Mughal Architecture's Impact on India: A Study
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is Mughal architecture?
  2. Features of Mughal architecture
  3. Impact of Mughal architecture on Indian architecture
  4. Mughal architecture and its influence on Indian culture
  5. Notable examples of Mughal architecture in India
  6. Mughal architecture in modern India
  7. Conservation of Mughal architecture
  8. Conclusion: Mughal architecture and its lasting legacy

When you think about India, you might picture colorful festivals, spicy food, and vibrant clothing. But one of the most remarkable things about India is its architecture, particularly the Mughal architecture. This style has influenced the country's aesthetic and cultural landscape in countless ways. In this blog, we're going to explore the fascinating world of Mughal architecture and its influence in India.

What is Mughal Architecture?

Mughal architecture is a unique blend of Islamic, Persian, and Indian architectural styles that flourished in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire, which ran from the early 16th to the mid-19th century. It's one of the most significant chapters in the history of Indian architecture. The Mughals, known for their love of art and architecture, left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of India.

Key elements of Mughal architecture

Mughal architecture is known for its grandeur and intricacy. Here are some of the elements that make it special:

  • Archways: One of the most distinctive features of Mughal architecture is its extensive use of archways. These aren't just ordinary arches — they're often decorated with intricate carvings or inlaid with precious gemstones.
  • Domes: You've probably noticed that many Mughal buildings have large, bulbous domes. These domes, often made of marble or sandstone, are another defining feature of Mughal architecture.
  • Minarets: Minarets, or tall, slender towers, are a common feature in Mughal architecture. They're usually attached to mosques and used for the call to prayer.
  • Decorative Details: Mughal architects paid great attention to detail. Buildings often feature elaborate geometric patterns, floral motifs, and calligraphy.

So, why does Mughal architecture matter, particularly in the context of India? The answer lies in the profound influence it's had on Indian architecture and culture. As we'll see in the next sections, the impact of Mughal architecture in India is far-reaching and still visible today.

Features of Mughal Architecture

Let's take a closer look at these features of Mughal architecture, which have played a big role in shaping the architectural style. Here, we'll break down these features and see just how they've made Mughal architecture so unique and influential in India.

  • Archways: The archways in Mughal architecture are more than just a path from one place to another. They're works of art in their own right. The arches are often horseshoe-shaped or multi-lobed, and feature intricate designs that are a feast for the eyes. Talk about making an entrance!
  • Domes: The domes in Mughal buildings are not just there for show — they serve a purpose. The large, bulbous domes are designed to keep the buildings cool in the hot Indian climate. Moreover, they're often placed in such a way to create a sense of symmetry, which was highly valued in Mughal design.
  • Minarets: Minarets in Mughal architecture are tall and slender, often decorated with stripes or bands of color. They're usually placed at the corners of a building, adding to the overall symmetry. And let's not forget their practical purpose — they're used for the call to prayer in mosques.
  • Decorative Details: Mughal architecture is all about the details. The buildings are often covered in intricate carvings and inlays. These include geometric patterns, floral motifs, and calligraphy. Even a simple wall can become a canvas for beautiful art in Mughal architecture.

These features don't just make Mughal architecture beautiful — they also make it functional. The Mughals were masters of combining form and function to create buildings that were not only pleasing to the eye, but also practical. This is one of the reasons why Mughal architecture has had such a lasting influence in India.

Impact of Mughal architecture on Indian architecture

How did Mughal architecture influence Indian architecture? You might wonder. Well, the impact is far-reaching and still visible today. Let's see how.

