Interior design has come into the light in recent years with the inherent need in society to create and have a unique home. Earlier, as it was combined with the larger umbrella of architecture, they were not much focused on the tiny details and imagery, planning and conceptualisation that went into creating a one-of-a-kind home for the common user. From adapting ancient styles into modern techniques to emulating old methods to achieve interesting finishes. 

Organisations such as the American Designers Institute, founded in 1938 and the Chartered Society of Designers which was established in the UK in 1986, was established as organisations that promoted the growth of design in the world. 

The culmination of interior design in India has been part of the way we live from years before people recognised it as a separate element from architecture. In ancient India, the architects themselves used to design the interiors of the home. This has been referenced from Vishwakarma the architect, who is a god in Indian mythology. 

The history of interior design in India has begun from yesteryears and goes on till today. 

History of Interior Design in India - Sheet1
Old Historical Books – Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Credits – Photo by Andrew Neel on ©Unsplash

Interior design in India has gained its status by transforming from a mere architectural accessory of decorating and furnishing to a wholesome combination of holistic, design, social, cultural roots which lays the foundation and the basic backbone for a human to function comfortably. The basis of design is to understand the people, the way they behave in a social setting and their varying qualities. This entire analysis is transformed into functional spaces apt for the particular individual. 

The history of interior design in India throughout the 17th and 18th century was a concern for the homemaker and or craftsmen who would impart their knowledge on the space and the design to be curated. Cities were built in orderly geometric grid plans in the Indus Valley Civilization from 2700 B.C.E. 

The singular surviving city of Mohenjo-Daro has building walls made from baked bricks. The houses had a single door, very solid exterior walls and passage. It can be deduced that built forms were rigid on the functionality, without any traces of decorative ornament. Wood was the primary building material for subsequent structures known to us only from some carved images dating from 200 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. Our knowledge of wood building is inspired by the later types of construction. 

Masonry materials came into use for monumental structures, such as temples which are inspired by the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions. The skills in elaborate carving curated the exteriors and interiors of extremely well-decorated details. 

Buddhism, initiated by Buddha, became the third official religion in India in the third century B.C.E. The interiors inspired by this religion portrayed the following – preaching hall made by cutting solid rocks to create the interior architecture without corresponding exteriors. 

With high vaulted ceilings formed by arched ribs, the rock-cut structures were created. The stupas built by the people in this era were derived from tomb structures from the past. Ellora and Elephanta caves are exemplar examples of this architecture and interior design exhibited. 

History of Interior Design in India - Sheet2
Buddhist Temple – History of Design by John Pile

Credits – History of Interior Design by© John Pile

Brahmanism, a sect of Hinduism, provided temples which had symmetrical plans and the idol of a deity at the end of the hall. These temples had corbeled stone roofs which due to their massive height reflected the mass of the building. 

Madurai which is a temple city in Southern India, developed between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries. It included halls, pools, and many temples that appear as towers grouped. The modern Indian house usually follows a related pattern, the rooms on various levels, facing a central court. A Hindu palace would follow a similar concept on a larger scale.

History of Interior Design in India - Sheet3
Hypostyle hall Madurai – History of Interior Design by John Pile

Credits – History of Interior Design by ©John Pile

Jain architecture, like the others, has most of its basis in design through the temples and religious buildings that were constructed. Due to the major significance of religion in the lives of Indian people, the interiors have been inspired by these gods, mythology and the values that people hold with high regard towards the worshipping of these gods. 

The Jain architecture, a fine example of creativity in the history of the interior design of India, is depicted very well through the temple city of Mount Abu. There are three temple clusters of white marble and this is surrounded by a walled enclosure. The figures of dancing girls cover these columns. 

Islamic architecture is still evident so vividly in the streets of India. It plays a major role in the history of interior design in India with the inspiration of these murals, colours, geometric motifs and luxurious designs put together, from Persia. Due to Islamic conquests, the interior design in India was also affected. 

The most striking contrast between the pre- and post-Islamic conquest is that the Islamic religion prohibited images of human and animal forms. This resulted in typically carved surfaces of Hindu structures, being replaced by treated surfaces. They used abstract geometric forms and the use of written inscriptions, typically from the Quran, in Arabic calligraphy. 

Varied notable structures from the Islamic, or Mughal, the period is worth describing in detail due to the sheer elegance and exuberance of the artisans that worked to create these masterpieces. From the Tomb of Mahmud Shah (c. 1231) in Bijapur to the well-known Taj Mahal, there isn’t a single Mughal/Islamic building which does not exude heritage, culture, rich detailing and extreme finishing. These motifs are still used today not only in interiors but also as an inspiration for fashion designers across the world. 

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Taj Mahal Agra – history of Interior Design by John Pile

Credits – History of Interior Design by ©John Pile

Furnishings in India are well-known all across the world. The ability of the Indian craftsmen to curate pieces which leave people speechless is something Indians are extremely proud of. The textiles, the textiles markets, the dedication and sincerity of the local and original crafts which have been passed down from generations is visible in the quality and the production of furnishings. 

Since India did not have any “Indian furniture”, the furnishings such as Carpets and textiles made up and left a strong stamp of interior design in India. The carpets of Indian origin with varied designs inspired by a collection of different regions became well-known to the Europeans and Americans as “oriental rugs”. 

After Emperor Akbar introduced a carpet factory in Lahore, carpet weaving became a common profession for various capable artisans and a livelihood for them in a large number of Indian cities.

History of Interior Design in India - Sheet5
Oriental Carpets – History of Interior Design by John Pile

Credits – History of Interior Design by ©John Pile

These few typologies of architecture interlaced with the interior design in India, put together a small look into the way interior designs are inspired in India. 

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A 22-year old introvert who loves reading, creating and watching new shows as her escape from the real world. She is an enthusiastic and eager learner, the Monica Geller of her friend group and one is who is usually giving sage advice to her family members.

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