India reigns its beauty in how diverse and culturally vibrant the country is. Throughout many centuries India has evolved vastly in its architectural styles and building patterns. Architecture in India is celebrated through the many traditional temples built from the 3rd century, the forts built from the 4th century, the early tombs of the Mughal period built during the 15th century, and the now remnants of modern architecture through skyscrapers, glass towers, etc. India in all its glory is an architecture lovers’ paradise. To understand the different architectural styles in India, let us take a deep dive into 10 of India’s most Iconic buildings.
1. The Sacred Sanchi Stupa, Sanchi | Architecture in India
The great stupa is a national treasure and a UNESCO world heritage site. The construction of the Sanchi town started during the 3rd century. Situated in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. Being a Buddhist complex, Sanchi is one of the oldest structures in India. Commissioned by Ashoka the great, the Sanchi stupa follows Buddhist architectural style and the building consists of a simple hemispherical structure built using bricks over the relics of Buddha. The stupa is embellished with three umbrella-like structures called chhatris which are meant to shelter the relics. The chhatris are supported by a large central pillar.
2. Brihadishwara Temple, Thanjavur
Originally known as the Peruvudaiyar Kovil, the Brihadishwara temple is an ancient temple along the southern bank of the Cauvery river at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. The construction of the temple was taken upon by the Chola emperor Rajaraja between 1003 and 1010 CE. The temple is a Hindu Dravidian-style temple and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built around a moat, fortified walls were later added for their structural integrity and safety. The Brihadishwara Temple has one of the tallest Vimana towers above the shrine and one of the largest Shiva linga in the whole of India. The sculptural quality of the temple is marveled upon by many locals and tourists all over.
3. Charminar, Hyderabad | Architecture in India
Translated as Four minarets, the Charminar is a famous Indian gateway. Located in Hyderabad in the state of Telangana, the Charminar is a global symbol of its city. It is so popular that it was officially incorporated as the Emblem of Telangana. constructed in 1591, the Charminar consists of a mosque on its top floor and it has been a place of worship for more than 425 years. Built-in the style of Indo-Islamic architecture, it is a square structure with each side being 20 meters long. There are four grand arches on the Charminar’s four sides, one on each side facing a central point that opens directly onto the street in front of it.
4. Humayun’s tomb, New Delhi
Famed as one of the most visited tombs of India, Humayun’s tomb was constructed in 1547 CE. located in Delhi, it is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. This unique structure was the first of its kind to add a garden to the tomb and to use red sandstone on a larger scale.
Declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, the tomb has undergone conservation and some restoration work. Built in a Mughal architectural style along with the tomb, it consists of several smaller monuments, including one that even predates the main tomb itself by twenty years that lines the walk leading up to Humayun’s main tomb enclosure from the main entrance in the west.
5. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur | Architecture in India
This popular structure, located in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan is a palace built in 1799. The locally available materials such as red and pink stone were used in the construction of the building. Situated on the edge of the city, it is a 5-floor exterior facade with 953 small windows called Jharokhas decorated with intricate latticework. The lattice design was not just aesthetically pleasing, but also served a functional purpose. Using the principle of the venturi effect allows cool air to pass through making the inside pleasant and calm. Quite interestingly the famous facade is actually the back of the facade. The whole area surrounding Hawa Mahal is a buzzing market space now.
6. Madras High Court, Chennai
The third oldest high court in India, the Madras High court is situated in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It boasts of being the second largest court complex followed by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Completed in the year 11892, it is a great example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Most of the materials used were sourced locally except for the steel girders and a few ornamental tiles. Built predominantly using brick and terracotta, the high court has onion dome towers and stained glass doors. This building is a testimony to the rich beauty of Indo-Saracenic architecture.
7. New India Assurance Building, Mumbai
Art Deco was an architectural style vastly explored in India during the 1930s and 1940s. The New India Assurance Building is located in the art deco capital of India, i.e. Mumbai. Constructed in the year 1936, it is built using reinforced concrete and adorns plenty of ornamentation in the facade. The design makes use of long vertical strips in the facade which give the building an elongated appearance.
8. Secretariat Building, Chandigarh | Architecture in India
Designed by the legendary Le Corbusier, The Secretariat Building in Chandigarh is quite literally the epitome of modern Architecture in India. Built after Independence, commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru, Corbusier was employed to add a new feature to the landscape of India’s architecture. The secretariat building is a Judicial Building, made using concrete and completed construction in 1953. It has a unique slope on its roof and adds character to the building. In 2016, Le Corb’s works were categorized as UNESCO world heritage sites.
9. Lotus Temple, New Delhi
Shaped like a lotus, the lotus temple is situated in New Delhi and is a place of worship for all. Following the expressionist architecture moment, it was built as a Baháʼí House of Worship that was dedicated in December 1986. Unique in its design, the head architect made use of concrete frames and a precast concrete ribbed roof. To achieve its flower-like shape, the lotus temple uses 27 free-standing columns arranged into a formation of three to form a petal arranged on 9 sides. Visited by 70 Million people, the Lotus temple was a breakthrough in Indian architecture.
10. Kanchanjunga Apartments, Mumbai | Architecture in India
During the reign of Brutalism in the field of architecture all over the world, few modern Indian architects took to the style and revamped the modern architecture of India. One such architect is Charles Correa and his design for the Kanchanjunga Apartments located in Mumbai serves as a testimony to Brutalism in India. The Kanchanjunga Apartments is a tall skyscraper consisting of 32 luxury apartments. It incorporates modern architecture with the region’s vernacular techniques.
The diversity of India has led to a variety of different architecture styles, some originated in the country and some adopted from others. India’s centuries of history is depicted through the evolution of buildings, its purpose, architecture style, materials used etc.
The list of iconic buildings in India is never ending and constantly evolving. However different an architectural style might be, in Indian architecture the essence of the country is never lost.