  • Introduction of Persian Styles: The Mughal emperors brought with them a love for Persian architectural styles. This led to a fusion of Indian and Persian styles, creating a unique blend that we now recognize as Mughal architecture. This influence can be seen in the use of domes, arches, and minarets, which were not common in Indian architecture before the Mughals.
  • Use of Ornamentation: The Mughals had a flair for the dramatic and this can be seen in their use of ornamentation. They introduced intricate carvings, inlays, and frescoes to Indian architecture. This added a new dimension to Indian buildings, making them not just functional, but also visually appealing.
  • Garden Landscaping: The Mughals were not just about buildings, they also brought with them a love for landscaping. They introduced the concept of the Charbagh, or the four-part garden, to India. This has had a lasting impact on Indian garden design and is still seen in gardens across the country today.
  • Emphasis on Symmetry: Mughal architecture places a big emphasis on symmetry. This was a departure from the more organic and asymmetric designs of traditional Indian architecture. This love for symmetry has made its way into modern Indian architecture as well.

So, while the Mughals may have left India centuries ago, their influence on Indian architecture is still very much alive. You can see it in the domes of temples, the arches of palaces, and the landscaped gardens of public parks. It's a testament to the lasting impact of Mughal architecture in India.

Mughal architecture and its influence on Indian culture

What's fascinating about architecture is that it's not just about buildings and structures—it's also about culture. And Mughal architecture is no different. Let's explore how Mughal architecture influenced Indian culture.

  • Visual Arts: Mughal architecture's rich ornamentation and intricate designs sparked a revolution in Indian visual arts. Artists began to incorporate these intricate patterns and motifs into their work, leading to a distinct visual style that's recognizably 'Mughal'.
  • Literature and Poetry: The grandeur of Mughal architecture found its way into the literature and poetry of the time. Poets and writers were inspired by the beauty of these structures and often used them as metaphors or settings in their work. This added a new layer of depth and richness to Indian literature.
  • Social Gatherings: The Charbagh gardens introduced by the Mughals became popular venues for social gatherings. The garden's design, which included water channels and lush greenery, was symbolic of paradise. These gatherings were not just about leisure—they were also a place for intellectual discussions, poetry recitations, and music performances. This contributed to the growth of a vibrant cultural scene in Mughal India.
  • Spiritual Beliefs: Mughal architecture also impacted spiritual beliefs. The design of religious buildings like mosques and tombs reflected the Mughal's belief in the afterlife, which resonated with many people. This influenced spiritual practices and beliefs in India.

So, Mughal architecture did not just change the face of Indian cities—it also left a deep impression on the culture. From the arts to literature, social practices to spiritual beliefs, Mughal architecture's influence on Indian culture is profound and far-reaching.

Notable examples of Mughal architecture in India

We've talked a lot about the influence of Mughal architecture in India, so let's dive into some specific examples that illustrate this impact. Here are some of the most notable examples:

  • Taj Mahal: No discussion of Mughal architecture would be complete without mentioning the Taj Mahal. Built by Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, this stunning structure is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. The intricate inlay work, domed ceiling, and the use of white marble are representative of the grandeur and finesse of Mughal design.
  • Humayun's Tomb: This is another great example of Mughal architecture. The tomb, built for Emperor Humayun, was the first to use the concept of a garden tomb, which later influenced the design of the Taj Mahal. The combination of red sandstone and white marble, along with the detailed carvings, reflect the Mughal passion for symmetry and balance.
  • Fatehpur Sikri: Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire under Akbar's reign. The city is a showcase of Mughal architecture with its use of geometric patterns, ornate carvings, and large courtyards. It's a testament to the architectural innovation of the Mughal period.
  • Red Fort: The Red Fort in Delhi, another masterpiece created under Shah Jahan, is a grand fort made of red sandstone. It's a perfect example of the blend of Persian, Timurid, and Indian architectural styles, which is a hallmark of Mughal architecture.

These architectural wonders not only stand as a testament to the Mughal Empire's architectural prowess, but they also provide a glimpse into the rich cultural history and heritage of India, shaped significantly by the influence of Mughal architecture.

