Architectural wonder of India - Taj Mahal

Architectural Wonders of India

As a result of the country's checkered history, the past thousand plus years have given India a rich reservoir of architectural designs. India's past is a mosaic which mingles design and concepts from all over the world. We, at Buzzle, have put together a compilation of some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring architectural wonders from India.
"So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked."
Mark Twain
It is difficult to define Indian architecture because many streams of artistic genius have enriched it. During the early centuries of ancient India, Sthapatya shastra and Vastu shastra were developed as the original sciences behind building styles and designs. As time passed, and vast empires and kingdoms came and went, each successive ruler tried his/her best to enrich India's culture and heritage by the way of building and design styles. From the Mughals, Rajputs, the British, the French, the Portuguese, and many others who traveled to India for trade or to conquer and settle down, left their indelible mark.

Keith Bellows from The National Geographic Society, who was blown away by the artistry and charm of the Indian subcontinent, had this to say:

"There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds... I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."

As you read about Indian architecture, you realize how each temple hymns its own prayer, each dome echoes its own music, each fort recites its own story, and each palace reflects its own magnificence and legacy.

Index



Religious Architectural Wonders of India

Great Stupa at Sanchi

Great Stupa at Sanchi

Location in India: Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Style of Architecture: Buddhist
Period of Construction: 3rd to 1st century BCE
Nature of the Monument: Buddhist shrine
The oldest free-standing stone structure in India, the construction of the Great Stupa at Sanchi was commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, and later overseen by his wife and son. Stupas are large-scale memorials that generally, enshrine relics of holy Buddhist monks. They may be made of brick and rubble, or encased in masonry. The Great Stupa is 120 feet across (36.6 meters) and 54 feet high (16.46 meters). The central shrine is encircled by the Pradakshina Path (circumambulation path) and the railing with its four toranas (gates) which depict motifs from the Buddha's life. This monument is the inspiration for many Buddhist and Hindu structures that were built in the following centuries.


Kailash Temple

Kailash Temple

Location in India: Ellora, Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Style of Architecture: Dravidian Rock-Cut
Period of Construction: 8th century CE
Nature of the Monument: Shaiva temple
The Kailash temple represents a unique conjunction of two dominant styles―Buddhist cave architecture and Hindu temple style. The temple is an enormous monolithic rock carving in an unusual form. The main temple has a pillared prayer hall with a unique pattern on the rooftop consisting of lions within concentric circles. Five subsidiary shrines and two gigantic light stands are carved directly out of stone. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and leaves a lasting impact on every visitor.


Khajuraho

Khajuraho

Location in India: Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Style of Architecture: Nagara
Period of Construction: 1025-1050 CE
Nature of the Monument: Temple
The temples at Khajuraho are an important and unique group of architectural gems dedicated to the major gods Shiva and Vishnu, and a variety of other Hindu gods. Yet, it has perhaps been the series of erotic carvings on the temples that has attracted the greatest interest from the outside traveler. Out of 85 original temples, 22 have survived till today, that are devoted to physical love and pleasure, and bear testimony to this way of life. The largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva. The exterior of the temples are richly decorated with sculptural embellishments which win universal admiration for their delicate, youthful female forms of ravishing beauty.


Brihadeshwara Temple

Brihadeshwara Temple

Location in India: Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Style of Architecture: Dravid
Period of Construction: 1010 CE
Nature of the Monument: Shiva temple
One of the best examples of excellent workmanship, intricate carvings, and grandeur, that has stood the test of time, is the Brihadeshwara temple or the Big temple in Thanjavur. Standing at 217 feet, the Brihadeshwara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the tallest temple in India. it is also the first complete granite temple in the world, with an estimated 8,000 tons of granite used to build it. The temple demonstrates the Dravidian style of architecture, the frescoes that adorn the ceilings of the temple are simply amazing, ornamenting the interior as well as exterior of the temple with its beauty. The most surprising and interesting part of this temple is its shadow, which surprisingly never falls on the ground at noon. Atop the soaring vimana―the tower above the main temple and a word that translates to 'airplane'―is a capstone that weighs 80 tons.


Sun Temple of Modhera

Sun Temple at Modhera

Location in India: Modhera, Gujarat
Style of Architecture: Nagara
Period of Construction: 1026 CE
Nature of the Monument: Sun temple
The Modhera Sun temple, even in its ruined state, is a majestic one, bearing testimony to the art of the ancient Solankis of Gujarat, India. This temple is one of the few shrines that are dedicated to the Sun God. The temple is built in such a manner that the sunlight entering the temple from all sides, falls directly on the statue of the god. The temple encompasses three different, yet axially-aligned and integrated constituents. The temple with its grand structure appears majestic, and is erected on a high platform. The main entrance and exterior walls are engraved with intricate carvings, showcasing the mastery of art in those times. In front of the temple is the Surya Kund or Rama Kund a colossal water reservoir or tank. The reservoir has several miniature shrines that adorn the steps that lead to the bottom of the tank. These exquisitely carved shrines are an art gallery in itself.


