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Churihatta Mosque, Dhaka. Dated 1649 and situated in the locality of Churihatta near Chauk Bazar the building, now a multi-storeyed structure, was originally rectangular covered entirely with a chauchala vault. The chauchala vaulted roof of the present building, although sometimes suggested to have been a development from the pyramidal coverings of the North Indian Mughal buildings, must have taken it’s derivation from the chauchala huts of the land. This is the earliest known example of an independent chauchala building in Mughal Bengal, which must have been influenced by a Sultanate example of it’s kind such as the Sabekdanga building at Bagerhat (c. early 16th century).

The Armanitola Mosque, dated 1716 by inscription, is in plan and design a copy of the Churihatta Mosque. The building is now thoroughly restored and repaired.

Farrukh Siyar Mosque, Dhaka. The building, now best known as Lalbagh Shahi Masjid, is said to have been erected by Prince Farrukh Siyar during his stay (1703-06) at Dhaka as the representative of his viceroy-father Azim ush-shan. The building, perhaps one of the few larger Mughal mosques in Bengal measuring 50m. by 17m., calls for special attention because of it’s ground plan and roofing system. It’s three aisled prayer chamber, unheard in Mughal Bengal, appears to have been dictated by the Sultanate examples of the land. Similarly the flat roof of the mosque is also a new feature in Bengal, and it’s idea perhaps came from such North Indian Mughal example as the Nagina Masjid at Fathpur-Sikri.

Tah Khana Mosque at Firozpur, Gaur (Nawabganj). The Tahkhana, a two­ storeyed palatial building erected by Subahdar Shah Shuja, contains in the ground floor a small oblong prayer chamber with three semi-octagonal mihrabs in the qibla wall. This is the only known example of a palace-mosque in the history of Muslim architecture in Bengal. It’s idea came no doubt from those of the Mughals in North India. The Nagina Masjids within the palace-fortresses of Agra and Lahore provide the two best examples. In early Islam under the Umayyads and the Abbasids the palaces were invariably provided with mosques, built either within the palace proper or outside it.

3.2.2 Tombs

The extant Mughal tombs are larger in number than the Sultanate tombs and show greater variety of form by exploiting the parent style. They are built singly, often in the vicinity of a mosque or within walled enclosure forming a small complex together with a mosque, or in larger complexes of religious and palatial buildings set within walled or fortified gardens. Though octagon is used for the interior in the earliest extant tomb in Bengal, i.e. the Eklakhi Mausoleum, fully octagonal tomb where octagon is used both for the interior and the exterior appears for the first time in


Gaur: Mosque inside Taha Khana (late 17th century), ground plan

Bengal during the Mughal period. The single-domed square mausoleum continued to be popular, but assumed it’s conventional exterior by replacing the Sultani curved cornice with a Mughal straight cornice. Besides the dome, which was raised in height by adding a drum on the base and was crowned with lotus finial, the Mughals adopted the form of Bengali dochala roof in their brick structures. They also used four-sided roof for their tombs, but it did not have the curved segments of a typically Bengali chauchala roof. The Mughal mausoleums are usually raised on platforms, sometimes panelled with blind niches. During the Mughal period, in addition to it’s basic form as a domed cube, the single-domed square tomb assumed two further forms constituted by attaching (i) a verandah on south of the square tomb-chamber and (ii) an ambulatory consisting of a continuous verandah or subsidiary chambers and passages round the central square tomb-chamber.

A special feature of the exterior of tombs like other types of Mughal buildings in Bengal is the entrance. The principal entrance, almost invariably on the south, consists of a half-dome archway enclosed by slender minarets which are round, fluted or faceted, rising from bulbous bases and ending into small cupolas. The corners of the tomb exterior are defined by towers, generally octagonal, terminating into open or plastered kiosks or bud shaped cupolas. The entrance scheme is simulated on all the exterior façades of the tomb making it axially symmetrical. Ornamentation is generally applied on the ceiling and in recessed arches in the form of faceted plaster; on wall surfaces various forms of arch motifs are moulded in sunken rectangular panels. The Mughals introduced major changes in architectural design, colour and surface ornamentation. Plastered brick walls replaced the red brick surfaces of the pre- Mughal buildings. Brick walls covered with white polished plaster somewhat simulated the look of white marble surfaces of the seventeenth-century imperial Mughal buildings at Delhi and Agra. These new trends established the Mughal imperial style at the three successive Mughal capitals in Bengal-Rajmahal (Akbarnagar), Dhaka (Jahangirnagar) and Murshidabad.

