Arts _ Culture Compilations Part 1 (Chapter 7 The Schools of Art)

The Gandhara School of Art (50 B.C. to 500 A.D.)

The Gadhara region extending from Punjab to the borders of Afghanistan was an important centre of Mahayana Buddhism up to the 5th century A.D. The region became famous throughout the world since a new school of Indian sculpture known as the Gandhara School developed during that period. Owing to its strategic location the Gandhara School imbibed all kinds of foreign influences like Persian, Greek, Roman, Saka and Kushan.

The Gandhara School of Art is also known as the Graeco-Buddhist School of Art since Greek techniques of Art were applied to Buddhist subjects. The most important contribution of the Gandhara School of Art was the evolution of beautiful images of the Buddha and Bodhisattavas, which were executed in black stone and modelled on identical characters of Graeco-Roman pantheon. Hence it is said, “the Gandhara artist had the hand of a Greek but the heart of an Indian.” The important characteristics of Gandhara school are:

  • Depiction of Lord Buddha in the standing or seated positions.
  • The seated Buddha is always shown cross-legged in the traditional Indian way.
  • Rich carving, elaborate ornamentation and complex symbolism.
  • Use of Grey stone

The best specimens of Gandhara art are from Jaulian and Dharmarajika stupa at Taxila and from Hadda near Jalalabad in modern Afghanistan. The tallest rock-cut statue of Lord Buddha is also located at Bamiyan in modern Afghanistan.

The Mathura School of Art

The Mathura School of art flourished at the city of Mathura between 1-3 A.D. and was promoted by the Kushans. It established the tradition of transforming Buddhist symbols into human form. The important characteristics of Mathura school are:

  • The earliest sculptures of Buddha were made keeping the yaksha prototype in mind. They were depicted as strongly built with the right hand raised in protection and the left hand on the waist.
  • The figures produced by this school of art do not have moustaches and beards as in the Gandhara Art.
  • Spotted Red sand stone mainly used.
  • Here along with the Buddha, the kings, royal family were included in the architecture.
  • It not only produced beautiful images of the Buddha but also of the Jain Tirthankaras and gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.

The Guptas adopted the Mathura School of Art and further improvised and perfected it.

The Amravati School of Art

The Amravati school of Art evolved during Satavahna period. This school of art developed at Amravati, on the banks of the Krishna River in modern Andhra Pradesh. It is the site for the largest Buddhist stupa of South India. The stupendous stupa could not withstand the ravages of time and its ruins are preserved in the London Museum. This school of art had great influence on art in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia as products from here were carried to those countries.

Characteristic features of Amravati school are:

  • In the initial periods, Lord Buddha is depicted in the form of `Swastika` mark. This has been carved out on the cushioned seat over a throne that is situated under the Bodhi tree. 
  • At a later stage the Amaravati School depicted Buddha in the human form.
  • The figures of Amaravati have slim blithe features and are represented in difficult poses and curves. However the scenes are over-crowded 
  • Use of White marble

The images of Lord Buddha from Alluru, Dharma Chakra from Lingaraja Palli, Bodhisattvas are some of the finest instances of the Amaravati School of art and sculpture.

Gupta period

Gupta period witnessed a great development in the field of architecture. The earlier schools of art continued in this period as well. In addition a new school of art was developed, called Saranath school. The characteristic features of this school are:

  • Usage of cream coloured sand stone Nakedness was missing, more sobre
  • More refined and decorative background 
  • Hallow effect

The standing figure of abundantly ornamented Tara is one of the best specimens of sculptural art of Sarnath School.

Building of new stupas and enlargement of old ones continued in this period. Dhamekh stupa near Saranath is an example.

Development of Temple architecture is one of the greatest achievements of Guptas. The temples of the Gupta period brought the new concept of installing statues of Gods in temples, a practice that did not take place earlier. There was also move towards the use of stone in construction instead of the earlier brick or wood.

