India is a very diverse country, and the architecture of India also follows suit. The architecture found in India ranges from ancient caves to modern-day skyscrapers. As India grows, the architecture of India continues to diversify by constantly going back to its roots while keeping up with current trends.

The earliest architectural adventures of India trace back to the Indus Valley civilization and, since then the architecture of India has been on the rise towards greatness. People of India inhabited shelters made of clay and mud bricks located on streets with grid layouts and a highly developed drainage system.

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Indus Valley Civilisation ©

The rock-cut architecture in India dates back to the 2nd Century BC and the technique created many famous caves and temples of India. The Ajanta and Ellora caves of Maharashtra employed rock-cut architecture for their formation.

India, the central hub for Hindu architecture, is further classified into Dravidian and Nagara styles of architecture. The Dravidian style flourished in the empires located in the South of India while the Nagara style predominantly displayed itself in the Northern parts of India.

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Rock Cut Kailasa Temple ©

The culture and religious beliefs of the rulers of India certainly affected the architecture of India as well. 

States of Eastern India display architectural styles that belong to the grand empires of Maurya, Kalinga, and Magadha. Buddhism was widespread in these regions. The 3rd Century Buddhist architecture involved rest houses for monks and worship places for followers. The Sanchi Stupa belonging to the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire is a marvelous example of Buddhist Architecture. Buddhist emperors also built the University of Buddhism in Nalanda as the ancient seat of learning. 

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Rock Cut Kailasa Temple ©

Architecture in Bengal saw the use of a lot of clay, terracotta, and laterite stones. Though the architecture is not grand, it is aesthetic and it manages to mirror the Bengali lifestyle. The Madan Mohana temple showcases the features of traditional Bengali architecture very appealingly. 

Orissa displays an attractive array of architecture that dates back to the 7th Century. The architecture of Orissa rivals that of the Gothic Architecture found in European countries with its scooped out sculpting of deities on the rock facades and friezes of the temples. The revered Sun temple of Konark is an exemplary example of the architecture of Orissa depicting the Kalinga architectural style.

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Sun Temple of Konark, Orissa ©

The Kadamba architecture of Karnataka evolved from the ancient royal dynasty of Karnataka from 345 to 525 BCE. Though it resembles the Dravidian architecture, the differentiating feature is the Shikara (dome), called Kadamba Shikara. The Dravidian architecture developed and evolved under different reigns of Karnataka like the Chalukya and Vijayanagara empires. Buddhist monasteries are also a part of the architecture of Karnataka and the Namdroling Monastery is a celebrated Buddhist monastery located in the city of Coorg in Karnataka.

Dravidian architecture decorated all of South India especially, in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The temples of the Thanjavur Nayak kingdom, the Pandyan Empire, the Pallava Dynasty, and the Chola Dynasty define the architecture of Tamil Nadu. Kerala architecture derived its style from architectural scriptures like the Tantra Samuchayam, Thachu-Shastra, Manushyalaya-Chandrika, and Silparatna.‌ 

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Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Kerala ©

At the advent of Islamic rule in India, many parts of India introduced themselves to Islamic architecture which reached its peak during the Mughal reign. The Taj Mahal and Qutb Minar are famous monuments belonging to Indo-Islamic Architecture

The Mughal architecture influenced various other art and architecture styles of India including, Rajput architecture, Maratha architecture, and Sikh Architecture. Bengal architecture of India too drew inspiration from the Mughal architecture but also propagated the use of vernacular architecture along with it.

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Taj Mahal ©

The Rajput architecture exhibits structures of elegance and grandeur and is considered to be the face of Indian architecture by tourists. The palaces and forts offer splendid spectacles that leave most people awestruck. 

The period of Maratha architecture can be pinned down to the reign of the Peshwas with buildings like Shaniwar Wada, Lal Mahal in Pune. The Maratha architecture represented a combination of preceding architectural traditions like the Mughal architecture and Rajasthani architecture and symbolized economic prosperity, eclectic architectural influences, and the lifestyle aspirations of the rulers. 

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City Palace, Jaipur ©

During the colonization of India by European countries, the architecture of India started reflecting the British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese architectural styles. British rule in India saw the introduction of the Gothic style in Mumbai, and examples of the style in India include the Mumbai Victoria Terminus, University of Mumbai, BMC building etcetera which was followed by an Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture style that appeared in major industrial hubs of India, namely, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. 

Mumbai Victoria Terminus ©

Post-Independence India saw a rise in the displacement of its citizens from rural India to the modern cities. Affordable urban housing communities started popping up everywhere offering people economical options of shelters for rent.

Modern architecture influenced many architects, and they tried to emulate the style in the buildings of India as well.

Many popular architects of the world too left their mark in India. Some instances of modern architecture in India include the IIM Ahmedabad designed by Louis Kahn built-in 1961, the IIM Bangalore designed by B. V. Doshi built-in 1973, the Vidhan Bhawan in Bhopal designed by Charles Correa was made in 1996 and the Sanskar Kendra Museum in Ahmedabad designed by Le Corbusier was constructed in 1951.

IIM Ahmedabad ©

Currently, India is witnessing an amalgamation of styles in architecture. Though the modern architectural style is predominantly seen, traditional architectural styles too, are making a comeback in India. Adaptive reuse is trending in India with people wanting to make traditional architectural structures functional and economical again using modern techniques and solutions. 


Gopika Gopan is an Interior Designer who believes every building has a story to tell and is on a mission to narrate as many stories as possible. She believes architecture is the mirror of society and, she hopes to make a change in the world with her words and designs.