The chapter on architecture for the Islamic patrons and aspirations in the Indian peninsula turned a new leaf as the Delhi Sultanate established itself as the capital of the Ghurid dynasty in 1193. Conflicting with the mass brick overshadowed Islamic architecture overseas, the Indo-Islamic version persuaded the skills of skilled Indian stonemasons to create crafts merged with the audacity of Indian traditions. With the epicenter in Delhi, the waves slowly spread to Bengal, Gujarat, Deccan, Jaunpur, and Kashmir sultanates, blending the region with Islamic elements.

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The inclusion of Chattris, an Indian element in Humayun’s tomb, Delhi. ©

Thus, foreign rulers fused the visages of local muds and their architectural practices and architecture as a blend of structural techniques, confirmed shapes and facial decorations flourished. This style, stuck in never-ending debates of acceptance, rejection, and modification, was later popularised as the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. This confluence of Persian and Indian elements even shaped the Hindu temple architecture featuring scalloped arches and later domes.

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The intermixed regional variations at Shah Hamdan mosque, Kashmir. ©

This style characterized chunky rubble masonry walls cased over with limestone plaster and dressed stones, finished with polychrome tiles. Quartzite, Sandstone, Buff, Marble were the chief stones employed for construction. However, the advent of the 17th century imparted brick construction to the architectural forms and blessed them with greater flexibility.

The unparalleled aspects of Indo-Islamic architecture:

  1. The design of the arches and the domes: Mainly simple and squat but rarely, high and pointed arches dislodged the classical Trabeate style of architecture. However, from the 16th century, these arches came to be designed as trefoil or complex foliations.
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The interplay of high and pointed arches at Hindola Mahal, Mandu. © 
  1. The construction of minarets neighboring the mosques and mausoleums highlights itself in this architecture.
  2. The use of mortar as a cementing material in the structures which appreciated natural figurines and avoided human motifs was prevalent.
  3. The geometrically sensitive motifs in arabesque methods, further emphasized by calligraphic ornamentations, detail themselves out. These motifs, in Arabic and Persian, with similar-sized words at ascending orders of the decorated bands, adorn the spaciously far-reaching structures.
  4. The regime of the convoluted Jaali wall element for light leaks and ventilation remains accentuated.
  5. Water pools personifying the keys to the gates of heaven used as cooling tools serving religious and aesthetic purposes were coeval.
  6. Landscape architecture during this period revolved around the Charbagh concept that split a square chunk into four adjacent gardens.
  7. With the adequate demonstration of the foreshortening technique, inscriptions embodied appeared to be closer than the actual vision line. These inscriptions, structured in Pietra Dura and mosaic, were braced with superiorly polished gems and stones.
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The calligraphic motifs and jaali at the Taj Mahal, the world wonder. © 

These structures identified the obligations of a secular country and focused on maintaining the serenity of the same through mosques, tombs, dargahs, hammams, madrasas, and caravanserais over time. Though this style recited the pronounced verses of the Turkish and Persian elements, it reigned over the empire of sensibilities, material boards, resources, and aesthetics. Later on, intermingled with the local crafts, this style got sub-divided into four types, namely, the Imperial ones of the Delhi sultanate, the provincial diction of Mandu, and Gujarat, the Mughal phrasing of Agra and Delhi, and the Deccani ones of Bijapur.

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Qila Kunha Masjid, The Imperial style of Indo-Islamic architecture. © 
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The Jahaz Mahal, The Provincial style of architecture. ©ragandatta.wordpress 
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The Golconda fort, Hyderabad, The deccani style of Indo-Islamic architecture. ©IncredibleIndia

Scheming motifs on plaster through plain or colored stucco, these motifs personified the local and overseas floral patterns. In the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, walls adorned with cypress and chinar, domes polished with glazed tiles, bathed in colors of blue, green, turquoise, and yellow. Lapis Lazuli splashed its wonders on interior walls and canopies.

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The Lapis Lazuli motif works at the Taj Mahal, Agra. ©

The forts during this period embraced towering heights to envision a broad perspective of the kingdom for security. Perplexing topography achieved through concentric external circles and staggered entrances excelled at winding the enemy as he had to breach all of the stages, preventing direct high-velocity elephant attacks at the fort entrance.

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The towering Daulatabad fort, Aurangabad, Maharashtra. © 

Architecturally, putting up light upon the spatial configuration, the main arched gateway, or the iwan, bathing in the rays of the eastern dawn sun, was illuminated by the magic of the glazed tiles and mosaic. The central courtyard, the Sahn, embracing the open skies, refuged alcoves at the poles and sanctuary halls at the west. In this style of architecture, a Persian element, squinches, which champers the upper corners of the room to create a transitional phase on the terrace, is marked. These squinches transform the upper portions of the square rooms to the octagonal shape, beautifying the corners.

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The central courtyard, Sahn, at Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh. © 

Embellishing the elements further, stalactite or the muqarnas add to the glory of the structure in the form of tiny arched cells, filling up the voids of the squinches while supporting the upper portions. In India, this lightened itself, first below the balconies of Qutub Minar, Delhi.

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The Muqarna design at Qutub Minar, Delhi. ©

Geometrical designs on the drum domes and facades correspond to the Arabesque methods of depicting foliage interlaced with stems and lines which may be flat or curved, pointed or smooth, and social.

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The intricate geometrical work at Salim Chishti’s tomb, Fatehpur Sikri. ©

Bulbous domes terminated with finials of rubble, marble, or metal showcasing the Purna Kalash or the lotus, personifying prosperity was an Indian element embraced by the Mughals to adorn the base and tops of columns and shafts.

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The Purna Kalash at the central pillar, Fatehpur Sikri. © 

The star of David is a six-pointed arch and an ancient tantric symbol, personifying power, devised by fusing two triangular planes that spruce up the spandrels of most Islamic buildings, like in the Humayun’s tomb.

The inverted lotus that portrays an emblem of accomplishment in Hindu and Buddhist lore, erected at the Jamali Kamali mosque beforehand, later debuted at the Humayun’s tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, etc. in both red sandstone and white marble. Mosaic or inlay creations in glass, glazed with tiles, and semi-precious stones act as decorating crafts to supporting members. The Chevron, a zig-zag pattern of Persian architecture, is seen ornamenting the nook shafts and columns along with the Purna Kalash in many monumental complexes.

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The mosaic patterns in marble at TajMahal, Agra. ©

As the Mughal rule dwindled in India, the 18th century marked the birth of the Indo – Saracenic style of architecture, primarily conceptualized by European and British architects who took up Islamic features for skin ornamentation of their structures. This wavering style later popularized itself as one of the architectural revival styles.


An architecture student by profession, a curious empath by choice, Ruchika’s perceptive hearing has always unfolded the esoteric and stupendous tales of folklore and tradition in architecture. With a piercing interest in art, history and architecture, she holds strong to her poetic conclusions whilst analyzing human perception of the same.