Architecture in India

India has been the scene of construction activity for more than 4000 years. Most of it has disappeared, but through what is preserved it is still possible to see the main features of Indian history.


The elaborately shaped timber architecture under Maurya Dynasty (about 320 fvt.-ca. 185 if necessary.) Seems to be reflected in buildings from 200 century CE., Which is also cleared mountain in Barabas area in the eastern part of Bihar. Buddhism played an important role during the Maurya dynasty, and among the earliest preserved examples of Indian monumental architecture are large pillars of sandstone with monolithic pillars and capitals with animal or plant motifs. The columns were erected along main roads and in Buddhist monasteries and symbolized the dynasty.

Hindu temple facility in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

The Hindu temple facility in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, from around the 600s. 

Another form of early monumental architecture in India is the stupa. This, too, is primarily related to Buddhism, but is also known in other religious contexts. The stupa is built of stone and is shaped like a tapered dome, placed on terraces or a foundation, and is often crowned with an upper square platform which is shielded with a stone umbrella. The stupa can function both as a tombstone and as a temple that can hold ritual objects. The platform acts as a symbolic altar. An example of Ashoka’s reign (200 century BCE) architecture is the oldest remains of the Sanchi Buddhist site, which includes both a stupa and a pillar. In the rock temple in Bhaja (century AD), the stupa is placed inside the cliff room, where the vaulted ceiling is carried by two rows of columns.

Dravidian temple architecture in southern India

Dravidian temple architecture in southern India, richly decorated with sculpted reliefs.


Large parts of Indian architecture are characterized by Hinduism, see Hinduism (architecture).


With the introduction of Islam in the 7th century, new building tasks took the form of mosques and so on. In the 11th century, Muslim invasions began, and in 1198 a Muslim kingdom was founded with Delhi as its capital. The earliest Indo-Islamic buildings were based on local building tradition, but a new Indo-Islamic style was developed in the Sultanate of Delhi, as it became a political and cultural power factor in the northern part of India in the second half of the 12th century. The Quwwat-al-Islam Mosque in Delhi has an inscription stating that the buildings are constructed of 27 ruined temples. In other areas, the Indo-Muslim style evolved into variations based on local traditions that were preserved in parallel with the new Indo-Islamic style.

The Char Minar (four tower) gate building in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, was erected in 1591. The square building has 30 m long sides. The minarets are 60 m high.

Important monuments of the Delhi Sultanate period, for example, Quatab-Minar outside Delhi (1199-1230), a victory monument used as a lookout tower, Ajmer Mosque (1299), Tughlaqabad capital at Lalkot with citadel and mausoleum (13th century), Sher Shah’s citadel in Delhi and his mausoleum in Sasaram, Bihar (16th century).

In 1526, Babur moved into India from the north and founded the Muslim Mughal Empire. In the 16th century, an architecture was developed within the Mughal empire that reflected their imperial ambitions. In many areas, however, the local building tradition continued, or new hybrid forms were created. This was especially true as the empire gradually fell into disrepair in the 18th century.

The Mughal era’s earliest monuments are imitations of timuride architecture in Samarkand, Bukhara and Herat. Only during Akbar (1556-1605) did a freer style of Indian elements emerge. Examples are Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, Fortress of Agra (1565–73) and Fatehpur (Fathpur) Sikri, planned as capital of southwest of Agra but abandoned in 1580. The grand entrance gate, Buland Darvaza, shows pure mugal style while the emperor’s private comforts and the house of his friend Birbal bears the mark of Indian influence. Later, the style was once again “cleansed”, culminating in the Taj Mahal (1632-50) tomb, which is perhaps the most famous monument in India. Also the Pearl Mosque in Agra (1646–53), and the city mosques in Agra and Delhi belong to this classic time, e.g. the great mosque Jama Masjid in Delhi (1644–58). A more Baroque style emerged during the late Mughal emperors.

The colonial past

European architecture was first introduced by Portuguese trading companies, which from ca. In the year 1500 established stations along the coast of India. An important Portuguese trading station was Goa. In 1616, Denmark established an East Indian trading company with stations in Tranquebar and Bengal. The early colonial architecture is a mixture of home and local style. The most distinctive feature of the home architecture is reasonably the church buildings. In Tranquebar, both the fortress and a significant part of the Indo-European urban settlement from the colonial period have been preserved.