Early Mughal Period

Mausoleum of Pir Bahram Saqqa. Pir Bahram came to India from Bukhara during the reign of Humayun. He was highly respected by Akbar, but left the court after he was accused of being a Rafzi. He came to Burdwan where shortly afterwards he died. The Mausoleum of Pir Bahram forms the nucleus of his dargah at Burdwan. A Persian inscription fitted on the exterior wall of the tomb-chamber gives 970 AH/1562-63 CE as date of his death (Ahmed, 256-58). The mausoleum follows the Eklakhi idiom of a single-domed square structure having gently curved cornice and octagonal corner towers. But in keeping with the Mughal taste the walls are plastered. Ornamental motifs on the wall surface are sparingly used. The tomb-chamber is entered from the south. The dargah complex contains many graves around the main mausoleum; among them, near the entrance to the dargah is the grave of Sher Afghan, the faujdar of Burdwan under Jahangir and the first husband of Nur Jahan.

As to how Sultanate traditions continued to be preferred in places farther from the Mughal imperial centres, mention may here be made of the square mausoleum at Kumarpur, Rajshahi. With it’s roof now fallen, it is difficult to ascertain if the mausoleum originally had a Sultanate type of curved roof, but its terracotta surface ornamentation is a lively adaptation of Sultanate technique. The black basalt cenotaph is now open to the sky. The entrance to the mausoleum is on the east; the north and south walls have rectangular niches and the west wall is furnished with three semi- octagonal mihrabs. The mausoleum is ascribed to Mirza Ali Quli Beg who died in 1066 AH/1655-6 CE and built the small single-domed square mausoleum of Shah Makhdum in the saint’s dargah complex located in the heart of Rajshahi city.

Seventeenth-Century Mughal Tombs in Bengal

The truly Mughal types of tombs do not appear in Bengal until the seventeenth century. The Mughal provincial capital was shifted from Rajmahal to Dhaka by Islam Khan Chishti (1608-13), who expired at Dhaka and was temporarily buried in the Bagh-i-Badshahi (imperial garden) of Jahangirnagar– a place now occupied by the Supreme Court and the Ramna Park– before his body was removed to Fathpur Sikri to be buried near the Mausoleum of Khwaja Salim Chishti. His temporary tomb in Dhaka, venerated now as the tomb of Chishti Bihishti, was originally square in shape, raised on a plinth and covered with a segmented square roof of the north Indian type, but is now altered beyond recognition. The Mughal building activity evolved into a coherent style under the keen and exuberant patronage of Prince Shah Shuja who transferred the capital to Rajmahal and governed Bengal for over twenty years (1639­ 60). The seventeenth century was the era of the Taj Mahal raised at Agra by Shah Shuja’s father Shah Jahan over the grave of Shuja’s mother Mumtaz Mahal. The format for a monumental tomb introduced in Bengal by Shuja was not derived from the strictly imperial tradition of the Taj, but from the mausoleum of his great grandfather Itimad al-Daula, built by Nur Jahan between c.1622-28 at Agra.

The Mausoleum of Humayun at Delhi set the ideal of a Mughal royal tomb. The hasht bihisht tomb pavilion laid in the chahar bagh plan initiated by Humayun’s tomb resolved itself into two forms, the classic examples of which are the Taj Mahal and the Mausoleum of Itimad al-Daula. In the final analysis, both types are square consisting of nine chambers– a central tomb-chamber surrounded by an ambulatory sectioned into eight spaces running either in the form of a continuous verandah or divided up into passages and chambers. In Bengal, it was the Itimad al-Daula style which became a model for mausoleums like those of Shah Nimat Allah, Bibi Pari, Bibi Mariam and Bakht Huma. Unlike the mausoleums at Delhi or Agra, the Mughal derivations in Bengal are single-storeyed and do not indicate any passage to the underground crypt.