Parts of a temple complex 

  • Jagati – raised surface, platform or terrace upon which the temple is placed. 
  • Mandapa/mantapa – pillared outdoor hall or pavilion for public rituals.
  • Antarala – a small antichamber or foyer between the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and the mandapa, more typical of north Indian temples.
  • Ardha Mandapa – intermediary space between the temple exterior and the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum) or the other mandapas of the temple
  • Asthana Mandapa – assembly hall
  • Kalyana Mandapa – dedicated to ritual marriage celebration of the Lord with Goddess 
  • Maha Mandapa – When there are several mandapas in the temple, it is the biggest and the tallest. It is used for conducting religious discourses. 
  • Garbhagriha – the part in which the idol of the deity in a Hindu temple is installed i.e. Sanctum sanctorum. The area around is referred as to the Chuttapalam, which generally includes other deities and the main boundary wall of the temple. Typically there is also a Pradikshna area inside the Grbhagriha and one outside, where devotees can take Pradakshinas.
  • Śikhara or Vimana – literally means “mountain peak”, refer to the rising tower over the sanctum sanctorum where the presiding deity is enshrined is the most prominent and visible part of a Hindu temples.
  • Amalaka – a stone disk, usually with ridges on the rim, that sits atop a temple’s main tower (Sikhara).
  • Gopuram – the elaborate gateway-towers of south Indian temples, not to be confused with Shikharas.
  • Urushringa – An urushringa is a subsidiary Sikhara, lower and narrower, tied against the main sikhara. They draw the eye up to the highest point, like a series of hills leading to a distant peak. 

At the turn of the first millennium CE two major types of temples existed, the northern or Nagara style and the southern or Dravida type of temple. They are distinguishable mainly by the shape and decoration of their shikhara.

  • Nagara style: The shikhar is beehive/curvilinear shaped.
  • Dravida style: The shikhar consists of progressively smaller storeys of pavilions.

A third style termed Vesara was once common in Karnataka which combined the two styles. This may be seen in the classic Hindu temples of India and Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat, Brihadisvara, Khajuraho, Mukteshvara, and Prambanan.

Nagara School

Nagara temples have two distinct features:

  • In plan, the temple is a square with a number of graduated projections in the middle of each side giving a cruciform shape with a number of re-entrant angles on each side.
  • In elevation, a Sikhara, i.e., tower gradually inclines inwards in a convex curve.

The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the Sikhara and, thus, there is strong emphasis on vertical lines in elevation.

The Nagara style is widely distributed over a greater part of India, exhibiting distinct varieties and ramifications in lines of evolution and elaboration according to each locality. Examples of Nagara architecture are:

(a) Odisha school:

  • 8th to 13th century 
  • Lingaraj temple in Bubaneshwar
  • Sun temple of Kornak (climax of Nagar style)

(b) Chandela school:

  • Kandaria Mahadev temple, Kajuraho 
  • Typical nature is Erotism

(c) Gujarat under solankis 

  • Modhera sun temple 
  • Rajasthna dilwara jain temple

Dravida schools

Dravidian style temples consist almost invariably of the four following parts, differing only according to the age in which they were executed:

  • The principal part, the temple itself, is called the Vimana. It is always square in plan and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one or more stories; it contains the cell where the image of the god or his emblem is placed.
  • The porches or Mantapas, which always cover and precede the door leading to the cell.
  • Gopurams are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples.

iv. Pillared halls or Chaultris – used for various purposes, and which are the invariable accompaniments of these temples.

Besides these, a temple always contains temple tanks or wells for water (used for sacred purposes or the convenience of the priests); dwellings for all grades of the priesthood are attached to it, and other buildings for state or convenience. Examples: Brihadeshwara temple (Periya kovil) Tanjavur, Temple of gangaikondacholapuram

Vesara school

The Vesara style is also called as the Badami chalukya style. It has the combined features of both Nagara and Dravida style. The main reason behind the combination is the location of Badami Chalukyas, which was at the buffer zone between northern Nagar style and southern Dravida style.