Mughal architecture in modern India

Now, you might ask, "What about today? Is the influence of Mughal architecture still visible in modern India?" The answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Take a walk around any major city in India, and you're bound to see traces of Mughal architecture. Modern architecture in India has indeed borrowed heavily from Mughal design principles. Let's shed some light on how Mughal architecture continues to shape India's architectural landscape today:

  • Architectural Elements: The use of domes, arches, minarets, and intricate carvings, which were prominent features of Mughal architecture, are still prevalent in modern Indian buildings. Whether it's a government building, a luxurious hotel, or even a shopping mall, you can see these elements adding a touch of Mughal grandeur to the structures.
  • Landscaping: The Mughal love for gardens and landscaping continues to influence modern urban design. City parks often employ the charbagh layout — a quadrilateral garden layout divided by walkways or flowing water into four smaller parts — which was a favorite of the Mughals.
  • Material Use: The Mughals' extensive use of red sandstone and white marble has inspired modern architects to use these materials abundantly. These materials are not just durable, but they also add an aesthetic appeal to the buildings.
  • Symbolism: Mughal architecture is rich in symbolic elements, and this still echoes in modern Indian architecture. Buildings are often designed to symbolize certain concepts or ideas, much like how Mughal monuments were built to symbolize power and grandeur.

So, even though the Mughal Empire ended centuries ago, their architectural influence is still very much alive and visible in modern India. It's a testament to the enduring legacy of Mughal architecture's influence in India.

Conservation of Mughal architecture

Alright, let's switch gears a bit and talk about an equally important topic: the conservation of Mughal architecture in India. The majestic remnants of the Mughal era aren't just historical treasures; they're also a testament to India's rich architectural heritage. But with time, these structures have started showing signs of wear and tear. So, how are we doing when it comes to preserving them?

  • Government Initiatives: The Indian government has taken the lead in preserving Mughal architecture. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), for example, is responsible for the upkeep of many Mughal monuments. They handle tasks like routine maintenance, damage repair, and sometimes even full-scale restorations.
  • Community Involvement: Local communities often participate in conservation efforts too. This is especially true in areas where Mughal structures are part of the local identity. Residents volunteer their time and resources to keep these places intact and appealing.
  • International Aid: It's not just locals who value the preservation of Mughal architecture. Organizations like UNESCO have recognized several Mughal structures as World Heritage Sites. This status often brings international aid and attention to the cause of preservation.
  • Educational Programs: To ensure the long-term preservation of Mughal structures, several institutions have started offering courses in heritage conservation. These programs train the next generation of conservationists who will carry on the work of preserving these architectural marvels.

While preservation efforts have been successful to some extent, there is still a long way to go. With the increasing pressure of urbanization, it's more important than ever to protect the Mughal architecture's influence in India. Because, after all, these structures are not just buildings; they're a part of our shared history and culture.

Conclusion: Mughal architecture and its lasting legacy

Well, we've reached the end of our journey through the world of Mughal architecture in India. It's been an exciting ride, hasn't it? We've seen how the Mughals have left an indelible mark on Indian architecture and culture. But let's take a moment to reflect on what this all means.

By blending different architectural styles, the Mughals created something truly unique. Their influence extends beyond the realm of architecture into the very fabric of Indian culture. The grandeur of Mughal design continues to inspire architects and designers, proving that the Mughal architecture influence in India is far from being a thing of the past.

But these magnificent structures are more than just pretty to look at. They tell the story of a time when India was a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and art forms. They remind us of our rich history and diverse heritage. In many ways, these structures are a physical representation of the multicultural identity of India.

So the next time you find yourself standing in front of a Mughal monument, take a moment to appreciate not just its beauty but also its historical significance. Remember that every dome, arch, and pillar you see is a testament to the Mughal architecture influence in India. It's a legacy that continues to shape our country's architectural landscape and cultural identity.

And on that note, I'll sign off. Remember, preserving these architectural wonders is not just the responsibility of the government or conservationists—it's on all of us. So let's do our part to ensure that the legacy of Mughal architecture continues to inspire generations to come.

If you enjoyed learning about Mughal Architecture and its impact on India, you may be interested in expanding your visual design knowledge. Check out the workshop 'Collecting Visual Design Inspiration on Notion for Designers' by Ansh Mehra. This workshop will help you explore and organize visual inspiration, which can be particularly useful when studying architectural designs and their influences on various cultures.