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Mughal Tomb Buildings

Mughal Tomb Building Tradition

Mughal rule in India lasted from 1526 to 1857 and the period of the first six emperors (1526-1707) can be seen as greater than their successors’ time in two respects. Firstly, it was a period of expansion and secondly, the artistic achievements were superior. One such example of their artistic achievements are their tomb building that were set in gardens. They are unique as a garden type, they represent both their creator’s past and their desire to settle along with epitomizing the artistic and dynastic spirit of the Mughals.

The Mughal burial and entombment was due to three major factors which include 1. Religion (tombs were an important aspect of Islamic tradition, however there was a constant dichotomy between orthodox prescriptions and imperial desires), 2. Ancestry (the tombs more often than not have evidences of being inspired from the architecture of their ancestor Timur’s dynastic mausoleum called Gur-i-Amir. They borrowed the ideas of a double dome, a pishtaq and chamfered corners from there) and 3. The concept of royalty in India (the structures were also inspired by the Sultanate’s architecture as an attempt to solve the problem of succession by trying to attach themselves to the previous ruler). The factors put together gave shape to the majestic tomb structures that the dynasty left behind.

Babur, was the first Timurid ruler of India who died at a point when their power was in desperate need of legitimacy, yet, no major dynastic mausoleum was created to commemorate his passing. He was buried at his Aram Bagh (which later came to be known as Ram Bagh) in Agra because his son Humayun did not have enough resources to create a huge monument in memory of his father, he was ruling a country where his rule was considered foreign and he needed to establish his authority. This was the reason why Humayun talked about Babur’s wish to have a simple burial, as prescribed in the Quran since, his father was a simple man and that he wanted a simple grave since Quran states that an uncovered grave exposed to purifying moisture of the rain and dew is considered a symbol of humility. However, there was always the threat of someone harming the body as it was of a foreign ruler, so between 1539-1544, Babur’s body was removed from Agra and buried to Kabul where he was frequently visited by his descendants who often restored or constructed various elements, for example, a screen was added by Shah Jahan. Unfortunately, most of it was destroyed by the 20th century based on the photographic evidences and what we see now is a reconstructed structure.

Akbar was 14 when his father Humayun died and he was coronated by Bairam Khan in 1556. It had only been two years since his reconquered India and Akbar understood that what he received was a kingdom that needed to be consolidated, so he decided not to make a mausoleum for his father immediately and his body was interred in one of his palaces in Delhi, it was then moved to Sirhind in Punjab where their was greater stability and Akbar paid homage to the coffin. It was only after 1562 that he ordered the construction of Humayun’s tomb that began in 1565 and was completed in 1572. This was the first major construction undertaken by Akbar and even the Mughal dynasty. Ironically, the rulers before the Mughals were that of the Delhi Sultanate who always constructed Mosques as the first building because then the problem was of legitimising the religion, but now, the religion had been legitimised and it was the ruler who needed to be accepted by the people, thus, creating a massive structure like the Humayun’s tomb was considered to be a move legitimise the rule.

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Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

Various deviations can be seen in the structure that were incorporated to legitimise the rule and are deviations from the sturctures of the previous Sultanate. These is no prominent Mihrab like in the tombs of previous rulers but only a Marble outline facing west. In fact, even the entrance was from south initially (we enter from the west now) since when you enter, you face the deceased legs, showing that he is greater that you even in death and also to get homage from Nizamuddin whose dargah is close by. Despite all this, there is evidence of an attempt to connect to the Delhi Sultanate, since their Jaalis were used in the structure. It also has elements like the star of David which is a striking element.

It is the most dominant building in the surrounding and architecturally, Humayun’s tomb is very high, yet it does not dominate vertically. It rests on a high plinth and has four entrances. Below the platforms are several chambers (used as places where people stayed for the upkeep of the monument) and a verandah. It has an elongated neck of the drum and a pishtaq, all of which have been inspired from Gur-i-Amir. It has chamfered corners, that have been inspired from Central Asia and reminds of paradise. The chamfered corners present rooms surrounding the central chamber. This along with the fact that Akbar never planned creation of his tomb, despite all his achievements in the field of architecture give us reason to believe that the Humayun’s Tomb was conceived as an imperial family tomb with chambers for future emperors, but this didn’t happen since all the other rulers were buried in separate structures.

After five celebrated decades of rule, Akbar died in 1605 and was buried in a tomb garden at Sikandra, a short distance from Agra. The tomb doesn’t have a dome, and ends with a marble pavilion instead. Interestingly, at the time, marble was reserved only for the tombs of Muslim saints. The structure is very radical with a five storied structure in the chaar bagh. Jahangir created this structure instead of putting Akbar’s grave in Humayun’s Tomb to get legitimacy as the rightful heir since he did not get along with his father.

Tuzuk-i-Jahanigiri mentions how he left after commissioning the construction of the Tomb of Akbar and left for a few years. When he returned he was disappointed since the structure looked nothing like what he had expected and so he ordered the dismantling and reconstruction of entire structure, keeping only the plinth.

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Main Gate to the Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandra

The gate of Akbar’s tomb has very high minarets flaking the central high plinth, like in the case of Gur-i-Amir, but looks awkward. The ornamentation of the structure including geometrical patterns to win eclecticism in architecture are bold, fresh and direct, unlike in the later period, even the control of Shah Jahan’s time is missing and it seems that the structure was created in haste.

The main building which looks like the Panch Mahal that Akbar created in Fatehpur Sikri is a grand mausoleum with a cenotaph in the uppermost story, surrounded by an enclosure wall and beautiful Jaalis and is open to the sky because Akbar wanted a simple grave. Even the actual grave, that is on the ground floor is kept in a very simple enclosure, in contrast to the entire colourful and lavish complex due to the same wish.

There is colourful detailing on the facade even though it is not very well preserved. The structure has many chambers, all of which are very detailed, except Akbar’s.

It is worth noting now, that all the structures until now had Red Sandstone to be the prominent material. However, with the construction of Itimad-ud-Daula, the norm changed as it was the first marble mausoleum of the Mughal Dynasty. Though not of a Mughal ruler, it deserves to be mentioned since it changed the structures altogether.

Itimad-d-Daula was a tomb commissioned by Nur Jahan for her parents. Surrounded by a Chaar Bagh and Palaces on four sides with high pishtaq and corners with chatris, the side wings are divided in two stories as chambers for guards and recreational places. It has floral and geometrical designs and India’s first Pietra Dura in architecture using the patterns of Chikankaari and Meenakaari. The entry to the structure has verses of Quran promising paradise to the deceased, while all things provided in the paradise have been either painted or inlaid. There are also intricate Jaalis in the structure. Various graves of the family have been placed in the four corner rooms of the structure and there is polychrome ornamentation that has been influenced by Central Asia.

Itimad-ud-Daulah, Agra

The structure inspired monuments like Jahangir’s tomb and even Taj Mahal and is thus called the ‘Baby Taj’.

Jahangir was buried in a tomb garden at Shahdara, outside Lahore, Pakistan. It was constructed by  his son Shah Jahan, who did not have very good relations with his father, even though Shah Jahan was bound to create a big tomb, he kept it simple, and we have reasons to believe that it was also undertaken by Nur Jahan since it is very similar to Itimad-ud-Daula.

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Tomb of Jahangir, Lahore, Pakistan

The entrance of the structure and the minarets seem to have been inspired by Itimad-ud-Daula, however, they seem to have been rushed unlike in the case of the graves of his father-in-law or his son. Despite the evident rush we find a Chaar Bagh, and a continuity of a plinth with arches, there are four entrances and two stories. The minarets have also moved to the main dome.

The cenotaph with the inlay of pietra dura mention the 99 names of Allah and is one of the most visually appealing cenotaphs, despite its simple surroundings.

Shah Jahan was buried beside his wife in one of the seven wonders – Taj Mahal. The tomb’s placement at the far end of the Chaar Bagh is striking. Considered to be the throne of God is always depicted at the end of the garden of paradise, Shah Jahan must have thought rather highly of himself and it is believed by many historians that contrary to the common belief it was not a monument of love, created for his wife, but a tomb for himself where he let his wife be buried. The phrases of the Quran among many other things like the placement of the mosque suggest the same.

Taj Mahal, Agra

The tomb is flanked by a mosque and a mehmankhana made of red sandstone which create a contrast creating a play of light and colour. This is also true when we see the series of red sandstone buildings which creates a feeling of seduction before the final meeting with the Taj. The mosque being kept on the side, which is being ignored by the visitor also gives a sense that Shah Jahan considers himself to be higher than god himself. It is a very controlled yet filled with ornamentation like the presence of floral motifs and a juxtaposition of marble and sandstone, since the actual use of marble was being saved for the tomb. There are squinches covered with arch nets and only the Qibla has marble that is very plain. The Mehmankhana which was identical to the mosque is now in a bad shape of preservation.

Fine proportions, arabesque, calligraphy, geometrical patterns can all seen along with a series of cupolas while we enter the main monument from the side. It has chamfered corners and a ‘feminine charm’ in the structure. It has the most verses from the Quran in a single Mughal tomb used as a border. The Taj also has the a variety of the most expensive jaalis surrounding the graves of he royal couple.

The structure was very well planned for security with guard posts at every corner. The structure was so massive that its construction (along with other monuments that Shah Jahan created) led to a drain of all the wealth of the kingdom, so Aurangzeb imprisoned him after the war of succession. Though the relations of the father and son would have been strained, Aurangzeb laid the body of Shah Jahan at the Taj Mahal.

After all these massive structures, it is surprising to know that Aurangzeb was buried in a simple tomb with no mausoleum, at Khuldabad, outside Daulatabad.

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Aurangzeb’s Grave

The death of Aurangzeb n 1707 is attributed to the end of the Mughal dynasty, though there weaker successors to Aurangzeb, none of them was a great ruler and their power kept on declining and of those glorious lives, little remains, apart from dusty plaques of their tombs. It was in 1857 when the British exiled Bahadur Shah Zaffar to Rangoon where he died. He was buried near Shwe Degon Pagoda, Yangon with his cenotaph saying – “Hai kitna badnasiib Zafar dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi na mili ku-e-yaar mein.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar Grave, Yangon, Mayanmar


Miniature Paintings Under Akbar


Image Source: Wikipedia

In 1539 Humayun took refuge at the court of the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp after suffering defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri. There, he was captivated by the beauty of Persian miniature paintings and as a parting gift, received two of Shah Tahmasp’s most acclaimed painters, Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad.

We are not sure of any commissioned paintings under him but we can be sure that his son Akbar was a great ptron of paintings. So much so that he created a royal karkhana and commissioned multiple paintings on various themes. In fact, when he was criticized for supporting paintings since Islam condemned creating human figures as believed it was equivalent to challenging the god himself, Akbar presented his own argument against this, as mentioned in Akbarnama. He said:

“There are many that hate painting but such men I dislike. It appears to me that a painter had quite peculiar means of recognizing God; for a painter is sketching everything that has life and is devising its limbs, one after the other, one must come to feel that he cannot bestow individual upon his work, and thus is forced to think of god, the giver of life, and will thus increase his knowledge.”

