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Domes of Delhi: A Look at the Indian Architectural Masterpieces

India | News18 | January 2, 2020, 9:45 am
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 This dome from the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque appears under the eastern entrance to the mosque. This is another dome reassembled from Hindu and Jain temple parts. This dome is notable for the four lion faces at the four corners which were not defaced, unlike most other visible human and animal sculptures in the mosque. (Image: Sahapedia)
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This dome from the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque appears under the eastern entrance to the mosque. This is another dome reassembled from Hindu and Jain temple parts. This dome is notable for the four lion faces at the four corners which were not defaced, unlike most other visible human and animal sculptures in the mosque. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque is notable for a profusion of Hindu and Jain temple motifs which appear in the architecture of the various assembled parts of temples which once stood in the Qila Rai Pithora citadel during the Chauhan and Tomar periods. This radial floral design is part of a canopy now located behind the western screen wall. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque is notable for a profusion of Hindu and Jain temple motifs which appear in the architecture of the various assembled parts of temples which once stood in the Qila Rai Pithora citadel during the Chauhan and Tomar periods. This radial floral design is part of a canopy now located behind the western screen wall. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Literally meaning ‘might of Islam’, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was built by the first Sultan of the Mamluk dynasty, Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1192. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Literally meaning ‘might of Islam’, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was built by the first Sultan of the Mamluk dynasty, Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1192. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Alai Darwaza was one of the many additions made by the Khalji rulers to the Qutub Minar complex. This monumental gateway was built by Alauddin Khalji and served as one of the main entrances to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. It is the oldest standing gateway in Delhi with a unique dome that houses a small cupola on top of the larger dome. The gateway built of red sandstone and white marble is extensively decorated with jaali (lattice-screen) patterns, geometric and floral designs.(Image: Sahapedia)
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Alai Darwaza was one of the many additions made by the Khalji rulers to the Qutub Minar complex. This monumental gateway was built by Alauddin Khalji and served as one of the main entrances to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. It is the oldest standing gateway in Delhi with a unique dome that houses a small cupola on top of the larger dome. The gateway built of red sandstone and white marble is extensively decorated with jaali (lattice-screen) patterns, geometric and floral designs.(Image: Sahapedia)

