Diversity is the heart of India, and its culture is a beautiful representation of it. The varying geographic conditions and philosophies in different regions across the country give rise to different construction techniques and materials. This leads to multiple architectural styles in the country since the very first settlements. This humble country has a past of being invaded multiple times, by people from different parts of the world. Thus, apart from its indigenous styles, India also houses other styles from various parts from across the world. The residential architecture mainly focused on vernacular styles, from which many contemporary structures are inspired too; but the myriad vast culture could be observed from the following types-
Cave and rock-cut architecture – The earliest settlements in the prehistoric era were made in caves. But caves and rock-cut temples gained popularity in depicting religious stories of various religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and even Zoroastrianism. Ajanta and Ellora caves and Aurangabad caves are popular Buddhist caves. Ellora caves, Elephanta caves, Amarnath temple, and Badami caves are other popular examples of the cave and rock-cut temples that were made.
Temple Architecture – The temple architecture of India can be classified into Aryan style (also called Nagara style) found in Northern India, the Dravidian style found in Southern India, and the Orissan style found in Orissa. The difference in philosophies of groups called Angirasas and Bhrigus are the cause of the Nagara and Dravidian styles respectively. Their combination is called the Vesara style. Orissan style flourished under the Kalinga dynasty. The difference lies in the arrangement of spaces in the temples, but some functions and features are the same, as the presence of ‘Garbha-griha’ or the holy sanctum where the idol is placed. Khajuraho temples, Dilwara temple, and the Sun temple at Modhera are some examples of Nagara style. Dravidian style is reflected in temples like Brihadeshwara and Meenakshi temples. Lingaraj temple and Jagannath temple in Orissa are great examples of the Orissan style.
Indo-Islamic architecture – With the invasion of Muhammad Ghori, began the reign of Islamic rulers, popular as the Delhi Sultanate who was followed by the Mughal rulers. This brought in Islamic culture in the country for the first time and also their architecture. Mughal rulers like Akbar and Shahjahan were deeply interested in developing Islamic architecture, and they did so. The building types were generally mosques, tombs, forts, or palaces. Islamic architecture can easily be identified by the large domes, slender minarets with cupolas, decorative gardens, with arcades and delicate ornamentation. The Taj Mahal, Humayun’s tomb, Red fort, Agra fort, Salim Chisti’s Dargah, Jama Masjid, Charminar, and Sidi-Bashir Masjid (also referred as Shaking Minarets) are some popular examples of Indo-Islamic architecture.
Regional architecture – Aside from temple architecture, certain states had very different architectural styles other than just vernacular. Maratha architecture was developed in the 17th to 19th centuries with outcomes as majestic structures like Shaniwar Wada. The colorful Rajput architecture in Rajasthan and the step-wells from Gujarat and Rajasthan stood out from other types across the country. The window-covered Hawa Mahal, the majestic strong Chittor fort, and the beautiful City Palace of Udaipur are some structures depicting Rajput architecture well. Rani ki vav in Patan, Gujarat shows the existence of clever step-wells.
Religious architecture- With the development of Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism, emerged the Gurudwaras, Derasaras, Monasteries, and Stupas. The religious philosophies influenced the temples to change into these specific forms. Gurudwaras like Golden Temple and Hazur Sahib, Jain temples like Dilwara temple, and Stupas and monasteries like Sanchi Stupa, Rumtek monastery, etc are some notable examples of religious architecture in India.
Indo-Saracenic – This style is the result of the inclusion of European styles in Indian Architecture. The British Empire reigned for a long period, leaving reflections of their culture and styles in many buildings. Features of Indian and Gothic architecture were mixed to give rise to elements like onion-domes, curved roofs of Bengal, minarets, jalis, jharokhas, and different kinds of arches. Architects like Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker worked to make the National Capital region the way we see it. Madras High-court, Victoria Memorial, Gateway of India, The Taj hotel, Rashtrapati Bhawan, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus were made during under British rule.
Other Colonies in India- Apart from the British Empire, some regions were colonized by other European rulers. The Portuguese had colonized Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and some parts of Mumbai, Kerala, and West Bengal in the 16th century. The architecture here was mostly churches and cathedrals with Gothic, neoclassical, and Baroque elements. They used colors profusely, with other features like railings, posts and piers, wooden false ceilings, large ornamental windows, and use of country tiles as cornices. Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral, and the church of Cajetan are some noteworthy examples of Portuguese architecture in India. The French style of large windows on bright colored buildings can be seen in Pondicherry. The Dutch had colonized Coasts like Malabar, Coromandel, and Surat, leaving some fascinating buildings behind.
Apart from these, there are many modern buildings and structures made before and after the country’s independence in 1947. Buildings and low-cost housing designed by Achyut Kanvinde, B.V Doshi, Louis Kahn, Charles Correa, development of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier, and works of other notable architects like Hafeez Contractor, Fariborz SahbaSabha, and Christopher Benninger take this legacy forward. A 6-minute read can’t wrap up the vast culture-influenced Indian architecture!