Mains Marks Booster     1st August 2023        

The Ancient India encompassed a large area which incorporated present Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma and parts of Indo-China. It was flanked by the Himalayas on the North-East, the Hindukush on the North-West and the Arabian sea, Indian ocean and the Bay of Bengal around the peninsula.

Evolution of Indian Architecture

The evolution of Indian architecture spans a rich and diverse history, influenced by various cultural, religious, and historical developments. A brief overview of the evolution of Indian architecture:

    • Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC - 1500 BC) 
    • Rock cut Architecture
  • Temple Architecture
  • Indo- Islamic Architecture
  • Colonial Architecture

Indus Valley Architecture

  • The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, was one of the world's earliest urban civilizations. It flourished around the Indus River basin.
  • The Harrapans' architecture is regarded as being avant-garde.
  • Kot Diji in Sind, Kalibangan in Rajasthan, Rupar in the Punjab, Banawali in Haryana, Lothal, Surkotada, and Dholavira—all three of which are in Gujarat—are a few additional significant archaeological sites from this time period. 

Features of Indus Valley Civilization


  • Town Planning: Indus cities were well planned. The excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro have shown a lot of evidence of this. The city had two parts, i.e., the citadel and the outer city. 
  • Citadel: The citadel was built on an elevated area. While certain major cities, such Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan, Banawali, Rakhigarhi, Lothal, and Dholavira, had a citadel and lower town, this was not the case in the majority of them. 
    • The outer city was at a lower level.  
  • Roads: The roads were wide and straight cutting each other at right angles. 
  • Drainage System: They also had a perfect drainage system. 
    • Drains: Each house had a well-constructed sink from which water flowed into the underground drains. 
    • The hydraulic engineering skills of the Harappans were expert. They created the successful system.
  • To facilitate self-cleaning, the drains were built with drops at regular intervals.
  • The small drains went into huge drains, while the private drains went into smaller drains. The huge drains transported all of the city's waste water to ponds or open spaces outside.
  • Some sewers had huge bricks or stones covering them. The crucial parts of the drainage system included soakage jars, man-hole cesspools, etc.
  • Houses: Houses were of different types, small and large.
  • Burnt bricks: Burnt bricks were extensively' used
  • Wells and bathrooms: Houses were also provided with ‘wells and bathrooms.
  • Gateways: The gateways were of two types, one simple entrance for vehicular activities while the other had some special importance.
  • Water management: The Harappan people’s-built canals to increase productivity and protect their crops from unfavourable weather.
  • They also built a hydraulic device to collect it for rainwater. At several locations, some evidence including dams, canals, and reservoirs was discovered.
  • Building a synthetic dock for berthing ships was the Lothal engineers' greatest contribution to the advancement of science and technology.
  • Great Bath: The Great Bath is one of the most remarkable structures discovered at the archaeological site of Mohenjo-Daro. It is located east of the granary, a significant building complex in the ancient city. The floor of the bath has five levels. It is still functional today. It was probably used for religious celebrations and events.

Rock Cut Architecture

Indian art and architecture have a long and rich history, spanning around five thousand years. Recent archaeological findings suggest that the roots of art, architecture, and water management in India can be traced back to the Harappan and Indus Saraswati Civilization. The Mauryan Empire further advanced these traditions in the third century BCE.

Rock Cut Architecture

Evolution of Rock Cut Architecture

    • About 2500 years ago, some Janapadas became more important than others, and were known as Mahajanapadas. Most Mahajanapadas had a capital city and many of these were fortified.
    • The development of rock-cut structures in India gained prominence during the Mauryan Empire in the late 4th century BCE.
  • Both the types, structural temples (oval or apsidal in shape) and rock-cut ones flourished side by side. 
  • The earliest rock-cut caves in India, attributed to the Mauryan period under Ashoka, include both Buddhist and non-Buddhist sites. Inscriptions found on the caves at Barabar and Nagarjuni hills in Bihar provide strong evidence for this.

Buddhist Rock Cut Architecture

The Buddhists made two types of sacred structures, Stupa and Chaityagriha. They also established Viharas, that were monasteries for the monks to live in.


