Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cultural Development under the Delhi Sultanate


The Turks initially used the materials from temples to build their earliest mosques. Later, they started building on their own.

Arch and dome
They introduced the use of the arch and dome in India. This was made possible by the stronger cement that they used. They could therefore build bigger and stronger buildings,

They used flower and geometric motifs to decorate their buildings. Verses from the Quran would also be inscribed on the buildings in beautiful calligraphy

Qutbuddin Aibak started the construction of the Qutb Minar, and the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. These were completed by Iltutmish.

The Khalji rulers built a new capital called Siri, which is now part of Delhi. They also built he Alai Darwaza near the Qutb Minar. Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad Tughluq built the fort-palace called Tughluqabad. Firuz Tughluq built the Firuz Shah Kotla and the Haus Khas.

The Lodis started the practice of building on platforms and placing tombs in the midst of gardens.


The Sufis
The Sufis were Muslim mystics with deep devotion to God, leading simple lives, and emphasizing love between God and his followers. They were very influential. Sufis were organized into several silsilahs, or orders. Each silsilah would be led by the Sufi mystic-teacher (pir) with his disciples (murid), who lived in a khanqah.

Sufi ideas about love and devotion were very similar to those of the Bhakti sects among Hindus. They also followed practices such as penances, fasts, and holding of the breath, which are similar to those followed by Buddhist and Hindu yogis.

The Chishti silsilah: Among the famous Sufis were Khwaja Muinuddin Chisthti, who lived in Ajmer. One of his disciples was Fariuddin Ganj-i-Shakar, whose poetry is included in the Adi-Granth of the Sikhs. Nizamuddin Auliya and Nasiruddin Chirag-i-Dehli were other popular Sufi mystics. They used the common language and mingled with people of all backgrounds. Malik Muhammad Jaisi composed his works in Hindi.

The Suharwardi silsilah: They lived in Punjab and Multan. The most famous were Shihabuddin Suharwardi and Hamiduddin Nagori.

Some Sufis like Ibn-i-Arabi seem to have been influenced by the Vaishnavite Bhakti movement.

The Bhakti movement
The roots of the Bhakti movement lay in the Vedas, but bhakti, or devotion to God, came to be considered one of the recognized roads to salvation around the early centuries in the Christian era.

The earliest Bhakti saints were the Saiva nayanars and the Vaishavite alvars who lived in southern India between the seventh and twelfth centuries. They preached personal devotion to God and disregarded caste rigidities.

In northern India, Namadeva of Maharashtra, and Ramananda of Banaras were well-known Bhakti saints. Like the Sufis, they used the local language and mixed with people of all backgrounds.

Kabir (generally placed in the 1400s) is considered one of the Bhakti saints who preached a synthesis of Islam and Hinduism. He considered formal rituals unnecessary, and disregarded caste restrictions. The followers of Kabir are called the Kabir Panthis.

The Vaishnavites
Part of the Bhakti movement developed around devotion to Rama and Krishna, incarnations of Vishnu. Poets like Chaitanya (Bengal), Narsinha Mehta (Gujarat), Meera (Rajasthan) and Surdas (UP) belonged to this school.

They believed in the unity of God and the creation (vedantic monism), love and beauty.


Sanskrit literature
This continued to flourish. Ramanuja wrote his books on philosophy in Sanskrit. For the first time, some of these were also written on paper. The oldest texts of the Ramayana and Mahabharata on paper belong to the eleventh century. Several book on poetry and law (dharmashastras) were also written.

Arabic and Persian literature
The Turks who came to India were influenced by Persian culture. Two of the most famous Persian writers of this period are Firdausi and Amir Khusrau. Amir Khusrau was born in the present Uttar Pradesh and wrote about the beauty of and his love for India. He was also a musician.

Historians who wrote in Persian include Aiauddin Barani, Afif and Isami.

Under Firuz Tughluq, several Sanskrit works were translated into Persian.

While Tamil goes back to the ancient period, several modern Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali developed in this age.

But Persian and Sanskrit were the languages of government and administration.


New instruments like the rabab and sarangi came to India from Arabia. Amir Khusrau blended the Indian and west Asian styles of music, and is said to have invented the sitar and the tabla. The sultans were patrons of music.

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