With this belief among the plethora of paintings he created, some of the best known examples include Hamzanana, Tutinama, Razmanama, Akbaranama and Baburnama.

Tutinama was an illustrated version of the “Tales of a Parrot” in the latter half of the 16th century. It was the earliest manuscript ascribed to Akbar, certainly the most profile and influential of all Mughal emperors. It depicts the adventure stories narrated by a parrot for 52 successive nights to his mistress, Khojasta, to prevent her from meeting her paramour while her husband, Majnun, is away. The Tutinama is that of high moralistic tone and is the best representation of the formative stages of the Mughal style of originating at the Emperor Akbar’s court where Persian and Indian painters gathered and their different traditions merged. It has 250 illustrations illustrated by Mir Sayyid Ali and Adbus Samad over five years, we know so because in some paintings the painters have written their names in the margins. Some other names that pop up other that Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad include Baswan who depicted some scenes. ‘The Origin of Music’ and ‘The Parrot Addresses Khoojasta’ have been described in the text.

 Hammzanama narrates the stories of Amir Hamza, an uncle of Prophet Muhammad and his adventures. He became the hero of popular legends told by story tellers that presented him as an intrepid warrior who travelled the world intending to spread the word of Islam. His adventures were many and varied, as he battled against giants, demons and strange creatures. It is painted on a cloth measuring 67.5x50cm and consists of 12 volumes that were painted in the years between 1560-75. This too was directed by Mir Saiyyad Ali and Khwaja Abdus Samad and it involved over a hundred artists, gilders and bookbinders. The paintings described in the text are ‘Hamza Killing a Lion’ and ‘Hamza Killed in Battle’

Razmanama or the “Book of Wars” is a translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata written in Persian that was sponsored by Akbar and is noted for its elaborate and exquisite illustrations. It was commissioned by Akbar and dates to around 1598-99. The translations include all 18 books of the Mahabharata and Harivamsa appendix. The project involved two teams of translators who transmitted the epic verbally via their shared language of Hindi. Examples of the text elaborated here are ‘Arjuna and Tamradhyaja fighting while the gods enjoyed the spectacle’ and ‘Blind King Dhrtrashtra, led by Kunti, Leaving the City of Hastinapur’

Akbarnama literally means the “Book of Akbar” if the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar. It has been written in Persian by Abul Fazl, it was commissioned by Akbar and completed between 1590-96. It includes vivid and detailed descriptions of his life and times. It was written in Persian by Abu’l Fazl and is thought to have been illustrated by at least 49 different artists from Akbar’s studio. The paintings lited here are ‘Akbar Hunting’ and ‘Akbar Walking Barefoot After He Had a Son.’ Baburnama is the autobiography of Babur that was originally written in Turki. It was translated into Persian and illustrated in the last decades of the 16th century. Akbar ordered his grandfather’s memoirs to be translated from their original Turki into Persian, the pre-eminent language of the court and the administration of the empire, so that they could be widely read. The examples of Baburnama are ‘Babur Supervising the Lay Out of the Garden of Fidelity’ and ‘the bloody conquest of the fortified citadel of Chanderi by Babur’s army.’

Pl. 1: The Origin of Music from Tutinama

The above painting is called the Origin of Music, attributed to Baswan it is a painting from the Tutinama and can be dated between 1565 and 1570. It is a watercolour and ink on paper with 10×10.3 cm dimentions. The Iranian legend of the mythical bird the Mausiqar, which provides the seven notes that are said to comprise the origin of music, is supposed to be the inspiration for this composition. There is a bird in the bottom right corner that serves as the musician’s muse. The attention is focused on the musician playing the vina on the beautiful rug and the muse almost goes unnoticed. The work invokes aesthetic pleasure and music is deemed as a means to stimulate love. Various motifs like a shield, sword, and a bow can be seen on the left side of the painting and a quiver is hung on a tree. The Origin of Music is a painting that demonstrates the painters talent for portraiture and his ability to render rocks and trees with a naturalism.

It can be seen that the singer is holding a manuscript in his right hand and the painting can be divided into three part i.e. the foreground (the rocks and the bird), the middle ground with the singer and the background with a red tent. His shoes lie in front of the carpet and there is a vessel probably carrying water or some other liquid next to it. The trees are naturalistic and the rocks have visible Persian influence. He is sitting under a shade looking up showing that he is completely engrossed in what he is doing. There is Persian text written above and below the painting probably talking about the painting. Overall details have been rendered with great detail to show the perfection of the artist and gives out an aesthetically pleasing appeal to the viewer.

Pl. 2: The Parrot Addresses Khojasta

The above painting from Tutinama represents the forty-fifth story as mentioned in the text of the painting. Here, in the story the parrot tells Khojasta about a cunning snake and thereby advising the mistress to leave deception. It was painted somewhere between 1565 and 1570 in the Mughal atelier under Akbar using watercolour, ink and gold on paper. It measures 9.6×10.1 cm and is currently housed at the Freer Gallery of Art.

The painting shows Khojasta standing on the right and the parrot on the left, in front of her, talking while sitting comfortably. Both of them are in a hexagonal complex the walls of which can be seen. The walls and the floor have been painted in such a way that they show the Indo-Islamic influence in the patterns. Four pillars have been painted at four angles of the structure. In the background there is a railing beyond which trees that are painted realistically can be seen, which on the other side there something that looks like a door. Even tdark blue sky is visible, showing that they are out somewhere in the open, probably in something that is like a tent.  There is text on top and bottom of the painting telling what is happening in the scene painted. Overall, the painting is aesthetically pleasing and there is a slight tough of perspective in the sense the trees in the background are smaller than everything in the foreground. It can be noticed that there is a lack of many objects filling in the space. However, the lack of material things has been made up for by various designs or patterns that can be seen throughout the painting. This shows the  mastery of the painter to beautifully fill space to make it seem even more appealing.

Pl. 3: Hamza Killing a Lion

The Painting is 65.2 cm high and 51.8 cm wide. It is a gouache on cotton and shows Hamza killing a lion on his way to visit the Anoshiryan at Mada, and has been taken from the Hamzanana, a book commissioned by Akbar.

Soon after his arrival, Mihr-Nigar falls in love with him. He then breaks in a magic horse, is rescued by Buzurjmihr, and gains honors with Anoshiryan.

In the Upper middle of the picture, a young man in orange and gold robe with white robe, green trousers and white turban, mounted on a black horse, cleaves the head of a lion with his sword  despite the fact that the lion is prancing towards him. Therefore the man has been identified as Hamza himself.

A young man on a white horse watches this feat with administration on the upper left part of the background.

In the foreground is the dismounted corpse of a man, cleft from the head to the waist, clad in a green tunic and red trouser. At his side is a sheathed sword and on the ground is a mace. His brown horse is seen disappearing on the left. The reason behind showing this figure is to probably show how great a fighter Hamza was. It hightens the heroism of the protagonist who fought the man and then was still ready to fight the tiger.

The subjects are set in a rocky landscape with sparse vegetation, trees and bamboo. It is believed that the painting was made somewhere between 1562 and 1577. However, the artist is unknown and is currently housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which houses the largest collection of the Hamzanama in one place.

Pl. 4: Hamza Killed in Battle

The above painting is gouache on cotton, depicting Hamza, killed in battle at Mount Uhud.

Hamza was a character based partly on a historical Iranian insurrectionary leader from Sistan ans was also identified with the uncle of the Prophet Muhamad.

In the painting he is beheaded and mutilated and can be seen within an enclosure. The enclosure is surrounded by embroidered screens with a throne.

Seated on the throne is a bearded man dressed in a green and gold robe and turban, behind whom are other bearded men, one of whom offers a white scarf to the seated man.

Before him, another man of high rank presents a young woman clad in a flowered blue choli who is partially concealed by a screen.

In the upper part of the picture is a cave in which lies the decapitated body of a man dressed in an orange robe with a katar (dagger) thrust into his white girdle. Around him are the disorderly remains of a feast. To the left are the same man and woman, seen lower down in the enclosure. In the background are rocks and trees.

The setting of the painting is majorly in an arid area and there is hardly any vegetation that can be seen i.e. the setting of the painting is a dry region. Overall the painting does not follow the rules of perspective as such since Hamza’s corpse in much larger than anything else in the painting despite the fact that it is in the background.

Pl. 5: Arjuna and Tamradhyaja Fighting While the Gods Enjoy the Spectacle

The battle of Kurukshetra is clearly visible in the painting from the Razmanama. In this scene Aruja can be seen fighting with Tamradhyaj and has been taken from the 14th book i.e. the Asvamedhikaparva or the Horse Sacrifice.

A war scene is evident as there are four chariots, all being dragged by two horses, painted in different colours. One of Arjuna’s horse is blue in colour probably suggesting that the horse was of superior quality in comparission to the other horses. Above the war scene in the clouds are five gods, seated safely, clearly enjoying the spectacle.

Arjuna’s charioteer is Krishna, as is evident from the blue skin, and the pitambar or the yellow dhoti. Also visible on the chariot is a man lying with an arrow through his chest that is visible from his back. This shows the seriousness and the casualties of the war.

The painting can be divided into three parts, the vegetation growing in the foreground, followed by the main battle scene in the middle ground with a fighting scene with no vegetation accept small grasses, this leads small ridges with realistic trees. What can be called as the background is on the top where the gods and clouds are visible. Overall, the painting has been done with a lot of precision and is extremely realistic, especially the trees in the background and the clouds. Another intriguing feature of the painting is that there is a slight touch of three dimensionality and it does not look like plain. Every element of the painting has been dealt with great precision and the evening sky looks breath taking, showing how this battle was fought for a very long time and did not even break at sunset like was the norm since it lasted for seven days.

Pl. 6: Blind King Dhritrashtra led by Kunti, Leaving the City of Hastinapur

In the painting above, the blind king Dhṛtaraṣṭra can be seen being led by Kunti as they leave  the city of Hastinapur and retire to the forest. His wife Gandhari, blindfolded, supports him following behind. It has been take from the 15th book of Ramanama called the Asramavasikaparva or the Retirement to the Hermitage.

Behind Ganndhari many men, women of all ages can be seen dejected by the news of their beloved king leaving. The background behind this can be divided in two parts. Towards the left is evidently a palace while towards the right there is a transition from cityscape to Persian influenced rocks and realistic trees showing that they are leaving the city and going towards the forest to live the life of a hermitage after king Dhratrashtra’s children die in the battle of Kurukshetra.

Shading is prevalent in the painting, and in fact has been rendered with a lot of precision. It is especially visible in the rocks and the clothes of the people, especially the king. The clothes of the people show the trend and the colours that the people used to wear. The women mostly wore a lehenga on long skirt with a blouse of a different colour and a chunni or a stole. All women in the painting can be seen wearing necklaces, while everyone except Kunti is wearing earrings and bracelets and armlets. The men on the other hand can be seen wearing dhotis and turban while most of them are bear chested. Some men however are wearing tunics.