The term Stupa is widely used by Buddhists. Stupa is a Sanskrit word that means “pile-up” or mound. Therefore, Stupa is an earthen mound heaped over the remains of dead. In that sense, it is a burial monument.

  • The Stupa structure of pre-Common Era was composed of a hemispherical dome called anda. 
  • The dome was erected on a low platform of stone. 
  • It was surmounted by a kiosk with railing called Harmika. 
  • It was further crowned by three discs (Chatras) of reducing sizes, the smallest being on the top. 
  • The Chatras were mounted on a supporting mast called Yasti. A circumambulatory path called Pradaksinapatha encircles the Stupa. 
  • It was meant to undertake sacred circumambulation on the ground level. The entire complex was then fenced by a railing called Vedika. 
  • Examples: Stupa architecture of Andhra Pradesh, Stupas of Amrawati and Nagarjunikonda, both on river Krishna, have box like projections on all the four cardinal directions of the Stupa. 

Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh)

Sanchi Stupa

  • It features an upper and lower Pradakshinapatha. 
  • It showcases four beautifully decorated Toranas depicting events from Buddha's life and the Jataka tales. 
  • The stupa's figure compositions display high relief with naturalistic postures and prominent projection of heads
  • The stupa's foundation was most likely set by Ashoka.

Amravati Stupa (Andhra Pradesh)

Amravati Stupa

  • Its surfaces were carved in the Bharhut style, but some characteristics of the Mathura and Gandhara sculptures were also adopted. 
  • It has carved panels narrating the story of the life of Buddha.
  • Limestone with a white marble finish was utilised in the building.

Rock Cut Caves

The rock-cut caves of Barabar and Nagarjuni hills, along with the Swarna Bhandar cave in Rajgir, Bihar, are among the oldest in India and date back to the Mauryan period. 

  • The Barabar and Nagarjuni caves were dedicated to the Ajivika sect founded by Gopala, a contemporary of Buddha and Mahavira. 
  • Lomas Rishi cave, an early example, replicates unknown wooden architecture using grooved rafters and curved frames and finials, screens and low-relief sculptural decorations. 
  • an Age also witnessed the Buddhist rock-cut architecture.

Chaityas-Grihas and Viharas

The Chaitya-Grihas and the Viharas are two major types of the Buddhist rock cut architecture. 

Though the process required much skill and patience, the technique involved in creating rock-cut architecture was simple. 

  • The chaityas belonging to the period from 2nd century BCE to around 50 BCE do not depict Buddha in human form, rather he was represented by symbols alone. 
  • These symbols were associated with the life of Buddha himself, like stupa, Vajrasana (his seat of meditation), Pipal Tree or Bodhi Vriksha, feet, turban, etc.
  • While some of the main rock-cut caves of the Mahayanists are Cave nos. 19 and 26 at Ajanta and the Vishwakarma cave no.10 at Ellora, the main Hinayanist rock-cut caves are at Bhaja, Kondane, etc


Vihara, etymologically meaning ‘dwelling place’ was meant for the Buddhist monks

  • The rock-cut vihara comprises of a central hall for worship and a few cells around it for the monks to live in. The square or rectangular hall is entered through a rock-cut doorway and a pillared verandah.
  • Hinayanist viharas are majorly found in the Western Ghats, at sites like Ajanta and Ellora. 
  • Hinayana viharas also include those at Bedsa, Kondane and Pitalkhora, and cave no. 3, 8 and 15 at Nasik. The highly decorated facades, i.e., frontals as well as sculptural panels and friezes are the noteworthy elements of these viharas.

Nalanda University: An ancient mahavihara in India, known from Xuan Zang's writings, founded in the 5th century CE by Kumargupta I.Sirpur In Chhattisgarh: It is an early-Odisha style structure from the 550–800 era that has both Hindu and Buddhist shrines.

Jain Rock Cut Architecture

Khandgiri-Udayagiri is one of the most prominent siddhakshetras of Digambara Jain community. It is believed that Lord Kharavela has developed these caves around 2000 years prior for the resting of Jain priests. There are 18 caves in Udayagiri and 14 caves in Khandgiri.

