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The Mughal Empire – Science and Technology

Science and Technology

  • The Madrasas continued to be concerned principally with Muslim theology and its vast literature.
  • In great learning centres like Varanasi, astrology was taught and there was no institution in India, as noted by the French traveller Bernier, to the standards of colleges and universities in Europe.
  • This made the imparting of scientific subjects almost impossible.
  • Attention was, however, given to mathematics and astronomy.
  • Akbar’s court poet Faizi translated Bhaskaracharya’s famous work on mathematics, Lilavati. Despite the presence of Europeans, there was no influence of them on the Indian society during the Mughal period.
  • The method of water-lift based on pindrum gearing known as Persian wheel had been introduced during Babur’s time.
  • A complicated system of water lift by a series of gear-wheels had been installed in Fatehpur Sikri.
  • Akbar was also credited with popularizing the device of cooling water using saltpetre.
  • He is also the first known person in the world to have devised the ‘ship’s camel’, a barge on which the ship is built to make it easier for the ship to be carried to the sea.
  • Some mechanical devices like the screw for tightening, manually driven belt-drill for cutting diamonds were in use.
  • Agricultural tools continued to be the same, made entirely of wood.
  • In metallurgy, the inability to produce cast iron remained an obvious drawback.
  • As Irfan Habib observed, ‘India’s backwardness in technology was obvious when the matchlock remained the most common weapon in Indian armies.
  • In Europe the flintlock had long come into use.
  • Indians continued to use the expensive bronze cannon, long after these had become obsolete in Europe.
  • This was because of India’s inability to make cast iron even in the seventeenth century.’


  • Architectural progress during the Mughals is a landmark in world art.
  • Mughal buildings were noted for the massive structures decorated with bulbous domes, splendorous minarets, cupolas in the four corners, elaborate designs, and pietra dura (pictorial mosaic work).
  • The mosques built during the time of Babur and Humayun are not of much architectural significance.
  • The Sur dynasty left behind a few spectacular specimens in the form of the Purana Qila at Delhi, and the tombs of Sher Shah and Islam Shah at Sasaram in Bihar.
  • The Purana Qila with a raised citadel and the tombs on a terraced platform surrounded by large tanks were novel features.
  • During Akbar’s reign, Humayun’s tomb was enclosed with gardens and placed on a raised platform.
  • Built by Indian artisans and designed by Persian architects it set a pattern to be followed in the future.
  • The Agra fort built with red sandstone is a specimen where Rajput architectural styles were also incorporated.
  • The new capital city of Akbar Fatehpur Sikri enclosed within its walls several inspiring buildings.
  • The magnificent gateway to Fatehpur Sikri, the Buland Darwaza, built by Akbar with red sandstone and marble is considered to be a perfect architectural achievement.
  • The mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra near Agra started by Akbar and completed by Jahangir includes some Buddhist architectural elements.
  • The tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, father of Nurjahan, built by Jahangir was the first Mughal building built completely with white marble.
  • Mughal architecture reached its apex during the reign of Shah Jahan.
  • The Taj Mahal is a marble structure on an elevated platform, the bulbous dome in the centre rising on a recessed gateway with four cupolas around the dome and with four free-standing minarets at each of its corners is a monument of universal fame.
  • The Red Fort in Delhi, encompassed by magnificent buildings like Diwan-i Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Moti Mahal and Hira Mahal reflect the architectural skills of the times of Shah Jahan.
  • The Moti Masjid inside the Agra Fort made exclusively of marble, the Jama Masjid in Delhi, with its lofty gateway, series of domes and tall and slender minarets are the two significant mosques built by Shah Jahan.
  • He also established a new township, Shahjahanabad (present-day Old Delhi) where Red Fort and Jama Masjid are located.
  • Aurangzeb’s reign witnessed the construction of Badshahi mosque in Lahore and the marble tomb of Rabia ud daurani, known as Bibi-ka-maqbara (Tomb of the Lady) at Aurangabad.
  • The Shalimar Gardens of Jahangir and Shah Jahan are showpieces of Indian horticulture.
  • Apart from the many massive structures, the Mughals contributed many civil works of public utility, the greatest of them being the bridge over the Gomati river at Jaunpur.
  • The most impressive feat is the West Yamuna Canal which provided water to Delhi.
  • Mughal architecture influenced even temple construction in different parts of the country.
  • The temple of Govind Dev at Vrindavan near Mathura and Bir Singh’s temple of Chaturbhuj at Orchchaa (Madhya Pradesh) display Mughal influence.


  • The Mughals achieved international recognition in the field of painting.
  • Mughal miniatures are an important part of the museums of the world.
  • Ancient Indian painting traditions kept alive in provinces like Malwa and Gujarat along with the central Asian influences created a deep impact in the world of painting.
  • The masters of miniature painting, Abdu’s Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, who had come to India from Central Asia along with Humayun inspired Indian painters.
  • The primary objective of painting was to illustrate literary works.
  • The Persian text of Mahabharata and Akbar Namah were illustrated with paintings by various painters.
  • Daswant and Basawan were famous painters of Akbar’s court.
  • European painting was introduced in Akbar’s court by Portuguese priests.
  • During Jahangir’s time portrait painting and the painting of animals had developed.
  • Mansur was a great name in this field.
  • The great Dutch painter Rembrandt was influenced by Mughal miniatures.
  • While Shah Jahan continued the tradition of painting, Aurangzeb’s indifference to painting led to dispersal of the painters to different parts of the country and thereby led to promotion of painting in the provinces.

Music and Dance

  • According to Ain-i-Akbari, Tansen of Gwalior, credited with composing of many ragas, was patronised by Akbar along with 35 other musicians.
  • Jahangir and Shah Jahan were patrons of music.
  • Though there is a popular misconception that Aurangzeb was against music, a large number of books on Indian classical music were written during his regime.
  • His queens, princes and nobles continued to patronise music.
  • The later Mughal Muhammad Shah was instrumental in inspiring important developments in the field of music.
  • Paintings in Babur Namah and Padshah Namah depict woman dancing to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

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