Over the long 17th century, several monumental temples were constructed at urban sites across northern India. High-ranking Hindu courtiers (also rajas or regional rulers) of an ascendant Mughal Empire (1526–1858) and their designers created a new architecture within an imperial vocabulary. At the same time, they referenced archaic forms and older sacred geographies, thereby ensuring that Hindu places of worship had a positive and productive relationship with significant urban centers of the empire. In four chapters, bookended by an introduction and epilogue, Creating the Mughal Temple unpacks and recounts the formal, material, textual, and political making of Hindu temple edifices at three urban sites.
The first chapter is an explication of the building blocks available to Mughal patrons and builders. Archaic forms such as the shikara (temple tower), planning and design principles, styles and subjects of figural sculpture, and the textual legacies of older, pre-Islamic temples were assessed to distill elements that would be read as overtly historicist. At the same time, novel technologies in aesthetics (architecture, arts of the book—painting, calligraphy, illumination—and the decorative arts), mathematics, and building technologies drawn from an early modern Islamic sphere were employed as markers of innovation and modernity.