The Vesara style reduces the height of the temple towers even though the numbers of tiers are retained. This is accomplished by reducing the height of individual tiers. The semi circular structures of the Buddhist chaityas are also borrowed as in the Durga temple at Aihole.

Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal is the finest example of Vesara style. The trend started by the Chalukyas of Badami was further refined by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta in Ellora, Chalukyas of Kalyani in Lakkundi, Dambal, Gadag etc. and epitomized by the Hoysala empire. The Hoysala temples at Belur, Halebidu and Somnathpura are supreme examples of this style.

The temples built in the Vesara style are found in other parts of India also. They include tem-ples at Sirpur, Baijnath, Baroli and Amarkantak.

Cave architecture

The earliest man-made caves date back to the 2nd century BC while the latest date to the 7th century AD. The earlier caves were used by Buddhist and Jain monks as places of worship and residence. Some examples of this type of cave structure are Chaityas and Viharas of Buddhists. The great cave at Karle is one such example, where great Chaityas and Viharas were excavated. The Karle caves are big in size and the interior is lighted up by great windows.

Other than Buddhist caves many caves of Jains and Hindus were also escavated. Some of the famous and prominent caves are at Nashik, Kanheri, Gaya (Barabar Hills), Bhaja, Nagarjunikonda, Badami, Elephanta and Ellora.

Ajanta Caves

The cave temples of Ajanta are situated north of Aurangabad, Maharashtra. These caves were discovered by the British officers in 1819 AD. The thirty temples at Ajanta are set into the rocky sides of a crescent shaped gorge in the Inhyadri hills of the Sahyadri ranges. At the head of the gorge is a natural pool which is fed by a waterfall. 

  • The earlier monuments include both chaitya halls and monasteries. These date from the 2nd to 1st centuries B.C. The excavations once again revived during the reign of the Vakataka ruler Harishena during 5th century. 
  • The sculptures contain an impressive array of votive figures, accessory figures, narrative episodes and decorative motifs.
  • The series of paintings is unparalleled in the history of Indian art, both for the wide range of subjects and the medium.
  • The caves depict a large number of incidents from the life of the Buddha (Jataka Tales). 
  • Cave number one contains wall frescos that include two great Bodhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. Other wonderful paintings in Ajanta are the flying apsara, dying princess and Buddha in preaching mode.

Ellora Caves

Ellora is located at 30 km from the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Ellora has 34 caves that are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill. The caves at Ellora contain some of the finest specimens of cave-temple architecture and exquisitely adorned interiors, built by the Rashtrakuta rulers. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture.

  • The 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu caves, and 5 Jain caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history. 
  • The nobility, serenity and grace of Buddha are visible in the Buddhist caves of Ellora.
  • Ellora caves also contain images of Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen.
  • The Kailasha temple in Cave 16 is indeed an architectural wonder, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith.

Bhimbetaka Caves

Bhimbetka is located in the Raisen District of Madhya Pradesh about 45 km to the southeast of Bhopal. Bhimbetaka, discovered in 1958 by V.S. Wakanker, is the biggest prehistoric art depository in India. Atop the hill a large number of rock-shelters have been discovered, of which more than 130 contain paintings. Excavations in some of the rock-shelters revealed history of continuous habitation from early stone age (about 10000 years) to the end of stone age (c. 10,000 to 2,000 years) as seen from artificially made stone tools and implements like hand-axes, cleavers, scrappers and knives.

Neolithic tools like points, trapezes and lunates made of chert and chalcedony, besides stone querns and grinders, decorated bone objects, pieces of ochre and human burials were also found here.

Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbour. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves: the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves.

  • The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock.
  • The 6th century Shiva temple in the Elephanta caves is one of the most exquisitely carved temples in India. The central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in three-headed form. His image symbolizes the fierce, feminine and meditative aspects of the great ascetic and the three heads represent Lord Shiva as Aghori, Ardhanarishvara and Mahayogi.  Aghori is the aggressive form of Shiva where he is intent on destruction. Ardhanarishvara depicts Lord Shiva as half-man/half-woman signifying the essential unity of the sexes. The Mahayogi posture symbolises the meditative aspect.
  • All the caves were also originally painted in the past, but now only traces remain.

