When many cultures were only nomadic
forest dwellers over 5,000 years ago, Indians established the
Indus Valley Civilization.
India has the widest diversity
of architecture in the world.
Indian architecture ranges from the Hindu
(and Buddhist and
Jain) civilizations starting from 2500 BC to the
Muslim and Colonial
architecture, and finally to the modern day
architecture concentrates immensely on the religious and spiritual. Hindus incorporated
idols into their art. Hinduism is a religion based on worshipping thousands of deities,
and for each one of them there exist thousands of temples. Getting into a detailed account
of Hindu architecture would be an impossible task, for it dates back to 2,500 BC and
millions of temples, forts and palaces spread out across the length and breadth of India. Highlights
back in 300 BC, Chandragupta Mauryas fort along the Ganges in Bihar stretched for an
impossible nine miles long and a mile and a half wide.
The architecture of the Mauryas was embalmed in timber, for rock and stone were not
as freely in use then. The Mauryan period was also responsible for perfecting the art of
polishing, so much so that wood glistened like a mirror
the 7th to 9th century AD, the Pallava kings in the Tamil area were building Kanchipuram,
a cluster of over a hundred Hindu shrines mostly dedicated to Shiva.
Thanjavur, the capital of the Cholas in the 10th century, the Thanjavur temple is
made entirely of granite and is 207 feet high.
temples in Khajuraho (950-1050AD), while dedicated to Gods, are
splattered with images of a sexual nature.
most amazing aspect of architecture in the 15th century would probably be the chariot
"rock temples" in southern India, dedicated to the 2nd century BC Aryans.
16th century saw the revival of Hindu temple architecture, especially in
the south. Apart from the main deity, there were images of a thousand gods, goddesses and
mortal beings on the outside walls.
Muslim Monuments (architecture)
It is a fact that Islamic rulers destroyed temples all over Hindustan and
continued doing so till they ran out of time. The vigourous exercise might have had other
reasons than just religious fervour. Perhaps the Muslims couldnt stomach the
structure of a Hindu temple. Or the abounding temples across the sub-continent were
methodically dissected and their masonry used for further construction of Persian
architecture. Nowhere else in the world can be found such dramatic results of Muslim
builders; thousands of monuments, evolving from simplicity and geometric anarchy to
splendid harmonies of stone, marble and brick.
every city there will be a Jama Masjid where the faithful assemble for
the Friday prayer or Jumah.
the masjid was mainly known for its simplicity, a tomb or maqbara ranged
from a simple affair (like Emperor Aurangzebs tomb in Aurangabad) to an awesome
structure enveloped in a grandeur which has to be seen to be disbelieved (the glorious Taj Mahal in Agra).
the secular buildings stand the palaces and the forts, which were
extremely elaborate and massive structures, of imposing height and splendid grandness,
depending on the size of the empire under control. Built almost entirely of stone and
marble, palaces could be as high as five storey.
final flickering example of Mughal architecture in India would perhaps be Safdarjungs
tomb (1753-74 AD) in Delhi. Built of red sandstone and marble panels, the effort
was probably to make something similar to Humayuns tomb, but by this time decay had
already seeped into Mughal architecture.
Buddhist Monuments (architecture):
The origin of Buddhist architecture goes back to Gandhara, the region from the
Khyber Pass to the river Indus. Gandhara architecture took the form of Buddhist cult
objects, Buddhas and ornaments for Buddhist monastries. Monastries were invariably made of
stone, and most of the sculpture (like friezes) was used to decorate the lower levels of
buildings. The most characteristic trait of Gandhara sculpture is the standing or seated
Buddha in the few hundreds of temples which have survived out of thousands. The seated
Buddha is always cross legged in the traditional Indian way.
edicts, the most early Buddhist sculptors were mainly stone pillars with
inscriptions. They were circular free standing pillars rising upto to great heights so
that they could be seen from a distance, topped off with a stone lion.
stupa at Sanchi, was originally built by Emperor Ashoka. In 150 BC, renovation
work made the stupa 54 feet high and 120 feet in diameter. The timber railings were
replaced by stone ones, standing 11 feet high with entrances at five cardinal point,
forming a barricade.