Pl. 7: Akbar Hunting

This illustration from the Akbarnama by Basawan and Dharmdas depicts Akbar hunting with cheetahs in the neighbourhood of Agra. The emperor was particularly fond of hunting and frequently participated in this exciting sport. Here, Akbar is the central figure on horseback chasing a cheetah. Other members of the hunting party are shown also participating in the capture of animals on foot, horseback and riding on elephants. Several cages are shown, which were used both to entrap animals (goats were placed in the cage to attract tigers) and to transport them.

In general the first look of the painting shows chaos, which is expected when someone is hunting with a company of people. Most wild animals can be seen prancing from here to there running away from the danger that has befallen them, showing how mighty Akbar was that even the wild animals were scared of him

The painting can be divided in three parts. In the lower part it is as if the animals are living their life normally, as a cheetah can be seen eating an animal near a water body. However, there is also a man probably rearing his buffaloes. This is can also be suggested that Akbar was killing the beasts that were troubling his people.

In the middle part of the painting, the hunting is taking place and there is chaos. And most animals can be seen running away from Akbar. In the upper portion on the other hand, there is relative peace and stability. There are elephants and people who seem to be watching Akbar hunt, and there are also some cages that are visible on the other side that is divided by rocks. Overall, the painting is showing various emotions and motions of both humans and animals which makes the painting unique in a way.

Pl. 8: Akbar Walking Barefoot After He Had a Son

This painting from the Akbaranama depicts an incident from the life of the Mughal emperor Akbar who had vowed that if he should be blessed with a son, he would walk to the shrine of the founder of the Chishti order, Shaikh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti, at Ajmer to offer his prayers.

He left Agra in January 1570, and swiftly covered the 370 or so kilometers. He is depicted here accompanied by servants carrying emblems of royalty.

Abu’l Fazl, in the A’in-i Akbari, the third volume of his history of the reign entitled the Akbarnama, notes that whenever the emperor went out in a formal context, five standards would be carried next to him, as well as the qur, a collection of flags and other insignia. These were all wrapped in red cloth, the colour of royalty. The aftabgir, a shade held over the emperor’s head and seen here, was also on Abu’l Fazl’s list of royal emblems. While in Ajmer, Akbar distributed alms at the shrine, visited other local sacred places, and ordered the construction of new mosques.

When a second son, Murad, was born at Sikri some months later to another wife, Akbar returned to Ajmer and had the fort enlarged, new mansions built and gardens laid out for the elite of the court. From then until 1579 he made annual pilgrimages to the city.

The composition of the painting was designed by Basawan, and the “work”  or painting, was done by Nand Gwaliari. In the background on the upper part a the dargah of Sheikh Salim Chishti can towards which Akbar is headed barefoot.

Pl. 9: Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity

The painting is opaque and done in watercolour and gold on paper by Bishndas and painted by Nanha, it measures 22.2×13.8 cm.

The painting was roughly created in 1590.

Babur in the painting  is supervising the laying out the Garden of Fidelity, outside Kabul, and mountains are visible in the background.

This is left side of the double-page composition shows the enclosure wall of the garden, and figures waiting outside the gate with horses; inside, a figure holds a plumb line to guide the division of the garden into the traditional Iranian chahar bagh, or four-part garden. The line continues across into the right side of the composition  where Babur is depicted supervising the planting.

Multiple people and horses can be seen along with trees.  There is also an antelope time animal in the mountains and the beginning of the garden can be seen.

The text is in short panels at top and bottom, each of the two lines running across the pages and there is a faint red “51” in the lower margin, indicating the illustration number in the volume.

It is currently housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and it is a part of the South and South East Asian Collection there. The use of light colours gives an overall pleasing look to the painting.

Pl. 10: Conquest of the Fortified Citadel of Chanderi

This illustration had been removed from a manuscript of the Baburnama  before the Vicatoria and Albert museum acquired it in on the London art market in 1913.

This painting depicts the bloody conquest of the fortified citadel of Chanderi by Babur’s army in 1528. It is depicting the defenders of Chanderi putting their women to death as Babur’s troops storm the fort.

The fort has been painted with great precision with utmost importance given to every single brick in the structure. Even in the extreme background, behind the fort, trees and clouds have been made beautifully and realistically. Yet, it is visible that there is a lack of proper perspective.

The overall look of the painting is that of chaos and almost everything in the painting is chaotic suggesting the mood of the painting. Despite that, we can see the clothes of the people and the various weapons that were used during that time. while the clothes of men are a dhoti, tunic and a turban, the weapons being used include spears and knives.

Through this painting it can be assumed that Babur’s army, that is on horses below the fort completely destroyed the army inside in an extremely violent and bloody combat.

A contemporary annotation at the bottom of the page notes that the composition is by La’l and the work, i.e. the painting is by Durga. La’l was one of the most famous artists in the imperial Mughal workshop in the 1590s. The painting is in opaque watercolour on paper and there is Persian text in the upper left hand side of the painting.

After Akbar, it was Jahangir who continued the tradition and since Jahangir was influenced by European paintings, he then ordered his painters to follow the single line perspective used by European artists. One of the major projects commissioned by Jahangir was the ‘Jahngirnama.’ Some fine paintings of flora and fauna are most popular of his time.

Shahjahan, son of Jahangir patronized painting and artists produced the richest work in his era, yet the decline began as he was more interested in architecture. But during the time of Aurangzeb, the atelier had to shut down and that declared the fall of the Mughal miniature painting, thus, ended the beautiful legacy of the Mughal Karkhanas that gave rise to many other schools of art throughout the sub-continent.

Therefore, Akbar played a crucial role in the development of the Mughal Miniature paintings and his paintings can be used for interpreting various aspects of his reign.


Pl. 1: (The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Dean A. Perry, 1961.279.110.b)
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Verma, Som Prakash. Interpreting Mughal Painting. Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

Vannupatha Jataka


Image Source: Jataka Katha

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta ruled in Banaras in Kashi, the Bodhisatta was born into a trader’s family. When he grew up, he would travel about trading with a carava of five hundred carts.

On one occasion he came to a sandy wilderness sixty leagues across, the sand of which was so fine that, when grasped, it slipped through the fingers of the closed fist. As soon as the sun rose, the sand would grow as hot as a bed of charcoal-embers and nobody could walk upon it. So those traversing the sandy desert used to take with them fire-wood, water, oil, rice and so forth on their carts, and only travelled by night. At dawn they used to range their carts in a circle, with an awning spread overhead, and after an early meal used to sit in the shade all the day long. When the sun went down, they had their evening meal, and, as soon as the ground became cool, they used to yoke their carts and move forward. Travelling on this desert was like voyaging over the sea, and the’desert-pilot, as the leader of the caravan was called, had to guide them across by his knowledge of the stars. This was the way in which our merchant was now travelling that wilderness.

When he had only some seven more miles before him, he thought to himself, “To-night will see us out of this sandy wilderness.”  So, after they had had their supper, he ordered the wood and water to be thrown away, and yoking his carts, set out on the road. In the front cart sat the pilot upon a couch looking up to the stars in the heavens and directing the course thereby. But he had been so long without sleep that he was tired out and dozed off, with the result that he did not notice that the oxen had turned round and were retracing their steps!

All night the oxen kept on their way, till  at dawn the pilot woke up, and, observing the position of the stars overhead, realized what had happened. “Turn the carts round ! Turn the carts round !” he shouted.

And as they turned the carts round and were forming them into line, the day broke. “Why this is where we camped yesterday,” cried the people of the caravan. ” All our wood and water is gone, and we are lost.” So saying, they unyoked their carts and formed them into a circle, and spread the awning overhead ; then each man flung himself down in despair beneath his own cart.

Thought the Bodhisatta to himself, “If I give in, every single one will perish.” So he walked to and fro while it was still early and cool, until he came on a clump of kusa-grass. “This grass,” thought he, “could only have grown here because of water underneath.” So he ordered a spade to be brought and a hole to be dug at that spot. Sixty cubits down they dug, till at that depth the spade struck on a rock, and everybody lost heart.

But the Bodhisatta, feeling sure there must be water under that rock, descended into the hole and took his stand upon the rock. Stooping down, he applied his ear to it, and listened. Catching the sound of water flowing beneath, he came out and said to a serving lad, “My boy, if you give in, we shall all perish. So take heart and courage. Go down into the hole with this iron sledge-hammer, and strike the rock.”

Obedient to his master’s bidding,  the lad, resolute where all others had lost heart, went down and struck the rock. The rock which had dammed the stream, split asunder and fell in. Up rose the water in the hole till it was as high as a palm-tree ; and everybody drank and bathed. Then they chopped up their spare axles and yokes and other surplus gear, cooked their rice and ate it, and fed their oxen. And as soon as the sun set, they hoisted a flag by the side of the well and travelled on to their destination. There they bartered away their goods for twice and four times their value. With the proceeds they returned to their own home, where they lived out their term of life and in the end passed away to fare thereafter according to their deserts. The Bodhisatta too after a life spent in charity and other good works, passed away likewise to fare according to his deserts.


Apannaka Jataka

Apannaka Jataka

Image Source:

Long, long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Baranasi, there were two merchants in the city, one was a normal man and the other was the Bodhisattva.

One day it so happened that the two merchants each loaded five hundred carts with costly wares of Baranasi and prepared to leave in the same direction at exactly the same time. The wise merchant, that was the Bodhisattva thought, “If this young merchant travels with me and if our thousand carts stay together, it will be too much for the road. Finding wood and water for the men will be difficult, and there won’t be enough grass for the oxen. Either he or I must go first.”

“Look,” he said to the other merchant, “the two of us can’t travel together. Would you rather go first or follow after me?”

The other trader thought, “There will be many advantages if I take the lead. I’ll get a road which is not yet cut up. My oxen will have the pick of the grass. My men will get the choicest wild herbs for curry. The water will be undisturbed. Best of all, I’ll be able to fix my own price for bartering my goods.” Considering all these advantages, he said, “I will go ahead of you, my friend.”

The Bodhisatta was pleased to hear this because he saw many advantages in following after. He reasoned, those carts going first will level the road where it is rough, and I’ll be able to travel along the road they have already smoothed. Their oxen will graze off the coarse old grass, and mine will pasture on the sweet young growth which will spring up in its place. My men will find fresh sweet herbs for curry where the old ones have been picked. Where there is no water, the first caravan will have to dig to supply themselves, and we’ll be able to drink at the wells they have dug. Haggling over prices is tiring work; he’ll do the work, and I will be able to barter my wares at prices he has already fixed. “Very well, my friend,” he said, “please go first.”

The foolish merchant he yoked his carts and set out. After a while he came to the outskirts of a wilderness. He filled all of his huge water jars with water before setting out to cross the desert which lay before him.

The yaksha who haunted that wilderness had been watching the caravan. When it had reached the middle, he used his magic power to conjure up a lovely carriage drawn by pure white young bulls. With a retinue of a dozen disguised yakshas carrying swords and shields, he rode along in his carriage like a mighty lord. His hair and clothes were wet, and he had a wreath of blue lotuses and white water lilies around his head. His attendants also were dripping wet and draped in garlands. Even the bulls’ hooves and carriage wheels were muddy.

As the wind was blowing from the front, the merchant was riding at the head of his caravan to escape the dust. The yaksha drew his carriage beside the merchant’s and greeted him kindly. The merchant returned the greeting and moved his own carriage to one side to allow the carts to pass while he and the yaksha chatted.

