Indian Architecture

Harappan Period

  • modern urban civilisation with expert town planning and engineering skills
  • advanced drainage system along with well-planned roads and houses show that a sophisticated and highly evolved culture
  • third millennium BC
  • excavated on the banks of the river Indus
  • easy means of transportation
  • walled cities which provided security
  • cities had a rectangular grid pattern of layout with roads that cut each other at right angles
  • standardised burnt mud-bricks as building material
  • evidence of building of big dimensions
  • no evidence of temples
  • Public buildings include granaries
  • The ‘Great Bath’, private wells and bathrooms
  • dominant citadel & fortifications with gateways enclosing the walled cities
  • Lothal, a site in Gujarat also has the remains of a dockyard
  • existence of a well-planned drainage system
  • superior town planning skills and cities that have been built on a clear geometric pattern or grid layout
  • Roads cut each other at right angles and were very well laid out
  • Many thick layers of well baked bricks laid in gypsum mortar
  • knowledge and skill of sculpting and craft
  • world’s first bronze sculpture of a dancing girl
  • terracotta figure of a male in a yogic posture
  • personal ornaments, soft stone seals with a pictoral script and images of humped bulls, Pashupati unicorn

Vedic Aryans

  • houses built of wood, bamboo and reeds
  • perishable material like wood for the construction of royal palaces
  • making of fire altars play an important role in Hindu homes and especially in their marriages
  • courtyard and mandaps
  • Gurukuls and Hermitages
  • use of wood along with brick and stone for building their houses

Jainism and Buddhism (6th century B.C.)

  • Buddhist Stupas built of huge mounds of mud, enclosed in carefully burnt small standard bricks.
  • 1st at birthplace Lumbini
  • 2nd at Gaya- enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree
  • 3rd at Sarnath-1st Sermon
  • 4th at Kushinagar- passed away attaining Mahaparinirvana
  • Monasteries (viharas), and centres of preaching, teaching and learning came
  • Congregational halls (chaitya) for teaching and interaction
  • Viharas and Chaityas, the first temple building activity started during the Gupta rule

Indian Architecture

Early Historic Period

Mauryan period (322-182 BC)

  • Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador of Selucas Nikator who visited the Mauryan court described Chandragupta Maurya’s palace
  • large palace carved out of wood
  • Ashoka architecture
  • influence of Persians and Greeks
  • monolithic stone pillars for teachings of ‘Dhamma’ were inscribed
  • animal figures adorning the top (capitals)
  • lion capital of the Sarnath pillar has been accepted as the emblem of the Indian Republic
  • Each pillar weighs about 50 tonnes and is about 50 ft high
  • stupas of Sanchi and Sarnath are symbols of the achievement
  • Sanchi Stupa with the beautiful sculpture depicting scenes from Jataka stories
  • Gandhara Art
    • Blending of Greek and Indian art
    • statues of Buddha and Bodhisattavas
    • made in the likeness of Greek gods,
    • Rich ornaments, costumes drapery, stone, terracotta, cement like material and clay
  • Mathura school and Amaravati school (influence of the Kushanas)
  • Mathura School
    • spotted red stone
    • spiritual look
    • sculptures Buddha & Jaina Dieties
  • Amaravati school
    • Satavahanas of the Andhra region
    • great stupa was built at Amaravati
    • Lower Godavari region
    • walls of the stupa are adorned with bas relief, had carved medallion and decorative panels
    • Famous Buddhist architecture- Nagarjunkonda
  • Beginning of the construction of free-standing Hindu temples. E.g.- Deogarh (Jhansi district) which had a central shrine or garbhagriha, Bhitrigaon (Kanpur district)

Cave Architecture

  • Ajanta and Ellora caves of Maharashtra, and Udaygiri cave of
  • Buddhist viharas, chaityas as well as mandapas and pillared temples of Hindu gods and goddesses

Rock-cut Temples

  • Western Deccan in the early years of the Christian era
  • Chaitya at Karle with fine high halls and polished decorative wall
  • Kailash temple at Ellora built by the Rashtrakutas
  • Ratha temples of Mahabalipuram built by the Pallavas (Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram)

Free-standing temples

  • In southern India the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Hoyshalas and later the rulers of the Vijaynagar kingdom were great builders of temples.
  • Pallava rulers
    • Shore temple at Mahabalipuram.
    • Kailashnath temple
    • Vaikuntha Perumal temples at Kanchipuram
  • Cholas
    • Brihadeshwara temple at Tanjore
    • Dravida style
    • Vimana or shikhara, high walls and the gateway topped by gopuram
    • Temples at Belur, Halebid where the stone engravings reached
  • Nagara Style
    • north and eastern India
    • shikaras (spiral roofs), the garbhagriha (sanctum)
      and the mandap (pillared hall)
  • Temples at Odisha
    • Lingaraja temple built by the Ganga rulers and the Mukteshwara temple at Bhubaneshwar and the Jagannath temple at Puri
    • sun temple at Konark was built in thirteenth century by the eastern Ganga ruler Narshimha Deva I (twelve-wheeled chariot)
  • Chandella rulers
    • Khajuraho (10-11th Century) Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh
    • Kandariya Mahadev temple
  • Solanki rulers
    • Mount Abu in Rajasthan is known for the Dilwara temple dedicated to Jain tirthankaras
    • pure white marble and adorned with exquisite sculpture
  • Somnath temple at Gujarat, Vishwanath temple at Banaras, Govinda temple at Mathura, Kamakhya temple at Guwahati, Shankaracharya temple at Kashmir and the Kali temple
    at Kalighat of Kolkata