Mausoleum of Shah Nimat Allah. The Mausoleum of Shah Nimat Allah– he died in

the second half of the seventeenth century– at Firuzpur, Nawabganj (Gaur, Bangladesh), may be the first extant funerary structure in Bengal to follow the model

of Itmad al-Daula’s mausoleum. The erection of this mausoleum, the adjacent three- domed mosque and the nearby Tahkhana complex, is ascribed to Shah Shuja who was a disciple of this eminent saint.

Placed on a square platform, the mausoleum is located in the centre of a walled enclosure, entered from the south. The mausoleum contains a low cenotaph over the grave of the saint in the centre of a single-domed square tomb-chamber entered through arched entrance doorways on the east, south and west; the north wall facing the head of the saint is closed with a semi-octagonal niche ornamented with stucco muqarnas. An ambulatory consisting of a continuous verandah– domed on the four square corners and vaulted on the four rectangular sides, each side containing three arched openings– surrounds the square tomb-chamber. Internally the dome is supported on squinches and blind arches; on the exterior it is bulbous in shape and crowned with a lotus and kalasa finial. The octagonal corner towers terminating into ribbed cupolas with finials rise above the parapet. It is mainly a brick building with plaster encasing; the wall surfaces might originally have had panelling like those of the adjacent mosque, but they are now plain except for the row of merlons on parapet.

A tomb, very different in style and design from the one discussed above but produced at Gaur in the later half of the seventeenth century and having historical relevance to the spiritual links between Nimat Allah and Shah Shuja, is the mausoleum raised over the remains of Fath Khan (d. 1657-60).

Mausoleum of Fath Khan. According to tradition, Fath Khan accompanied his father Dilir Khan, a Mughal officer, sent to Gaur by Aurangzeb to punish Nimat Allah for his alleged involvement in Shuja’s rebellion. Fath Khan’s sudden death alarmed the father who paid respect to the saint and reported about his innocence to Aurangzeb.

The location of Fath Khan’s mausoleum in the compound of the sacred shrine of the Qadam Rasul at Gaur, to which Shuja added a gateway (Lukochori) on the southeast, may not be without significance. The mausoleum is a compelling transformation in brick and stucco of a Bengali dochala thatched hut into a rectangular tomb-chamber with longitudinally laid concrete grave in the centre. It has trabeated entrance door on the south and also on the west that faces the Qadam Rasul; on each side of the western door is an arched niche. The roof has a curved ridge with five embosses across the meeting point of the two sloping sides. Th is may be the first extant Mughal example of a concrete replica of a Bengali thatched dochala roof, which gained popularity in religious and secular architecture in Bengal during the Mughal period and, in modified form, also became popular outside Bengal.

Seventeenth-Century Mughal Mausoleums at Dhaka

Dhaka regained it’s position as capital after the death of Shah Shuja. Under Nawab Shayesta Khan’s two-term viceroyalty (1664-78 and 1679-88), Dhaka witnessed phenomenal growth of architectural activity. Among the existing tombs of the period three main types of mausoleums can be seen: (a) square tomb-chamber with a single- domed or segmented roof, (b) single-domed square tomb-chamber with an attached

verandah on south and (c) single-domed square tomb-chamber in the centre surrounded by an ambulatory consisting of a continuous verandah or chambers and passages. A feature common to all the three types is the central square tomb-chamber. The cenotaph reflecting the position of the grave is longitudinally placed in the centre of the tomb-chamber, longer side placed north to south. On each axis of the tomb- chamber is an arch; the one on the south is invariably open for entering the tomb- chamber; those on the west, north and east can either be open, blind or perforated. Externally, the type (a) has façades pierced into the body of the tomb-chamber; in type

(b) the main façade is built into the verandah attached to the south; the type (c) has repetitive façades on all the four sides of the ambulatory.

Type (a)

This type appeared earlier in the mausoleums of saints who settled in Dhaka during the Sultanate period, for example, the mausoleums of Shaikh Jalal Dakhini in the Bangabhavan premises and of Shah Ali Baghdadi in Mirpur. However, both the mausoleums have lost their original appearances. Among the Mughal mausoleums of this type at Dhaka are those of (i) Bibi Champa, supposedly Shayesta Khan’s daughter or concubine, located in the courtyard of Chhota Katra, (ii) Lado Bibi, believed to be a daughter of Shayesta Khan, located (now demolished) in Babubazar, the present site of Mitford Hospital, and (iii) an unknown person, said to be a daughter of Shayesta Khan, situated near the Satgumad Mosque.