In the 19th century, British influence began to prevail. Among the examples of a purely classicist building are the palace of nawab Nurshidabad (1827–37), designed by architect Duncan McLeod. After India became British colony in 1858, a large number of European / Indo-European public buildings were erected. The first railway in India was built in the 1850s and will play a central role in the country’s further history. An architectural expression of this is the impressive Victoria Terminus in Mumbai (Bombay) in Indoromanian style.

In retrospect, it may seem that Indian architecture has largely been the recipient of contact with other cultures. However, it is part of the same picture that Indian architecture has also had considerable influence outside the country, primarily as a result of the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism to much of Asia. Even in England, there are clear signs of Indian influence in some monuments, such as the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (1815–23) by architect John Nash.

The first decades of the 20th century were marked by various attempts to fuse Indian tradition with Western cultural import. While G. Wittet designed the Prince of Wales Museum (Mumbai, 1905), which is a pure replica of Islamic Gujerati architecture, British architects also worked to integrate Indian craft traditions and building methods into the trends prevailing within contemporary European architecture. EB Havell, the head of the Madras art school, was heavily influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, advocating a moderation of Edwin Lutien’s classic New Delhi plans. In several of the official buildings completed during the 1930s, such as Viceroy’s House, we therefore find Western neoclassical and Indian form elements side by side.

Of more importance to the development of a genuine Indian architecture, however, was AG Shoosmith’s St. Martin Church in New Delhi (1930), which with its dense, scarce form is a timeless abstracted synthesis of tradition and modernism. The same is true of the St. Thomas Church in Delhi (1932), designed by WS George, who in the Sujau Singh Park residence (Delhi, 1940s) used Indian experience of tropical climate construction combined with Western knowledge of residential planning. George was one of the relatively few British architects who remained in India after the liberation. in the establishment of the New Delhi School of Architecture.

The Mumbai train station, Victoria Terminus

After the liberation

When Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947, it was decided to build a new capital on the Indian side, and the new state capital, Chandigarh, has become one of the most notable new facilities of the 20th century. Le Corbusier was chosen to design the town plan, which was realized in 1951-65 under the leadership of Pierre Jeanneret and Maxwell Fry, in collaboration with a number of Indian architects and engineers. Le Corbusier himself designed the buildings for the supreme court (1956), the government (1958) and parliament (1962), in addition to a number of other buildings for public institutions and private housing, also elsewhere in the country, including. Villa Shodanin Ahmadabad. Chandigarh not only marks the definitive introduction of modern architecture in India, but is, to the highest degree, an example of a successful fusion of Western and Eastern ideals in the art of architecture.

At the same time as the development in Chandigarh, a new generation of Indian architects was trained, working in the span between Western modernism and Indian regionalism. Balkrishna V. Doshi, the oldest of them, worked for several years at Le Corbusier, i.a. in Chandigarh, and he also collaborated with Louis Kahn on the construction of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmadabad (1962-72). In a residential area near Indore (1983-86) he is markedly regionalist, both in the planning position and in the use of formal elements and materials. The Hussain Doshi Gufà Art Gallery (Ahmadabad, 1994), on the other hand, is an ecological experiment, both in terms of the design of the buried building volumes, the use of materials and the construction itself.

  1. Correa showed his respect for Indian building tradition in designing the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Delhi (1994), but at the same time drew impetus from modernist planning practice in his compilation of similar volumes. In Jawahar Kala Kendra art center he used the same additive floor grammar, and while the wall surfaces are more abstract, it is traditionally present in the form of distinctive details and well-known symbols of Indian mythology.
  2. Rewal is the most prominent modernist of the three, but also in his works, such as the Communication Center Education Center (New Delhi, 1991), the regional anchoring is present in the way he pierces the building mass to create covered, shady areas.

The efforts to combine western impulses with the continuation of regional building methods are today being continued by the generation of younger Indian architects. Of these, R. Khosla has distinguished himself with a number of buildings which show a great freedom and absence of dogmatism in relation to Indian building tradition ( United Breweries, Bangalore, 1986).