into the Mughal period. The whole impact is of modesty and shythmic elegance. Thus they stand out as a class of their own. These structures are silhouetted against the lightly wooded, serene environment of an open country side, far from the crowded town, which enhances the gravity of purpose of the monuments for which they were meant The verse engraved on all the walls of the first tomb purports to say that: ‘all man’s worldly desires and hopes lead him nowhere but to the dust’, (indeed an appropriate epitaph on that period of marauders and free booters!

 

Important monuments at Hisar, built during the times of Firuz Shah are Lat- ki-Masjid, the Kotla and the Haus Khas. They stand out as ‘ambitious architecture incorporating the basic elements of Tughlaqabad in the context of his (Firuz’s) own ambitions. The slightly slanting walls, the jalis and the columns are adopted respectively from Seljuk, Hindu and Buddhist styles. Space is, however, occupied for the function of Muslim prayers. Firuz Shah’s constructions at Fatehabad have already been mentioned. The town also has a ‘small and unassuming, but exquisitely proportioned and enamel decorated little mosque’ perhaps the oldest one, which according to local tradition was built by Emperor Humayun in course of his flight to Amarkot.’

 

The most imposing architectural monument at Narnaul is the tomb of Ibrahim Khan, an officer of the Lodhis at that place. Built by Sher Shah Suri (1538-46) the former’s grandson, it was constructed under the supervision of Shaikh Ahmad Niyazi. A perfect Pathan style square tomb it is ‘characterised by massive outlines, exquisite details and pleasing interplay of colours’. Among its other remarkable features which have given it ‘balance, strength and dexterity’ mention may be made of ‘a high terrace, double storey simulation, bold arches, low domes, beautiful kiosks on carved pillars, slender turrets (guldastas) and elegant merlons’. As rightly observed by an eminent scholar ‘the use of deep red, grey and white stone, encaustic tile-work, painted ceiling with excellent brush work, and subtle lapidary, give it a richness which is unique among such buildings in Haryana’.

 

Shah Quli Khan, Akbar’s trusted Governor of Lahore, is known to be the builder of splendid buildings, tanks and gardens at Narnaul. His garden aptly named as Aram-i-Kauser of which what remains today is its enclosure walls, a well, and the gateway complex. The finest monument is perhaps his own mausoleum, built inside the garden ‘constructed in bluish grey and red stones, on an octagonal plan’ which, in fact, is a variation of the Pathan tomb style. Among other of the Khan’s constructions are Jal Mahal or Khan Sarover (1591 A.D.) and Jami Mosque (1590). The former, located in the centre of a large tank, is surrounded by five kiosks, the larger in the centre and the rest in the corners; the latter is ‘a moderate size mosque, with three arched openings leading to triple bays, surmounted by corresponding domes on its roofs’. Among other remarkable constructions of Narnaul are Chor Gumbad, Tomb of Shah Wilayat and Chatta Mukand Das.

 

The tomb of Shah Wilayat and the adjoining complex were constructed sometime during the reign of Firuz Tughlaq. The author of Gulzar attributes part of its construction to Alam Khan Mewati (A.D. 1357). The old constructions are of course those displaying simplicity and grandeur, the characteristics of the Tughlaqs. The curved arches, hemispherical domes suggest Pathan style. The inside paintings are said to have been added at a much later period. The Persian inscription over the doorway gives A.H. 531, the date of the demise of the saint. The Chor Gumbad in view of its wide low dome and ogee arches may also be placed, in the Tughlaq period. Called the ‘signboard of Narnaul’ it provides a beautiful view of the surrounding area. It is a big square monument with single chamber inside. As the second levehis marked by an open circumscribing verandah, the monument appears to be double-storeyed from outside. It was constructed by Jamal Khan, an Afghan, as his tomb. It remained a hideout for thieves and highwaymen which explains its popular name Chor Gumbad But the most notable appears to be the spacious palace of Ray-i-Rayan Mukand Das, the Diwan of Narnaul under Shah Jahan. ‘Dexterously planned and embellished, its exterior is unostentatious and drab’. It was once a five-storeyed building with several halls, rooms and pavilions. Most of the structure has now collapsed and its interior is filled with debris and dust, but it still tells us something about its purpose and architectural planning:

 

The extensive open terrace on the south, light elliptical pavilions on dijfferent levels, halls on pillars and running verandah around a central court, once adorned with a marble fountain, impart to it spaciousness and light. The profuse use of marble for veneering, and pillars and drains, might have been cosy retreat during the tropical summers.

