Art and Architecture of Jaunpur Sultanate

Understanding the Art and Architecture of Jaunpur Sultanate

The Jaunpur Sultanate was an unconventional Islamic state in northern India from 1394 to 1479. Its rulers reigned from Jaunpur in the present day state of Uttar Pradesh. The Jaunpur Sultanate was overpowered by the Sharqi dynasty. The Khwajah-i-Jahan Malik Sarwar, the first ruler of the dynasty was a wazir under Sultan Nasiruddin Muhammad Shah IV Tughluq from the year 1390 to 1394. In the year 1394, in the middle of the breaking down of the Delhi Sultanate, he established himself as an independent ruler of Jaunpur and expanded his reign over Awadh and a large part of the Ganges-Yamuna Doab and replaced much of the Delhi Sultanate. The dynasty which was discovered by him was named so because of his title Mālik-us-Śarq, meaning the ruler of the East. Ibrahim Shah was known to be the most prominent ruler of the dynasty.

Art and Achitecture

The Sharqi rulers of Jaunpur were known for their contribution to learning and architecture. Jaunpur was known as the Shiraz of India during this period. One of the most noteworthy examples of Sharqi style of architecture in Jaunpur are the Atala Masjid, the Lal Darwaza Masjid and the Jama Masjid. Though, the foundation of the Atala Masjid was laid by Firuz Shah Tughluq in the year 1376. Its construction got completed only during the reign of Ibrahim Shah in the year 1408. Another masjid, the Jhanjhiri Masjid was also created by Ibrahim Shah in in the year 1430. The Lal Darwaja Masjid (1450) was established during the rule of the next ruler Mahmud Shah. The Jama Masjid was built in 1470, during the reign of the last ruler Hussain Shah.

The dynasty of Malik-ush-Sharq was called the Sharqi dynasty. Under the Sharqi monarchs, Jaunpur became an important centre of Islamic art, architecture and learning, a university town known as ‘Shiraz-i-Hind’ after the city of Shiraz in Iran. The design patterns were mainly made under Sultan Shams-ud-Din Ibrahim. Now, let’s take a glimpse at some of the main building.

Atala Masjid

Atala Masjid was created by Shams-ud-Din Ibrahim in A.D. 1408 on the foundation established by Firuz Shah Tughlaq 30 years before. This remarkable monument was built on the site of the Atala Devi temple whose materials along with those of other temples were all utilised while it was getting builded, provided the model on which all future masjids of the style would be based. The masjid consisted of a square courtyard of 177′ side with cloisters on 3 sides and the sanctuary on the fourth (western) side. Entire masjid is a square of 258′ side.

Khalis Mukhlis Masjid

This monument of great prominence was built to the order of two governors of the city, Malik Khalis and Malik Mukhlis in A.D. 1430. It was structured on the same principles as the Atala Masjid. It is also a fine structure with little to no ornament to relieve its simplicity.

Jhangiri Masjid

Jhangiri Masjid was made in A.D. 1430. Only the central part of the front appearance has been left standing. The fine screen-like appearance of the arched pylon gives it its name. The entrance, instead of being arched, is resolved into an arcade with three openings on the pillar, along with its beam and bracket principles.

Lal Darwaza Masjid

This was established by Bibi Raja in A.D. 1450. Built as almost a similar piece of the Atala Masjid, except for the fact that it was about 2/3rd in size and the location of the zenana chamber is located at the central area, adjoining the nave, instead of adjoining it to the ends of the transepts. The courtyard is a square 132′ side. Due to the smaller size, only the central pylon in the sanctuary front has been created, the smaller side pylon being left out. The gateways follow the patterns and styles of the sanctuary entrance. The Masjid gets its name from the high gate painted with vermilion through which it was brought from the palace it was attached to.

Jami Masjid At Jaunpur

It was built by Husain Shah in A.D. 1470. It has been influenced by many of the remarkable features of the Atala Masjid on a bigger scale. The entire architecture is raised on a plinth 16′-20′ in height and approached by a steep but imposing flight of steps.


This dissertation evaluates and measures the role of architectural patronage, production, and documentation in the formulation of a new polity under the Sharqī sultans of Jaunpur (796–884/1394–1479).

At the center of this inquiry lies the Atala Masjid, the first architectural structure created under independent Sharqi rule, and the standard model for masjids which in the due course was built in the capital city of Jaunpur and the broader Sharqi domain.

Although the masjid has been built throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century’s as the mere product of materials looted from a Hindu temple formerly occupying its site, this work presents archaeological and epigraphic proofs to not only suggest that the masjid was built from new materials, but also that its indigenousness and artisanship were central to the articulation of a new Sharqi identity.

This work unites as a close examination of the formal, symbolic, and artisanal formation of the new Sharqi Masjid with a fine detailed analysis of the inscriptional proof existing from the period of transition from Tughluq to Sharqi hegemony in the Gangetic Plains region.

The presentation as well as the analysis of previously sites and inscriptions in the region, not only from the era of Sharqi rule, but also from the previous century, reveals the dialectic relationship between culture and polity in a period of dramatic historical change. It suggests that in two highly constructed languages, that is, the image and the word, the transition from one polity to the next was disclosed in conscious deviations from standard rhetorical strategies.

Therefore, through the investigation of multiple facets of architectural production, this article gives us a new insight into the mechanisms by which the altered political landscape of post-Tughluq India was manifested into the emergence of distinctive regional cultures.


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