Mahakali Caves

These are rock-cut Buddhist caves situated in the Udayagiri hills, about 6.5km from Mumbai. These were excavated during 200 BC to 600 AD and are now in ruins. They comprise of 4 caves on the southeastern face and 15 caves on the northwestern face. Cave 9 is the chief cave and is the oldest and consists of a stupa and figures of Lord Buddha.

Jogeshwar and Kanheri Caves

Located in the western suburbs of Bombay, it is second largest known cave after the Kailasa cave in Ellora and houses a Brahmanical temple dating back to the 6th century AD.

Excavated between the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Kanheri is a 109-cave complex located near Borivili National Park in Bombay. The Kanheri caves contain illustrations from Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and show carvings dating back to 200 BC.

Karla and Bhaja Caves

About 50-60 kms away from Pune, these are rock-cut Buddhist caves dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC.

The caves consist of several viharas and chaityas.

 The Indo-Islamic Architecture

Indian architecture took new shape with the advent of Islamic rule in India towards the end of the 12th century AD. New elements were introduced into the Indian architecture are: use of shapes (instead of natural forms)

  • inscriptional art using decorative lettering or calligraphy
  • inlay decoration and use of coloured marble, painted plaster and brilliantly glazed tiles 
  • Trabeate order was replaced by arcuate architecture i.e. an arch or dome was adopted as a method of bridging a space. Shikara was replaced by Dome 
  • Concept of Minar was introduced for the first time
  • cementing agent in the form of mortar for the first time in the construction of buildings in India
  • use of certain scientific and mechanical formulae which helped not only in obtaining greater strength and stability of the construction materials but also provided greater flexibility to the architects and builders

This amalgamation of the Indian and the Islamic elements led to the emergence of a new style of architecture called the Indo-Islamic Architecture.


The mosque or masjid is a representation of Muslim art in its simplest form. The mosque is basically an open courtyard surrounded by a pillared verandah, crowned off with a dome.

  • A mihrab indicates the direction of the qibla for prayer
  • Towards the right of the mihrab stands the mimbar or pulpit from where the Imam presides over the proceedings. 
  • An elevated platform, usually a minaret from where the Faithful are summoned to attend the prayers is an invariable part of a mosque.

Large mosques where the faithful assemble for the Friday prayers are called the Jama Masjids. Tombs The tomb or maqbara introduced an entirely new architectural concept. While the masjid was mainly known for its simplicity, a tomb could range from being a simple affair (Aurangazeb’s grave) to an awesome structure enveloped in grandeur (Taj Mahal).

  • The tomb usually consists of solitary compartment or tomb chamber known as the Huzrah in whose centre is the cenotaph or zarih. This entire structure is covered with an elaborate dome
  • In the underground chamber lies the mortuary or the maqbara, in which the corpse is buried in a grave or qabr
  • Normally the whole tomb complex or rauza is surrounded by an enclosure The tomb of a Muslim saint is called a dargah.
  • Almost all Islamic monuments were subjected to free use of verses from the Holy Koran and a great amount of time was spent in carving out minute details on walls, ceilings, pillars and domes.

Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi or the Imperial Style of Indo-Islamic architecture flourished between 1191-1557 AD and covered Muslim dynasties viz., Slave (1191-1246), Khilji (1290-1320), Tughlaq (1320-1413), Sayyid (1414-1444) and Lodi (14511557).

Slave dynasty

This period marks the period of beginning of Indo – Islamic architecture. During this period mainly existing buildings were converted.

