A central power city of Madhya Pradesh, Indore has had a significant impact in various sectors be it culinary, finance, education, entertainment, culture, arts or architecture.
Due to Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar with her keen interests in education and planning, and the imperial legacy left behind by the Holkar dynasty, the heritage of this city is noteworthy. The Holkars were great connoisseurs of art, the Medici’s of central India, and were famous for their jewellery, cars, and palaces.
Here is a list of 15 places that an architect shouldn’t miss out on when in Indore.
1. LAL BAGH
A true gem of Indore, the Lal Bagh palace is a dream teleportation device for an architect, into the European aesthetic. Right from the main entrance gates that are replicas of the ones at Buckingham palace, through the rose gardens into the main palace, you are captivated by highly baronial rooms with marble columns, elite Georgian style furniture, grand chandeliers, rich Persian carpets, Belgium stained glass windows, Renaissance reliefs on ceilings, wall paintings, and decorations to match the likes of the Palace of Versailles. This epitome of a regal lifestyle which hosted multiple royal receptions was recently restored to its former glory by Abha Narain Lambah Associates.
2. RAJWADA PALACE, INDORE.
Living through centuries, this palatial residence of the Holkar Dynasty, towers above the Kajuri market space with an elegance of the bygone era. Built in a rectilinear form with cylindrical bastions, it boasts of strong Indo Saracenic Maratha Architectural style, and an elegant play of wood, marble, rough Basalt and lime plaster. Like a layered cake, standing 7 stories tall, the lower 3 storeys are built in stone and painted brown, and are crafted in Rajput Style. The other floors made of wood, painted in a lighter colour, adorn the heavily carved fenestrations. Through a lofty archway one is lead into a courtyard surrounded by galleries, arcades and detailed windows for ventilation. The space planning is a page out of the Maratha style of transitional space layouts keeping in mind the regional climate.
Southern part of the palace that succumbed to one of the three fires was reconstructed using the same materials and techniques as an ode to its predecessor. Bonus would be for architects to notice and study the differences in the two structures.
3. KRISHNAPURA CHHATTRIS
Named after the Malwa ruler, Maharani Krishna Bai, The Chhattris along the river Khan are cenotaphs built on the cremation spots of the Holkar rulers to eternalise Maratha rule over Indore. Skilled in architecture and connoisseurs or art and culture, the Chhattris are an example of just that, set in stone. Different types of stones set amidst the beauty of one another, hold intricate carvings of idols, warriors, and even musicians and courtiers. The monumental façade that portrays bravery, has a whimsical charm to it. The three pyramidal spires house the cenotaphs and are each connected to a common prayer hall, which have delicately carved arches and pillars with an evident Rajput influence. An artificial lake set in front of the deteriorating state of the Khan River, poses questions that a building cannot thrive as a singular entity and that its surroundings also play a major role in its existence.
4. GANDHI HALL
Speaking of connoisseurs of art and culture, the essence of the Holkar legacy is still alive through the Town Hall as it continues to serve as a major venue for exhibitions.
The Mahatma Gandhi Hall, earlier known as the King Edward hall was built in 1904 by Architect Charles Frederick Stevens. The robust Indo Gothic styled structure is adorned in white Seoni stone and red stone from Patan. In the centre of the façade stands a notable 4 faced clock tower, flanked by minarets and domes. It depicts a similar narrative like the other historic buildings in Indore with its rich frescoed ceilings, ornamental mouldings and aura. The structure is equipped with a spacious hall to hold multidisciplinary arts, library, park, and a temple.
5. KANCH MAHAL
Built in the early 20th century by Sir Seth Hukum Chand Jain, is an iridescent glory brought to life by the skills of workers from Jaipur and Iran. With a concept similar to the Sheesh Mahal in Amer fort, Jaipur, this charming space is a Jain temple depicting murals on Jainism. Everything from the walls, ceilings, and pillars are enveloped in glass and mosaics. A delicately crafted Chinese lantern made of glass further enhances the character of the space.
6. DALY COLLEGE
Designed by one of the pioneers of Indo Saracenic style of architecture, Col. Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, it comes as no surprise that the Daly College is an iconic marvel that stands tall in all its glory.
Lauded for incorporating Indian Architecture to his buildings, Col. Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob who designed the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur, created another Notable Master piece- the Daly College.
Sprawling over 118.8 acres of campus and resting midst lush green gardens, manicured lawns, and artificial lakes, is the Indo Saracenic beauty built in Marble sourced from Udaipur. With a prior appointment it should be easier to get a look into the main structure of the large campus.