Medieval Period Architecture

Delhi Sultanate

  • Arrival of Turks (13th)
    • Architectural styles of Persia, Arabia and Central
    • Domes, arches and minarets
    • Palaces, mosques and tombs
    • utilized the services of the local Indian craftsmen
    • Islamic structure
    • Quwwatul Islam Mosque at Delhi and the Qutub
    • Ala-ud-din Khalji enlarged the Quwat-ul-Islam mosque and built a gateway known as Alahi Darwaja. Also built Hauz Khas in Delhi which was a hydraulic structure
    • Tomb of Mohammad Tughlaq, Firoz Tughlaq and the forts of Tughlaqabad
    • buildings were not beautiful but had very strong walls, massive as well as impressive
  • Afghan Rule
    • tombs of Ibrahim Lodi at Delhi and Shershah’s tomb at Sasaram
    • indigenous styles were adopted and utilised by the builders
    • buildings of this period are strong, sturdy and practical
  • Architecture in Regional Kingdoms
    • Jama Masjid, the Sadi Saiyyad Mosque and the shaking towers at Ahmadabad
    • In Mandu (Central India) the Jama Masjid, Hindola Mahal and Jahaz Mahal
    • In Deccans- Jama Masjid at Gulbarga, the Madarsa of Mahmud Gawan at Bidar, Ibrahim Rauza, Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the fort at Golkunda
      • Gol Gumbaz has the largest dome in the world.
    • In Bengal the oblong shape of many structures and the peculiar style of roof construction were some of the distinctive features of the regional architecture of Bengal like the Adina mosque and the tomb of Jallal-ud-din at Pandua, Khil Darwaza and Tantipara mosque at Gaur.
    • In Jaunpur, the Atala mosque build by the Sharqui rulers had a gigantic screen covering the dome while the tomb of Hoshang Shah at Malwa is made entirely of marble and is made of yellow and black marble inlay work beautifully done by craftsmen.
    • In Vijayanagar empire- Vithalswami and Hazar Rama at Hampi


  • styles of Persia, Syria, Turkey and the temples of Southern India
  • Jama Masjid at Gulbarga (Large Domes) only mosque in India whichhas a covered countryard


  • started during Akbar’s rule
  • 1st-Humayun’s Tomb at Delhi-red stone-precursor of the Taj Mahal
  • Akbar built forts at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.
  • Bulund Darwaza made following Akbar’s victory over Gujarat.
  • tomb of Salim Chishti, Palace of Jodha Bai, Ibadat Khana, Birbal’s House and other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri reflect a synthesis of Persian and Indian elements
  • During the reign of Jehangir, Akbar’s Mausoleum was constructed at Sikandra near Agra. He built the beautiful tomb of Itimad-ud-daula which was built entirely of marble.
  • Shahjahan greatest builder used marble extensively
    • Feature of his building-inlay work called pietra duro beautiful arches and minarets
    • Red Fort, Jama Masjid of Delhi & Taj Mahal (Built in Marble)
    • central dome, four elegant minarats, gateway, inlay work and gardens surrounding the main building
    • profound influence on the buildings of the later period
    • strong influence of the ancient Indian style and had courtyards and pillars
    • living beings- elephants, lions, peacocks and other birds were sculptured
  • Monuments Built by Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri
    • romance of stones
    • Arch of the Buland Darwaja is the most imposing gateway
    • tomb of Saint Salim Chisti
    • Jodha Bai Palace
    • Jama Masjid-Persian Style
    • Dewan-i-Amm and the Dewan-i-Khas-planning and decoration
    • Ibadat Khana
    • Panch Mahal pyramidal structure in five storeys & pattern of a Buddhist Vihara
    • Tomb Building
      • built on platforms and are surrounded by gardens laid out with ornamental fountains
      • mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
      • Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra
      • Taj Mahal, Agra (A.D. 1630) built by Shah Jehan in marble which is inlaid with semi-precious stones like jasper and agate-river Jamuna
    • Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir and lahore were developed by Jahangir and Shah Jahan respectively

Colonial Architecture and the Modern Period

  • Portuguese built many churches at Goa, the most famous of these are Basilica Bom Jesus and the chruch of Saint Francis.
  • Greek and Roman influence can be observed in the colonnades
    or pillared buildings

