Rajasthan, India’s largest state, is well known for its historically significant monuments. Having an incredible number of exquisite forts, palaces, and temples scattered throughout the state, majestically emerging from the desert terrain at the top of hills, facing lakes resembling fairy-tale-like castles. It has a rich cultural legacy, including artistic and cultural traditions that reflect the early Hindu way of life. Rajasthani architecture encompasses a wide range of structures, classified as secular or religious. The scales of these structures vary. Towns, villages, wells, gardens, mansions, and palaces are among them. 

Rajput architects created prominent architectural styles that may be found in towns such as Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Jodhpur. Jantar Mantar, Dilwara Temples, Lake Palace Hotel, City Palaces, Chittorgarh Fort, and Jaisalmer Havelis are among Rajasthan’s most significant architectural creations.

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Forts of Rajasthan _©Ajay Salvi

Architectural Style

Rajasthan is the country’s most beautiful and vibrant state. Mru-Gurjara architecture (Rajasthani architecture) flourished in and around the Indian state of Rajasthan around the sixth century. The architecture is primarily based on the Rajput school of architecture, which was a hybrid of Hindu and Mughal structural design. With a strong effect of Islamic influence, several Rajputs initiated constructing tombs even though they belong to the Hindu religion, known as empty commemoratives. The Tombs had the design of an open umbrella that is a unique feature in their architecture. The Hawa Mahal palace is built inside a traditional Rajasthani home and, is not identical to the living component of Mughal palaces. The administrative, residential, and courtrooms are housed within the multi-story barrier. 

During the British period, Rajputs were heavily inspired and architecture was highly influenced by the British style. One such example is the Ranbag Palace in Jaipur, built in Indo-Saracenic style used as a high-class hotel. Balsamad Lake Palace, built in the nineteenth century in Jodhpur, serves as a summer palace designed in European style with a Mughal-style Garden in front of a lake.

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Amber fort entrance _©Indiatravelarts

Macro to Micro Planning of Towns 

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While mass dwellings resided in the rural area, the towns were large villages that had developed due to their size and rising population. To guarantee protection in towns, strong stone walls and terrain hills were implemented and towns were organized into wards linked by short roadways and alleys. These townships were renowned for their temples, fortifications, gardens, and palaces.

Haveli

Marwaris built large estates known as Havelis in the Shekhawati and Marwar area between 1830s to 1930s. The Havelis were adorned with magnificent and attractive paintings and were surrounded on all sides by a single huge entrance gate. In isolation from the outer world, this gave protection and comfort. Later on, the broad word Haveli referred to business buildings and commercial residences.

Haveli’s architectural design has evolved in response to climate, lifestyle, and material availability. Buildings with inner porches were thought to be the most ideal in hot areas when refreshment is required. It served as an excellent cooling strategy while also enabling light to enter.

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Haveli façade _©Manfred Sommer
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Patwa ki Haveli _©Manfred Sommer

Courtyards of Haveli 

Traditional South Asian buildings with courtyards are created according to ancient Vastu shastra principles, which assert that all areas radiate from a single point, the house’s core. Yards are a prevalent architectural element in South Asian architecture. Traditional South Asian homes are designed around the yard, and all family activities take place in the chowk or yard.

The Chowk occasionally separated the spaces for men and ladies to give them better privacy. Addressing the empty spaces in the building’s design to respond to the local climate. The natural ventilation of the building was utilized to circulate air induced by temperature variations. During the day, mostly women use the yard to accomplish their work and communicate with other women in secluded uncovered locations. There was more than one yard in commercial class apartments. Baked bricks, sandstone, marble, wood, stucco, and granite were commonly used materials. Local cultures and traditions have an influence on decorative features.

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Conversation spaces between levels _©Manfred Sommer

Featured Elements throughout the Builds

1. Chhatri

These are elevated pavilions in a dome featured as an element of Indo-Islamic architecture and are the finest examples of Rajasthani architecture. Chhatri is a Hindi word that means “tent” or “umbrella.” The Chhatri is a mark of pride and honour. The ones in Shekhawati (north-eastern Rajasthan) are simplistic constructions with a single dome placed inside four pillars of a palace supporting many domes and a basement comprising several rooms.

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Chhatri _©Greenlin678
2. Jali / Jaali 

The ornate latticework for stone windows is known as a jaali. Purdah-conscious Rajasthani ladies would utilise the Jaalis on their balconies and terraces to enjoy a view of the bazaar without being seen by the public. The exquisite play of light and shadow from the Jaalis or lattice windows is an essential feature of Rajasthan’s Havelis and palaces. During the hot, humid Indian summer, the Jaalis reflect the sun’s rays and provide a cool breeze to circulate indoors.

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Marble carved Jaali work _©Rajeev Bellare
3. Jharokha

A Jharokha is a type of overhanging enfolded balcony built of stone commonly seen in temples, Havelis, and palaces in Rajasthan. Jharokha projects from the wall plane are widely used to enhance architectural elegance to palaces. The overhanging balcony is an essential component in Rajasthani architecture, serving as both an ornamentation tool and an observation deck. Purdah-conscious women used to envision outside happenings by hiding themselves under this architectural feature in the past.

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Jharokha Facade of Hawa Mahal _©saiko3p
4. Stepwells

A Stepwell, also known as a Bawdi, is a well or pond that could be reached by stepping down a flight of stairs. Historically, constructors dug very deep trenches into the earth to obtain consistent groundwater throughout the year. The trench barriers were constructed of stone blocks without the use of mortar and additional steps leading to the lake body were created. Apart from providing water, the majority of the living stepwells were initially used as recreational areas. Stepwells have been around for hundreds of years in western India, particularly in Gujarat and Rajasthan. 

Stepwell _©Lonely Planet

References:

Websites:

  1. Traveller by ManaHotels [Online] The Architecture of Rajasthan: Grand, Awe-Inspiring, and Unique 

Available at https://www.manahotels.in

  1. Hisour [Online] Architecture of Rajasthan

Available at https://www.hisour.com/ 

Author

A recent architecture grad student who believes design and research play a creative role in shaping society while providing advanced solutions. Her curiosity has drawn her passion into understanding the psychology of architecture with human behaviour and art. She relishes reading, discovering, and craves to learn more each day.

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