“We are on our way from Baranas, sir,” explained the merchant. “I see that your men are all wet and muddy and that you have lotuses and water lilies. Did it rain while you were on the road? Did you come across pools with lotuses and water lilies?”

“What do you mean?” the yaksha exclaimed. “Over there is the dark-green streak of a jungle. Beyond that there is plenty of water. It is always raining there, and there are many lakes with lotuses and water lilies.” Then, pretending to be interested in the merchant’s business, he asked, “What do you have in these carts?”

“Expensive merchandise,” answered the merchant.

“What is in this cart which seems so heavily laden?” the yaksha asked as the last cart rolled by.

“That’s full of water.”

“You were wise to carry water with you this far, but there is no need for it now, since water is so abundant ahead. You could travel much faster and lighter without those heavy jars. You’d be better off breaking them and throwing the water away. Well, good day,” he said suddenly, as he turned his carriage. “We must be on our way. We have stopped too long already.” He rode away quickly with his men. As soon as they were out of sight, he turned and made his way back to his own city.

The merchant was so foolish that he followed the yaksha’s advice. He broke all the jars, without saving even a single cupful of water, and ordered the men to drive on quickly. Of course, they did not find any water, and they were soon exhausted from thirst. At sunset they drew their carts into a circle and tethered the oxen to the wheels, but there was no water for the weary animals. Without water, the men could not cook any rice either. They sank to the ground and fell asleep. As soon as night came, the yakshas attacked, killing every single man and beast. They devoured the flesh, leaving only the bones, and departed. Skeletons were strewn in every direction, but the five hundred carts stood with their loads untouched. Thus the heedless young merchant was the sole cause of the destruction of the entire caravan.

Allowing six weeks to pass after the first trader had left, the Bodhisattva set out with his five hundred carts. When he reached the edge of the wilderness, he filled his water jars. Then he assembled his men and announced, “Let not so much as a handful of water be used without my permission. Furthermore, there are poisonous plants in this wilderness. Do not eat any leaf, flower, or fruit which you have never eaten before, without showing it to me first.” Having thus carefully warned his men, he led the caravan into the wilderness.

When they had reached the middle of the wilderness, the yaksha appeared on the path just as before. The merchant noticed his red eyes and fearless manner and suspected something strange. “I know there is no water in this desert,” he said to himself. “Furthermore, this stranger casts no shadow. He must be a yaksha. He probably tricked the foolish merchant before me.”

“Get out of here!” he shouted at the yaksha. “We are men of business. We do not throw away our water before we see where more is to come from!”

Without saying any more, the yaksha rode away.

As soon as the yakshas had left, the merchant’s men approached their leader and said, “Sir, those men were wearing lotuses and water lilies on their heads. Their clothes and hair were wringing wet. They told us that up ahead there is a thick forest where it is always raining. Let us throw away our water so that we can proceed quicker with lightened carts.”

The merchant ordered a halt and summoned all his men. “Has any man among you ever heard before today,” he asked, “that there was a lake or a pool in this wilderness?”

“No, sir,” they answered. “It’s known as the ‘Waterless Desert.’ “

“We have just been told by some strangers that it is raining in the forest just ahead. Has any man here seen the top of even a single storm-cloud?”

“No, sir.”

“Has any man here seen a flash of lightning?”

“No, sir.”

“Has any man here heard a peal of thunder?”

“No, sir.”

“Those were not men, but yakshas,” the wise merchant told his men. “They are hoping that we will throw away our water. Then, when we are weak and faint, they will return to devour us. Since the young merchant who went before us was not a man of good sense, most likely he was fooled by them. We may expect to find his carts standing just as they were first loaded. We will probably see them today. Press on with all possible speed, without throwing away a drop of water!”

Just as the merchant had predicted, his caravan soon came upon the five hundred carts with the skeletons of men and oxen strewn in every direction. He ordered his men to arrange his carts in a fortified circle, to take care of the oxen, and to prepare an early supper for themselves. After the animals and men had all safely bedded down, the merchant and his foremen, swords in hand, stood guard all through the night.

At daybreak the merchant replaced his own weak carts for stronger ones and exchanged his own common goods for the most costly of the abandoned merchandise. When he arrived at his destination, he was able to barter his stock of wares at two or three times their value. He returned to his own city without losing a single man out of all his company.


Some Of The Jatakas

The story of the past is of two merchants who travel with caravans across a desert. One, beguiled by goblins, throws away his drinking water and is devoured with all his people and cattle. The other completes his journey safely, not putting faith in the goblins. The moral is that the followers of false teachers are led astray… Read Now

Chaddanta Jataka – The previous life of Buddha when he was born as a six tusked elephant… Read Now

Mahajanaka Jataka – In this life, Buddha was born as prince Mahajanaka who was born outside the luxuries of the royalty. When he finally became the king, he realized what actually matters… Read Now

Mahakapi Jataka – This story deals with a previous life of Buddha in which he was a king of monkeys and it also known as ‘The Great Monkey King’… Read Now

Romaka Jataka – The Bodhisattva was born as the king of pigeons. A man pretending to be an ascetic wants to eat the pigeons and it is the king’s responsibility to protect them… Read Now

Sibi Jataka – The Jataka deals with the life of king Sibi who was ready to give up his life to be able to save the life of a pigeon because it came asking for shelter… Read Now

Sihacamma-Jataka – What happens when a man makes his donkey wear the skin of a lion? … Read Now

Vannupatha Jataka – Travelling across a desert, a caravan through mistake throws away its water. In their despair the leader has a well dug, till far down water is found, and perseverance saves the caravan from death… Read Now

Vessantara Jataka -The story of the charitable king Vessantara who gives up more than just his kingdom to keep his people happy… Read Now

Vidhura Pandita Jataka The story of Vidhura and how he ends up giving a happy ending to not one, but all characters in the story… Read Now

Qutub Complex


From the nomadic “Aryans” down to the British, in over 3,000 years, invaders have followed a path eastward, from lands beyond the Hindu Kush, for the fabled wealth of our country and the fertility of the plains.

One such ferocious horde was from Muhammad Gauri from Ghur who rode down at the end of the 12th century leaving a social and cultural impact that lasted for centuries to come. Though Islam had creeped into India since the 8th century, it was only with the Gaur invasion that Islam actually influenced the architectural contours of India.

The first point of contact between the two forces was one of friction. Fired by religious zeal, the soldiers of Islam set about destroying and despoiling the symbols and structures of the other. ‘It was the custom,’ records Qutbuddin’s chronicler, Hasan Nizami in the Taj-ul- Maasir, ‘after the conquest of every fort and stronghold to grind its foundations and pillars to powder under the feet of fierce and gigantic elephants.’ This destruction, historians agree, is the reason for the absence of Hindu monuments in the upper Indo-Gangetic plain, especially around Islamic centres such as Delhi and Ajmer.

As the fervour wore off, the conquerors settled down to build new structures with the remains of despoiled temples and palaces as it provided material for mosques and tombs in the new land. The Quwwat-ul- Islam Mosque in one such example. Later, these rulers decided to plan and build their own structures, particular to the Indian subcontinent, like the Alai Darwaza. Thus, was created a new school of art, Indo-Islamic school of Architecture, indigenous to the Indian subcontinent where Indian craftsmen used the Indian material like stone to build Islamic structures for the first time and also included Indian elements like chattris, chajjas and jharokhas in the structures and even the surface ornamentation changed from geometric patterns and calligraphic inscriptions due to prohibition of any representation in Islam to the beginning of intermingling of floral life, the earliest intermingling of which can be seen at the screen of Quwwat-ul-Islam at the Qutub Complex.

The evidence of all these phases are evident at the site of the Qutub Complex where structures have been erected continuously since the beginning of what is called the Delhi Sultanate up until the British era. However, to understand, truly, the Qutub Complex, one needs to understand the significance of the site on which the structures were erected.

Delhi has housed settlements for several millennia as Palaeolithic implements have been discovered from Anangpur, one of the largest prehistoric sites in India. Literary references also identify the city with Indraprastha, the grand city built by the Pandavas in Mahabharata. In fact, the Purana Qila has a village inside the Fort called Indrapat that was continuously inhabited from early historical to medieval times for around 3,000 years and includes evidences of the Mauryan times.

The city has remained the pivot of North India for over a thousand years since the triangular swathe of land between the Aravalli Hills and the Yamuna was fertile and also commanded the vital trade route from north-western mountains to the Ganga plains. The rulers Rajasthan considered Delhi a frontier town to expand into the fertile plains of Punjab while the Afghans believed that Delhi held the key to the fertile Indo- Gangetic plains.

Towards the end of the first millennium AD, the Tomars, a clan of Rajputs rose to prominence in the Aravalli Hills and the Tomar king, Anangpal II built his red fortress, Lal Kot in the 11th century that was later enlarged by Prithviraj Chauhan who defeated the Tomars. His citadel is called the Qila Rai Pithora, the first settlement substantial enough to be called a city at Delhi.

Prithviraj was ousted by Muhammad Gauri in AD 1192 who returned to his country, leaving his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak, an efficient general to lay the foundation of the Delhi sultanate and take care of his “land” as his viceroy in his name in 1205 AD. It was on his master’s death in 1206 that Aibak crowned himself the Sultan of Delhi, starting the rule of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty, the first Muslim dynasty to rule northern India.

He did not build a new city but made Qila Rai Pithora his citadel, where, in 1199, he laid the foundation of the Qutub Complex. A century later Alauddin Khilji built the first Muslim city of Delhi, walling his camp, north of Qila Rai Pithora and called it Siri. Further, Ghiyasuddin Tughluq selected a site 8 kms east of Siri for his walled city and within four years, Tughluqabad had been laid out in neat grids.

Plan of Tughlaqabad

Due to the lack of drinking water Muhammad bin Tughluq returned closer to the original Rajput site and named it Jahanpanah, a walled enclosure between Qila Rai Pithora and Siri. Following which Firoz Shah Tughluq built his city, Firozabad, along the Yamuna.

Succeeding dynasties were so occupied with keeping their realms intact that they had little time to spare for city building.

Even Humayun and Shah Jahan eyed towards Delhi to build their cities and it thus remained the axis of the Mughal empire until the uprising of 1857, following which the British transferred the capital to Delhi, that has remained so until now.

After establishing the importance of the city of Delhi we can move on further to understanding the Qutub Complex, one of the significant monuments of Delhi. Though know for the lofty Qutub Minar that stands as a landmark around the area for miles, the structure also consists of structures like the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Alai Darwaza, the madrasa or school, and what is believed to be the Tomb of Alauddin Khalji along with many other structures that were added in due course of time.

Plan of Qutub Complex

After he had captured the authority of Delhi, Aibak realized that it was an unruly land of alien faith, so he sought to leave the imprint of his religion on them and got a mosque constructed at the city of Lal Kot in Qila Rai Pithora. This mosque is the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque that was made on the rubble of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples in the years between 1194 and 1199, epitomizing the might or quwwat of Islam.