  • The most important and prominent architectures are the Hathi Gumpha cave with the inscriptions of Kalinga king Kharavela of the Chedi tradition, the Rani Gumpha, Svargapuri and Manchapuri caves, Ganesa-Gumpha. 
  • The caves in Udayagiri especially the Rani and Ganesa Gumpha describe the Jaina legends, mythology and iconography. 
  • The representation of Kalinga real figures can be witnessed in the Rani Gumpha and Manchapuri caves.

Hindu Rock Cut Architecture

The rock-cut shrines at Badami, Ellora, Elephanta, Mamallapuram, Aurangabad, and Aihole are important in the evolution of Indian rock-cut architecture. They thrived during the rule of the Chalukyas, Pallavas, and Rashtrakutas.

Chalukyan Rock Cut Architecture: Chalukyan architecture includes rock-cut shrines and structural Hindu temples.

  • The rock-cut caves in Badami and Aihole influenced the later structural temples in Bijapur, Karnataka. 
  • Chalukyan temples have common features like a front porch, main hall, and a deep-cut sanctum cell, with Badami having four cave shrines, three of them dedicated to Brahmanical deities.
  • Cave number 3 is dedicated to Vishnu and was the largest and earliest shrine carved during the rule of Chalukya king Mangalesa (CE 578).

Ellora caves: 

Ellora caves

  • Cave number 15 of Ellora belongs to the period of Rashtrakuta Dantidurga.
  • Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are mostly represented in this cave in many forms. This two-story building features a sizable courtyard where a monolithic Nandi mandapa is located.
  • Great Kailasa temple of Cave 16 at Ellora was carved under the direction of Krsna I (CE 757-83), the successor of Dantidurga
      • The Kailasa temple is a magnificent example of rock-cut architecture. It is a huge temple complex with walled compound. It consists of the entrance gateway (mukha- mandapa), the oblong (gopuram) with barrel-vault (sikhara), Nandi Madapa and Garbha- grha. The temple is west facing and rests on a raised rectangular platform in east-west direction.
  • The history of rock cut architecture at Ellora is older than the arrival of the Rashtrakutas. Cave number 1 to 10 and Cave 21 belong to the period of the Kalacuris of Mahismati.

Ajanta Caves: They are collection of 29 rock-cut caves near the Waghora River in Maharashtra, developed between 200 BCE and 650 CE with Vakataka dynasty patronage for Buddhism.

Elephanta Caves: These Caves in Mumbai date back to the eighth century AD. The three-faced figure of Shiva is a masterpiece, along with depictions of Ravana shaking Kailasa, Shiva and Parvati's marriage, the Tandava dance, and Ardhanariswara.

Pallava Rock Cut Architecture:

Pallavas of Kanci was a powerful royal house during the second half of sixth century. It reigned over the Telugu and northern part of Tamil region till the end of ninth century. 

  • The Pallavas pioneered the Dravidian temple style using hard rock hills for their intricate rock-cut and structural temples. 
  • These temples, called mandapas, feature beautiful carved sculptures and are divided into mukha mandapa and mahamandapa.
    • Its architecture includes the Trimurti Mandapa, honoring Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva; the Mahishamardini Mandapa, honoring Goddess Durga and the Govardhanadhari panel, depicting Lord Krishna supporting the Govardhana hill. 
  • The famous Pandava Rathas and the Draupadi Rathas were chiselled out during the time of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.

Temple Architecture

Temple Architecture

Evolution of Temples 

  • Architecture of temples have developed out of the types of houses such as huts (Neolithic period) and different ground plan such as round, square, rectangular, the apsidal and oval
  • This occurred in the reign of Sunga-Kusana, i.e., from 200 BCE through CE 200. 
  • Influence of foreigners belonging to the ruling and business classes can be seen in the architectural remains with decorative elements excavated from Mathura. 

Nagara Style Temples 

Nagara style temples are the north Indian temples with curvilinear shikhara. They are majorly recognised as temples built by Guptas, Chandelas, Odishan temples, temples of Rajasthan and Gujarat and temples of Rajput period.