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 Alauddin Khalji built a large Hauz (tank) outside the fortified city, Siri. This was restored by Firoz Shah Tughlaq who built a madarsa complex along its eastern and southern edges, and it came to be known as Hauz Khas (‘royal tank’). He built his own mausoleum in the same complex, integrated with the madarsa. Though the exterior of the tomb is austere, the interior of the dome has beautiful incised stucco work, and a prominent eight-pointed star with medallions incised with verses from the Quran and Hadith. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Alauddin Khalji built a large Hauz (tank) outside the fortified city, Siri. This was restored by Firoz Shah Tughlaq who built a madarsa complex along its eastern and southern edges, and it came to be known as Hauz Khas (‘royal tank’). He built his own mausoleum in the same complex, integrated with the madarsa. Though the exterior of the tomb is austere, the interior of the dome has beautiful incised stucco work, and a prominent eight-pointed star with medallions incised with verses from the Quran and Hadith. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Tughlaq rule was significantly weakened after Timur’s sack of Delhi in 1398. After Timur’s departure, Delhi was ruled in his name by the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), who were displaced by the Pashtun Lodis. The Sayyid Sultans were politically weak and the territories of the Sultanate were vastly reduced. This was reflected in little construction in Delhi. Located inside the Lodi Garden, Mohammed Shah’s tomb is one of the most significant buildings from this period and was completed by his successor in 1444. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Tughlaq rule was significantly weakened after Timur’s sack of Delhi in 1398. After Timur’s departure, Delhi was ruled in his name by the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), who were displaced by the Pashtun Lodis. The Sayyid Sultans were politically weak and the territories of the Sultanate were vastly reduced. This was reflected in little construction in Delhi. Located inside the Lodi Garden, Mohammed Shah’s tomb is one of the most significant buildings from this period and was completed by his successor in 1444. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 An arched veranda surrounds the central chamber of Muhammad Sayyid’s Tomb, which has several cupolas that look like miniature domes, complete with small muqarnas at the corners. The cupolas are made of plaster and decorated with incised motifs. Originally they might have been painted in various colours. (Image: Sahapedia)
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An arched veranda surrounds the central chamber of Muhammad Sayyid’s Tomb, which has several cupolas that look like miniature domes, complete with small muqarnas at the corners. The cupolas are made of plaster and decorated with incised motifs. Originally they might have been painted in various colours. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 The Lodi Garden is named after the Lodis, the tomb of whose second ruler, Sikandar Lodi (r. 1489–1517) was built by his successor Ibrahim Lodi. Built within a high walled enclosure, the tomb is notable for its battlements and fortification. The octagonal tomb stands within a char bagh layout, the first of its kind in Delhi. The inner chamber is surrounded by a veranda of arches with carved sandstone brackets and the interior of the tomb has glazed tile decorations and painted stucco work. (Image: Sahapedia)
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The Lodi Garden is named after the Lodis, the tomb of whose second ruler, Sikandar Lodi (r. 1489–1517) was built by his successor Ibrahim Lodi. Built within a high walled enclosure, the tomb is notable for its battlements and fortification. The octagonal tomb stands within a char bagh layout, the first of its kind in Delhi. The inner chamber is surrounded by a veranda of arches with carved sandstone brackets and the interior of the tomb has glazed tile decorations and painted stucco work. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Bada Gumbad (‘large dome’) in the Lodi Garden could have served as an entrance to the adjoining mosque just as the Alai Darwaza at the Qutub Complex serves as a gateway to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Because the structure is non-religious and built for the public, the interior of the dome is austere and lacks the ornate decorative work seen in the domes of other religious buildings or royal mausolea. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Bada Gumbad (‘large dome’) in the Lodi Garden could have served as an entrance to the adjoining mosque just as the Alai Darwaza at the Qutub Complex serves as a gateway to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Because the structure is non-religious and built for the public, the interior of the dome is austere and lacks the ornate decorative work seen in the domes of other religious buildings or royal mausolea. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Adjoining the Bada Gumbad is the Bada Gumbad mosque, one of the most intricately ornamented mosques from the Lodi period. The motifs are mostly geometric and floral, but also include calligraphed verses from the Quran. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Adjoining the Bada Gumbad is the Bada Gumbad mosque, one of the most intricately ornamented mosques from the Lodi period. The motifs are mostly geometric and floral, but also include calligraphed verses from the Quran. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Inside Mehrauli Archaeological Park are two of Delhi’s best-preserved step wells: Rajon ki Baoli and Gandhak ki Baoli. Rajon ki Baoli would have served as a major source of drinking water for residents of Mehrauli village in the early 16th century. Adjoining it is a mosque and tomb built by one Daulat Khan in 1506. The mosque, though small, has beautiful incised plasterwork in the interiors. The distinct layer of lampblack inside is the result of cooking by encroachers in the past. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Inside Mehrauli Archaeological Park are two of Delhi’s best-preserved step wells: Rajon ki Baoli and Gandhak ki Baoli. Rajon ki Baoli would have served as a major source of drinking water for residents of Mehrauli village in the early 16th century. Adjoining it is a mosque and tomb built by one Daulat Khan in 1506. The mosque, though small, has beautiful incised plasterwork in the interiors. The distinct layer of lampblack inside is the result of cooking by encroachers in the past. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 There are a number of ruins in the Deer Park adjoining the tank at Hauz Khas. The largest of these is the Bagh-e-Alam ka Gumbad, built in 1501 (Lodhi period). The interior of the dome is decorated with incised plasterwork and painted in blue, black and red. A large eight-pointed star is painted across the dome and decorated with calligraphic medallions, similar to the design inside Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s tomb at the neighbouring Hauz Khas madarsa complex. (Image: Sahapedia)
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There are a number of ruins in the Deer Park adjoining the tank at Hauz Khas. The largest of these is the Bagh-e-Alam ka Gumbad, built in 1501 (Lodhi period). The interior of the dome is decorated with incised plasterwork and painted in blue, black and red. A large eight-pointed star is painted across the dome and decorated with calligraphic medallions, similar to the design inside Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s tomb at the neighbouring Hauz Khas madarsa complex. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 This octagonal tomb surrounded by eight chhatris or umbrellas reflects the Lodi-Afghan style. Built by Isa Khan, it serves as a family tomb and has a mosque adjacent to it. Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble at the court of the Sur dynasty (1540–1556) founded by Sher Shah Sur, who forced Humayun to flee India and seek refuge at the court of Shah Tahmasp in Iran. Humayun recaptured Delhi in 1555 but died within a year. His son Akbar commissioned his tomb, incorporating Isa Khan’s tomb and mosque in the complex. (Image: Sahapedia)
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This octagonal tomb surrounded by eight chhatris or umbrellas reflects the Lodi-Afghan style. Built by Isa Khan, it serves as a family tomb and has a mosque adjacent to it. Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble at the court of the Sur dynasty (1540–1556) founded by Sher Shah Sur, who forced Humayun to flee India and seek refuge at the court of Shah Tahmasp in Iran. Humayun recaptured Delhi in 1555 but died within a year. His son Akbar commissioned his tomb, incorporating Isa Khan’s tomb and mosque in the complex. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Isa Khan’s Tomb is built on an octagonal plan, similar to the tombs of Sikandar Lodhi, Adham Khan and Muhammad Shah. These buildings had a raised circumambulatory passage surrounding the central chamber. This passage is covered by cupolas with small squinches at the corners, and decorated with incised stucco work, using geometric designs and floral motifs. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Isa Khan’s Tomb is built on an octagonal plan, similar to the tombs of Sikandar Lodhi, Adham Khan and Muhammad Shah. These buildings had a raised circumambulatory passage surrounding the central chamber. This passage is covered by cupolas with small squinches at the corners, and decorated with incised stucco work, using geometric designs and floral motifs. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 (Image: Sahapedia)
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(Image: Sahapedia)