Conjectural Representation of the Qutub Complex

The mosque that is entered through the eastern facade is open on three sides and can be entered through the North and South directions also. Aibak created it on a high plinth of a Hindu temple called elbut-khana. It is a rectangular mosque with four iwans, three entrances and three bay riwaq on the eastern side while two bays are present on the North and South side.

Panoramic View of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque from the East

The top of the eastern arched entrance mentions in Naskh inscription that the mosque was created with demolished material of twenty-seven temple. Since the Indians do not read the script, intent of the inscription was to make the army of Aibak feel that they are superior since they were in a foreign country and were home sick and uncomfortable in the foreign land. The inscription also invokes God’s mercy for Aibak, the person who commissioned the mosque.

Ariel View of the Qutub Complex Showing the Courtyard and the Indian Domes

The ceiling that is corbelled with the Indian version of a dome can be seen, surrounded by at the bottom of the Dome with squinches of chiseled stones standing on the carved pillars that are clearly taken from the temple as we see many elements like the yakshas, gods, goddesses, kalashas and other elements. However, the faces of all human figures have been distorted as Islam does not allow the creation of human form. The courtyard is open to the sky and was entered through the North, South and East gateways, among which only the eastern remains. The flooring was done with huge pictures of stones. The several narrow slabs of stones on the top of the walls and roof of the mosque represented the gods and goddesses. On the western side, Aibak created upload sanctuary Hall and prayer hall, the group of which was originally supported by 5 rows of the tallest and finest pillars of the temple that would demolish.

Pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

The Qibla wall and Mihrab were also incorporated in the structure by Qutbuddin Aibak. The screen was created using red and yellow sandstone and central arch is flanked by 2 arched entrances on each side. On the central screen, Quranic verses in Arabic in Naskh style are present. Serpentine tendrills and undulating leaves have been detected.

In the covered verandahs on 3 sides are fitted with Hindu motifs like blooming lotuses, these pillars according to Carr Stephen were plastered initially that has now been removed. At each corner of the pillared floor 20 feet square balcony or Gallery with staircases in the thickness of the wall probably used as the Zanana by women.

Defaced Yakshas at the site

The screen that Aibak created incorporated a mixture of the Indian and Islamic motifs, especially the three dimensionality of Indian sculptures that was used to depict the Islamic motifs.

Screen at the Qutub Complex

This was the contribution of Qutub-ud-din Aibak, after him, Shams al-Din Iltutmish made a lot of changes to the structure. He expanded the mosque in line with the earlier models with three and four bays respectively, however, since he did not reuse the material from temples he had the liberty to not use the Indian motifs that his religion did not allow. Yet, he had to keep in sync with what his predecessor has created so that his construction did not stand out as much. He therefore created pillars that were simpler, yet followed the patterns that Aibak had used due reusing the rubble of the temples. It was during Iltutmish’s expansion that the Minar came inside the complex of the Mosque the height of which he increased from the first storey to three stories. It should however be noted that Iltutmish emalgamated the traditions beautifully, thus incorporating many elements from the Hindu belief including the kalashas.

Kalasha created during the time of Iltutmish

He also expanded the screen on the southern and northern sided using motifs that were different from those used by Aibak.

The pillars that he created during expansion are simpler than the ones during Aibak’s time but are still decorated to a limited level using petal designs.

However, the most important contribution of Iltutmish in the Qutub Complex is the creation of his tomb. It in square in plan on a high plinth. It has verses of Quran on it. The cenotaph is at the center and there is a marble mihrab.

Exterior of the Tomb of Iltutmish

The tomb is on the north-western side of the mosque. It is a single square room entered from three arched opening from all directions except the west as the western wall has three niches, the central one or the main mihrab is ornamented in white marble and is higher than the flanked ones on both sides. It appears simple from the outside and is faced with sandstone, while the interior is richly decorated with engravings of quranic verses written in Arabic, floral scrolls and geometrical patterns are seen in great variety.

The Central Mihrab on the Qibla Wall of the Tomb of Iltutmish

The original grave is in the basement and a tiered false tombstone has been erected exactly at the centre of the hall of which the dome fell down but the pendentives supporting it remain due to the absence of the drum and small squinches at the corners, it must have fallen down.

Cenotaph of Iltutmish

Ala-al-din Khilji was the 3rd ruler of the early Delhi Sultanate who made main contributions to the Qutub Complex. He extended the mosque further on two sides leaving only one entrance in line with the previous ones to create a way directly showing the Alai Minar, a Minar that he was trying to create, however, died even before the first level was completed. He even closed the entry to Iltutmish’s tomb from the mosque and erected the Alai Darwaza. Even his pillars were more orthodox than his predecessors.

The Alai Darwaza is the southern gate which is the only surviving gate that was erected by Khilji. It is square in shape, finely worked at with redsandstone and white marble. It has incises and relief work on it creating floral and geometrical motifs on the outer façade.

Alai Darwaza

On both the sides of intrados of the three true arched entrances, (except North), six cornered stars called the Star of David are present.

The northern entrance has a semicircular arch made of white marble and the upper part of square hole is decorated with horseshoe shade stalactite design supporting the squinches for making roof for the drum and dome of the terrace.

Jaali on the Alai Darwaza with Persian Inscription on the sides

Quranic verses and hadith are engraved artistically on its outer façade and Persian, central Asian and Indian elements can be observed.

Interior of the Alai Darwaza

The Alai Minar the other construction of Alauddin Khilji at the Qutub Complex is at the north of Qutub Minar, in front of extension of Khilji’s mosque. It is believed that he was trying to create a minaret double the size of Qutub Minar but died in the process. He died even before he completed the first floor. Thus, it stands as an unfinished minaret on a plinth. The four corners of the lowest plinth confirm that there was a temple at the site. The whole structure is now nothing but a huge, uneven and unplastered rubble.

Alai Minar

Behind the mosque, on the west is the Madarsa that was created by Alauddin Khilji. It has a series of cells, the entry to the courtyard which is entered through a big gateway on the North that now stands totally dilapidated. Of the eight western cells of which two are domed while two have an opening at the back. One of the domed rooms has squinches, with true arches and selected patterns below them. Towards the south, the central room is separated by passages on both sides and entered from 3 sides except the western one, Alauddin Khilji is buried here.

The Tomb and Madrasa of Alauddin Khilji

On the South there is a rectangular courtyard enclosed with the wall, having stairways to go up, presently, the tombstone in all these rooms are missing and structures are totally dilapidated.

Believed to be the Grave of Alauddin Khilji, the tombstone of which is missing

The iron pillar is installed in front of the main screen hall, and dates from the 4th century AD. Originally it had a Garud, the vehicle on Vishnu on top of it and was shifted from Mathura to Anga Pal in 10th century just in front of a temple at Lal Kot that was dedicated to the deity.

Iron Pillar at the Qutub Complex

It is 10 times shorter than the Qutub Minar and consists of 99% wrought iron which has kept it rust resistant over the years. The pillar has inscriptions of King Chandra who was considered to be the King Chandragupta Maurya of the Mauryan dynasty and the pillar was therefore called the Ashokan pillar. However, it has now been recognized as King Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty that came later.

Brahmi Inscription on the Iron Pillar

The Qutub Minar, present on this site was erected as a symbol of supremacy of Islam, there probably was a candle on top since there is a presence of a burning place. Feroz Shah mention the name Minaret or Sultan Muizzudin Sam also known as the Lat of Qutub Sahib probably rerferring to what we call the Qutub Minar.

The Qutub Minar

It is believed that only the first story of the Minar was completed by Aibak and the next three were raised by Iltutmish. It was finally raised to the fifth story during the repair work done by Feroz Shah Kotla.

There are inscriptional bands on each story of the Minar. The first story has six decorative inscriptional bands including, in sequence verses from the holy Quran, talks about Qutubuddin and Mohammad Gauri, holy Quranic verses, eulogy of Muhammad Gauri, the ninety-nine names of Allah or the almighty and finally another band of holy Quran verses. Other than these, on top of the Northern entrance is written “you make a mosque for him, he will make a house for you in heaven”. The first story also mentions the repair work that was done by Sikandar Lodi. And as we move on to the second storey we find two bands of inscriptions, one praises Iltutmish and the second has verses from the Quran. There is also an inscription at the doorway that mentions the command of completion of the Minar given by Iltutmish.

Inscriptional Band on the Qutub Minar

The 3rd story has two bands in which the first one mentions the name, titles and eulogy of the Iltutmish while the second band has a scroll pattern. There are also praises of Iltutmish at the doorway and the name of the architect is mentioned as Mohammed Aamir Koh.

The 4th and 5th storeys are round in shape and have different designs and Motifs.

There are projected balconies that separate each story by a railing of red sandstone that was supported with a honeycomb pattern that was created by small arched niches one on the other in recessing position at the bottom. It is worth noting that each balcony is supported by different types of stalactite patterns and therefore follows a different pattern on every floor. Initially these balconies were having railings with independent stepped kangooras that were removed and replaced by Robert Smith for safety purposes.

One of the Balcony at the Qutub Minar

The tomb in front of the eastern façade of the Alai Darwaza, is the Tomb of Md. Imam Zamin, made of sandstone, it is placed in an open courtyard on a high platform that had alcoves now only seen on the western and southern sides. The southern façade has an entrance on top of which there is an inscription in naskh characters, they are also finely polished with white stucco and covered with perforated jaali on all sides and in the centre of the room lies the white marble tombstone and above it, the dome is decorated with ribbed pattern. On the jaali or the screen of the west wall is the mihrab that is bulged out on the outside of the exterior. The parapet and the upper portion of the octagonal drum is surmounted with a hemispherical dome with a finial on the top.

Tomb of Imam Zamin

Another important structure at the Complex is Major Smith’s Cupola which is a canopy or chhatri. It is believed that during the time of Feroz Shah Tughlaq a Cuppola was added to the height of the minaret which was later damaged due to an earthquake and a new cupola, made of red sandstone was erected at the top by Major Smith. However, since the cupola did not match the aesthetic appeal, grandeur and architectural form of the Qutub Minar, Lord Harding instructed Major Smith to take the cupola back on ground. It is not placed in the complex on a round platform, semicircular dome is supported by six pillars that are coming out from a lotus, reducing its thickness upward. The spearhead blocks are decorated at each corner of three feet high railing on its parapet of red sandstone. Each opening of the cupola is having engrailed or cusped arched, Bangla-roof style caping and at the spandrels are blooming lotuses. At the centre of its ceiling there is a hole that probably must have supported a finial at the top.

Major Smith’s Cupola

Therefore, the Qutub Complex has been built on a the remains of an important city and have gained even more importance since then, never once losing its significance in the subcontinent. Not only did it gain significance momentarily, but has remained an important site since then through the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal rule, the British rule and even post-independence as a major tourist attraction. Hence, the site deserves all the attention that it gets for withstanding the test of time.


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“A Walk Around The Qutb Complex”. World Monuments Fund, 2020,

“Qutb Complex – Indian National Trust For Art And Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi Chapter – Google Arts & Culture”. Google Arts & Culture, 2020,

“Qutb Complex – New World Encyclopedia”. Newworldencyclopedia.Org, 2020,

“The Qutb Complex: An Overview | Sahapedia”. Sahapedia, 2020,

Munshi, Rustamji Nasarvanji. The Kutb Minar (Delhi). Fort Printing Press, 1911.

