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Architectural Evolution in India

Posted on : May 02, 2018

Architecture in India flourished at an early stage with the systematic houses and roads constructed during the Harappa Civilization. India has thrived in this area and the existing architectural wonders dotted across the country play testament to this claim. The Harappa and Mohenjodaro Civilization provides enough evidence to the extensive town planning. The beginning of Indian architecture can be traced to the advent of Buddhism in the reign of Ashoka (C. 270-232). The construction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas was in this period, which was a huge attraction of the time. It is a symbol of beauty and peace.

  • Ajantaand Ellora Caves: The Ajanta Caves were created around 2nd century BC dedicated to Buddha. The Ellora Caves are rock-cut shrines that represent different religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. These are exceptional in the terms of proportion, elaborate workmanship, architectural content and sculptural ornamentation. No wonder, these sites are a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Sachi Stupa:The Great Stupa in Sachi town of Madhya Pradesh is one of the oldest stone structures in India. It was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BC. Its nucleus is a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of Buddha. It is crowned with a chatra, a parasol like structure symbolising high rank which was intended to honour and shelter the relics. Sanchi is the centre of a region with several stupas including Satdhara, Morel Khurd, Andher, Mawas, Sonari etc. all within a few miles of Sanchi.
  • Tawang Monastery: This monastery is situated in Arunachal Pradesh, founded in the accordance with the wishes of 5th Dalai Lama. It is very close to the Tibetan border and is also known as the ‘Galden Namgey Lhatse, which means Celestica; paradise in the clear night.

In the 8th century with the rise of Hindu kingdoms, the southern Hindu school of architecture flourished. One of the greatest notable works of Palllavas was the rock cut temples of Mahabalipura, and kanchipuram. Pallavas were one of the pioneers of south Indian architecture. The earliest examples of temples in the Dravidian style belong to Badami Chalukya – pallav period.

  • Shore Temples of Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram : This is one of the earliest examples of Pallav construction. There are excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines known as rathas in Mahabalipuram.
  • Konark Sun Temple : The sun temple in Konark is dedicated to the Sun God and symbolises how the sun travels with a regal chariot. This temple is also known as Black Pagoda. This temple takes you back to the times of Kalinga. Mythological figures and images of animals etc. cover the walls.

The Dravidian architecture emerged in the southern part of India which primarily consisted of temples with pyramid shaped towers of sandstone, soapstone, or granite. These usually exist in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. Various empires like the Cholas, Chera’s, Kakatiyas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Gangas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas etc have made important contribution to the evolution of Dravidian architecture.

  • Brihadishwara Temple : One of the largest temples in India, Brihadishwara Temple is carved out of huge granite blocks. It has a huge linga and nandi, the bull as its main attractions. This temple is dedicated to Shiva and located in Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Emperor Raja Chola had this temple constructed in 1010 AD and it was constructed to display his power and vision.

The Rakjput kings had a sense of beauty and made excellent pieces of architecture that we can still look back on today. Indo – Aryan style of architecture was adopted in this period and many forts and palaces were constructed. Rajput palaces were complex with inner citadels surrounded by the city and enclosed with a fortified wall at Chittorgarh and Jaiselmer. The oldest surviving palaces from the mid fifteenth century are found at Chittor and Gwalior. The palaces of Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Kota etc represent the maturity and beauty of Rajput style. All these palaces were built prominently in the 17th and 18th century.

  • The Man Mandir This is the largest palace in Gwalior built by Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1516). This palace has two storeys above and two storeys below ground level, overhanging a sandstone cliff. There are five massive round towers crowned by domed cupolas and linked by delicately carved parapets.
  • Jantar Mantar : Jantar mantar surprisingly is the largest sundial on the planet. It tells time that lags only two seconds from the actual local time! It situated in Jaipur and is the biggest stone observatory of the world. It was constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh in 18th century. It is listed in the UNESCO world heritage sites.
  • Hawa Mahal : Hawa mahal is wonderful, pink sandstone and ancient monument that rises up to five storeys. This was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799.

The Mugal architectural style developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th century in medieval India. It was a mixture of Persian, Turkic and south- Asian architecture. Mugal dynasty was established with the victory of Babur at Panipat in 1526. Babur took immense interest in the development of architecture and erection of buildings. Thus began the reign of Mugal architecture.

  • Agra Fort : The Agra fort was built by Akbar during 1565 AD. The construction indicates the adaptation of Rajput architecture. Some important buildings in the fort are Jahangiri Mahal, Moti Masjid, etc. Agra fort is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
  • Fatehpur Sikri : Akbar’s greatest architectural achievement is said to be Fatehpur sikri. Its construction began in 1569 AD and completed in 1574 AD. It contained some of the most beautiful buildings which testify the emperor’s aim of achieving social, political, and religious integration.
  • Humayun’s Tomb : Hamida Banu Begum built the Humayun’s tomb in the memory of her late husband Humayun. It is surrounded by a typical Mugal garden and is said to be one of the first mature examples of Mugal architecture.
  • Taj Mahal : Taj mahal is described as the ‘teardrop on the cheek of time’ by Rabindranath Tagore. It was built in the 16th century by Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz. It was constructed over the time of 22 years and required around 22,000 labourers and 1,000 elephants. Built entirely with white marble it is one of the worlds 7 wonders.
  • Charminar : Charminar literally means the mosque of four minars. It was constructed in 1959 by the fifth sultan of Qutub Shahi Dynasty – Mohommas Quli Shah. The four minars honour the four caliphs of Islam.
  • Golconda Fort : This spectacular monument is situated on the western periphery of Hyderabad city. Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah built this fort in 1525. Golconda fort was famous for its diamond trade and it is believed that the famous ‘kohinoor’ originated here.

The 17th century saw the arrival of Europeans and thus the architecture style changed completely. The Mugal Empire was overthrown and the next 300 years saw the construction of many buildings. They contributed to secular architecture like barracks, forts, etc. British architecture in India can be divided into three phases in India: Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta which were the centres for Britishers. What started as utilitarian architecture in the form of forts and military buildings had now turned solid with the beginning of the 19th century. Colonial architecture observed maturation to metropolis but also seeked inspiration from the existing Indian architecture.

  • Victoria Memorial : British colonial era gave India some wonderful architectural gems. Victoria memorial in Kolkata highlights the glory of British Empire in India. This monument amalgamates the best of Mugal and British architecture. It was inaugurated in 1921 paying tribute queen Victoria. At present it has a collection of remarkable maps, paintings, weapons, coins, sculptures, etc.
  • India Gate : – India gate is the biggest epitome of Delhi tourism. It was known as All India War Memorial as it incurs the memoir of soldiers who died in the First World War. Edwin Lutyens was the designer of this monument. An undying flame known as the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ is positioned underneath the arch of the monument.
  • Gateway of India : It acts as a symbol showing the prosperity of Mumbai. This huge archway was built by the Indian government to commemorate the visit of British monarch King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. George Wittet designed this famous archway.
  • Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus : It is considered as a milestone for the station architecture. Designed by FW. Stevens, it is among the UNESCO sites. It can be called a pleasant blend of Gothic, Venetian, Indo-Islamic traditions.

India has witnessed a long tradition of evolution of architecture. They have evolved distinctively blending with different cultures and creating a unique style altogether. In the recent times, with the globalization and migration of rural population into the urban population there has been a huge responsibility to organize property. Indian architecture has a long way to go, while learning from its glorious past.


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