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Indian Architecture


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Title: Indian Architecture

Indian Architecture
Mohenjo-daro, located in today's Sindh province
of Pakistan,  is a great source of archeological
information about the lost Indus River Valley
civilization.  The city is about five thousand
years old, and was abandoned around 1700 BCE,
probably due to a change of course of the river
which supported the civilization. It was
rediscovered in the 1920s by archaeologists and
has since been elaborately excavated.
Bronze Statue of a DancerMohenjo-daro
Civilization, 2nd millenium B.C
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The caste layers most often quoted are The
Brahmins -- those engaged in sacrifices, and
priestly functions The Kshtriyas -- Rulers and
warriors The Vaishyas -- Merchants, farmers, and
tradesmen The Shudras -- Laborers, craftsmen,
service professions
One of the first references to the four
categories of the caste system are found in the
Bhagawad-Vita, where Krishna advises the brahmins
to be learned, the warriors to be brave, vaishyas
to be good merchants taking care of cattle and
farmlands and the shudras to be faithful
servants.  Notice that in the above list, the
caste is associated with a profession. The
Bhagawad-Gita also offers classification of men
based on their predominant nature - satva
(virtue), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance),
and in the course of time, these qualities got
mapped on to the four layers, associating the
brahmins with virtue and shudras with ignorance.
The biggest concern for students of the caste
system is the status of people, so called Dalits.
For centuries, a segment of the India society was
condemned as caste-less and were denied access to
temples, water, and other civil amenities.
Gandhi, who fought very hard for betterment of
this segment, called them Harijans or Children of
God. Over a period of time, even the word Harijan
has become politically incorrect, and these days
are referred to as Dalits or Scheduled Castes.
Professionals such as janitors, and cobblers
were/are discriminated in India in the name of
the caste system. The caste system is a relative
system - that means any prejudice or hierarchy
can come into existence only with respect to
another caste.
Gautama was born as Siddhartha in the Kshatria
caste of the Shakya clan in 566 B.C. in Kalpataru
(now in present day Nepal). Popular legends
represent him as the son of a great king, brought
up amidst the luxuries of a palace.  As he grew
into manhood, Siddhartha was caught by the
sufferings of the world (old age, disease and
death), so he left his riches to become an
ascetic and seek higher truth. After years of
study, meditation and sacrifice, he is known to
have found the Nirvana (the cure to ills of the
world) and became the Buddha or the completely
Timeline of Human DevelopmentFirst Online
September 17, 2001Last Updated March 19,2007
Gautama Buddha adopted the life of a religious
teacher from the age of thirty-five till his
death at the age of eighty (c. 486 B.C.). He was
a great teacher and had a tremendous following.
He defined  four noble truths (Arya Satyani) 1.
The world is full of suffering 2. Desire is the
root cause of worldly existence 3. Conquering
desire and attachments are the only way to
happiness 4. Conquering desire must be done in
the right way. Buddha explained in detail the
chain of causes which lead to suffering and the
means of deliverance from these sufferings. He
said that man is the arbiter of his own destiny,
not the gods. He condemned the efficacy of Vedic
rites and rituals and challenged the superiority
of the Brahmins. Buddhism, went on to become a
very popular religion in the subsequent centuries
and even went abroad. Today, in its various
derivatives, it is practiced by more people
outside of India than within. Buddha's birthday
(Buddha Jayanti) is observed in India as a
national holiday.
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By the end of the third century BC, most of North
India was knit together in the first great Indian
empire by Chandragupta Maurya. His son Bindusara
extended the Mauryan empire over virtually the
entire subcontinent, giving rise to an imperial
vision that was to dominate successive centuries
of political aspirations. The greatest Mauryan
emperor was Ashoka (286-231 BC)
Ashoka (also sometimes transliterated as
"Asoka"), came to the throne circa 268 B.C. and
died approximately 233 B.C. He is chiefly known
from his series of rock and pillar inscriptions,
which are found scattered in various parts of
India and provide important information about his
reign and policies. After eight years of rule, he
waged a fierce war against the kingdom of Kalinga
and was so horrified at the carnage he had caused
that he gave up violence and turned to
Buddhism. In his efforts to propagate Buddhism,
Ashoka built shrines and monasteries and
inscribed Buddhist teachings on rocks and pillars
in many places. He sent missionaries to countries
as remote as Greece and Egypt his own son, a
monk, carried Buddhism to Sri Lanka, where it is
still the major religion. Despite Ashoka's
vigorous exertions of faith, he was tolerant of
other religions. The empire enjoyed remarkable
prosperity during his reign. Some Indian
historians think that his policy of peace led to
the downfall of the Mauryan empire, which fell
apart after his death. He was soon largely
forgotten by Indian tradition and only remembered
in Buddhist circles as a great patron of the
faith. With the deciphering of his inscriptions
during the 19th century, he took his rightful
place in world history as one of the most
benevolent rulers of antiquity.
The Mogul (also spelled as Moghul and Mughal)
empire was founded by Babur in 1526, when he
defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the last of the Delhi
Sultans at the first battle of Panipat.
Successive progenies of the family went on to
rule the empire, sometimes shrinking, but mostly
expanding it.
The founder of the Mughal dynasty was Babur, "The
Tiger," who ruled from 1483 to 1530. His mother
was descended from Genghis Khan, but his father
was descended from Timur. Like his ancestors, he
rose from comparatively little to become one of
the great conquerors of his time. Babur was said
to be a man of compassion, who would not allow
his troops to plunder or to harm innocent people.
Highly cultured, he wrote poetry both in Persian
and his Turkic mother tongue, and he also left a
volume of memoirs that has been widely translated.
Babur ruled over a small kingdom in Turkestan he
expanded his kingdom by attacking Afghanistan and
capturing Kabul in 1504. From there he crossed
over the mountains into Hindustan and attacked
the Dehli Sultanate. With an army of only twelve
thousand men, he defeated the Sultan at Panipat,
captured Agra and Dehli, and established himself
as Sultan. When he died in 1530 he had conquered
all of Hindustan and controlled an empire that
extended from the Deccan to Turkestan. Besides
his fierce military genius, his conquest of this
vast territory was aided by technological
superiority. He was the first Islamic conqueror
to employ muskets and artillery, and even though
these weapons were somewhat primitive, they were
more than a match for the armies of the
  • At the same time that Babur was aggressively
    expanding his territory, however, Europeans began
    their slow and steady invasion of India.
    Initially begun by the Portugese, the process
    would be brought to completion by the British
    who, in the 1850's, annexed India into the
    British Empire. The history of the Mughal Empire
    is intimately tied to the history of European
    expansion and territorial invasions. In 1510, the
    Portugese conquered the island of Goa off the
    Indian Coast and a few years later occupied
    territory on the Indian subcontinent itself.
    Babur was still in Afghanistan it would be
    fifteen more years before he crossed the mountain
    paths and attacked the Dehli sultanate.    