  • Tallest Tower: The tallest tower is always exactly beneath the garbhagriha.
  • The installation of Amalaka or Kalash on Shikhara is a distinguishing element.
  • Examples: Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Madhya Pradesh, Sun Temple in Konark and Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat.
  • A main Rekha-Prasad Shikara and one or more rows of smaller steeples are located on either side of the main spire. Mini Shikaras are also present at the base and corners.

Dravidian Style Temples

Dravida style temples in South India have a stepped vimana with six or eight sides and a round stupi (well fashioned boulder) at the top.
Dravida style temples


  • The Chola temples have some similar elements of the Pallava and Chalukya architectural traditions.
    • A compound wall encloses the Dravida temple.
    • Gopuram: A Gopuram, or entrance doorway, is located in the middle of the front wall.
    • Vimana: Instead of the curved shikhara of North India, the vimana, or main temple tower, is shaped like a stepped pyramid that rises up geometrically in Tamil Nadu.
    • Stupika: As with the amalak and kalasha of North Indian temples, the name "shikhara" is only used to refer to the crowning part at the top of South Indian temples, which is typically formed like a tiny stupika or an octagonal cupola.
    • Entrance: The entrance to the garbhagriha is adorned with fierce Dvarapalas, or the doorkeepers, guarding the temple.
  • Examples: Shiva temple of Thanjavu, Annamalaiyar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, Meenakshi temple in Tamil Nadu, Airavatesvara temple etc.

Vesara Temples

The most recognized of all the temples at Belur is the Cennakesava temple built by the Hoyasala king Visnuvardhana in CE 1117.
Vesara Temples


  • These temples stand in an enclosure with a usual garbha-grha fronted by an antrala and a pillared mandapa known as navaranga/gudha-mandapa. 
  • Some temples also have mukha-mandapa or sabha-mandapa
  • The navaranga are specially known for its “lantern ceilings” because they have deep niches or domes constructed by means of stone beams placed diagonally across the corner of the square. The navaranga of the Amrtesvara temple has forty-eight domes with carvings.
  • Examples: Brahmadeva temple, Savadi, remarkable for being entirely stellate; Mallikarjuna temple, Sudi (and Joda-kalasha temple); Ramalingesvara temple, Gudur; Mahadeva temple, Ittagi; Kasivisvesvara temple, Lakkundi (and several other temples at Lakkundi);
  • The crowning achievement of Chalukyan architecture is the Virupaksha temple in Pattadakal, which was modelled after Kailashnath temple.

Indo-Islamic Architecture 

Indian architecture (1206-1761 C.E.) blended native and foreign influences under Muslim patronage.

Evolution of Indo-Islamic Architecture 

Indo-Islamic architecture is categorized into three phases: 

  • Delhi or Imperial Style (1200-1500 AD) under dynasties like Slave, Khilji, Tughluq, and Lodi
  • Provincial Style practiced by independent Subedars 
  • Mughal Style developed by Mughals representing the pinnacle of Indo-Islamic expression.

Stylish Evolution of Architecture 

Indo-Islamic architecture began with the Turks' occupation of Delhi in 1192 AD. 

  • Qutbuddin Aibak captured Lal Kot and constructed a Jami Masjid (1198). 
  • Other structures like Qutab Minar (1199-1235), Arhai Din Ka Jhoupra (c. 1200), and Iltutmish's tomb (1233-4) showcase Islamic details in decoration. 

Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320 AD) introduced Seljuk architecture. 

  • Red sandstone was commonly used, seen in structures like Alai Darwaja and Siri Fort. 
  • 'Lotus-bud' fringe under arches, a Seljuk feature, appeared. 

Tughluq Dynasty saw a new architectural style. 

  • Stone rubble as the main building material with plastered walls. 
  • Battered walls and bastions, particularly noticeable at the corners. 
  • An experimental use of the four-centered arch, often reinforced with a supporting beam. 
  • Introduction of pointed domes with a distinct neck, in contrast to the previous style's more subdued domes.

Lodhi Dynasty witnessed the development of double domes. 