Page, J. A. An Historical Memoir On The Qutb, Delhi. Director General, Archaeological Survey Of India, 1998.

Page, J. A. Guide To The Qutb, Delhi, By J.A. Page, ... Government Of India, Central Publication Branch, 1927.

Sharma, Rajat. “Qutub Complex: An Adumbration Of Delhi”. Itinari, 2020,

Tillotson, Giles, and Giles Tillotson. “This Mosque In Delhi’S Qutub Complex Set The Template For India’S Distinctive Islamic Architecture”. Scroll.In, 2020,



Image Source: IndiaTV News

Ajanta is located in Aurangabad District of Maharashtra State and the caves are excavated in the face of an almost perpendicular scrap of rock, about 250  ft. high, sweeping round in a complete semi-circle or horseshoe shape, and forming the north or outer side of a wild secluded ravine down which comes a small stream. Above the caves the valley terminates abruptly in a waterfall of 7 leaps known as the satkund.

As the Deccan forest claimed and shielded the caves, with roots and shoots choking the sculptures, Ajanta remained deserted for about a millennium, unknown for more than a thousand years except to wild animals, insects, flood waters, prodigious foliage and perhaps the local Bhil people, this magnificent work of art, architecture and contemplation, was abandoned by those who created it. Until 1819 when a British hunting party led by officer John Smith stumbled upon it purely by chance.

In 1843, after a gap of 25 years, James Fergusson presented a paper to the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and drew global attention to the site. The Madras Army deputed its officer R. Gill to prepare copies of the Ajanta murals. Gill worked from 1849 to 1855 and prepared 30 paintings, but unfortunately they were destroyed in a fire in 1866 and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The paintings in the caves were exposed to very serious damage, and a substantial section of them was lost forever as areas of the plaster fell from the walls. Yet, it is important to note that they the only surviving example of paintings of the first century BCE. During the Gupta period (5th-6th centuries CE), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group that presents architecture, sculpture and painting – the three expressions of fine arts, all articulated in place.

During the early period, Buddhism pursued the Hinayana doctrine, which prohibited the worship of anthropomorphic images of Buddha. In the later phase from the fifth to the sixth century C.E. Buddhism had largely shifted to Mahayana doctrine. However, none of the caves in this phase were ever fully completed.

The paintings and sculptures in the caves of Ajanta, inspired by Buddhism and its compassionate ethos, unleashed a surge of artistic excellence unmatched in human history. These Buddhist caves are ornately carved, yet seem quiet and meditative and exude a divine energy and power. Among the most interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as Bodhisattava, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha. While, between images of the Buddha, were sensuous representations of glamorous princes and princesses, of animals, palaces, silks, jewellery, of lovemaking and life in all its mortal richness.

The caves are secluded, yet not completely isolated as the monks had to maintain a distance from worldly life as well as be close enough for their daily rounds of begging alms.

Most of the 5th century caves here were planned together and there was a standard floor plan and a very basic and simple decorative and iconographic scheme. There were little creative facets. In fact, the pace of development was also orchestrated.

Facades of the prayer halls are replete with sculpture, wall face of the interior and residential quarters of monks are painted with scenes from the life of Buddha. Its pillars, architraves and ceilings replicate human and animal figures, auspicious motifs, creepers and flowers, freehand and geometric designs. Even the main object of worship, carved out of rock, was painted.

Material evidence from Ajanta, in the form of images, motifs, and narrative sculptures and paintings, is very important in reconstructing the transition of Buddhism from Hinayana to Mahayana. The ideal image of the enthroned Buddha with two attendant bodhisattvas, the development in the iconography of bodhisattvas, development in the iconography of bodhisattvas like Padmapani,Vajrapani and Maitreya, and so called Shravasti Miracle of the Buddha help us to understand this tradition.

The Viharas which means the residence of monks are of various sizes, often square-shaped. Their designs are varied; some have simple and some have ornate facades, some have a porch and others do not. The early Viharas were not intended to have shrines because they were meant to be used solely as halls of residence and congregation. Later, a shrine, set in the back wall of the Vihara became a norm. The shrines were fashioned to house a central object of reverence, often the image of the Buddha seated in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra. In the more recent caves, subsidiary shrines were added on the side walls, porch or the front-court. The facades were sometimes decorated with carvings, and walls and ceilings were often covered with paintings.

The chaitya comprised a congregational hall with a vaulted ceiling, with an apsidal end gajaprishtakriti containing a stupa cut out of the rock. This hall was divided by a row of pillars going round the hall into a central hall and two side aisles. The side aisles and apsidal were meant for processions and circumambulation of the stupa and the nave was used for congregational service. The chaitya ceilings show a great resemblance to wooden forms. With time the Chaityas evolved and lost the solemnity and serenity of the early chaityas. These appear decorated and ornamented extravagantly. Most caves began having pillars with decorated shafts with cushion capitals and massive bracket.

The Vihara-chaitya caves consist of a pillared veranda, a pillared hall and cells along the walls. The back wall has the main Buddha shrine. Shrine images at Ajanta are grand in size.

Stupas, which are a funeral mounds became a symbol of nibbana or illumination and signified the Buddhas presence as well. Most stupas contain relics of Buddhist monks or saints. Some contain alms bowls, others manuscripts or holy writings. Some commemorate spots and events of religious significance.

Some paintings in Ajanta still retain the original splendor. These frescos have immortalized the gospel and legend of lord Buddha. But Most cave paintings have been damaged so much due to the withering, fading, blurring and degradation that it is practically impossible to decipher what the artists wanted to convey through their brushes. The painting that once covered walls from the ceiling to the floor now remain only the middle portion. These paintings showed remarkable affinities to classical Greek art pointing towards a Greco-Indian culture.

The frescos were classical paintings made on dry plaster surface. The technique and process used to create the Ajanta cave paintings are unique within the history of South Asian art. It involved several stages.  First, the uneven rock is smoothly chiseled, then a mixture of hard porous rock, vegetable fibers, paddy husk, grass and other fibrous material or organic origin and cow dung is spread evenly on the surface. The thickness of the mixture was often three to twenty millimeters. The first coat which often tended to be uneven was rectified by a second coat of mud, fine rock powder or sand  and fine fibrous material. While the plaster was still wet, the drawings were outlined and the color was applied. Over this was laid a coat of pure white lime. The wet plaster had the capacity to soak up the color so that the color became a part of the surface and would not peel off or decay easily. Contours were reinforced, usually in black or brown. Pallet was limited and colors were obtained from the natural resources of the Indian countryside. White from kaolin, lime and gypsum, Green from glanconite, Blue from lapis lazuli, other colors from locally available residual products of volcanic rocks. Colors were mixed using powerful Indian vegetable gums containing a proportion of drying oil like neem.

Lines are clearly defined and are very rhythmic. Body color gets merged with the outer line creating the effect of volume. The figures are heavy like the sculptures of western India and it may also be observed that various skin colors are used in the paintings such as brown, yellowish brown, greenish, yellow ochre, etc., which represent a multicolored population. Movements in the figures are very rhythmic. Lines are forceful and full of energy. Attempts are also made to give highlights in the figural compositions. The figures are broad with heavy proportion and arranged in the picture space in a linear way. Figures in these caves are painted with considerable naturalism and there is no over-stylization. Events are grouped together according to geographical location. Separation of geographic location has been indicated by using outward architectural bands. Half-closed, elongated eyes are employed. Different guilds of artisans seem to have worked on the paintings of these caves which can be inferred from their typological and stylistic variations. Naturalistic postures and unexaggerated facial features are used as exceptional types.

Shading was used often to create the impression of roundness and relief rather than to give the impression of light and shade. The Ajanta artists drew their design with a free and swift hand, giving bold strokes. The lines drawn aimed more at bold and rounded elasticity rather than calligraphic fineness.

The themes in the paintings include – Buddha, jatakas, devas, Avadanas, kinnaras (half human half bird), damsels, gandharvas, siddhas, vidyadharas, asuras, auspicious and decorative motifs (amorous couples, dryads, creepers, lotus creepers, lotuses, conches, garlands of flowers and precious stones, and griffins and geese) , motifs from everyday life (ceilings of monasteries – cockfight, a wealthy or royal couple being served liquor, jesters or go between lovers, and dwarfs as attendants), geometrical and other designs. Ajanta subjects of sculpture and paintings give quite a good glimpse of Buddhist mythology and contemporary economic, social, and religious life in India. Jataka stories envisage practically every walk of social life and charm everyone, young and old, rustic and urban.

The paintings depict a universe in which aristocratic men and women dwell in harmony with an abundant nature. The exuberance and richness of the painting suggests that the artists were accustomed to painting secular as well as religious works.

Cave 1, a Mahayana Vihara, was one of the last to be excavated and is the most beautifully decorated. A verandah in front leads to a large congregation hall housing sculptures and narrative murals known for their splendid perspective and elaborate detailing of dress, daily life and facial expressions.

A shrine carved on the rear wall houses an impressive seated image of the Buddha, his hands in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra. There are four cells on each of the left, rear, and the right walls. The walls are covered with paintings in a fair state of preservation, depicting mostly didactic, devotional, and ornamental scenes from the Jataka stories, the life of the Gautam Buddha, and those of his veneration notable among them are Padmapani and Vajrapani, Sibi Jataka, Samkhapala Jataka, Mahajanaka Jataka, Mahaummagga Jataka, Champeyya Jataka and so on. The cave also shows three of the four famous sights seen by prince Siddhartha which acquainted him with the painful side of human life: disease, old age and death. After seeing a recluse who did not show any sign of these shortcomings, the prince decided to renounce the world, to escape the vicious circle of birth and rebirth.

Cave 2 is a late Mahayana Vihara that resembles Cave 1 with deliriously ornamented columns and capitals and some fine paintings. The ceiling is decorated with geometric and floral patterns. The murals depict scenes from the Jataka tales like Vidhurapandita & Ruru Jatakas and Maya’s dream of a six-tusked elephant, which heralded his conception. The capitals are carved and painted with various decorative themes that include ornamental, human, animal, vegetative and semi-divine forms.

Cave 3 is an incomplete Vihara consisting only of a pillared verandah. It is situated at a higher level and is approached through a modern flight of steps in between caves 2 and 4. It extends only up to the pillared  verandah and a rough entrance to the hall which shows that the work here could have been in progress.

Cave 4 is the largest Vihara at Ajanta. Although never completed, the cave has some impressive sculptures, such as the four statues surrounding a huge central Buddha. There are also scenes of people fleeing from the ‘eight great dangers’ to the protection of Avalokitesvara.

In Cave 5, the work did not progress beyond the front verandah and the doorway to the hall. It gives a glimpse into the technique of scooping of such caves. i.e. As soon as a significant portion of the rock mass was given a rough shape like pillar, doorway and window, by one batch of workers, the team of sculptors started work immediately.

Cave 6 is the only two-storey Vihara at Ajanta, but parts of the lower storey have collapsed. Inside is a seated Buddha figure and an intricately carved door to the shrine. Upstairs the hall is surrounded by cells with fine paintings on the doorways.

