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Uttar Pradesh in one of the most ancient cradles of Indian culture. While it is true that no Harappa and Mohan-Jodaro have been discovered in the State, the antiquities found in Banda (Bundelkhand), Mirzapur and Meerut link its History to early Stone Age and Harappan era. Chalk drawings or dark red drawings by primitive men are extensively found in the Vindhyan ranges of Mirzapur districts. Utensils of that age have also been discovered in Atranji-Khera, Kaushambi, Rajghat and Sonkh. Copper articles have been found in Kanpur, Unnao, Mirzapur, Mathura and advent of the Aryans in this State. It is most probable that snapped links between the Indus Valley and Vedic civilizations lie buried under the ruins of ancient sites found in this State.

The Mauryan Period

With the emergence of the Mauryans in 3rd century B.C., a new chapter was opened in the history of Art. It is said that Ashok visited Sarnath and Kushinagar and had personally ordered for construction of Stupas and Viharas at these two sacred places. Their traces have disappeared but the remnants of stone pillars found at Sarnath, Allahabad, Merut, Kausambi, Sankisa and Varanasi give us an idea of the excellence of Mauryan Art. All the Ashokan pillars have been built with Chunar stones. The Lion Capital of Sarnath is without doubt and excellent specimen of Mauryan ARt. Writes the famous historian Vincent Smith, 'It would be difficult to find in any country an example of ancient animal sculpture, superior or even equal to this artistic expression of Sarnath, because it successfully combines realistic treatment with idealistic dignity and every detail has Come out with utmost perfection.' Mathura was another important centre of Art in the Mauryan Period. Colossal sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshinis have been found in the district Parkham, Borada and Jhing-ks-nagar and certain other places. All these represent contemporary folk art. There was considerable artistic activity in Uttar Pradesh during Shung-Satvahan Period. A large number of architectural and other fragments found in the ruins of Sarnath tell us the story of buildings, etc. built during this period. The remains of a semi-circular temple of this period is now represented only by its foundation wall, During those days mathura was a prominent centre of Bharhut-Sanchi School of Art. Several important specimens of this schools have been found here.

The Art of Mathura

The Mathura Schools of Art reached its pinnacle during the Kushan Period. The Most important work of this period is the anthromorphic image of the Buddha who was hitherto represented by certain symbols. The artists of Mathura and Gandha were pioneers who carved out images of the Buddha. Images of Jain Tirthankars and Hindu deities were also made in Mathura. Generally, all these intial images were huge in size. Their excellent specimens are still preserved in the museums at Lucknow, Varanasi, Allahabad and Mathura. Colossal images, in seated or standing postures, of Kushan emperors Vim Kadphises and Kanishk and Saka ruler Chashtan have also been found at Math in Mathura district.
They are stated to have been installed in dev-kul (probably a place for worship of ancestors).There is not doubt that Mathura was the center of manufacturing of stone images (sculpture) during the Kushan Period. These images had a great demand in other parts of the country. Scenes depicted on Stone pillars found in Bhuteshwar and other places in Mathura district present glimpses of contemporary life including dresses, ornaments, means of entertainment, arms, household furniture, etc.
Stone carvings of intoxicated groups of people that have been found, speak about foreign (Hellenistic) influence on this school of art. Considerable construction activities have come to notice in Sarnath also in Kushan Period, ruins of several monasteries, temples and Stupas of that period lie catered there even today.

The Golden Age

The Gupta Period is known as the golden age in the history of Indian Art. Uttar Pradesh did not lag behind any of the country in artistic endeavor. The stone temple of Deogarh (Jhansi) and brick temple at Bhitargaon in Kanpur district is famous for their artistic panels. Some other specimens of ancient art and craft are Vishnu images, the standing statue of the Buddha in Mathura and the seated image of Tathagat in Sarnath museum. Both the Mathura and sarnath schools of Art reached their zenith during the Gupta Period. Elegance and balance were the special features of the architecture of this period while the sculptures were characterized by physical charm and mental peace.
Uttar Pradesh witnessed unprecedented advancement in iconographic forms and decorative motives during this period.Some excellent specimens of artistic statues made not only of stone but terra cotta as well, have also been found in Rajghat (Varanasi), Sahet-Mahet (Gonda-Bahraich), Bhitargaon (Kanpur) and Ahichhatra (Bareilly).