  • Multiple domes strengthened structures and reduced inner dome height. 
  • Graves were austere, lacking ornate decoration. 
  • Sikandar Lodi founded Agra and Lodi Gardens.

Provincial Style


    • They developed buildings in this style of architecture, which persisted for 250 years, using locally available materials and fusing regional designs with conventional Muslim characteristics like domes, arches, minarets, and mihrabs.
  • They initially constructed on the remains of Hindu and Jain temples before creating their own architectural style.

Mughal Style 


  • The Mughal style was a thriving architectural movement in India from the middle of the 16th century until the early 17th century.
    • It is a distinctive fusion of Turkish, Persian, and Indo-Islamic design.
  • The structures were excellent, strikingly symmetrical in form, homogeneous in pattern, and ornately decorated.

Types of Architecture 


  • Building monumental forts with embattlements was a regular feature in medieval times, often symbolising the seat of power of a king. 
  • Some examples of strong, complex edifices which still exercise the imagination of the visitor are the forts of Chittor, Gwalior, Daulatabad, earlier known as Devgiri and Golconda. Commanding heights were utilised to great advantage to construct forts. 
  • Daulatabad had several strategic devices to confound the enemy, such as staggered entrances so that gates could not be opened even with the help of elephants. 
  • It also had twin forts, one within the other but at a higher elevation and accessed by a complex defence design arrangement. 
  • The Gwalior Fort was invincible because its steep height made it impossible to scale. It had many habitations and usages. 
  • An interesting aspect associated with forts is that within the palace complexes stylistic and decorative influences were absorbed most liberally.


In the subcontinent, another form of tower known as the minar was commonly seen. Two remarkable minars from medieval times are the Qutub Minar in Delhi and the Chand Minar at Daulatabad Fort.


  • The everyday use of the minar was for the azaan or call to prayer
  • It’s phenomenal height, however, symbolised the might and power of the ruler. 
  • The Qutub Minar also came to be associated with the much-revered saint of Delhi, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. 
  • It is characterised by highly decorated balconies and bands of inscriptions intertwined with foliated designs.
  • Chand Minar, built in the fifteenth century, is a 210- feet-high tapering tower divided into four storeys. 
  • Painted peach now, its façade once boasted of chevron patterning on the encaustic tile work and bold bands of Quranic verses. 


Monumental structures over graves of rulers and royalty were a popular feature of medieval India. Some well-known examples of such tombs are those of Ghyasuddin Tughlaq, Humayun, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanna in Delhi, Akbar and Itmaduddaula in Agra

  • According to Anthony Welch, the idea behind the tomb was eternal paradise as a reward for the true believer on the Day of Judgement. 
  • This led to the paradisiacal imagery for tomb construction. 
  • Beginning with the introduction of Quranic verses on the walls, the tomb was, subsequently, placed within paradisiacal elements such as a garden or near a body of water or both, as is in the case of the Humayun’s tomb and the Taj Mahal, which follows the charbagh style


A hugely interesting feature of medieval India was the sarais which ringed cities and dotted the vast space of the Indian subcontinent. 

  • Sarais were largely built on a simple square or rectangular plan and were meant to provide temporary accommodation to Indian and foreign travellers, pilgrims, merchants, traders, etc. 
  • In effect, sarais were public domains which thronged with people of varied cultural backgrounds. 
  • This led to cross-cultural interaction, influences and syncretic tendencies in the cultural mores of the times and at the level of the people.

Modern Architecture 

The Europeans came to India as traders and over gained power and established as rulers. They brought in the effects of industrial revolution as well as the European architectural styles, In the early 20th century some Indian architects also trained and adapted the European styles. Corbusier and Louis Kahn who were commissioned for projects in India also influenced many architects in India and started a trend in Modem Architecture.

Evolution of Modern Architecture 


Few places can rival the grandeur of the magnificent religious and secular works in Goa, which served as the prosperous seat of the Portuguese in India from 1530 to 1835.