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 The Qila-i-Kohna Mosque is one of the prominent structures built in Delhi by the short-lived Sur dynasty, founded by a Pashtun general from Bihar, Sher Shah Sur, who captured Delhi in 1540 after defeating Humayun at the Battle of Kannauj. Believed to have been built by Sher Shah Sur in 1541, the mosque lies inside the fortified city of Dinpanah (now called Purana Qila, or ‘old fort’). It is intricately decorated with carvings and calligraphic inscriptions in red sandstone and white marble.(Image: Sahapedia)
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The Qila-i-Kohna Mosque is one of the prominent structures built in Delhi by the short-lived Sur dynasty, founded by a Pashtun general from Bihar, Sher Shah Sur, who captured Delhi in 1540 after defeating Humayun at the Battle of Kannauj. Believed to have been built by Sher Shah Sur in 1541, the mosque lies inside the fortified city of Dinpanah (now called Purana Qila, or ‘old fort’). It is intricately decorated with carvings and calligraphic inscriptions in red sandstone and white marble.(Image: Sahapedia)

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 The interior of the Qila-i-Kohna Mosque has five domed bays. The central dome is the largest and is a fine example of how medieval engineers solved the problem of placing a circular dome on a square base. In this picture is seen the transformation of a square to an octagon at the next level, creating squinches at the corners. The octagon then becomes a 16-sided polygon at the level above and a 32-sided polygon at a higher level before smoothly culminating in the hemispherical shape of the dome. (Image: Sahapedia)
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The interior of the Qila-i-Kohna Mosque has five domed bays. The central dome is the largest and is a fine example of how medieval engineers solved the problem of placing a circular dome on a square base. In this picture is seen the transformation of a square to an octagon at the next level, creating squinches at the corners. The octagon then becomes a 16-sided polygon at the level above and a 32-sided polygon at a higher level before smoothly culminating in the hemispherical shape of the dome. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Humayun’s Tomb is the first major mausoleum built by the Mughals in India and the first to adopt the Persian ‘charbagh’ layout of gardens that was to become the leitmotif of subsequent Mughal architecture. Commissioned by Humayun’s son Akbar and designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, the tomb is built chiefly with red sandstone and white marble. The marble and stone inlay ornamentation used in numerous geometrical and arabesque patterns came to influence the Taj Mahal and Safdarjung’s Tomb. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Humayun’s Tomb is the first major mausoleum built by the Mughals in India and the first to adopt the Persian ‘charbagh’ layout of gardens that was to become the leitmotif of subsequent Mughal architecture. Commissioned by Humayun’s son Akbar and designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, the tomb is built chiefly with red sandstone and white marble. The marble and stone inlay ornamentation used in numerous geometrical and arabesque patterns came to influence the Taj Mahal and Safdarjung’s Tomb. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Quli Khan was the son of Maham Anga, Akbar’s wet nurse. His tomb was built in the early 17th century, and its interior is exquisitely ornamented with intricate and painted plasterwork. In the 1840s, Sir Thomas Metcalfe, the British Resident at the Mughal court, who lived at Metcalfe House north of Shahjahanabad, converted it into a personal retreat where he spent long weekends with European friends and guests. It became popularly known as Dilkusha. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Quli Khan was the son of Maham Anga, Akbar’s wet nurse. His tomb was built in the early 17th century, and its interior is exquisitely ornamented with intricate and painted plasterwork. In the 1840s, Sir Thomas Metcalfe, the British Resident at the Mughal court, who lived at Metcalfe House north of Shahjahanabad, converted it into a personal retreat where he spent long weekends with European friends and guests. It became popularly known as Dilkusha. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 The Red Fort was the official residence of the Mughal Emperors since Shah Jahan built it in 1639–48. It suffered extensive damage during the Uprising of 1857 and the subsequent British occupation of the Fort when large parts of the original buildings were demolished to make way for army barracks. The Naqqar Khana (‘drum house’), survived and now serves as the main gateway to the Diwan-i-Aam. The interior has now been converted to a War Memorial Museum. (Image: Sahapedia)
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The Red Fort was the official residence of the Mughal Emperors since Shah Jahan built it in 1639–48. It suffered extensive damage during the Uprising of 1857 and the subsequent British occupation of the Fort when large parts of the original buildings were demolished to make way for army barracks. The Naqqar Khana (‘drum house’), survived and now serves as the main gateway to the Diwan-i-Aam. The interior has now been converted to a War Memorial Museum. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Qudsia Bagh is a mid–18th-century garden built by Qudsia Begam, chief consort of the Mughal Emperor Muhammed Shah and mother of Emperor Ahmed Shah. Qudsia Bagh was a walled charbagh garden on the banks of River Yamuna north of Shahjahanabad. The garden was heavily damaged during the 1857 Uprising when British troops set up batteries inside to lay siege to Kashmiri Gate and Mori Gate. Only a gateway, baradari and mosque survived. The restored mosque is notable for its extensive stucco ornamentation. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Qudsia Bagh is a mid–18th-century garden built by Qudsia Begam, chief consort of the Mughal Emperor Muhammed Shah and mother of Emperor Ahmed Shah. Qudsia Bagh was a walled charbagh garden on the banks of River Yamuna north of Shahjahanabad. The garden was heavily damaged during the 1857 Uprising when British troops set up batteries inside to lay siege to Kashmiri Gate and Mori Gate. Only a gateway, baradari and mosque survived. The restored mosque is notable for its extensive stucco ornamentation. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1754 as the mausoleum of the Mughal wazir or prime minister, Abdul Mansur Khan, who was bestowed the title of ‘Safdarjung’ (‘foremost in battle’). Safdarjung served under emperors Muhammed Shah and Ahmed Shah, before declaring himself an independent ruler and Nawab of Awadh. He died in Lucknow but his body was brought to Delhi to be interred in this mausoleum, the last major charbagh garden tomb built in Mughal Delhi. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1754 as the mausoleum of the Mughal wazir or prime minister, Abdul Mansur Khan, who was bestowed the title of ‘Safdarjung’ (‘foremost in battle’). Safdarjung served under emperors Muhammed Shah and Ahmed Shah, before declaring himself an independent ruler and Nawab of Awadh. He died in Lucknow but his body was brought to Delhi to be interred in this mausoleum, the last major charbagh garden tomb built in Mughal Delhi. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Safdarjung's Tomb was built by his son Shuja-ud-Daula, and the construction supervised by an Abyssinian architect, Bilal Mohammed Khan. The choice of the site might have been influenced by the proximity of Dargah Shah Mardan in neighbouring Aliganj, which has a preserved footprint of Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, making it sacred to Shias (the sect to which the Nawabs of Awadh belonged). (Image: Sahapedia)
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Safdarjung's Tomb was built by his son Shuja-ud-Daula, and the construction supervised by an Abyssinian architect, Bilal Mohammed Khan. The choice of the site might have been influenced by the proximity of Dargah Shah Mardan in neighbouring Aliganj, which has a preserved footprint of Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, making it sacred to Shias (the sect to which the Nawabs of Awadh belonged). (Image: Sahapedia)