  • The earliest construction work was began by Qutubuddin Aibak, who started erecting monumental buildings of stone on Qila Rai Pithora, the first of the seven historical cities of Delhi. 
  • The Qutb Mosque is one such building. Named as the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, it is considered as the earliest mosque in India.
  • Qutub-ud-din Aibak also started the construction of Qutub Minar in 1192 (which was eventually completed by Iltutmish in 1230). Built to commemorate the entry of Islam it was essentially a victory tower. The diameter of the Qutub Minar is 14.32m at the base and about 2.75m at the top. It measures a height of 72.5m and contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps. 
  • Shamsuddin Iltutmish extended the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid and built the tomb of his son Nasiruddin Mohammed, which is locally known as the Sultan Ghari.
  • He also started his own tomb (Iltutmish’s Tomb) located in the Qutub Minar complex in 1235 AD.
  • The tomb of Balban constructed in 1280 AD represents the first true arch built in India, which is produced by following the scientific system originally formulated by the Roman engineers.

Khilji dynasty

The real development of Indo-islamic architecture occurred during this period. Red sandstone was widely used and the influence of “Seljuk” tradition can be seen here.

  • Allauddin Khilji established the second city of Delhi at Siri and built the Siri fort.
  • He also built the Alai Darwaza near the Qutub Minar. The well-decorated Alai Darwaza, which served as an entrance gateway to the mosque at the Qutub complex, marks the evolution of another innovative feature in the Indo-Islamic architecture.
  • The Jamaat Khana Masjid near Nizamuddin in Delhi and the Ukha Masjid in Bharatpur in Rajasthan were also built during this period.

Tughlaq dynasty

The rulers of the Tughlaq Dynasty also undertook considerable construction activities, including building three of the seven ancient cities of Delhi. Use of Grey sandstone can be seen during this period. The architecture was focussed on strength not on the beauty. Hence minimum decoration is seen here. Sloping wall is another characteristic feature of Tuglaq architecture.

  • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq built Tughlaqabad, the third city of Delhi, in 1321-23 AD.
  • The Tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq is an irregular pentagon in its exterior plan and its design is of the pointed or “Tartar” shape and is crowned by a finial resembling the kalasa and amla of a Hindu temple.
  • Delhi’s fourth city Jahanpanah was built by Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq in mid-14th century.
  • Feroz Shah Tughlaq was undoubtedly the greatest builder among all the rulers of the Tughlaq dynasty. He built Ferozabad, Delhi’s fifth city, in 1354 AD. The famous Firoz Shah Kotla ground is the only remnant of its past glory. He is also credited with founding the fortified cities of Jaunpur, Fathabad and Hissar. 
  • His construction works were of a unique simple style characterised by the use of inexpensive materials.
  • It was only Feroze Shah Tughlaq who took up large-scale restoration works and repaired hundreds of monuments, including the Qutub Minar which was damaged by lightening in 1369 AD.

Sayyid and Lodi dynasty

In the 14th century under the Timurid rulers, Islamic architecture underwent a change. The narrow horseshoe arch was replaced by the true arch, an idea imported directly from Persia. They used wooden beams as supports, and eventually the four-centred arch minus the beam support came into vogue.

  • During the Sayyid and the Lodi Dynasties, mainly the constructions of tombs were continued. More than fifty tombs of different sizes were constructed.
  • The Lodis introduced the concept of double domes built one upon the other, leaving some space in between.
  • Two different types of tombs with octagonal and square plans respectively began to be constructed.
  • The Tombs of Mubarak Sayyid, Muhammad Sayyid and Sikander Lodi are all of the octagonal type.
  • The square tombs are represented by such monuments as the Bara Khan Ka Gumbad, Chota Khan Ka Gumbad, Bara Gumbad.
  • The Tomb of Isa Khan, the Tomb of Adham Khan, Moth ki Masjid, Jamala Masjid and the Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid belong to the final phase of the Delhi style of architecture.