 

The other structures of the palace are a dilapidated well, for supply of water to the reservoirs, and to the west an exquisite isolated gateway-complex, well provided with projecting balconies, and marble veneering.

 

Hansi, a strong strategic fort under the early Sultans of Delhi, remained a centre of Sufi religion and learning specially because of its association with the famous Baba Shaikh Farid who spent twelve years in a small den here. The mortal remains of his four disciples namely, Jamal-ud-Din Hansavi (1187-1261), Burhan-ud- Din Munawar (1261-1300) Qutb-ud-Din Munawar (1354) and Nur-ud-din Nur-i-Jahan ‘Mughalkush’ (1325-1397) also lie buried in a tomb popularly known as Chahar Qutb. The dargah celebrates the annual fair.

 

The most beautiful building is the tomb of Mir Tijarah, the chief surveyor of Sultan Hamid-ud-Din. He was a disciple of Jamal for whom the tomb was originally built. The latter is said to have remarked, who knows for whom it is intended? As fate would have it, Mir who died earlier, was buried there. ‘It is a fine mausoleum II metres square and 15 metres high, balanced and showing brilliant encaustic tile decoration. In the northern enclosure lies the most imposing edifice, the big mosque constructed by Firuz Shah Tughlaq. About three metres across is a little monument called Chhatri, a square canopied tomb. Four carved sandstone pillars support the enamelled canopy and the vault contains two graves, said to have been the oldest in Hansi.

 

In the fort complex there are a few other monuments which deserve mention. Among such is the Barsi Gate in the southern wall of the outer defences of Hansi fort, constructed in the year 1304-5 as the Persian epigraph on its doorway suggests. This may be assigned to the reign of Ala-ud-Din Khiiji who, in view of frequent Mongol inroads, was interested in the construction of strategic forts. ‘It is a fine example of fort architecture. Its protruding round bastions, big rectangular forms, bedecked with simple panellings, contrasted with encaustic tile-work in the spandrels, give the effect of both strength and beauty’. In the southern wall of the inner circumambulation is another gate-way complex giving access to the citadel, which is now in ruins. The material of old Hindu palaces and temples were freely used for the construction of the whole complex. Next is Baradari, a pillared hall of early Muslim period made of building material of old Hindu monuments. At its northern end are the Khangah structures named after a revered mausoleum of Wali Hazrat Saiyyid Nismet Ullah, who died here fighting during the campaign of Muhammad Ghori in 1 191-92 A.D. It is a sacred place for both Hindus and Muslims. There are two mosques alongside this tomb inside an enclosure collectively called Rauzah}

 

The most important monument at Panipat is the tomb of Abu AH Shah. Its main enclosure measures 155’xl43′, the northern 1 38′ X 146′ and the southern, a small one of 60’x 51′. The tomb is in the northern enclosure, but has entry from the middle one, outside it is 42 square and inside 25′. It has verandahs on its southern side, the outer one having 8 pillars of Kasauti stone. A perforated stone screen separates the tomb from the enclosure. The tomb itself seems to be the old part of the entire surroundings. It is said to have been built by Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan, the sons of Alauddin Khiiji. Abu Ali died in 724 H. Khizr Khan is also known to have built his own tomb at Sonepat. The Kasauti pillared verandah was added by Rizqullah Khan, son of Muqarrab Khan in 1660 A.D. in the time of Aurangzeb which presently bears beautiful paintings and stylistic calligraphy on its walls. The marble screen in its front is of fine workmanship. Other medieval buildings of the town are the tomb of Ibrahim Lodhi, of Muqarrab Khan, the Governor of Gujarat during the reign of Jahangir, and of Nawab Sadiq Ali Khan (also known as Lutfullah and Shams-ud- Daulah) who was warder of the fort of Delhi in the time of Nadir Shah and Wazir of three emperors— Bahadur Shah, Farrukhsiyar and Muhammad Shah. In the westside of the main enclosure lies the mosque of Abu Ali, a red sandstone structure in a perfect condition. The buds on the voussoirs of the arches are remarkably beautiful. The whole building is very striking. Round the enclosure there are also rooms for the keepers of the tomb and pilgrims, and a tank with adjoining well in the south- west corner. About 8 kmsof the town of Panipat is situated the Badshahi Sarai — its flanking towers with projection after Qutab fashion and the small ones at each end of the elevation are unique. The whole building is now in ruins.