There was a flurry of building activity again in Uttar Pradesh in early mediaeval period. Muslim historians have lavished profuse praise on cities like Kannauj, Varanasi, Kalinjar and Mathura and forts, places and temples scattered all over the State. During the reigns of Gurjar-Pratihars and Gaharvars, Kannauj had become a prominent centre of art and learning but it also borne the brunt of the wrath of Muslim invaders. Very few specimen now survive to tell of the glory and grandeur of Kannaug. Kumar Devi, the consort of Gaharvar king Govind Chandra had constructed a very grand building at Sarnath known as Dharm-Chakra Jain Vihar.

The artistic beauty of Mathura temples was such that even the iconoclast Mahmud of Ghazni had praised them. The Chandel rulers of southern Uttar Pradesh were also great patrons of Art. Their building activities were mostly centered around Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh but remains of temples and ponds constructed by contemporary architects have been found in Mahoba, Rasin, Rahilia and other places in modern bundelkhand as well. The fort built by them at Kalingar was impregnable from defense point of view. The temples and divine images in hill areas of Uttar Pradesh represent a special Art tradition of its own.

The Dark Period

To far as Uttar Pradesh is concerned, the Sultanate period is known as a dark age in the realm of Art. The Sultans confined their building activities mainly to Delhi, although they constructed mausoleums and mosques here and there in Uttar Pradesh also.After the advent of Sharqi rulers in Jaunpur, a new life was infused in art activities. Under their patronage famous mosques like Atalla, Khalis-Mukhis, Jhanjihri and Lal Darwaza were constructed.The grandest and the biggest of them all is the Jama Masjid. The Atall Masjid built by Ibrahim Sharqi in 1408 AD became a model for the comstruction of other mosques in Jaunpur.It is an exquisite specimen of the Hindu and Muslim architechture reflecting both vigour and grace in style of construction. The Jaunpur mosques have certain special features. The most important of these is their artistic propylaeum. These mosques have facilities for women to offer prayers. For this, beautiful galleries surrounded by artistic walls were constructed. Fortress architecture also development under the patronage of the Sharqis. The fort in Jaunpur constructed in Uttar Pradesh early in the mediaeval period has an importance of its own. Although it is in a dilapidated state now, when it was in good shape, its bold and graceful style was universally praised and widely followed. Today only its eastern gateway and a few extent are there to remind us of its past glory and splendor.

The Mughal Period

The composite Indian and Muslim style of architecture reached its climax during the Mughal Period. The Taj Mahal described as a dream in marble is a living example of this style. Innumerable forts and places, mosques and mausoleum and baths and tanks were constructed during this period, known for their bold, graceful and grand style. No doubt, babar the founder of the Mughal dynasty, constructed the mosques at Ayodhya and Sambhal but the Mughal architecture is mainly associated with his two descendants-Akbar and Shahjahan.

The Mughal architecture was marked by its grandeur during the reign of Akbar and by its lyrical quality during the reign of Shahjahan.The monuments built by Akbar in Sikri, and in Agra and Delhi by Shahjahan, reflect their mental attitudes. So long as Shahjahan did not shift his capital to Delhi, Agra and its neighborhood remained the main centre of Mughal architectural Activity.Prominent buildings constructed in Uttar Pradesh in the Mughal Period include the city built in Sikri by Akbar, the Agra Fort,and buildings within the mausoleum of Akbar in sikandra and of Etmad-ud-daula n Agra, the Akbar's fort in Allahabad and mosques constructed by Aurangazeb in Mathura, Mathura, Varanasi and Lucknow.