7. IIM Indore
Established in 1996, IIM Indore has a sprawling campus of 193 acres and is considered one of the biggest, in terms of campus space. Designed by Sandeep and Suresh Goel, nesting on a hillock, the campus is planned radially to provide panoramic views. The campus is a blend of tradition and modernity, in a simple yet elegant manner. The minimalism of the stone cladded structures, enormous arches and walkways sheltered with pergolas, create interesting shadows. The campus planning and design is something that is worth a case study for spatial planning.
8. THE PIPLIYAPALA PARK
The Pipliyapala Park or Atal Bihari Vajpayee Regional Park developed under the Indore development Authority, boasts of an area of 122 acres, of which 80 acres is covered by a ginormous lake. The park can be a great study of what works and doesn’t for a public space and how elements of urban design can help uplift the essence of a city. With easily distinguishable aspects and allures of the Mughal and French gardens, open air amphitheatres, fountains and an artisan village, it can be a great place to sit back and catch a breather in between covering the other architectural marvels of the city.
9. PHOOTI KOTHI
Situated close to the Lal Bagh Palace, the structure that looks dilapidated is actually an incomplete marvel of the Holkar dynasty. Constructed in red sand stone, it was only built up to the ground floor. Even with only a few walls, columns and arches and no ceilings, you get a sense of a colonial influence. However due to series of unfortunate events during the construction, the building has been lying forlorn and barren. Said to be haunted, you would want to visit this one in broad daylight.
10. ANNAPURNA TEMPLE
True to Indore’s central location with respect to the Indian Map, one of the oldest temples here, the Annapurna Temple is a beautiful blend of Indo Aryan and Dravidian style temple architecture. Dedicated to the goddess of food, this temple isn’t only worth a visit for religious reasons, it is also an architectural haven. With an architectural narrative similar to the famous Meenakshi Temple in Madhurai, the massive gopuram is comparable to an elite invite into a different world. The visitors are greeted by 4 full sized elephants which embrace the highly ornamented Gopuram gracefully. The walls and columns are all intricately carved, delicately, depicting legendary mythological stories and characters.
11. THE WHITE CHURCH
With great influence of European architecture, it doesn’t come as a surprise that this small city is also home to quite a few interesting churches. One of the oldest churches here is the White church built by then Governor General of India, Sir Robert M C Hamilton in 1858, and gives us a hint of the Pre-Independence era. The church portrays a rich British architecture prevalent in most of the protestant churches in Britain. Its enormous red gabled roofs and conical spires are sustained on a white edifice made of white stone and marble. The massive white façade is punctured by beautiful pointed arched windows.
Resting atop the hillock overlooking the airport with stunning views all around, Gomatgiri is a sacred place for Jains. It is home to a 21ft statue of Gomateshwar.
Revel in the serenity of the white marble structures clustered across the hill top. The 24 architecturally significant temples house the 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism. Their beauty is accentuated by their individual Shikaras, manicured lawns and the serenading arcades of multifoil arches around the 24 shrines.
One of the closest excursions to Indore is the marvellous ruins of the Citadel of Mandu. With every turn there is history waiting to be unravelled. The fortified walls enclose a large number of palaces, mosques, Jain temples of the 14th century, and other buildings depicting early Mughal, Pashtun and Rajput architectural style. The oldest mosque dates back to 1405. The finest is the Jama Masjid a notable example of Pashtun architecture. Jahaz Mahal, which gets its name due to the illusion of the structure floating on water between 2 lakes, the swing shaped audience hall – Hindolamahal and its enormous Ogee arches, the water lift system in the Rewa Kund, Baz Bahadur’s Palace and many more will have your heart stolen.
Set a little away from Mandu, the caves at Dhar are something that should not be missed out on. The Bagh Caves are nine rock-cut sculptures dug out by Satavahanas during the 5th and 6th centuries. Out of the nine monuments, only five have survived and each of them are viharas, where Buddhist monks still rest. A small chamber at the back of the monument forms the “chaitya” which means the “prayer hall”. The walls and ceilings of these rock cut monasteries are adorned with paintings which are more materialistic than spiritual. This place is an architectural and cultural marvel.
15. AHILYA FORT
Perched above the Ghats of Maheshwar, overlooking the languid Narmada, the Ahilya fort basks in the eternal glory of the Maratha Queen Ahilyabai Holkar. Built around 250 years ago in a typical architectural style of a Maratha fortified residence, this magnificent place is just a couple of hours away from Indore. The ancient monument also houses temples dedicated to lord Shiva. The queen’s residence was restored into a heritage hotel and a weaving unit of the age old weaving tradition was set up by her descendant, Richard Holkar. The fort is adorned with floral and geometric Frieze and Rajasthani styled oriel windows. The tranquillity of the river enjoyed from the stepped Ghats is next to none.