Type (b)

This type is represented at Dhaka by the mausoleums of Haji Khwaja Shahbaz and Dara Begum. The ground plan of this type of tomb can be seen in an earlier but much more elaborate and exquisite tomb at Fathpur Sikri, the Mausoleum of Shaikh Salim Chishti. Located at Ramna, the Mausoleum of Khwaja Shahbaz and the adjacent three- domed mosque form a complex within a walled enclosure entered through an impressive gateway on the southeast. The tomb-chamber has a grave in the centre and is entered through a dochala roofed verandah on the south. The western façade facing the mosque is provided with a half-domed archway; the wall surface and the octagonal corner towers are embellished with rows of arched panels. On the evidence of an inscription on the adjacent mosque, which records that Khwaja Shahbaz built it in 1089 AH/1679 CE, the mausoleum can be dated around that period.

The Mausoleum of Dara Begum is now transformed into the central prayer chamber of the Lalmatia Jami Masjid. The area where it now stands can be identified with the Mahalla Jafarabad in Sarai Begumpur, situated in the western part of the Mughal town near the royal Pilkhana. The most distinguishing features of this mausoleum are it’s large dome and the mihrab on the western wall of the tomb-chamber. On the ground of its architectural style the consensus is that the mausoleum was built before Shayesta Khan’s time.

Type (c)

Of the four surviving mausoleums of this type, two were built at Dhaka, one at Gaur and the other at Rajmahal. The Mausoleum of Shah Nimat Allah mentioned above was probably the earliest and most austere of the four. The other three mausoleums are associated with the female members of Shayesta Khan’s household. These mausoleums show interesting variations in design and details. For example, the mausoleums of Shah Nimat Allah and Bibi Mariam have continuous verandahs for ambulatories; Bibi Pari and Bakht Huma’s mausoleums have rectangular passages on sides and square chambers on corners. Again, mausoleums of Nimat Allah, Bibi Pari and Bakht Huma have three and Bibi Mariam’s mausoleum has five arched openings in each side of the ambulatory. In the mausoleums of Nimat Allah and Bibi Mariam the arched openings on the exterior are all of the same height. In Bibi Pari’s mausoleum the central arched opening projects out and is higher than those on its either side. Placed in the centre of raised platforms, all these mausoleums are surrounded by walled enclosures.

Mausoleum of Bibi Pari. Located on the bank of the river Buriganga in the northwestern part of Dhaka, the fortress palace of Aurangabad, popularly called the Lalbagh Fort, enshrines the most well-known and valued Mughal monument in Bangladesh– the Mausoleum of Bibi Pari. It is popularly believed that Iran Dukht alias Bibi Pari was Shayesta Khan’s favourite daughter and was married to Prince Muhammad Azam, third son of Aurangzeb and Dilras Banu (Rabia Daurani), who replaced Shayesta Khan as viceroy of Bengal for a short period of time (July 1678­ October 1679). Bibi Pari’s sudden death disheartened Shayesta Khan who apprehending the construction of the fort unlucky gave it up, but completed his daughter’s mausoleum. The date of Bibi Pari’s death can be placed sometime in the late seventeenth century. The commonly accepted date of 1684 for her death is based on the incorrect reading and location of an inscription in the Lalbagh Fort Mosque.

The Mausoleum forms the principal component of the fortress complex consisting of a three-domed mosque, Bibi Pari’s mausoleum, hammam with an audience hall and a tank– all axially laid out within an area enclosed by a fortifying wall. There are three gateways, two on the north and one on the southeast; the one on the northwest is aligned with the mausoleum. In alignment with the mausoleum in the centre and the gate on the northwest is a pavilion on the south, thus making the area on the western half of the fortress an independent complex by itself in a manner similar to the chahar bagh scheme of the monumental Mughal tombs. Materials and the technique used for the construction of Bibi Pari’s mausoleum make it a very exclusive monument in Bengal. The exterior façades and the octagonal corner towers have the typical Mughal arrangement and ornamentation; the interior is treated with marble brought from Jaipur, black basalt from Gaya and grey sandstone from Chunar. The square tomb- chamber is of white marble and is entered through a doorway on the south, fitted with a sandal wood door; the door-openings on the east, west and north are fitted with

marble screens. In the centre of the tomb-chamber is a marble cenotaph raised on three steps exquisitely carved in foliage design. The top of the cenotaph contains a carved takhti or tablet signifying that the person buried is a female. Marble is also used in the side rooms; the corner rooms have glazed tiles depicting floral designs in various colours. The ceilings in all the rooms, including the tomb-chamber, are internally corbelled with black basalt, an old Hindu technique assimilated by the Mughals in their palace architecture. The copper dome above the tomb-chamber was not for structural but for symbolic and ornamental purpose.

