The traditions in the fields of architecture, painting, literature, and music, which had been created during the Mughal period set a norm and deeply influenced the succeeding generations.
Because of having wonderful cultural development, the Mughal period can be called as the second classical age after the Gupta age (of northern India).
During the Mughal period, the cultural development (of India), amalgamated with the Turko-Iranian culture brought to the country by the Mughals.
The Mughals built magnificent forts, palaces, gates, public buildings, mosques, baohs (water tank or well), etc. Besides, they also constructed formal gardens with running water.
Use of running water even in the palaces and in the pleasure resorts was a special feature of the Mughals.
Babur was very fond of gardens and hence he constructed a few in the neighborhood of Agra and Lahore.
Some of the Mughal gardens, such as the Nishat Bagh garden (in Kashmir), the Shalimar Bagh (in Lahore), the Pinjore garden (in Chandigarh) etc. can be seen even today.
Sher Shah also had given a new stimulus to the Indian architecture. His famous mausoleum at Sasaram (Bihar) and his mosque in the old fort at Delhi are considerable examples of architectural marvels.
Akbar was the first Mughal ruler who had the time and means to undertake construction on a large scale. He built a series of forts, the most famous of which is the fort at Agra. Agra fort was built of red sandstone, which had many magnificent gates.
In 1572, Akbar commenced a palace-comfort complex at Fatehpur Sikri (36 kilometers from Agra), which was completed in eight years.
The climax of fort building was reached at Delhi with the construction of Lal Qila (Red Fort) by Shah Jahan.
The Gujarat style of architecture was used most widely in the palace built probably for the Rajput wife or wives.
Persian or Central Asian influence can be seen in the glazed blue tiles used for decoration in the walls or for tiling the roofs.
One of the most magnificent constructions was the Buland Darwaza (Lofty Gate), which was constructed in 1576 at Fatehpur Sikri to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat.
By the end of Jahangir’s reign, the practice of constructing buildings entirely of marble and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones began.
The particular method of decoration, popular as ‘pietra dura,’ became more popular under Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan used this technique while constructing the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is a great example of Mughals’ architecture, which brought together all the architectural forms developed by the Mughals in a very pleasing manner.
Humayun’s tomb built at Delhi (during Akbar’s reign), has a massive dome of marble; normally, it is considered as a precursor of the Taj Mahal.
The chief glory of the Taj Mahal is the massive dome and the four slender minarets linking the platform to the main building.
Mosque-building also reached its climax under Shah Jahan, the two most noteworthy mosques are −
The Moti Masjid (at the Agra fort): It is built (like the Taj Mahal) entirely of marble, and
The Jama Masjid (at Delhi): It is built of red sandstone.
The Mughal architectural traditions based on a combination of Hindu and Turko-Iranian forms along with decorative designs were continued during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Mughal traditions influenced the palaces and forts of many provincial and whole kingdoms.
The Golden Temple (of the Sikhs), located at Amritsar (in Punjab), was built on the arch and dome principle and incorporated many features of the Mughal traditions of architecture.
The Mughals made a distinctive contribution in the field of painting. They introduced many new themes portraying the court, battle grounds, and the chase scenes. Besides, Mughal painters also introduced many new colors and new forms.
The Mughal painters had created a living tradition of painting, which continued to work in different parts of the country even after the disappearance of Mughal glory.
After the eighth century, the tradition seems to have decayed, but palm-leaf manuscripts and illustrated Jain texts from the thirteenth century onwards indicated that the tradition had not died.
Humayun had taken two master painters, into his service who accompanied him to India.
During the Akbar’s reign, the two great painters (who came India with Humayun), organized painting in one of the imperial establishments. Besides, a large number of painters from different parts of the country were invited; many of them were from the lower castes.
From the beginning, both Hindus and Muslims painters joined in the work. Jaswant and Dasawan both were the famous painters of Akbar’s court.
Over a period of time, the painting school developed fairly and became a celebrated center of production.
Apart from illustrating Persian books of stories, the painters were soon assigned the task of illustrating the Persian text of the Mahabharata the historical work, Akbar Noma, and many others.
Mughal painting was at climax under Jahangir’s period who had a very peculiar sense of paintings. During those days, it was a fashion in the Mughal School that in a single painting – the face, the body, and the feet of a person to be painted by different artists.
Some of the historians claimed that Jahangir had the sense to distinguish the work of each artist separately in a picture.
During Jahangir’s period, special progress was made in portrait painting and paintings of animals. Mansur was the great name in this field.
The Rajasthan style of painting combined the themes and earlier traditions of western India or Jain school of painting with Mughal forms and styles.
In addition to hunting and court scenes, Rajasthan style of paintings also illustrated paintings on mythological themes, such as the romance of Krishna with Radha, or the Barah-masa (it is the seasons, or Ragas (melodies).