Provincial Style of Architecture

The Provincial Style of Architecture encompasses the architectural trends and developments noticed in different provincial capitals in India. Bengal, Malwa, Kashmir, Jaunpur, Bijapur are some of the important provincial schools existed during this time. Along with the Indo-Islamic style of architecture these provincial schools possessed certain special characteristics:

Bengal school

  • Use of bricks
  • Use of black marble 
  • Ex: Tantipara Masjid, Chamkatti Masjid, Lotan Masjid

Malwa schools

  • Absence of minar in mosque
  • Some European influence can also be seen in the later phase
  • Ex: Mandu fort, Jahaj mahal.

Kashmir school

  • Wooden architecture. The log construction using deodar trees for the construction of wooden bridges called kadals or the wooden shrines called ziarats are the best illustrations of wooden architecture of Kashmir.
  • Buddhist influence can also be seen
  • Ex: The mosque of Shah Hamdan in Srinagar, Jami Masjid at Srinagar

Jaunpur school

  • Absence of minars
  • Ex: Atala Masjid, Khalis Mukhlis Masjid

Deccan school

  • distinct originality and independence of style 
  • unique architectural style which is a mixture of Persian, Pathan and Hindu forms
  • Ex: Gulbarga Fort, Bidar Fort, Charminar, Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad, Golconda fort

Bijapur school

  • development of the dome reached its acme 
  • Ceiling without support
  • Ex: Gol Gumbaz built by Mohammad Adil Shah (largest masonry dome in the world), Ibrahim Roza

Mughal architecture

  • The Mughal rulers were visionaries and their own personalities reflected in the all-round development of various arts, crafts, music, building and architecture. The Mughal dynasty was established with the crushing victory of Babar at Panipat in 1526 AD.


  • During his short five-year reign, Babar took considerable interest in erecting buildings, though few have survived.
  • The mosque at Kabuli Bagh at Panipat and the Jami Masjid at Sambhal near Delhi, both constructed in 1526, are the surviving monuments of Babar.


  • Babar’s son Humayun laid the foundation of a city called Dinpanah (“refuge of the faithful”) at the Purana Qila in Delhi but the city could not be completed. 

Humayun’s tomb which was designed in 1564 by his widow Haji Begum, was the real beginning of Mughal architecture in India. The important characteristics of Humayun’s tomb are: 

  • Charbagh style
  • Use of red sandstone 
  • Use of round – bulb like dome
  • design of the Taj Mahal was modelled on this tomb


  • Architecture flourished during the reign of Akbar. The chief feature of the architecture of Akbar’s time was the use of red sandstone.
  • The domes were of the “Lodi” type, while the pillar shafts were many-sided with the capitals being in the form of bracket supports. 
  • One of the first major building projects was the construction of a huge fort at Agra. 
  • Creation of an entirely new capital city at Fatehpur Sikri. The buildings at Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. 
  • The Buland Darwaza, the Panch Mahal and the Darga of Saleem Chisti are the most imposing of all the buildings of Fatehpur Sikri.


  • Jahangir concentrated more on painting and other forms of art than on building and architecture. However, some note-worthy monuments of his time include Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra near Agra.

Some of the important features of Jahangir’s architecture are:

  • Persian style, covered with enameled tiles
  • Usage of marbles and precious gems
  • Usage of white marble and covered in pietra dura mosaic
  • Jahangir is the central figure in the development of the Mughal gardens. The most famous of his gardens is the Shalimar Bagh on the banks of Lake Dal in Kashmir. 
  • Etimad-ud-Daula’s Tomb is another important monument built during this period. It was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, who had been given the title of I’timad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal. The monument, also called as “Jewel box”, was built in White marble.
  • The Jahangir’s Tomb at Shadera near Lahore, built by his wife Nur Mahal, is another outstanding architectural production of this time.

Shah jahan

The Mughal architecture reached its climax during the reign of Shah jahan. The single most important architectural change was the substitution of marble for the red sandstone.