  • Babur was succeeded by his son, Humayun, whose
    history walks the fine line between tragedy and
    farce. He inherited one of the largest empires in
    the world, and between 1530 and 1540, he managed
    to lose all of it to rebellions, from Afghanistan
    to India. He went into exile in Persia, and
    slowly put together an army to reconquer his lost
    territory. By 1555, he managed to do this,
    despite his inauspicious first decade in charge.
    Just as he was on the verge of complete
    reconquest, he fell down a flight of stairs and
    broke his neck. Despite his tremendous success at
    reconquest, both Islamic and Western history has
    marked him down as one of the major losers of

Humayun's defeat, however, had a profound
influence on Mughal culture. In his years of
exile in the Persian court, Humayun developed a
deep understanding and love for Persian culture,
and instilled that in his son Akbar. After his
and his son's reconquest of India, the culture
that they built around themselves was based
heavily on Persian models philosophy,
literature, painting, and architecture, all show
deeply embedded Persian models.
  • Basilican type hall with an apse at one end
    containing a stupa, carved out of living rock (a
    man-made cave serving as a Buddhist temple)
  • Generally include an elaborate sculpted façade
    with replicas of wooden details from an earlier
    period (that no longer exist - similar to
    Ancient Greeks)
  • Central vaulted opening which extends the
    internal barrel vault outward.
  • Good example at Karli, India 1st century AD

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Typical Chaitya plans
Chaityas- halls
Rock-cut chaitya hall
  • Similar to the Chaityas are the Viharas, a
    Buddhist monastery carved out of living rock.
    The doorway leads to a large courtyard that
    includes one to three story hypostyle halls.
    Kailasa Temple in Ellora, India is an example of
    this type.
  • Buddhist monasteries were the first to use this
    technique in India.

  • Persian Architecture
  • Rock-cut tombs of Darius the great, Xerxes, and
    Artaxerxes in Pasargadae. (6th c BCE.)

