Volume 61 Number 3, March 2010
Silent Splendour: Palaces of the Deccan, 14th–19th centuries (Reprint 2011)
|Specifications:||148 pages, 118 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
This book examines the private and ceremonial structures found in the principal dynastic capitals and administrative centres of the Deccan during the 14th–19th centuries. The Indo-Islamic courtly cultures of the different dynasties that ruled the Deccan, with their surrounding garden areas and water resources, have been considered as one entity for the first time. The authors provide much new data and interpretations based on recent research.
Helen Philon founder and former curator of the Department of Islamic Art at the Benaki Museum, Athens, is a freelance Islamic art historian.
Daulatabad, Gulbarga, Firuzabad, and Sagar under the Early Bahmanis (1347–1422)
Bidar under the Later Bahmanis and Baridis (1432–1619)
Ahmadnagar under the Nizam Shahis (1496–1636)
Bijapur under the Adil Shahis (1490–1686)
Golconda and Hyderabad under the Qutb Shahis (1495–1687)
Daulatabad and Aurangabad under the Mughals (1660–1707)
Hyderabad under the Asaf Jahis (1724–1950)
Alison Mackenzie Shah
Hydraulic Works and Gardens
After a historical outline that will examine the local as well as the international cultural, political, and commercial environment of the period the author introduces the courtly buildings to be discussed in the following chapters by exploring the art historical, literary, and physical antecedents of these structures, many of which dominate the courtly architecture of the Deccan.
This chapter discusses the fortifications built by Deccani Sultanates and their ceremonial and strategic importance. Tracing antecedents of fortifications at different centres of power, Klaus Rötzer enumerates the various transformations of these structures through injection of external influences and appropriation of existing, local forms. The primary function of the forts were to address the need for security, but also acted as a reminder to the outside world of the wealth and power of the sultans.
This chapter approaches the early Bahmanis and the establishment of the Deccani Sultanate architecture. It looks at different facets of the Bahmani style of construction and its influence on latter developments in the Deccan on the later Bahmanis and the successor states. Helen Philon examines the structures from the physical as well as the philosophical reasons for building them in particular styles.
Bidar under the later Bahmanis and the Baridis represented a new level in the development of Deccani architecture and town planning. Courtly structures were surrounded by newer garden styles and water began to play an important role in the overall design. While the Baridis built smaller structures than their predecessors, their buildings are better preserved. Helen Philon points out that while the Bahmanis moved their capital from Gulbarga to Bidar they also changed their architectural influence from the Tughluq style to a blend of local styles with styles from Western and Central Asian Islamic centres.
Ahmadnagar occupies a unique position in the history of Deccani architecture. Little has been written on sultanate structures, mostly as a result of a dearth of written sources and few surviving structures. Unlike many Sultanates of the Deccan, the Nizam Shahs build their royal structures exclusively in the suburbs, leaving the cities at the mercy of fragmented court nobility. Ahmadnagar drew influences from the Bahmanis, Persia, and pre-existing influences, often surrounding structures with gardens and water bodies. Besides the existing evidence, Pushkar Sohoni has built an account of Ahmadnagar's architecture using several recently discovered private palaces in the cities vicinity.
The royal structures of the Adil Shah Sultans of Bijapur contain some of the best preserved structures in the Deccan. Surrounding massive quadrangles in urban Bijapur and its short lived twin city Nauraspur, these structures illustrate a gradual refining of the architectural style from Bijapur to Nauraspur. Mark Brand uses ceremonial elements of the structures to point out the influence of mystical cults and subject-royal relationships on the layout of Adil Shahi buildings.
The palace structures in Golconda are not well preserved. It is a labyrinth of fallen walls, vaults, and domes. Despite this derelict state the monumental scale of these buildings is evident. A series of enclosures lead from the public to the more private apartments exactly as in Bidar. Tanks and a highly sophisticated hydraulic system raised the water to the reception hall located on the top of the hill with amazing views of the surrounding area.
By the end of the 17th century most of the Deccan was incorporated as a province into the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb spent most of the later years of his reign fighting wars against the Marathas, trying to consolidate the Mughal hold on the region. For much of this time he was based in Aurangabad, the city that he renamed, and which served as the second capital of the empire. Though in the end Aurangzeb was not entirely successful, Mughal ideas of courtly ceremony and architecture were nonetheless introduced into the Deccan, as can be seen in the surviving palace structures in Aurangabad and Hyderabad.
The Asaf Jahis of Hyderabad were a relatively recent power in the Deccan. Established and thriving during British Imperial rule, the Asaf Jahi palaces were largely influenced by European architectural styles. Large palatial structures to facilitate horse racing and hunting trips to hill stations such as Ooty to Falaknuma castle in Hyderabad were used as a means to influence the politics of the Deccan and to entertain and enamour European travellers. Alison Mackenzie Shah goes beyond the dramatic change from Western Islamic-influenced architecture to a more European style and looks largely at their ability to create political influence during the days of the Raj.
Gardens and water features were an important part of the layout of Deccani structures for the various Sultanate rulers. Water scarcity in the region became a cause for the sultan to prove legitimacy for his rule by being able to manipulate water resources throughout the year outside of the brief monsoon period. The ability to maintain gardens was seen as proof that water management was at its optimum. Large, innovative structures were built and elaborate building plans were made to ensure that both water and gardens became part of the features that defined a Deccani palace.
The structures of the Bahmanis as well as of their successor states were adorned with various architectural decorations that were originally influenced by Tughluq styles and eventually appropriated Western and Central Asian styles as well as those of the older Yadavas. Decorations in plaster, woodwork, carved stone, and glazed tilework adorn all the structures of the Deccani sultanates, though not all examples from every corner survive. In addition to this several murals are also discussed.
The 37 plans are based on detailed knowledge of the terrain, building techniques, and hydraulic systems distinguishing the geology of the Deccan plateau. They are an important contribution in furthering our understanding of Deccani architecture.