    • Parliament House and Connaught Place in Delhi
  • Lutyens, designed Rashtrapati Bhavan, formerly the Viceroy’s residence.
    • sandstone and has design features like canopies and jaali from Rajasthan
  • Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, the former capital of British India, is a huge edifice in marble.
  • Writers’ Building in Calcutta-still the administrative centre of Bengal after independence
  • Gothic elements can be seen in the church buildings like St. Paul’s Cathedral in Calcutta
  • Victoria Terminus in Mumbai-railway terminals
  • Chandigarh has buildings designed by the French architect, Corbusier
  • In Delhi, the Austrian architect, Stein, designed The India International Centre & India Habitat Centre.
  • School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in Delhi
  • Architects like Raj Rewal and Charles Correa represent this new generation Raj Rewal has designed the SCOPE Complex and JawaharVyapar Bhavan in Delhi. Uses sandstone also combines steps and open spaces from the plazas of Rome. E.g-C1ET building in Delhi
  • Charles Correa from Mumbai is responsible for the LIC Building in Connaught Place, Delhi used glass facades in the high-rise to reflect light and create a sense of soaring height

Towns and Cities in India

  • Harappan civilization, (also known as Indus-Saraswati Civilization by some historians)
  • Kalibangam in Rajasthan and Surkoda in Kutch had similar city structure.
  • Rajgir, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Hastinapur, Ujjain, Sravasthi, Kapilavastu and Kausambhi
  • Mauryan period known as Janapadas (small towns) and Mahajanapadas (big towns)
  • Qasbas-Smaller Towns occupied by local artisans and craftspersons
  • Sind specialized in cotton textiles, silk etc, while Gujarat excelled in the art of weaving gold and silk threads and made brocades
  • New Ports of Europeans during 16th Century-Panaji in Goa (1510), Bombay in Maharashtra (1532), Machilipatnam (1605), Nagapattnam (1658), Madras (1639) in the south and Calcutta (1690) in the east

Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi

  • Chennai
    • Madras-Capital of TamilNadu
    • Fort Saint George
    • High Court Building, built in 1892, was said to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Courts of London
    • Fort St George-decorative domes and corridors
    • Ice House-Great Lakes in northern USA
    • Church of St. John that had wide Gothic arches walls are made of rubble, faced with coarse Kurla Stone buff while the piers, arches, and dressings are of Porbunder Stone
    • General Post Office built in local basalt with dressings of yellow stone from Kurla and white stone from Dhrangadra
  • Kolkata
    • Capital of British India till 1911
    • Battle of Plassey-Robert Clive took over the city by defeating the Nawab
    • Supreme Court at Calcutta in 1774
    • Howrah Bridge-Hooghly River
    • Marble Palace
    • Fort William is situated at the banks of river Hooghly-initiated by Robert Clive in 1696
    • Victoria Memorial Hall-1921-finest art museums
    • Eden Gardens Cricket Club-1864
    • Writers Building-Gothic Structure-Lt. Governor Ashley Eden (1877)
  • Mumbai
    • shores of Arabian Sea, on the West Coast of
    • Victorian Gothic Style e.g. the Secretariat (1874) the Council Hall (1876) and Elphinstone College (1890)
    • Victoria Terminus (modern Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)
    • Gateway of India-yellow stone in Indo-Saracenic style of
      architecture-King George V and Queen Mary-yellow basalt stone
  • Delhi
    • 1911-New Delhi
    • First city-Indraprastha
    • founded by Raja Dhilu
    • 2nd century A.D-Ptolemy, the Geographer marked Delhi in his map as Daidala
    • A snake Vasuki was pushed underground by an Iron Pillar in the Qutab Minar Complex during the time of King Ashoka
    • Tomar king Anang Pal of Lal Kot, established his rule in Delhi
    • After the Tomars came the Chauhans, who built a city called Qila Rai Pithora in the Lal Kot area, near Mehrauli.
    • Prithvi Raj Chauhan of this dynasty ruled from Mehrauli
    • Slave Dynasty
    • Qutb-ud-din-Qutub Minar finished by Iltutmish
    • Alauddin Khilji-Siri Fort-Shahpur Jat-threatened by the Mongol
    • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq-Tughlaqabad-fortified town
    • Mohammed BinTughlaq (1320-1388)- enclosed the earlier cities of Delhi into a single unit and named it Jahanpanah
    • Ibn Batuta-court of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq-given a very interesting description of Delhi
    • Firoz Shah-Firozabad-invasion of Timur, the king of Samarkand, in 1398, destroyed its glory, including the city of Jahanpanah
    • Humayun-Dinpanah on the mound of ancient Indraprastha
    • Shah Jehan-Red Fort in 1639-48, Jami Masjid-1950, City-Shahjahanabad, Great Poets-Dard, Mir Taki Mir and Mirza Ghalib, looted and destroyed by the armies of Nadir Shah (1739), Ahmad Shah Abdali (1748)
    • home to at least 24 Sufis of which the most famous were
      from the Jahanpanah area
    • Kutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki whose khanqah or dera was at Mehrauli
    • Nizamuddin Auliya, whose khanqah was at Nizamuddin
    • Sheikh Nasiruddin Mahmud, who is popularly known today as Chiragh-e-Delhi
    • Amir Khusro, who was a great poet, magician and scholar
    • 1803-British occupied Delhi after defeating the Marathas

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