Ashokas palace near Patna was a masterpiece. Made mostly of wood, it seems
to have been destroyed by fire.
art of the Buddhists included massive larger than life statues of Buddha's
likeness made out of stone, brass and copper.
or the monastry, evolved from the site of an ancient stupa in the south and the
monastry in the north surrounding a rectangular courtyard. Stone formed the base of most
temple building. The Buddhist temples in Ajanta and Ellora are the best
Jain Monuments (Architecture)
In the initial years wherever there would be Buddhist or Hindu temples, Jains
would begin making their own, following the Buddhist rock-cut style. The
system of carving out temples from rock faces was adopted. In later
years Jains proceeded build their own temples on a peaceful
mountain or hill away from snoopy eyes. Jain
temples are different as they have a large number of similar buildings that are often
erected at one place. These temples too have many columns, of which no two are identical.
Hindus and Buddhists built temples, Jains built temple-cities on hills.
temples had a certain militant aura around them to protect them from
plunderers. Surrounded by embattled walls, the temples wards were guarded by massive
bastions at its ends, with a fortified gateway as the main entrance. The reason being that
Jain temples are the richest temples in the world, surpassing even Mughal
buildings in terms of grandeur and material wealth. The Chamukh temple of Adinath,
built 1618 AD, is a characteristic example of the four-door temple-city.
and Mount Abu in Rajasthan are found the most spectacular of all Jain temples.
The Ranakpur temple is built in white marble and the main chamber is supported by finely
carved columns, totalling 1,444 in all.
The British followed various architectural styles Gothic, Imperial,
Christian, English Rennaissance and Victorian being the essentials.
Gateway of India (through which the last British troops left) was built to give
Bombay a truly Imperial (Gothic) ambience.
Terminus in Mumbai followed the Victorian Gothic style, is the finest example of
Gothic architecture in India. Its architecture was marble, decorated tiles, stained glass,
metal, concrete and bricks in a fusion which never happened again. High above the huge
stairway inside a massive dome looms up as statement of Imperial progress in all its
glory. The entrance is flanked by symbolic sentinels of the Raj, a tiger and a lion.
of the true Gothic monuments include Varanasi's Queens College;
Allahabad's University, Calcutta's High Court; All
Saints Church in Nagpur.
Howrah Bridge leading to Howrah Station whose red brick facade is
surrounded by 8 square towers in Oriental and Roman style.
Victoria Memorial dedicated to Queen Victoria, is probably the most
imposing of all British structures in India.
was planned systematically, combining 20th century architecture with that of two centuries
before. The tour de forte is Rajpath, approached by a 3.2 km long road
flanked by the imposing buildings of the two Secretariats. The Rashtrapati Bhawan,
built of brown stone, is truly a befitting home for the President. Connaught Place,
Eastern and Western Courts, Flagstaff House and the thousands of public buildings, post
offices, officers bungalows and public buildings and St. Martin's Garrison church
marked an end to this era.
centuries, architecture had evolved from mud to wood, from stone to rock, from brick to
marble and eventually, to concrete.
1950, Le Corbusier, was hired by the Punjab government to design the new city of Chandigarh,
which was a symbol of creativity and modern architecture.
feature now becoming common to almost all major cities in India was tall multi
Asiad Village was built as a colossal complex with more than 800 residential
units, landscaped courts, streets, restaurants and shops, all catering to sportspersons
who assembled here for the Asian Games.
Oberoi hotel in Bhubaneshwar is a classic example of the intermingling of the
concept of a Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastry.
Hundreds of beautiful but fading courtyard homes, or havelis, dot this
region called Shekhawati, in
towns such as Nawalgarh, Dundlod and Mandawa.
Walking through the towns here is like exploring a vast open-air art
gallery, the result of a century of prodigious activity by anonymous
artists whose patrons spent lavishly to turn their residences into
by tradition and after tracing Indian architecture through 2000 years, modern
Indian edifices seem a little jaded, if not forced. Gone are the subtle details;
those little carvings; those colossal domes and the intricate patterns on walls and
pillars. Indian architecture has come a long, long way from Mohenjodaro and Harappan era.