The Europeans started invading various countries across the globe by 1600 and captured numerous spots. These invasions led to the formation of colonies by colonists. Colonists often built buildings in their colonies which synthesized the architecture of their native countries with the design features and elements of their new lands, creating hybrid designs. Thus “colonial architecture” refers to an architectural style of a motherland which integrates such design characteristics into the buildings of settlements or colonies in remote locations. Madhya Pradesh is a state in central India that came under the colonial rule of Britishers after the Third Anglo-Maratha war(1817-1819).

Design Features

The earliest structures built were intended to facilitate commercial activity. Harbours, docks, warehouses, residential forts and other facilities were built along the coast to facilitate trade between Europe and India. With time and the growing influence of the colonial powers, structures of administrative, religious and institutional importance were established. These buildings blend various styles, including Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, and Baroque. Colonial architecture culminated in what is known as Indo-Saracenic architecture. The indo-Saracenic architecture combines features of Hindu, Islamic and Western elements. Some of the main elements are listed below:

  • Square, symmetrical shape

Tradition requires that both the interior and exterior have precise symmetry and proportions. The starting point is the central entrance area, corridors and atriums around which the interior spaces are arranged.

  • Windows or fenestrations

Outside the building, the windows are always rectangular and evenly spaced. Windows are also traditionally double-leaf and double-glazed.

  • Materials

To make British architecture splendid, imperial architects sometimes had to import materials such as marble from China, teak from Burma, and gravel from Bayswater. 

  • Columns

Colonial architecture in British India made prominent use of triumphal arches, sculptures, trophy halls and the Pantheon in its design. Early English architects were able to use the Corinthian, Ionic, Tuscan and Doric orders as valuable allegories.

“The colonial presence is always ambivalent, split between its appearance as original and authoritative and its articulation as repetition and difference. It is a disjunction produced within the act of enunciation as a specifically colonial articulation of those two disproportionate sites of colonial discourse and power: the colonial scene as the invention of historicity, mastery, mimesis or as the ‘other scene’ of Entstellung, displacement, fantasy, psychic defence, and ‘open’ textuality.” – Homi Bhabha, Signs Taken for Wonders.

A few prominent structures built during this period are:

Jai Vilas Palace of Gwalior

Location – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Year – 1879
Designed by – Sir Michael Filose
Area – 12, 40,771 square feet

Colonial Architecture in Madhya Pradesh - Sheet1
Jai Vilas Palace_©

The Jai Vilas Palace is nationally known for its beautiful architecture. The ground floor is in Tuscan style, the second floor in the courtyard is in Italian Doric style, and the third floor is in detailed Corinthian architecture. Durban Hall is the centrepiece, decorated with gold and gold furnishings, with huge royal carpets and massive chandeliers. 

Church of Pachmarhi

Location – Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh
Year – 1875

Colonial Architecture in Madhya Pradesh - Sheet2
Church of Pachmarhi_©

Church of Pachmarhi is built on Gothic lines, the church is a red sandstone structure, with the sanctum- sanctorum surmounted by a hemispherical, ribbed dome. Twelve stained glass panes of the windows adorn the walls and alter the present exquisite depictions of Christ’s last journey and were imported from Europe. The glass presents a magnificent view when the sun’s rays fall on it. 

High Court

Location – Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
Year – 1889
Designed by – Henry Irwin

Colonial Architecture in Madhya Pradesh - Sheet3
High Court_©

The construction work of the High Court building commenced in 1886 and was completed in 1889 at the cost of about Rupees Three Lacs.  The building is constructed in brick-lime with ornamental towers and cornices. The architecture of the building is mixed baroque and oriental. The arches and the bastions at the corner are ornamental.

Commissioner’s Residency

Location – Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
Year – 1821

Shortly after the British conquered the city from the Marathas, they built the first structures of their kind. It was the home of William Sleeman. The residence served as a veterinary college until 1958 when the Commissioner was abolished and was later restored as the residence of the Commissioner upon the establishment of the new Madhya Pradesh.

The invaders that influenced both the architecture and the lifestyle of the people of Madhya Pradesh varied from time to time. The British Indian Empire incorporated foreign architectural styles into its practice, resulting in a variety of design features and architectural elements. European settlers created an architecture that symbolized conquest missions dedicated to a nation or religion. The main features of this style include striking cornice structures, distinctive cornices and haunches, Roman arches, vaulted or gabled windows, flat or hipped roofs, and windows with distinctive moulded copings. included. They were also widely used in buildings constructed in various locations in the countries of all presidents. Thus these features bought in the imagery of political importance in architecture highlighting the administrative centres. Colonial architecture became an important style in history.


  1. Jai Vilas Palace. [Photoghraph]
  2. Church of Pachmarhi. [Photoghraph]
  3. High Court. [Photoghraph]

Online sources

  1. Bhabha, Homi K. “Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817.” The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994: 102-22.
  2. Tadgell, Christopher (1990). The history of architecture in India: from the dawn of civilization to the end of the Raj. London: Architecture Design and Technology Press. ISBN 978-1-85454-350-9.
  3. “Welcome to Madhya Pradesh (MP) Tourism – Official Government Website.” Accessed 6 Nov. 2022.

Vanishya Vasanth is an architectural graduate and an enthusiastic writer. She writes to remember, gaining knowlege with every word. You will find her sketching and doodling her thoughts dreaming of a self-sufficient and sustainable world ahead.