Mausoleum of Bakht Huma. The mausoleum supposedly of a widow of Shayesta Khan, is reported to be “the building of best taste” in Rajmahal. Built in the centre of a walled garden with a lofty arched entrance to the enclosure, this mausoleum bears close structural similarity with Bibi Pari’s mausoleum, but its central tomb-chamber is covered with a brick dome and the corner chambers have wooden kiosks and it’s exterior is embellished with floral ornamentation in bright colours.

Mausoleum of Bibi Mariam. Compared to the more sumptuously conceived mausoleums of Bibi Pari and Bakht Huma, this tomb with the three-domed mosque to it’s west in a walled complex, located near the Mughal river fort at Hajiganj (Narayanganj, Dhaka), bears a more formal look. The enclosure wall was furnished with gateways; remains of those on the north and east are still visible. The southern side of the enclosure is occupied by Bibi Mariam High School. The ambulatory round the central square tomb-chamber is much damaged; but it’s engrailed arches, five on each of the four sides, give a pleasing effect. The tomb-chamber contains a large masonry cenotaph. The shape of the dome and the cornice with merlons recall those in the Mausoleum of Shah Nimat Allah. Bibi Mariam whom Professor Dani identifies as Bibi Biban is supposedly Shayesta Khan’s daughter.

Seventeenth-Century Mausoleums outside Dhaka

While at Dhaka funerary structures mostly followed the formal imperial types, in places away from the metropolis structures over the dead were produced in greater variety. The single-domed square mausoleum at Jahanabad (Sultanganj, Rajshahi), now much ruined, must have been an impressive example of seventeenth-century Mughal funerary architecture. The existence of a dilapidated gateway on the south indicates that the mausoleum was built in a walled enclosure [so was the type of the Kumarpur Tomb, about 10 km west of Rajshahi town]. Remains of a double­ storeyed mausoleum at Arafail, Brahmanbaria, containing two graves in the basement and two corresponding cenotaphs in the upper storey, recall in a modest form the arrangement in Itimad al-Daula’s mausoleum. The two octagonal mausoleums at Nauda (Rajshahi) and at Burhanpur (Rajmahal) in their pavilion-like structures and surface arrangement adhere to the model of octagonal mausoleum established during the time of Shahjahan.

The architectural adaptation of a simple Bengali hut with dochala or chauchala roof became a significant tomb type in the seventeenth-century Bengal architecture. Like the Eklakhi style, it was not confined to funerary buildings but gained popularity in various forms of structures. The adaptation of chauchala roof in Mughal mausoleums in Bengal is what Professor Dani calls a “segmented square roof” of the type used in the mausoleum of Itimad al-Daula. One of it’s first appearances in Bengal may be the supposed tomb of Islam Khan Chishti at Dhaka. In Chittagong the small mausoleum next to Bagh-i Hamza Mosque is a good example of this type. The chauchala roofs in Ibrahim Danishmand’s tomb complex at Mograpara are interesting late seventeenth- century adaptations of a Sultanate feature. The dochala roof, first seen in it’s architectural form in the Mausoleum of Fath Khan at Gaur, finds a significant place in the Mausoleum of Anwar Shahid at Burdwan.

Mausoleum of Khwaja Anwar Shahid. The most outstanding funerary complex of the closing years of the Mughal Empire was the Mausoleum of Khwaja Anwar Shahid at Burdwan, produced during the viceroyalty of Azimushshan, a grandson of Aurangzeb. A trusted officer of Azimushshan, Khwaja Anwar was killed in an ambush in 1698. In recognition of the services of this loyal nobleman the emperor gave a large sum of money for his burial. From the north end the mausoleum overlooks a large complex consisting of a deep tank in the centre, flanked on the west by a mosque and on the east by a madrasa; on the south, entrance to the complex is through a monumental gateway. The mausoleum consists of a single-domed square tomb- chamber in the centre flanked on the east and west side by rectangular wings, lower in height and covered by dochala roofs. In a refined and harmonious style, this monument to a martyr embodies two principal structural forms– a domed square and a dochala rectangle. No less noteworthy is the balanced display of stucco panelling on the wall surfaces of this last masterpiece of Mughal funerary architecture in Bengal.