  • He demolished the austere sandstone structures of Akbar in the Red Fort and replaced them with marble buildings such as the Diwan-i-Am and the Diwan-i-Khas.
  • In 1638 he began to lay the city of Shahjahanabad beside the river Jamuna.
  • The Red Fort at Delhi represents the pinnacle of centuries of experience in the construction of palace forts.
  • Outside the fort, he built the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.
  • He built the Jami Masjid at Agra in 1648 in honour of his daughter Jahanara Begum.
  • More than all these fine architectures, it is for building the Taj mahal at Agra, he was remembered often. It was built as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.

Some of the important features of Taj mahal are:

  • Use of white marble
  • More decoration 
  • Massive size
  • Use of char bagh style 
  • Use of pietra dura technique
  • Tomb building at its climax


  • The architectural projects of Aurangazeb’s reign are represented by the Bibi-ki-Maqbara, the tomb of Aurangzeb’s wife Begum Rabia Durani, which is a poor replica of the famous Taj Mahal and is also called as Taj mahal of South India.
  • After the death of Aurangazeb, the Mughal architecture started declining. Aurangazeb’s daughters contributed in a small way in carrying forward the Mughal trend of architecture. Zinat-unnisa Begum built the Zinat-ul-Masjid at Daryaganj in Old Delhi.
  • The only significant monument built in the post-Aurangazeb time in Delhi was the Safdar Jung’s Tomb built in 1753 by Mirza Mansoor Khan.

Colonial Architecture

European colonists brought with them to India concepts of their “world view” and a whole baggage of the history of European architecture: Neo-Classical, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. The initial structures were utilitarian warehouses and walled trading posts, giving way to fortified towns along the coastline.


  • The Portuguese adapted to India the climatically appropriate Iberian galleried patio house and the Baroque churches of Goa.
  • Cathedral and Arch of Conception of Goa were built in the typical Portuguese-Gothic style.
  • The St. Francis Church at Cochin, built by the Portuguese in 1510, is believed to be the first church built by the Europeans in India. 
  • The Portuguese also built the fort of Castella de Aguanda near Mumbai and added fortifications to the Bassein fort.


The Danish influence is evident in Nagapatnam, which was laid out in squares and canals and also in Tranquebar and Serampore.


  • The French gave a distinct urban design to its settlement in Pondicherry by applying the Cartesian grid plans and classical architectural patterns.
  • The Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus), the Eglise de Notre Dame de Anges and the Eglise de Notre Dame de Lourdes at Pondicherry have a distinct French influence.


It was the British who left a lasting impact on the India architecture. They saw themselves as the successors to the Mughals and used architecture as a symbol of power. British started a new hybrid style of architecture called Indo – Saracenic style or Indo – Gothic style. It was a combination of Indian, Islamic and European architectures.

  • The first buildings were factories but later courts, schools, municipal halls and dak bungalows came up, which were ordinary structures, built by garrison engineers.
  • A deeper concern with architecture was exhibited in churches and other public buildings. The Church of St. John at Calcutta built in 1787, St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George in Chennai are some of the examples.
  • Most of the buildings were adaptations of the buildings designed by leading British architects in London and other places. The Indo-Gothic architecture flourished in different parts of India under the British. 
  • Some of the important architecture are: Gateway of India – Mumbai, Chepak palace – Chennai, Lakshmi vilas palace – Baroda, Victoria memorial – Kolkata

The British built New Delhi as a systematically planned city after it was made the capital in 1911. Sir Edward Lutyens was made responsible for the overall plan of Delhi. He was specifically directed to “harmonise externally with the traditions of Indian art”.

  • The Western architecture with Oriental motif was realised with chajjas, jalis and chhattris, as stylistic devices in the Viceroy’s House (Rashtrapati Bhawan).
  • Herbert Baker added the imposing buildings of the South Block and the North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan. 
  • Another Englishman called Robert Tor Tussell built the Connaught Place and the Eastern and Western Courts.
  • St Martin’s Garrison Church marks the culmination of the British architectural ventures in India. The Church is a huge monolith with a high square tower and deeply sunken window ledges reminiscent of Dutch and German architecture.

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