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 Safdarjung's Tomb relied heavily on ornamental stucco work, symbolic of the decline of Mughal fortunes by the mid-18th century. The marble used sparingly was vandalized from older Mughal monuments like Rahim Khan-i-Khanan’s Tomb at Nizamuddin. (Image: Sahapedia)
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Safdarjung's Tomb relied heavily on ornamental stucco work, symbolic of the decline of Mughal fortunes by the mid-18th century. The marble used sparingly was vandalized from older Mughal monuments like Rahim Khan-i-Khanan’s Tomb at Nizamuddin. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 (Image: Sahapedia)
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(Image: Sahapedia)

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 The stucco work inside Safdarjung's Tomb has suffered significant decay and damage over 250 years. In this domed vault inside the entrance gateway, the repair work by conservationists appears like a discoloured strip running along with the original stucco. (Image: Sahapedia)
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The stucco work inside Safdarjung's Tomb has suffered significant decay and damage over 250 years. In this domed vault inside the entrance gateway, the repair work by conservationists appears like a discoloured strip running along with the original stucco. (Image: Sahapedia)

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 This beautifully painted ceiling is in the sanctum of the temple in Naughara Street, Kinari Bazaar off Chandni Chowk. It is one of the many Jain temples of Shahjahanabad. Small, but exquisitely detailed, they were built by Jain merchants and bankers who served as financiers to the Mughals and later the British. Built in the late 18th century, the temple shows influences from Mughal architecture. The ceiling has depictions of dancers, musicians and women dressed in fine garments and jewellery.(Image: Sahapedia)
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This beautifully painted ceiling is in the sanctum of the temple in Naughara Street, Kinari Bazaar off Chandni Chowk. It is one of the many Jain temples of Shahjahanabad. Small, but exquisitely detailed, they were built by Jain merchants and bankers who served as financiers to the Mughals and later the British. Built in the late 18th century, the temple shows influences from Mughal architecture. The ceiling has depictions of dancers, musicians and women dressed in fine garments and jewellery.(Image: Sahapedia)

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 The Qutub Minar has been subjected to many shocks and subsequent repairs over its long history. When it was damaged by lightning in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlaq added two storeys. After an earthquake in 1803 destroyed its crowning cupola, Major Robert Smith installed a red sandstone cupola whose incongruity was severely criticized. It was removed in 1848 and now stands on the south-east corner of the Qutub complex. Unlike other cupolas in Delhi, it has an oculus, a central opening for rain and sunlight. (Image: Sahapedia)
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The Qutub Minar has been subjected to many shocks and subsequent repairs over its long history. When it was damaged by lightning in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlaq added two storeys. After an earthquake in 1803 destroyed its crowning cupola, Major Robert Smith installed a red sandstone cupola whose incongruity was severely criticized. It was removed in 1848 and now stands on the south-east corner of the Qutub complex. Unlike other cupolas in Delhi, it has an oculus, a central opening for rain and sunlight. (Image: Sahapedia)

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