Eighteenth-Century Funerary Buildings at Murshidabad

Dhaka lost it’s predominance in the opening years of the eighteenth century and was replaced by Murshidabad as capital under Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. The major architectural undertaking of Murshid Quli Khan at the new capital was a Jami Mosque, popularly called Katra Masjid. Built in 1724-5, that is, three years before Murshid Quli Khan’s death in 1727, this majestic monument of enormous scale, raised on a high plinth, was designed to house a five-bayed rectangular prayer-hall on the west, a double-storeyed madrasa-cum-hospice around the central courtyard and his own grave in a cell beneath the steps leading to the multi-arched entrance portal on the east. Today, much of the Katra Mosque is in ruins; but Murshid Quli Khan’s low grave covered with clay, without any concrete dressing, fulfilling his last wish that “the dust of the worshippers’ feet might fall upon his breast.” remains undisturbed.

Murshid Quli Khan’s wife and daughter followed his example and were buried under the entrance of their respective mosque– his wife was buried in the Mosque of Nusari

Banu and the daughter in the Mosque of Azim al-Nisa Begum. A year before his death in 1738-39, Nawab Shuja al-Din, son-in-law of Murshid Quli Khan and husband of Azim al-Nisa, built his own simple tomb in Roshnibagh, a walled garden on the west bank of the Bagirhati river. The tomb is a low, flat-roofed rectangular structure having three openings on the north side. To the north of the tomb is a three-bayed mosque built by Mahabat Jung (Aliverdi Khan) in 1743.

Mausoleum of Nawab Aliverdi Khan. Nawab Aliverdi Khan died in 1756 and was buried in a dynastic mausoleum which he had laid out in a large garden enclosure, Khushbagh, on the west bank of the Bagirhati. The same mausoleum also contains the graves of Nawab Siraj al-Daula and other members of the family. The mausoleum is a flat-roofed square structure having a central square tomb-chamber, surrounded on all four sides by an arcaded verandah. Though completely lacking in spirit, stark in appearance, in its axial plan the mausoleum reminisces the design of Itmad al-Daula’s mausoleum already standardized in the seventeenth-century Mughal mausoleums in Bengal like those of Nimat Allah and Bibi Pari. The absence of dome in the mausoleums of Murshidabad nawabs may indicate that the European taste had started influencing the Mughal architectural traditions.

Located at a short distance to the north of the Hazarduari Palace, the large Nizamat graveyard at Jafarganj is studded with over a thousand open-air concrete graves marked by small domed square structures; amidst these graves also lie buried Mir Jafar and the later Nawabs of Murshidabad and their families.


Tombs in Bengal range from open-air funerary enclosures without architectural covering over the grave to monumental tombs and mausoleums with structural and ornamental embellishments and include burial places of three groups of people– rulers and nobility, saints and ghazis or warrior-saints. Though Sultanate and Mughal funerary structures in Bengal offer interesting instances of structural and compositional variety, there are two principal types. The first type consists of a domed single-unit square tomb-chamber and the second, introduced by the Mughals in Bengal during the seventeenth century, comprises a single-domed square tomb- chamber as the kernel, around which runs an ambulatory consisting of eight spaces forming a continuous verandah or chambers and passages. A garden layout became integral to this type, especially when conceived as an imperial mausoleum. The first type is the earliest and the commonest form of tomb in Islam. It remained popular in Sultanate and Mughal periods and came to be associated with the orthodox plan. Besides it’s orthodox connotation, it’s organizational and structural simplicity rendered it easier for the indigenous Bengali builders to meet the requirements of their Muslim patrons. This type was most popular for dargahs or mausoleums of saints, starting from, for example, the Sultanate mausoleums of Akhi Sirajuddin, Khan Jahan, Badr Pir and Shah Nafa to the sixteenth-century Mughal mausoleum of Pir Bahram.

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