This two storied structure is referred to as Cave 6 Lower and Cave 6 Upper. It is believed that the upper floor was an afterthought when the excavation of the lower level was well underway and in both the caves, Buddha is seen in various moods.

Cave 7 has an atypical design, with porches before the verandah leading directly to the four cells and the elaborately sculptured shrine. On either side of the entrance to the vestibule is the depiction of the shravasti miracle. Inside is the seated Buddha, flanked by boddhisattvas and on sidewalls by six other Buddhas.

Cave 8 was perhaps the earliest monastery, belonging to the Satvahana phase of excavation, this cave is located at the lowest level and a major portion from the front of the structure has been swept away by a landslide. Few architectural details survive but, importantly, the sanctum does not contain an image of Buddha.

Cave 9 was Excavated in the 1st century BCE. It is one of the oldest chaitya  halls in Ajanta and the paintings here belong to two different eras – the first being at the time of excavation while a repainting of the cave interior was carried out in the later phase of activity, around the 5th century CE.

Only traces remain of the narrative paintings on the walls of the ambulatory passage but professor Schilingoff identified 5 narratives – Pandara, Mahagovinda, Shasha, Kunala and Udaya.

Cave 10 is thought to be the oldest cave (200 BC) and was the first one to be spotted by the British hunting party. It is similar in design to Cave 9 but has the largest chaitya. The façade has collapsed and the paintings inside have been damaged.

Having been repainted in the later phase the cave contains paintings from two different periods. The scenes depict worship of Bodhi tree and stories from Sama and Chhaddanta Jatakas. The surface reveals that it was in use together with cave 9 over the centuries, though perhaps not continuously.

The interior of the cave is decorated with paintings including decorative, devotional and narrative only a small number of which survive due to vagaries of nature and man. As it was the first cave to be discovered, visitors have scribbled their names and have done maximum damage here. In fact, the Pillar 13 is has John Smiths’s graffiti.

Cave 11 is a Vihara, supposed to be one of the early caves because of its proximity to cave 10, and some archaic features in its architecture and planning. The verandah gives a glimpse of the decorated ceiling with painted creepers, birds, animals and geometric designs. The back walls had the usual theme of divine bodhisattvas at the entrance. The windows on either side of the single entrance are unlike windows elsewhere. Inside there are many Buddha images of the intrusive phase.

Cave 12 is a Vihara Paleographically datable from the 2nd to 1st century BCE and Cave 13 is a rather small Vihara from the first phase. Cave 14 that was excavated above cave 13 is an unfinished Vihara. Though initially planned on a large scale it hardly progressed beyond the front half.

Cave 15 is a Vihara excavated around the middle of the 5th century CE and traces of painting can be noticed on the ceiling. The cave is presently used as a laboratory by the chemical branch of ASI making its condition rather tragic.

Cave 15A has a peculiar numbering due to the fact that this was hidden under the rubble when the caves were being counted. This is the smallest Vihara in Ajanta belonging to the early phase of excavation and it lies lower level than cave 15.

Cave 16, a Vihara, contains some of Ajanta’s finest paintings is thought to have been the original entrance to the entire complex. Narratives here include various Jataka stories such as Hasti, Maha Ummagga, Maha Sutasoma, miracle of Sravasti, dream of Maya and other incidents from the life of Buddha.

Cave 17 has Ajanta’s best-preserved and most varied paintings. Famous images include a princess applying make-up, a seductive prince using the old trick of plying his lover with wine, and the Buddha returning home from his enlightenment to beg from his wife and astonished son and the Jataka stories include Chhaddanta, Mahakapi, Hasti, Hamsa, Vessantara, Maha Sutasoma, Sarabha miga, Machchha, Mati Posaka, Sama, Mahisa, Valahass, Sibi, Ruru and Nigrodhamiga Jatakas.

Cave 18’s  excavation was not very remarkable, is a rectangular hall of modest proportions, entered through two pillars and leaving to a cell. It was mistakenly counted as a cave and is in fact a porch with two pillars having molded bases and octagonal shafts.

Cave 19 is a magnificent chaitya with a remarkably detailed façade, outside which sits a striking image of the Naga king with seven cobra hoods around his head. His wife, hooded by a single cobra, sits by his side. The façade of this chaitya is splendidly decorated with various carved figures and decorative motifs and the aisle walls still preserve some very beautiful mural paintings. Interestingly, the courtyard outside is flanked by two side porches.

Cave 20 is a tiny residential unit consisting of a courtyard, pillar-fronted verandah, hall, vestibule, and sanctum. There are only six cells in all, two at the extremes of the front verandah and two each in the sides of the astylar hall.

Cave 21, is a Vihara consisting of a verandah with restored pillars, a hall with 12 pillars accompanied cells in equal numbers. Out of these 12 cells, four are supplied with pillared porches. Buddha in dharmachakrapravartanamudra is sculpted in the garbhagriha and traces of paintings on the wall show Buddha preaching a congregation.

Cave 22 is a small residential unit situated between caves 21 and 23 but at a slightly higher level. Painted on the wall are seven earlier Buddhas and maitreya. The label inscriptions identify the Buddhas and their trees. There are traces of the Shravasti miracle. The dedicatory inscription on the wall explains in eloquent terms the glorious fruits resulting from making paintings or stone images of Buddha.

Cave 23, 24 and 25 are unfinished. If completed cave 24 would have been the largest Vihara at Ajanta.

Cave 26 is a largely ruined chaitya that is dramatically lit and contains some fine sculptures. On the left wall is a huge figure of the reclining Buddha, lying back in preparation for nirvana. Other scenes include a lengthy depiction of the Buddha’s temptation by Maya. The cave must have been painted but these were replaced by sculpture. It is overladen with decoration and detail, which have marred its charm.

Cave 27 is virtually a Vihara connected to the cave 26 chaitya, though it is not accessible. Its upper storey partially collapsed while the lower storey consists of an inner hall with four cells, an antechamber and garbhagriha with an enshrined image of Buddha.

Cave 28 too is presently difficult to approach. It is incomplete and has only a pillar fronted verandah. While Cave 29, situated at a higher level, between caves 20 and 21, this cave can be approached only by climbing the hill from a different side.

Through the paintings and sculptures of the people inhabiting on the walls talk about the design and patterns seen on costumes. And a dress is a vital clue to the mood and taste of every society, their aesthetic temper, the art and skill to adjust to their social and geographical environment. A tangible flood of architectural details are also exposed. Musical instruments are disclosed in the dancing panels or processions and they can be easily identified as dhol, mridangam, flute, sahnai, horn shaped trumpet and conch shell among others. All of this can be inferred from the paintings on the walls of Ajanta.

Thus, after over a century and a half since comprehensive scholarly studies were first undertaken at Ajanta though much has been irreparably damaged, a few debatable and, in all possibility, misplaced inferences have been drawn, it is through the combined efforts of many artists, archaeologists, historians, conservationists, geologists and antiquarians that the caves of Ajanta with all its grandeur and compassionate attitude continue to enthrall many.




Image Source: Wikipedia

The Vedas are the Oldest scriptures of India and one of the oldest extant texts in the Indo-European languages.

The Atharvaveda is different from other Vedic texts as it contains both hymns and prose passages and is divided into 20 books where the first seven books contain magical prayers for precise purposes: spells for a long life, cures, curses, love charms, prayers for prosperity, charms for kingship and Brahmanhood, and expiations for evil actions. They reflect the religious concerns of everyday life and are on a different level than the Rigveda, which glorifies the great gods and their liturgy.

Books 8–12 contain similar texts but also include cosmological hymns that continue those of the Rigveda and provide a transition to the more-complex speculations of the Upanishads.

Books 13–20 celebrate the cosmic principle, present marriage prayers, funeral formulas, and other magical and ritual formulas.

It is an important source of information for practical religion, particularly where it complements the Rigveda. Many rites are also laid down in the “Kausika-sutra” of the Atharvaveda.


“There is a conscience in Man, a whispering right advice, restraining unjust hands which man has almost succeeded in silencing; but, it is the voice of God; it can never be made dumb. Make the children cognizant of it.”

“Mutual affection only leads to co-operation and peace this propagates happiness and prosperity in the society.”

Strive to move away from untruth towards truth.

On this Earth do I stand, Unvanquished, unslain, unhurt. Set me, O Earth, amidst the nourishing strength That emanates from thy body. The Earth is my mother, Her child am I!

Do not be led by others, Awaken your own mind, Amass your own experience, And decide for yourself your own path.

Supreme Lord, let there be peace in the sky and in the atmosphere. Let there be peace in the plant world and in the forests. Let the cosmic powers be peaceful. Let the Brahman, the true essence and source of life, be peaceful. Let there be undiluted and fulfilling peace everywhere.

Love is the firstborn, loftier than the gods, the Fathers and men.
You, O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty.
To you we pay homage!

Greater than the breadth of earth and heaven, or of waters and Fire,
You, O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty.
To you we pay homage!

In many a form of goodness, O Love, you show your face.
Grant that these forms may penetrate within our hearts.
Send elsewhere all malice!

Our resolve to indulge in good deeds shall definitely yield rich benefits.

One should engage himself in self study to refine his intelligence and to acquire knowledge.

Water is the elixir of life, water contain medicines

The devotee keeps his Beloved clasped tightly to his heart. The fools perform devotional worship by showing off they dance and dance and jump all around, but they only suffer in terrible pain.

One, who earns leadership of the masses by working ceaselessly for people’s welfare finally realizes that he has been rewarded with many added advantages.

Every man should first desire to acquire maximum knowledge, to engage himself in the noblest of deeds, earn social respect, success, fame and prosperity, authority and then act accordingly in order to realize them.

Do not cage God in a picture frame,Do not confine him in an idol,He is all forms He is all Names.

Sincere efforts made for the realization of auspicious resolution never go in vain.Such a person naturally becomes the leader of the masses.

Repent for all the wrongs done and resolve not to repeat the mistake then God will extend His grace.

Do and dedicate, work and worship, plant and protect but do not worry about the fruit that is the secret of spiritual success.

What little man has to accomplish must be done quickly, at the place that is assigned to him and within the time that is allotted to him. And, man has such a formidable task before him; it is to fulfill it that he has come as man, exchanging for this human habitat all the merit he has acquired during many past lives. The task is no less than the manifestation of the Divinity latent in man.

Worship is more for effect, a play acted with the pit in view; there is no sincerity.

When you scatter seeds on the surface of the soil, they do not germinate; you have to keep them inside the soil.

When the mind wavers, loyalty sits light; love disappears; and faction begins.

Life without goodness, good thoughts, good actions and good words is like the sky in the night without the moon or stars. It is like a wheel without a hub or spokes! No one can push a boulder away while standing on it; you cannot be free from anxiety while all the entrances through which it sneaks in are open.

Fame and glory, power and managing capacity, spiritual splendour, nourishment and other means of subsistence belong to him who knows this Divinity as Simple and One





Auroville was born on 28 February 1968 as its founder, the Mother, created the Auroville Charter that consists of four main ideas that underpin her vision for the place, the ideas of which the resident have to apply in their daily life, policy development and decision making. The Charter therefore is an omnipresent referent that guides the people who live and work here.