 

The city of Thanesar also felt the impact of Muslim architectural activity. A few Persians inscriptions found here, belonging to various reigns i.e. of Muhammad Tughlaq, Bahlol and Sikandar Lodhi, and Huraayun, refer to the construction of mosques by the local officers. The location of these mosques is no more possible as the old town is almost in ruins. Among notable structure which have survived the fury of time may be mentioned: the Pathariya Masjid, the tombs of Shaikh Jalalud- din and Shaikh Chehali, the Madrasa and the Chiniwali Masjid.

 

The Pathariya Masjid, a red sandstone construction consists of a long room supported by pillars and pilasters and has a beautiful roof showing parallelograms with geometric and floral designs. Cunningham assigns to it the time of Firuz Tughlaq or towards the close of the fourteenth century while Rodgers thinks that it was built during the times of Sikandar Lodhi. The tomb of Shaikh Jalaluddin (a contemporary of Akbar), a red sand-stone square building lies to the eastern side of the Thanesar fort. According to Rodgers ‘formerly it was supported on twelve square sand stone pillars, but the interstices have been filled in with fine lattice-work in brick’. The overhanging eaves are much broken, and under them lies in a deep shadow an Arabic inscription, a quotation, going round the two sides and the back of the tomb. The dome of the tomb is plastered and hemispherical in shape with an inverted flower at the top. The tomb of Shaikh Chehali and Madrasa are situated on a part of the old fort of Thanesar. Rodgers who visited the tomb during his survey tour (1888-89) observed

 

The tomb is built on an octagonal ptatform each side of which is 33′-lK. The tomb is itself octagonal each side being 18′-9′ outside and IT — I” inside. The platform is in the middle of an enclosure 174′ square and 41’ above the level of the plain. The wall of this enclosure has m it twelve cupolas (once covered with coloured tiles). The platform was once surrounded by posts and trellis work: nine posts are still left but only one piece of perforated marble . . .

 

The tomb has arched recesses in each side. Each recess is adorned with two marble perforated screens. The marble eaves are broken in places. The embattlements above them are ornamental. Above these is a round neck on which rests a pear-shaped dome. The whole of the building is of white marble, the workmanship is highly finished.

 

In the opinion of Cunningham ‘the white marble and the noble position combined, make it one of the striking and picturesque monuments in north India’.

 

Towards south of the tomb enclosures on a lower level is the Madrasa, courtyard 1 1 7′-5 X I23′-2 or 174′ outside ‘with a deep arcade of 9 openings on each side’. The whole building is made of bricks. Other details of the Shaikh, who was in all probability a contemporary of Dara Shekoh, have already been considered. Rodgers explains the word Chilli as the title acquired by one performing Chilla i.e. a period of 40 days during which the devotee is engaged constantly in devotion. The name of the ‘Shaikh’s son w^as Abd-us-Samad or Abd-ul-Wahd. The Chiniwali Masjid, situated near the north-east angle of the fort, is built on a high platform. Measuring 54 feet outside, inside it is divided into 3 rooms covered with very low domes. ‘There is a pretty octangular minaret at each end of the eastern wall. The eastern facade is divided into panels which were once filled with coarse inlaid enamelled flowers. On the south minaret is an inlaid, unintelligible but dated (973) incription, the last line of which reads: Rememher the Truth in the House of Worship}

 

The notable monuments at Kaithal are the tombs of Shaikh Salah-ud-Din Balkhi, Abdur Rashid Shah Walayat and Shah Jama), the Jama Masjid and the mosque of Taiyab. The first, situated on the northern gate of the town, is the oldest building. It is built of old material, pillars, dome and architraves of some old Hindu temple. From the inscriptions found here we know that the Shaikh became a martyr {Shahid) in 643 (perhaps in an encounter with the Mongols) and was styled ‘Shaikh al Kabir’ or the great Shaikh. He was probably Ala-ud-Din Masaud Shah’s contemporary. In the middle of the town stands the tomb and mosque of Abd-ur-Rashid Shah Walayat, a contemporary of Ala-ud-Din Muhammad Shah whose name appears in an inscription attached to the place. To the east of the town is the tomb of Shah Jamal measuring 25 feet square and has ‘an octagonal neck and hemispherical dome’. Pillars of some old temples were used in the construction of its door. The discovery of old sculptural pieces, big bricks, and capitals of pillars suggest that it must have been an ancient site. The Jama Masjid is situated towards the east of Shah Walayat’s mosque measuring 92’x32′ with 10 domes, two rows of each. On the basis of its doorways Rodgers is inclined to assign it to early Mughal period. It is in a remarkably good condition. In the south-west corner of its courtyard there is a domed tomb covered with blue enamelled tiles. The mosque of Taiyub lies to the east of Jama Masjid which has three domes banded like those of the Sarai Masjid at Hissar. The bands have green tiles. The eastern facade of the mosque is also ornamented with tiles and with stucco work. The central doorways is large and fine; the side doors are small. The date of the building as gathered from its inscription comes to either 834 or 844 H. According to a tradition, Taiyub — a Hindu conveited Muslim, was a contemporary of Akbar. But on the basis of its similarity with the Masjid at Hissar, Rodgers assigned it to the time of Humayun.

