India, one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, with the most diverse cultural history and inhabited by multiple races, religions, and languages is a goldmine for the study of architectural evolution throughout history. Each transition or inclusion of new culture has created an impact on Indian architecture and art. One can easily see the different architectural styles reflecting in the buildings all over the country. This unique development of assimilating a wide variety of cultures enable us to learn how such a diverse society has evolved.
In the words of Mark Twain,“So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”
This article is just a minuscule attempt at displaying the diversity with which Indian architecture has been blessed. The following are ten most iconic yet totally independent and different architectural masterpieces having their own style of architecture. These styles have developed according to the geological conditions, cultural inclinations as well as technological advancements in their own era.
Taj Mahal is without a doubt, one of the most impressive pieces of architecture not only in India but all around the world. For years, it has been the face of Indian architecture for people all over the world. Built in 1653 on the orders of the Mughal ruler Shahjahan as a resting place for his beloved queen Mumtaj Mahal, it is a symbol of love. Considered to be one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, the white marble building comprises of a square plinth having a central structure topped by a huge dome and surrounded by four minarets at each corner. It is considered as one of the seven wonders of the world in the modern era. It attracts about 3 million tourists every year thus being a hotshot for visitors globally.
It is one of the modern buildings that have come up in recent times and has managed to achieve a status and fame that attracts tourists from all over the world. Conceptualized on the form of Lotus flower, it is a Bahai’i House of worship that is open to all religions and stands for the secularism and openness of the country. Designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, the structure is composed of 27 petals aligned in groupings of three thus forming a circular periphery that is co-aligned by the ritualistic beliefs of Baha’i community.
Amber Fort, Rajasthan
Amber Fort is one of the hill forts in Rajasthan. A specimen of Hindu architecture in a Rajputana style, this fort is 11km away from the city of Jaipur. Made of Red-Sandstone and Marble, it is famous for its self-sustaining features. Having Moata Lake as its permanent water source and highly advanced ventilation system done by brilliant design, the whole structures is a prominent display of the royalty as well as the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan.
Built during the time period of 2nd century B.C. to 6th century A.D., these caves are the finest examples of rock-cut caves. Honed out of volcanic ballistic formations while existing in a linear pattern, there are 34 caves, containing the remnants of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples. These walls are equipped with engravings showing the life of Lord Buddha. The purpose of these caves was to provide a sanctuary for the monks to meditate. Ellora in particular is famous for world’s largest monolithic excavation leading to discovery of the great Kailasa temple.
It is the deepest step-well in the world. Situated in the state of Rajasthan, it was built in 9th century as a source of water for people in the neighboring villages. The whole structure is a square construction, 100 feet deep with 3500 steps and a periphery of 140 meters. It shows the geometrical intelligence of architects and local craftsmen of that era. This step-well stands as a perfect example that shows how Vernacular architecture is of, for and by the people.
Sun Temple, Konark
Lying in the coast of Bay of Bengal, it is considered one of the best examples of Dravidian Architecture. Also known as the Black Pagoda, it is considered as one of the grandest temples in India. Built in 13th century, it has a form of a giant chariot with twelve intricately crafted wheels led by seven horses. A true marvel that shows the advanced craftsmanship as well as love and devotion of that era for art.
Built in 3rd century B.C., an outstanding specimen of Buddhist art & architecture, it is one of the prominent monuments from ancient India. A stupa is generally a hemispherical dome structure containing relics of Lord Buddha. In this particular stupa, Lord Buddha has been symbolically represented by footprints, thrones, wheels etc. and all of them are exquisitely ornamented.
It is a memorial that was commemorated on the death of Queen Victoria by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon and opened for public in 1921. Designed by Sir William Emerson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, it is in a Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. According to Lord Curzon,
“Let us, therefore, have a building, stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Calcutta will turn, to which all the resident population, European and Native, will flock, where all classes will learn the lessons of history, and see revived before their eyes the marvels of the past.”
Made from Makrana marbles from Rajasthan, the museum has a vast collection of remnants from the period of British Empire rule in India. Architectural elements like the great dome, clustered with four subsidiary, octagonal domed chattris, the high portals, the terrace and the domed corner towers have been used with great precision.
Designed by American architect Louis I Kahn, it is one of the best institutional buildings in the country.This building is considered to be a great example as to how Modern architecture can seamlessly co-exist with traditional architecture, all that is needed is creativity and will. India Vernacular architecture could easily be seen in the selection of materials as well as use of geometrical compositions to give shape to something awe-inspiring. Also the stress given on not just limiting learning to classrooms therefore making spaces like hallways and plazas much more prominent. Also the use of voids in the facade of the building is one of its best features.
This Buddhist monastery lies in the lap of Indus valley. Blessed by nature, it is built on a hill. The whole building is subdivided into parts according to their importance. So residents live in the lower parts while shrines are at the top. Apart from that, it is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters. Having 12-storey, it is the biggest monastery in Ladakh region. One can also find some rare and precious stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords in the monastery. Architecturally, the most amazing features are the use of vernacular techniques in every element of buildings, whether it be walls, columns or roofs thus proving to be a great source of knowledge.
By: Vaibhav Sharma