08 March 2009

VCUQatar Presents ‘Islamic Architecture of Conquest: Mosques and Tombs in India’

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar presents a lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Schotten Merklinger entitled ‘Islamic Architecture of Conquest: Mosques and Tombs in India’ on 11, March 2009 at 7:30 PM in the Atrium in VCUQatar. The lecture is open to the public.

The Mughals ruled a united north India for over three centuries, but the roots of the glorious monuments they built are found in earlier provincial or sultanate styles of architecture. During the pre-Mughal centuries several provincial styles of architecture developed, some of great importance and originality such as Gujarat and Mandu. Many factors influenced these regional styles the most important of which being the indigenous arts prevailing in the region prior to Islam. Dr. Merklinger’s lecture will look at Islamic architecture in India falling into three broad phases.

To the first belong the monuments erected by the five Muslims dynasties which ruled Delhi from the assumption of power by Qutb al-Din Aybak 1206 until the Mughal conquest. New cities built in the Tughluq period like Daulatabad, Hissar and Jaunpur, spread the Delhi Sultanate style beyond the capital. The new Muslim provinces declared their independence and formed the second phase known as provincial or sultanate architecture. To the third phase belong the monuments of the Mughal emperors, who, by the end of the sixteenth century had united northern India, finally conquering the last independent provincial sultanates, Bijapur and Golkonda in the Deccan in 1686-1687.

Each provincial style is a synthesis between the opposing spiritual and aesthetic concepts faced by the early Muslims in India. Nowhere else in the Islamic world was the clash of values more pronounced. But it is precisely these counteracting forces which released the enormous energy that resulted in the construction of the splendid monuments of the Mughal age.

Dr. Merklinger is an art and architectural historian and a frequent university and museum lecturer. She has taught at a number of universities in North America and Europe and has been a broadcaster and producer of radio documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She has also been a curator at the National Gallery of Canada and has conducted research at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. In addition to lecturing and writing, she has been working on cultural and development projects for organizations such as the World Bank and Canadian International Development Agency in a number of countries in the Caucasus, Asia and Central America. Dr. Merklinger holds BA and MA degrees from Cambridge University (UK) and a PhD in History and Architectural History from Delhi University, India. She is the author of a number of scholarly publications including two books on Islamic architecture, Sultanate Architecture of Pre-Mughal India (2005) and Indian Islamic Architecture: The Deccan (1981).

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