Doubtlessly, the most magnificent among them is the Taj Mahal which can appropriately be described as India's tribute to the grace of womanhood and a memorial to the romantic love of an emperor wrought in marble. Several grand temples and ghats were also constructed during this period at Mathura, Vrindavan and many other places. The special features of Mughal architecture were use of marble, smooth and colourful floors, delicate stone tracery and inlay work and happy blending of Indian and Muslim styles. The Sikri walls not only depict line drawings but also human and animal forms. Garhwal also developed its own school of painting during this period. The Mughal architecture can be divided into two categories. Under the first category come the buildings constructed with marble according to the Royal Firman of Shahjahan. The use of valuable marble of soft hues by Shahjahan in place of gaudy red colour used during Akbar reign allude to the diverse personalities of Akbar and Shahjahan. The fort of Agra is an example of architecture in Akbars time. Built on a grand scale, it represents a fusion of both Indian and Muslim styles of architecture. Akbar also built a fort in Allahabad which enjoyed the same importance as that of the Agra Fort during his reign. But the most important architectural project of Akbar was the building of a new capital city, Fatehpur-Sikri, 40 km. away from Agra. Akbar built many palaces and pavilions here which were famous for their beauty, splendour and perfection. The buildings at Fatehpur-Sikri can be divided into two classes-religious and secular. The former include the shrine of Sheikh Salim Chishti and the great mosque, while the latter include the palace of Jodhabai, the Mariam-ki-Kothi, the Sunahra Makan and the Panch Mahal. A fusion of the architectural styles of Akbar and Shahjahan is found in the tomb of Nurjahans father Etmad-ud-daula at Agra. This mausoleum is unique in the sense that it appears to give a new interpretation of contemporary architectural style. Not built on a grand scale, its object was to preserve delicacy, grace and beauty of contemporary architectural workmanship.

The Pinnacle

The Mughal style of architecture reached its pinnacle during the reign of Shahjahan. It was the age of marble and its natural beauty could be fully brought out due to the aesthetic taste of the Emperor. A new fluidity was seen in the drawings, designs and forms due to the appropriate changes effected in style and technique of construction. This changed style can be seen even in the Agra Fort. Several red sandstone buildings constructed by Akbar were demolished and rebuilt with marble.
,br>In this connection mention may be made of Diwan-e-Am and Diwan-e-Khas. The Nagina Masjid, Musamman Burj and Moti Masjid are some of the exquisite examples of matchless taste and superb workmanship. But Taj Mahal stands out among them all. It was built by Emperor Shahjahan in memory of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal.

Constructed entirely of white Makrana marble, it is capped with extremely shapely dome, culminating in the best creation lf mughal architecture. Its delicate workmanship, grace, Iyricism and purity of form invest it with a dreamy beauty which can be compared to the reflection of a delicate and beautiful rose in moonlight. Besides monuments and mausoleums built by the Mughals, local rulers also constructed notable buildings at several places in the State. These buildings constructed in Jaunpur and Lucknow styles are specially attractive and charming but on the whole they lack the vastness and splendour of the Mughal monuments.

Encouragement by Nawabs of Avadh

There was a sudden stalemate in the field of architecture after Shahjahan's death. But the Nawabs of Avadh kept alive some of the old traditions of buildings construction. They built many places, mosques, gates, gardens and Imambaras. In the beginning, the buildings constructed by them were confined to Faizabad alone, but later on the main centre of their architectural activity shifted to Lucknow. Among them, famous buildings are the Ashaf-ud-Daula Imambara, the Mausoleum in Kiserbagh, Lal Baradari, the Residency, Shahnazaf, Husainabad Imambara, Chhatr Manjil, Moti Mahal, Kaiserbagh Place, Dilkusha Gardens and Sikandarabagh. The style of these buildings may be decadent and hybrid but it has its own special characteristics such as fish motif at the gates, domes with golden umbrellas, vaulted halls, arcaded pavilions, underground chambers, and labyrinths.

The Bara Immabara built by Asaf-ud-Daula is both dignified and imposing. Its vaulted hall is typical of pure Lucknow style and is said to be the biggest hall of its kind in the world. Certain people have criticised the Lucknow style as being merely a mixture of other styles and indeed several Nawabi buildings appear to be crude imitations of western architecture.Yet, they have an important place in the history of Indo-Muslim architecture. Some of the Buildings of this style are, as a matter of fact, beautiful creations of art. A notable change was brought about in the policy of providing State patronage to Art during the British Rule and thereafter.

The State ceased to evince interest in religious constructions i.e. construction of temples, mosques etc. But construction of secular buildings like schools, colleges, government offices, etc. was taken up on a large scale. These buildings mark a radical change in traditional construction activity. Being utilitarian in nature and bereft of all architectural pretensions, they have indeed ushered in a new era in the history of architecture in Uttar Pradesh.


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