  • Among the surviving churches, Church of the Holy spirit is most important. 
  • The Portuguese introduced Gothic and Baroque architecture in India.
  • With its three floors and baroque design, the Basilica do Bom Jesus in Old Goa is reminiscent of late Renaissance architecture
  • The large Golden Bell is housed at the Cathedral de Santa Catarina, which combines Tuscan and Corinthian architectural elements. 
  • The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Convent of Santa Monica, Chapel of the Weeping Cross, Sanctuary of Saint Joseph Vaz, and other religious buildings constructed during their rule also heavily use Portuguese architectural elements.
  • The Bandel Church, located on the banks of the River Hooghly in West Bengal, is another well-known Portuguese structure in India.


  • Numerous locations in India display Parisian architectural designs.
  • French architecture utilised regionally-sourced materials and took local climatic factors into account.
  • The French style included French shutter windows, carvings on archways, and thin street fronts.


  • The British officer wanted to implement the Palladian style in the 18th century. Constantia, a well-known example of a structure in this style, was built by General Martin in Lucknow.
  • A trend to incorporate the greatest features of Indian and Western architecture emerged in the 19th century. 
  • Example: It can be seen in the Moor Market in Chennai and the Museum in Jaipur.
  • The Gateway of India in Mumbai was designed by G Wittet, who used a number of Mughal features.

Significance of Architecture 

Physical Importance 

  • Style of Building: Shaped by local climate and environmental factors. 
  • Materials: Determined by availability and societal values. 
  • Mood: Design impacts occupant health, mood, and productivity. 
  • Architectural Evolution: Various eras and styles, from rock-cut to Indo-Islamic to colonial architecture.

Social Importance

  • Societal Representation: Architecture reflects values and the rise and fall of civilizations. 
  • Social Insight: Buildings provide insight into the lives of past inhabitants. 
  • Cultural Significance: Architecture is a part of our culture and shapes our environment. 
  • Disciplinary Nature: Architecture is a distinct discipline. 
  • Conservation: Architecture preserves cultural and historic values. 
    • For example, the building material used in mosques is characteristic of Islamic architecture, which is distinct from that of temples
  • Time Logs: Building materials act as records of artistic and construction evolution.

Political Importance

Politics and architecture have always had a symbiotic relationship with each other.

  • Power Dynamics: Power play through architecture is not limited to only legislative buildings. For example: to assert their power on Hindu population, Islamic rulers builds mosque to show symbol of Islam.
  • Economic Prosperity: Monuments like the Taj Mahal symbolize the economic wellbeing of a state. 
  • Tourism Revenue: Preserved architecture attracts tourism, generating economic income. 
  • Local Employment: Building ornamentation provides employment and fosters artistic talent.

Recent developments of Architecture 

  • Under the Communicating India's Scientifically Validated Traditional Knowledge to the Society (SVASTIK) initiative, CSIR-NIScPR hosted the first meeting of the Indian Architectural Heritage sub-committee in January 2023. Members discussed dissemination of traditional knowledge and scientific validation of architectures. Suggestions included talks, special journal issues, and classroom integration. 
  • Indian World Architecture Festival 2022 shortlists on eco-designs for the future.
  • The Architects Act (1972) was passed to help build the modern profession of architecture.
  • The government only conceded to protect the title ‘architect’, which only qualified and registered professionals can use.
  • National Education Policy (NEP): NEP’s mission to restructure undergraduate education as a three-year, liberal, broad-based education bodes well for architecture.
  • NEP seeks a close connection between education and profession, and directs professional bodies such as the CoA to set standards that education will strive to meet.
  • The central government is expected to reintroduce the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) (Amendment) Bill.
  • The AMASR Act was passed by the Parliament in 1958 for the purpose of protection and preservation of archaeological and historical monuments and sites.
  • It also provides for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for protection of sculptures, carvings and other such objects.
  • The original Act prohibits construction in an area of 100 metres around protected monuments, and the central government can extend this area beyond 100 metres.
  • The AMASR (Amendment) Bill passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017 allows the government to take up infrastructure projects within prohibited areas around protected monuments


Indian art has existed from the beginning of civilization. Several structures are now well-known tourist attractions. India has a long history of producing distinctive patterns and artwork. There have been various historical artefacts found on the Indian subcontinent. The setting is therefore thought to be perfect for preserving historical artefacts.