India is a country with diverse cultures, traditions, and architectural styles. Like no other country in the world, India boasts heterogeneity from caves to conventional residential dwellings to skyscrapers. Each state has a unique blend of architecture encompassed with the surrounding. Since nearly 4000 years ago, India has developed an incredibly rich heritage that captivates several religious, political, and artistic influences.

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Tiles with painted animal motifs ©

The roots of Indian architecture are embedded in its history and culture. There exist several styles and traditions in Indian architecture, and the best known for their intricacies are the contrasting styles of Hindu temple architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture. The history in the Architecture of India is so deeply rooted in the culture and regions that it reflects the stories of that era very meticulously in the carvings of the structures. Indian Architecture, with an extensive context in bygone styles, teleports you to an epoch of ancient mysteries and masterpieces all over the country. 

Starting with the Indus valley civilization, Harappan architecture was an example of early town planning where people lived in baked brick houses, the streets had a grid layout, with elaborate drainage and water supply systems, citadels, granaries, and clusters of non-residential buildings. This rolled the wheels for a community to be built for the people that led to a culture of sophisticated villages. 

The Buddhist and Indian rock-cut architecture flourished more from 400 BCE. The reliefs of Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh dating back to the 1st-century BCE-CE commemorated the sacred relics of Buddhism in Southeast and East Asia. Walled cities with large gates and multi-storied buildings consisting of central features such as arches in wood for roofs and upper structures paved an understanding of ancient Indian urban architecture.

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Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh ©
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Carvings in Ajanta caves ©

The Hindu temple architecture flourished in the 4th century and symbolized the high shikhara stone superstructures, simple stone temples, and rock-cut structures. A typical Dravidian-style temple from the early eras that survived is the Mahabalipuram Temple, a monolithic model in South India. Later came the North Indian temples, richly decorated with increased walls and elaborate spires, shikhara, and wide shallow projections running on the sides. 

The grandeur of the Vittala Temple complex in Hampi is the finest example of temple architecture featuring the iconic stone chariot, the musical pillars, and the sculpture work.

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Khajuraho Temple ©
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Vittal Temple at Hampi ©

The Indo-Islamic architecture reflecting the native Indic, Persian, Arabic, Central Asian, and Ottoman Turkish architecture styles influenced various structures. The Qutb Minar is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site constructed during the period of the Delhi Sultanates. The most famous style of Indo-Islamic architecture is the Mughal Architecture, prominently known for Humayun’s Tomb and Taj Mahal.

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The Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar is an epitome of Mughal horticulture ©

The later regional style in India embraces the Rajput architecture that represents forts, palaces, temples, and gardens where the forts were specially built for defense and military purposes. The Sikh architecture became widely seen in Amritsar, the finest structure being the Golden Temple. Maratha architecture proliferated in the 17th to 19th centuries. During this period, the architectural style in India took a modern turn. 

Bengal architecture includes a blend of indigenous elements from different parts of the world such as religious architecture, rural vernacular architecture, country houses and colonial townhouses, and modern-style urban landscapes.

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Amer Fort in Jaipur ©
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Shaniwar Wada in Pune ©

Britain’s legacy in India determined the infrastructure in many major cities that saw the rise of Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. Colonial architecture included features of gothic architecture and art deco style. Colonial architecture in India characterized many styles such as Neoclassical, Romanesque-Italianate, Portuguese, and French architectural features.

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Portuguese mansion in Goa ©
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French Quarter in Pondicherry ©Pinterest

As the architecture in India modernized, new styles emerged and new technologies were being used in construction and design for an altering lifestyle. While modern-day architecture still upholds the cultures of India, the needs of modern society accelerated the progression of design. After 1947, the Government of Punjab appointed Le Corbusier to design the city of Chandigarh that inspired a breakthrough in the architectural community. Since then, India’s architectural landscape has completely transformed, keeping in retrospect the traditional practices.

As contemporary architecture became more prominent in the country from urban cities to rural areas, new identities started floating in architectural minds. Modern styles and forms emerged, and buildings became less ornate but more eloquent in form. Cutting edge materials, steel, and glass became prevalent to mount innovative building forms and salient landscapes. 

High-rise buildings became widespread in dense urban areas with the amalgamation of climate response and ecological impact and designing for the environment. Considering the social responsibility of architects, and the impact of architecture on the socio-cultural imprint of the city, the need for focusing on the bigger picture has displayed a tremendous passion to involve the community in preserving architectural heritage.

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Lotus Temple in New Delhi ©
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Light modulations in IIM, Bangalore ©

Iranian-American architect Fariborz Sahba designed the Lotus Temple, also known as the Baha’i House of Worship in 1986. A flower-shaped structure composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad petals arranged in clusters of 3 to form nine sides with nine surrounding ponds and gardens invites over thousands of visitors every year. 

The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore harmonizes the 60 hectares campus with lush greens and a tropical climate. B.V. Doshi, inspired by the architecture of Fatehpur Sikri, and Madhurai Meenakshi Temple, designed the campus by connecting pathways with larger spatial arrangements. Also known as the “City of Gardens”, the structure articulates rhythm and movement in the most subtle manner with modulation of light in a series of courtyards.

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Skew House in Kerala ©Prashant Bhatt

A Concoction of modern tropical design with traditional architecture, the Skew House in Kerala spread over an acre of land is a holiday home connected with the lush green surroundings amidst a rubber plantation. The house is designed in two distinct zones connected by a bridging space with nature. 

With the changing time of the sun, the house was featured with translucent walls with moving shadows that narrate a visual of time. The use of laterite masonry with an amalgamation of steel and glass made the structure unusually lightweight, and strong. The overhanging roof along with the inculcation of the surrounding landscape makes the structure embrace its dynamic form.

The world is advancing at a rapid speed, as is the architecture in India. Globalization has led to new technology and skill-sets emerging, challenging architects to express their design with new expectations. The need for expansion-driven architecture with better planning and quality, and efficient amenities has brought the focus of architects to a cynosure. With the invention of VR and 3D Modeling, the future of architecture in India can be more versatile and well-equipped with an expanding knowledge of infrastructure and design.

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Proposal for Ahmedabad Hotel, Gujrat ©
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Proposal for Information Directorate Headquarters, Lucknow ©

The most challenging part of the architecture in the upcoming years is climate change. Sustainability has been the aim of many architects, and to achieve net-zero energy consumption that integrates environmentally conscious architecture. Understanding the thermodynamics of reducing the carbon footprint will foster new strategies of design.

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Office in Pune renovated by using cardboard partitions ©

The Principle of “Cradle-to-Cradle” design, recycling, and reusing material for construction will significantly decrease the environmental impact of buildings. Since rehabilitation is a primary concern in India due to overcrowding and the overall lifeline of a structure, preferring renovation over demolition over some time will transform the space into contemporary structures.

The return of vernacular architecture, construction based on local material and resources are prominently motivated by the economic crisis. The universal and adaptive architecture will cater to the needs of every human being and encourage social interaction and functionality. The new luxury of architecture is linked to quality over quantity along with an intangible concept of spatial spaces, comfort, and experiences. With increasing urban grain, the need for green public spaces has become prominent in developed and developing areas.

The architecture in India has gone through numerous enhancements and modernization in the past years. New styles have emerged, traditional architecture began blending with modern architecture thus creating an efficient design that marvelously expresses the culture of India.


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Abha Haval is an Architect who has a vivid imagination of this world. She believes that every place has a story to tell and is on a mission to photograph the undiscovered whereabouts of various cities and narrate the story of its existence.