Temple at Mamallapuram(Cave temple)
Cave Architecture
  • In 3rd century BC cave architecture flourished
    and in the western coast where the quality of the
    rock made them suitable for excavation.
  • Caves were mostly used by Buddhists to worship
    Buddha and also to live in.
  • In the later period cave architecture was
    developed by the Hindus.
  • -

Kailasa Temple at Ellora 757 773 largest
monolithic temple in India.
  • Photo, interior, detail in the inner courtyard.
    These elephants appear exactly behind the point
    of entrance into the inner court. Kailasa
    Temple Ellora, Maharashtra, India

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  • Buddhist cave at Ellora, 600 800 AD

  • Jain cave at Ellora 800 -1000 AD

Architectural Typologies -Stupa
  • Stupa lacks interior space
  • Symbolic significance as a magical center of the
    universe (or axis mundi), as a cenotaph, tomb or
    reliquary, votive offering, or as a monument to a
    miraculous of historic event
  • Replaces the importance of the altar, becomes an
    architectural symbol of the Buddha, whose essence
    permeates the entire universe (Buddha the
    essential force of the universe, not Buddha the

Great Stupa at Sanchi 220B.C. - 236 A.D.
Floor Plan of Great Stupa
220 B.C- 236 A.D. Sanchi, India Ashoka Maurya,
Northern Gateway
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  • The Stupa of Borobudur, 8th c.

  • Borobudur temple, Java, Indonesia

Dagoba / Pagoda -a relic shrine, a type of stupa
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Jain / Hindu Styles
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Indo-Islamic Styles
  • Brought to India by the first Muslim conquerors.
  • Islamic Architecture borrowed Indian
    architectural elements such as courtyards
    surrounded by colonnades, balconies supported by
    brackets and decoration.
  • Islam architecture introduced the dome, geometric
    motifs, mosaics, and minarets.
  • Together, both architectural styles achieved a
    harmonious fusion.
  • Three Types associated with locality
  • The Pashtun
  • The Provincial
  • The Mughal

Pashtun Style
  • Can be found at Ahmadabad in Gujurat State and
    Gaur-Pandua in West Bengal State.
  • Structures of this style are much simpler and
    lack sculptures of human figures.
  • Common elements of this style are the dome, the
    arch and the minaret.

  • Gol Gumbaz mausoleum (17th century) in Bijapur of
    the Mysore State

Qutb Minar (12th century) near Delhi
Provincial Style
  • Reflected the continued rebellion of the
    provinces against the imperial style of Delhi
  • When Emperor Akbar finally conquered the region,
    the conquering dynasty erected many monuments in
    varying styles. Many are found in Ahmadabad in
    the Gujurat State.

Jami Masjid(1423)
Mughal Style
  • Style occurred from the 16th to the 18the century
    and developed to a high degree with the use of
    such luxurious materials as marble.
  • The most notable use of the Mughal style lies in
    the palace fortresses at Agra and Delhi, and the
    great mosques at Delhi and Lahore.

Taj Mahal in AgraBuilt by the Mughal emperor
Shah Jahan in 1632 to 1648
  • Chief architect Ustad Isa

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Lord Shiva
  • Minakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu (India)
    dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Shiva

Traditional Elements of a Mosque (Masjid)
Parapets - Minerets
Jami Masjid
Jami Masjid 1470
Types of DomesImperialProvincial Mughul
Development of Squinches
Squinch - Small Vault with a Half dome shape that
traditionally has overlapping courses
Styles of Indian Arches
Humayun's Tomb (New Delhi) looks like a first
draft for the somewhat larger Taj Mahal.
Tomb of Humayan
The mausoleum of Humayun is situated at the
distance about 4.5 miles from the city on the
Delhi-Mathura Road. His remains were removed from
the Old Fort, where he died in 1556, and buried
in the place where they now lie. The site for the
mausoleum was selected by the Emperor Humayum
himself and on his death it was built by his
widow Hamida Bano Hegum, popularly known as
Nawab Haji Begum, the mother of Akbar, the Great.
Situated on Parliament Street near Connaught
Place, the astronomical observatory commonly
known as Jantar Mantar was constructed in 1724 AD
by Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur. The Observatory
having four different astronomical instruments in
spite of their crude construction in brick and
mortar is a remarkable monument of scientific and
historic value and forms a dignified feature of
New Delhi
The observatory consists of a group of six
curiously shaped huge masonry structures which
were devised to study and observe celestial
phenomena, the location and the movements of the
Sun, the Moon, and the other celestial bodies.
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Capital in Banglasdesh, Louis Kahn,