Education About Asia: Online Archives

Mosque and Mausoleum: Understanding Islam in India Through Architecture

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By Joseph Piro and Iftikhar Ahmad

Ah, to build, to build!
That is the noblest of all the arts.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Translation of Sonnets of Michael Angelo

ARCHITECTURE AS A WINDOW INTO CULTURE

In compiling a checklist of what makes a civilization great, there are some universal markers. What original ideas did the civilization advance and have they had staying power? How many notable leaders were produced and what were their accomplishments? How influential were their cultural values and did these contribute to the civilization’s rise and spread, or subsequent decline? Another measure of civilization, perhaps not as frequently used but no less significant, could be the number of great buildings constructed. To measure the greatness of a civilization by the grandeur of its architecture can be highly instructive. The built environment serves as an enlightening window into the vitality, depth, and imagination of a civilization, for architecture does more than decorate. It can identify a culture and illuminate a civilization, defining the conscious—and unconscious—decisions made by this civilization in its desire to be remembered.

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