The Auroville Charter that the All India Radio (AIR) broadcast the Charter in 16 languages when Auroville was inaugurated is as follows:

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

During the inauguration, the youth from 124 different nations and 23 Indian states, deposited a handful of their native soil into the Urn, in the form of a symbolic lotus bud, located in the centre of the Amphitheatre. The original Charter that was written in French by the Mother rests along with this soil, sealed in the Urn, as a message and promise.  

It was in 1954, when the Mother spelled out an alternative formula of a new way to live describing the new society as “balanced, just, harmonious and dynamic.”

she said that somewhere on earth, there should be a place which no nation could claim, where all humans with a sincere aspiration and goodwill could live freely as citizens, obeying the authority of supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where the fighting instincts of man would be used to conquer his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment.

She believed that in that place, children would grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. The titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise; the bodily needs of each one would be equally provided for, and intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority would be expressed in the general organisation not by an increase in the pleasures and powers of life but by increased duties and responsibilities. 

That beauty in all its artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, would be equally accessible to all; the ability to share in the joy it brings would be limited only by the capacities of each one and not by social or financial position.

A place where money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action. 

In short, she wanted it to be a place where human relationships, normally based almost exclusively on competition and strife, would be replaced by relationships of emulation in doing well, of collaboration and real brotherhood.

But at the time she knew that the earth was not ready to realise such an ideal and called it ‘A Dream’. And the earth is certainly not ready to realize such an ideal, for mankind does not yet possess the necessary knowledge to understand and accept it nor the indispensable conscious force to execute it. However, the fact that Auroville is steadily growing, and its residents carry forward her vision and ideal gives hope that this dream is on the way of becoming a reality, though on a small scale. So far, the achievement is far from perfect, it is progressive; little by little advancing towards the goal, which, one day shall be a practical and effective means of coming out of the present chaos of the world and going into a more true and harmonious new life.  

One of the most remarkable concepts of Auroville is its master plan, laid out in form of a galaxy in which several ‘arms’ or Lines of Force seem to unwind from a central region. At the centre is the Matrimandir or the “soul of Auroville,” a place for individual silent concentration. Radiating beyond its gardens are four Zones focusing on important aspects – Industrial, cultural, residential and international. while surrounding the city is a Green Belt, consisting of forested areas, farms and sanctuaries with scattered settlements for those involved in green work. 

Though, the most striking fact is that the Mother said that it should not be turned into a religion because religions are divided. They wanted people to be religious to the exclusion of other religions, and every branch of knowledge has been a failure because it has been exclusive and Auroville wants no divisions.


Bahuchara Mata


Image Source: Wikimedia

Bahuchara Mata is the incarnation of the Mother aspect of Shakti. She is represented as a woman carrying a sword in her bottom left hand, a text of scriptures in her top left hand, the abhay hasta mudra (“showering of blessings”) in her bottom right hand, and a trident in her top right hand who is seated on a rooster, symbolising innocence and subjugation of male power. Even though she is considered to be the patroness of the transgender community, she is also worshipped by women who desire to conceive, or men who are unable to procreate effectively as they seek the blessings of the Goddess to overcome their shortcomings and get back to normalcy (she is the giver of virya or semen to men. She has given potency as a boon to many who were impotent).She is appeased by selfless devotion and stands for non-violence and innocence. Some ardent male devotees go as far as castrating themselves and take to cross dressing to prove their selfless devotion to the Goddess. However, this is a misinterpreted belief and she never asked her followers to castrate, the trans community also believes that to become on of them you have to be born as a person with deformed genetalia. 

Bahuchara’s primary temple, which was built by Sankhal Raj in 1152 CE is located in Becharaji town in Mehsana District of Gujrat. The temple is very important as it is one of the Sidha Shakti Piths. It is believed that Sati’s hands had fallen at this place.

She is believed to have been born in the ‘Charan’ caste of people who are renowned for their honor and commitment to truth. Legend states that once when she was traveling in a caravan along with her sisters, a bandit named ‘Bapiya’ attempted to molest her modesty. However, Bahuchara Devi cut off her breast in an attempt to deter the bandit. She took this step to defend her honor and cursed the bandit with impotency. She asked him to atone for his sin by dressing and behaving like a woman.

Many other stories that surround Bahuchara Mata include –

Arjuna in Mahabharata

After the 12 years of exile, the Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi had to spend an additional year in exile, incognito. Arjuna’s disguise was that of the third gender. Arjuna is supposed to have visited Bahucharaji. It is here that he hid his weapons in a thorny tree called the Sami tree in nearby Dedana village and became what is known as a ‘Brihannala’, a professional dancer and musician trained by ‘gandharvas’ or celestial beings. He transforms himself into a ‘kliba’ at Bahucharaji. On every Dasara day this tree is worshipped, and the ritual is known as ‘Sami-pujan’.

Shikhandi in Mahabharata

Sikhandi was the son of King Drupad and was Princess Amba in his previous birth. He was not a man in the sense of having masculinity. He in despair to attain masculinity to take part in Kurukshetra, as he had to fulfil his wow of killing Bhishma. Dejected, he came to Bahucharaji. In this region lived a Yaksha by the name of Mangal. When the Yaksha saw Sikhandi, who was miserable and crying and pitiful, he asked him what was wrong. Sikhandi told him his story and how he wanted to be a man and avenge the insult heaped on him in his previous birth. Hearing all this, the Yaksha took pity on Sikhandi and decided to trade genders with Sikhandi, till he achieved his objective. It is said that from that day onwards, this place got its importance as a place where lost masculinity can be gained.

Princess Tejpal becoming a Prince

Raja Vajsingh unfortunately was not blessed with a child. When this princess conceived and a child was born in the middle of the night it was a girl child. The queen decided to keep this a secret and conveyed to the king through her maid that she had delivered a boy. The queen always dressed the child, named Tejpal, in male costumes and took all the ladies around in confidence and sustained this secret till the child was married. After marriage, it didn’t take the princess too long to learn that Tejpal was not a man. The princess was very unhappy and returned to her mother’s home. On enquiring she told her mother the truth and the news reached the king. The king decided to find out the truth for himself and sent an invitation to Tejpal, to visit them. When the food was being laid the king of Patan suggested that Tejpal took a royal bath with a rubbing by his choicest of men.

Tejpal was worried at the thought of a bath in the presence of men and when he was forcibly being taken for a bath, he removed his sword and fled on his mare to a dense forest on the outskirts of Patan. Unknown to Tejpal, a bitch had followed him. When they reached the middle of the forest it was evening. Tired and thirsty, Tejpal stopped near a lake (Mansarovar). The bitch jumped into the lake to quench its thirst and came out as a dog. Surprised, Tejpal sent his mare into the water and soon it came out as a horse. He then took off his clothes and jumped into the lake. When he came out all signs of being female had disappeared and he had got a moustache! Tejpal was truly a man now!

Next morning he left the place after he had made a mark on a tree where he constructed a temple and installed an idol in honour of Bahuchara Mata. This Varakhdi tree today is a major place of reverence.

When Bahuchara was Married

Bahuchara was given in marriage to a prince who never spent time with her. Instead, he would go to the jungle every night on his white horse. One night Bahuchara decided to follow her husband and find out why he never came to her. To keep up with his riding pace, she took a rooster and followed her husband into the jungle. There she discovered that her husband would change into a women’s dress and spent the whole night in the jungle behaving like a woman. Bahuchara confronted him; if he was not interested in women, then why did he marry her? The prince begged her forgiveness and said his parents had forced him into marriage so that he could father children. Bahuchara declared that she would forgive him if he and others like him worshipped her as a goddess, dressed as women. From that day onwards transgender people worshipped Bahuchara Mata.


Another important lore concerns a king who prayed before Bahuchara Mata to bless him with a son. Bahuchara complied, but the prince Jetho, who was born to the king, was impotent. One night Bahuchara appeared to Jetho in a dream and ordered him to cut off his genitals, wear women’s clothes and become her servant. Bahuchara Mata identified impotent men and commanded them to do the same. If they refused, she punished them by arranging that during their next seven births they would be born impotent.


Yajur Veda


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The Vedas are the Oldest scriptures of India and one of the oldest extant texts in the Indo-European languages. Among those the Yajurveda is the Veda of mantras for ritual worship datable to roughly 1200-1000BCE. It is a compilation of ritual offering formulas recited by priests during yajnas. 

This veda is broadly grouped into two parts – the “black or “dark” (Krishna) Yajurveda and the “white” or “bright” (Shukla) Yajurveda. Where the terms “black” and “white” imply “the un-arranged, unclear, motley collection of verses” in contrast to the “well arranged, clear verses” respectively. 

The earliest and most ancient layer of Yajurveda samhita includes about 1,875 verses, that are distinct yet borrowed and built upon the foundation of verses in Rigveda. The middle layer includes the Saptapatha Brahmana, one of the largest Brahmana texts in the Vedic collection. The youngest layer of Yajurveda text includes the largest collection of primary Upanishads, influential to various schools of Hindu Philosophy.


“Only actions performed with perseverance can ensure success.”

“Good work done with bad intentions inevitably leads to failure. That is why one should refrain from evil tendencies.”

“We should speak only after our thoughts have been purified and our mind and heart have become pure.”

“Everybody should practice simple and virtuous living . They should never seek recourse to manipulative tendencies.”

“Medicine cure us and give us relief from all type of ailments/diseases provided they are taken on the prescription of an efficient doctor. By taking these medicines one can also escape death which means that they give us a long life.”

“One should indulge only in such deeds that provides good- health and strength so that he can work for longer periods without getting tired.”

“Hatred and anger leads to unhappiness, pain and misery. So, one should always be soft-spoken.”

“Unless we make efforts to destroy our miseries we cannot become wealthy and prosperous.”

“One should work according to ones capabilities and limitations to attain the ‘supreme-bliss’”.

“Truth can not be suppressed and always is the ultimate victor. So, we should tread on the righteous path.”

“You are the one who inspire everybody to do his duty; I am inspired by your ‘inspiration of duty’; You are directly or indirectly involved with each and every action that takes place in this world.”

“One should try to do everything that is required to make the body pure and radiant- regular exercise, self-study, etc. Anybody who does this is blessed with long-life and radiance.”

“Those who lead disciplined and orderly lifestyles they achieve all their goals and progress.”

“Attractiveness and magnetism of man’s personality is the result of his inner radiance.”

“Only a fearless person can work towards self development and can also help in social and political development. Therefore one should fearlessly perform all his duties.”

“Sweet talks has the ability to attract one and all. On the contrary vitriolic speech keeps people away.”

“The ultimate objective of human life is to be free from sin.”

“Good thoughts naturally culminates into good actions.”

“Speech emanating from a pure heart and mind of learned men and scholars are naturally pure just like water of a river.”

“We should imbibe inspiring thoughts and should follow the righteous path. If this is done then progress is sure and certain.”

“Knowledge increases with the refinement of intelligence because it becomes easy to grasp knowledge.”

“Good thought can be imbibed by reading and studying good books and by contemplating on them.”

“One should always aspire for increment of strength, food and long life because each of them is dependent on other.”