Architecture of Love and Death (Part I)


This post is about funerary architecture of two different people in different times and places, ancient Egyptians and Muslim Mughals in India.  Both of these people built great pieces of architecture to their dead.  In Part 1  I will focus on the religious thought or absence of it behind these great pieces of architecture, i.e. Pyramids and Taj Mahal.  I believe the former were built in preparation for death and the later were built for the love of the deceased.  In the second post I will showcase many mausoleums built in the Muslim world especially in Indian sub-continent.

Many civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Americas, built large dirt mounds and stone pyramids to house and mark the remains of their Kings and ruling class.  The Egyptian Pyramids in terms of form and scale are often considered the ultimate in funerary architecture.  Their grand scale was a reflection of the wealth and power of the Pharaohs. Egyptian nobility had elaborate burial rituals of embalming, and encumbered their dead with worldly goods to ensure their smooth transition into the afterlife, while the pyramids themselves were built in preparation for death.

800px-TajMahal0 taj Mahal seen from Agra

However, if you look at Taj Mahal, another masterpiece of funerary architecture in India, you will find that it was not built in preparation for death or afterlife. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a personal statement of love and devotion to the memory of his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal.  The emergence of tombs and mausoleums in Muslim regions had more to do with the personal love and devotion to the deceased, rather than to religious rituals or concerns over after life.  Therefore, the mausoleums were often built by wives, mothers, and husbands after the death of loved ones.  Often these structures were built after the death of the person and the deceased had little to no idea of what would be built over his or her grave.  So the first tomb built over the grave of an Abbasid Khalifa in Samara, Iraq was built by Khailfa Al_Muntasir’s Greek born mother in 862 AD.

Qubba al-Sulaybiyya - 9th Century Iraq

Qubba al-Sulaybiyya – 9th Century Iraq

In the next post I will follow-up with examples of Muslim funerary architecture from different regions especially focusing on Indian sub continent.

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  1. Architecture of Love and Death (part II) | PlaNYourCity - December 12, 2013

    […] is the second and last part of the post, Architecture of Love and Death.  In the first post I proposed that Egyptian pyramids were built in preparation for Death for their nobility, while […]


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