 

Muslim monuments are also found at Sadhaura, the oldest being an old stone mosque to the west of the town of 732 H (1331-32 A.D.) i.e. belonging to the times of Muhammad Tughlaq. Like the Pathariya Masjid of Thanesar it also has minarets (in the west wall). Cunningham and Rodgers who have visited the place have given the ground plans of the monument in their Survey Reports, The tomb and mosque of Abdul Wahab are other notable structures. Of the original building of the tomb only the doorway and lower remain. These were built sometime during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi. The mosque measuring 33′-3” X 13’“6* inside, with walls thick has a verandah A’-Y broad. Rodgers provides the following details of the mosque

 

The southern facade is covered with tiles and enamelled inscriptions . . . The spandrels of the three arches are full of floral work all of enamelled tiles resembling coarse mosaics. The inner central arch has eight lines of Persian poetry in black letters on yellow ground over it. This gives the date of the completion of the mosque as U.80 H (during the reign of Aurangzeb). The innerside arches have each a Persian couplet on them, in yellow letters on green ground. The three domes have all inner domes considerably lower than the outer ones. This mosque must have once been a beautiful piece of workmanship.

 

The gateways of the courtyards of some private dwellings (of the time of Jahangir) towards the eastern side are worthy of note. Erected by Qazi Abul Mukarim and Qazi Abul Muhammad, sons of Shah Qamis, arenouned faqir of Sadhaura during Akbar’s times, these were once covered with blue, yellow and green tiles in geometric patterns. The other side of a river on which is situated the town lies burial place of the faqir Shah Qamis and further up the river in the same direction an elegant tomb on a slightly elevated platform cf a bdrahdari fashion, having projected eaves and an oblong dome. The latter monument probably belongs to the times of Aurangzeb.’

 

The ancient town of Pinjore also felt the impact of Mughal architectural activity Its natural setting— fertile valley, ring of hills and romantic surrounding, drew the attention of Fidai Khan, the Governor of Sirhind under Aurangzeb. The Pinjore garden, the only surviving monument almost in its original design, was laid out in typical stepped garden pattern of the late Mughal style of Aurangzeb’s time. Here are some of the most important features of these gardens

 

Unlike most Mughal gardens, here the entrance is from the higher ground. The seven terraces descend from the hill, revealing a fresh view at each level. They do not ascend, as in Shalimar and Nishat in Kashmir. The length of the garden is adorned with an arterial water channel, which is studded with fountains at interval pools, basins, falls and slanting cascades. Other devices are employed among the parterres, so as to make the whole into an effective type of waterflow garden. At the end of central points of terrace, a palace, a loggia, or a pavilion was created. The Shish Mahal and its surrounding pavilion is on the first level. The Rang Mahal with its spacious open hall is on the second. And the Jal Mahal is on the fifth.

 

Like other Mughal gardens, here also privacy is ensured by surrounding embattled wall. Another fortification wall separating the upper two terraces from the rest offers additional security for the zenana. Emphasis on geometrical construction distinguishes the landscaping here from the natural flow of the Hindu idea, which conceived so much garden as space wrested from the forest. The effects are obtained by means of parterres bordered by flowering and aromatic plants. In design and effect, the Pinjore garden is a tour de force. And when there is sufficient water, rippling in the canals, or pools, or foaming through the falls, the effect is of an enchanted world rescued from the Shiwaliks.

 

From the above reconstruction it would appear that Haryana, the meeting place of various currents of religious thought — devotional Hinduism, Sikhism and Sufism, was also the scene of vigorous literary and architectural activity — the first, through the medium of language — Prakrt, Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, Arabic and Urdu;’^^ the second, in the form of magnificient structures— mosques, mausoleums, pleasure gardens, palaces, forts and sarais. Despite the repressive measures of some of its rulers, Haryana continued to be the home of religion and culture during the medieval period.

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