“Architecture belongs to a culture, not a civilization” – Alvar Alto

India has been blessed with varying cultures, faiths, beliefs, and traditions spanning over its vast geographical extent. Indian Architecture is a giant umbrella term, which consists of the multiple cultural influences that find their place in our history covering various eras. The building language in each area borrows heavily from its religious and cultural values. This can be seen on both, micro and macro scale. The earliest example of Culture influencing architecture can be seen in The Indus Valley Civilization in the 2500 BCE wherein the site was planned into two halves depending on the social strata. The facilities limited to the priestly communities could not be used by the commoners and hence, spaces were planned in such a way that reflected their values and beliefs. The idea of ancient Indian towns being mostly agrarian and socially dependent communities can also be seen in form of houses being connected by a common piece of farmland hence suggesting that those people shared a symbiotic relationship and celebrated common festivals and worked together. Something as basic as a Temple can also find various configurations and designs in each culture. The styles change heavily from the marble-clad Jain Temples to Intricately designed south Indian temples with giant temple complexes. The emergence of palaces, forts in the past were all symbols of various cultures trying to leave their tangible memory for the future generations to look up to. The Shaniwar Wada is a reflection of the Maratha belief and ideology whereas the Jaisalmer Fort is a piece of Rajput heritage. 

Mapping Culture and Architecture in India
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The Architecture style of each state is a reflection of centuries worth of skill, knowledge, and tradition passed on from one generation to another. If we take a look at the Architecture in Delhi, one can see the transition of design language from a very Mughal style to what we know today as Modern architecture. Each structure speaks volumes about the cultural interactions that India had with other countries and is proof of how those international influences changed the building language over years. Materials that could be easily sourced in the past mostly clad structure of public use, whereas monuments like the Taj Mahal were made of precious stones, hence aiming at a very strong barrier between social strata. The Architecture in Kerala, on the other hand, deals with a very different design language that borrows from the lifestyle of the locals and comprises Timber courtyard houses and structures built around the backwaters. The Architecture there is strongly influenced by the concept of weekly meetings and functions that take place near the temple, hence leading to the formation of halls adjacent to temple complexes. The Pol Houses in Ahmedabad speak about the local culture where people have been together for ages and are linked via their religion and profession. They have an interesting architectural intervention in the form of courtyards and ladder connections from terraces that connect one house to another. These minute changes from city to city, state to state help provide a unique identity to each locality. This is why even today, we can look at a picture of the Qutub Minar and know that it’s Delhi and not any other city. Due to the sudden wave of modernism, our buildings have now started to look like replicas of each other. They don’t have their own identity and are built without considering the local culture. These mass-produced like, tall buildings only suffice their purpose to provide four walls to the users, but they do not have any warmth or story to tell. India’s culture and architecture are intertwined and are both strong entities that deserve equal representation in the new age buildings. They are, after all, the only true footprints that we as people, leave behind for the future generations to cherish. 

Tanvi Gavaskar
Author

Tanvi Gavaskar is an Architecture student from Mumbai. Having interned at notable Heritage Conservation firms in Mumbai and New York, she understands the value of diversity in architecture and the hence, documents every minute interesting detail she comes across. She is passionate about penning down her thoughts and ideas.

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