Hampi

Stone Chariot

Location in India: Hampi, Karnataka
Style of Architecture: Dravida
Period of Construction: 14th - 16th Century CE
Nature of the Monument: Shaiva temple
In 1565, at the Battle of Talikota, Hampi or Vijayanagara (as it was known then) was conquered by the Muslims, and plundered for over six months and then abandoned. Imposing monumental ruins and vestiges that hint at a once glorious and prosperous past are what make Hampi one of the most striking ruins of the world today. Noteworthy among them is the Vithala temple complex that has 56 musical pillars with each one emitting a unique musical tone. The main center of pilgrimage at Hampi is the Virupaksha temple. It has 3 towers each consisting 9 tiers, and are 160 feet high. The main attraction here is the Stone Chariot which is actually a small temple built in the form of a chariot. This structure (image given above) is made entirely of stone, and has several floral motifs etched in concentric circles. It is a masterpiece and testimony to the outstanding skills and excellent creativity of the sculptors and designers of the Vijayanagara kingdom.


Humayun's Tomb

Humayun Tomb

Location in India: Nizamuddin East, Delhi
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 1565 CE
Nature of the Monument: Mausoleum
Humayun's tomb was the first Mughal building of note to be constructed in India. Built by his wife, eight years after his death, the architectural style of this structure can be said to be a synthesis of Indian and Persian architecture. The Persian influence is evident from certain elements like the shape of the dome, the arrangement of the rooms, and the arched alcove in the façade. While the Indian influence is apparent from the cupolas and the kiosks. Humayun's tomb is of particular cultural significance since it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations.


Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

Location in India: Chandni Chowk, New Delhi
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 1650 - 1656 CE
Nature of the Monument: Mosque
The reign of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan marked the zenith of Islamic architecture. During his reign a number of exquisite works of Islamic architecture were produced, and one of the last architectural extravagance was the Jama Masjid in Delhi. The largest mosque in India so far, the Jama Masjid is made of white marble and red sandstone that were put together in vertical strips by around 6,000 workers. It covers an area of about 1,200 square meters with three gateways, and two minarets which stand 40 meters high. The mosque's main prayer hall, or the courtyard, can accommodate around 25,000 people. The mosque is finely decorated with verses from the Quran and intricate designs and motifs. The floor of the Jama Masjid is ornamented with black and white marble with a border to imitate the Muslim prayer mat. The mosque also contains the Prophet's beard-hair, sandals, and his footprints implanted in a marble block. The beauty and meticulous design of the Jama Masjid is a fine example of the awe-inspiring works of the Islamic architecture.


Gol Gumbaz

Gol Gumbaz

Location in India: Bijapur, Karnataka
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 1656 CE
Nature of the Monument: Mausoleum
As can be seen from the image above, the Gol Gumbaz is a great cube with a tower attached to each corner, with a large dome covering the entire structure. The massive square chamber measures nearly 50 meters on each side and the dome is 37.9 meters in diameter, making it the largest dome in the Islamic world. The main architectural features of the hall are the tall, pointed arches which support the dome above. Another interesting feature of the mausoleum is the gallery around the base of the dome that hangs out by about 3.54 meters, which can be accessed through a winding staircase in the four towers. An architectural marvel, this gallery is called the 'Whispering Gallery', because even the finest whisper or sound made can be heard from one end to the other, and a single loud clap is distinctly echoed over ten times!


Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Location in India: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 1632 - 1653 CE
Nature of the Monument: Mausoleum
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Taj Mahal (which translates to 'crown of palaces'), doesn't need an introduction. This monument of love, put India on the global map culturally and architecturally. The Taj earned the status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. So resplendent is its architecture that it has been recognized as 'the jewel of Muslim art in India, and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage'. A myth that still revolves around the beauty and mystique of the Taj Mahal is that the hands of the 6000 plus workers, who worked towards the creation of this magnificent building, were chopped off so as to prevent them from recreating the masterpiece.


Haji Ali Dargah

Haji Ali

Location in India: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 1431
Nature of the Monument: Mausoleum
This is a tomb of a wealthy Muslim merchant named Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who renounced all his worldly belongings before embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He traveled around the world in the early- to mid-15th century, and then settled in Mumbai. The tomb is over 600 years old, and is linked to the mainland by a path that gets submerged for a few days in the high monsoon tide. A handsome example of Islamic architecture, the structure has minarets and white domes reminiscent with the Islamic architecture of the period. Though it is a renowned pilgrimage site for Muslims, equal number of non-Muslims too visit the place. Today, the Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai's most recognizable landmarks, with 10-15 thousand people visiting daily.


Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple

Location in India: New Delhi
Style of Architecture: Expressionist
Period of Construction: 1986
Nature of the Monument: Bahá'í House of Worship
The Lotus Temple, a house of worship for the people of the Bahá'í faith is open to any religion, race, man, woman, the rich or poor. Its splendorous architecture is often compared to the Opera House in Sydney, and has been featured prominently in architectural artifacts and magazines the world over. The design and architecture of this house of worship takes its inspiration from the lotus flower. The structure, as can be seen in the image above, is constructed in the shape of a giant lotus flower, that comprises 27 stand-alone petals made out of pure, white marble. The center of the temple consists of a prayer hall that has a ceiling more than 40 meters high. Nine ponds and gardens surrounding the main temple, add to its grace and beauty.

Secular Architectural Wonders of India

Jaisalmer Fort

Jaisalmer Fort

Location in India: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Style of Architecture: A blend of Rajput and Islamic
Period of Construction: 1156 CE
Nature of the Monument: Fortress
Rawal Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput ruler, built the Jaisalmer Fort in 1156 AD, which is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Overlooking the city of Jaisalmer, surrounded by the Thar desert, it is more popularly known as the 'Golden Fort'. It gets this name from the fact that its sandstone walls appear a dull brownish-yellow color during the day, but as the sun sets, they transform into a warm and dusky honey-golden in color. It is a living fort and about 2,000 residents live inside it. The main gate is 60 feet tall and carved from Indian rosewood, while the palaces, temples, and homes inside the fort are surrounded by three concentric sandstone walls. A spectacular view of the outer ramparts of the fort can be seen after sunset or at night when the fort is lit up and appears golden under a clear, star lit sky.


Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

Location in India: New Delhi
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 13th century
Nature of the Monument: Watchtower
Built to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori of Afghanistan over the Rajputs in India, the Qutub Minar is 72.5 meters high and one has to climb 379 steps to get to the top. The base diameter is 14.3 meters, while the top floor measures 2.7 meters in diameter. It is made of red buff-colored sandstone, and is the highest tower in India. Qutub Minar reflects a fusion of Indo-Islamic architecture, and is pioneered as being the first of its kind to be erected. The tower features a number of round-shaped shafts that taper and are segregated by small balconies seen with intricate stalactite designs. The Qutub Minar adorns etched verses from the Holy Quran. The Qutub Complex is Delhi's most frequented monument and is enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Red Fort

Red Fort

Location in India: Chandni Chowk, New Delhi
Style of Architecture: Islamic
Period of Construction: 17th century
Nature of the Monument: Fortress
The symbol of power during the Mughal rule in India, the Red Fort represents the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under Shah Jahan, was taken to a new level of refinement. The royal seat of the Mughal kings, the planning of this palace is based on Islamic prototypes, yet each structure within the complex reveals architectural elements reflecting a fusion of Persian, Hindu, and Timurid traditions. The planning and architectural style of the Red Fort strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan and further afield. On a different note, today, the Red Fort serves as the venue for the official Independence Day celebrations in India. On India's Independence Day (15th August) each year, the Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag on the ramparts of this fort commemorating India's independence. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.


Orchha Fort Complex

Orchha Temples

Location in India: Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
Style of Architecture: Combination
Period of Construction: 17th century
Nature of the Monument: Royal Complex
Orchha is a town which is sprawled majestically on the banks of the Betwa river. The complex of Orchha was built by King Rudra Pratap Singh, the Bundela chief who went on to become the first king of Orchha, in 15th century CE. The complex comprises buildings and beautifully built structures over different periods of time and displaying a combination of various architectural styles that include Nagara, Islamic, Rajput, and Bundela. The Raja Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, Chaturbhuj Temple and Laxmi Narayan Temple are examples that highlight the architectural zenith of this complex. The Jehangir Mahal, a four-storeyed palace, built to honor Jehangir's, the Mughal Emperor, one night visit to Orchha, stands out in all its finesse that displays a mix of Mughal and Rajput architecture.


Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri

Location in India: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Style of Architecture: Blend of Rajput and Islamic
Period of Construction: 16th century
Nature of the Monument: A city (secular settlement)
It is one the most grand and sophisticated complexes of its kind, Fatehpur Sikri is considered to be one of the best preserved collections of Islamic architecture in India. The complex comprised a series of palaces, mosques, public buildings as well as living quarters for the king's subjects and armed personnel. Among the numerous structures, a few that particularly stand out are the Diwan-i-Khaas (hall of private audience), Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience), Ranch Mahal, and the pavilion of Anup Talao. There are several series of interlinked courtyards which culminate into the great mosque and the Gateway of Triumph or the Buland Darwaza. This city is a symbol of the confluence of Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist principles of design and represents Akbar's philosophy of an egalitarian society.


Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace

Location in India: Mysore, Karnataka
Style of Architecture: Indo-Saracenic
Period of Construction: Oldest palace built in the 14th century
Nature of the Monument: Royal Residence
The Palace of Mysore (or Amba Vilas Palace) is a very popular tourist attraction with more than 2 million visitors annually. The official residence of the Wodeyars (royal family of Mysore that ruled the state of Mysore for more than seven centuries), was built by the Wodeyar kings in the 14th century. It was demolished and reconstructed multiple times after that, with the present palace being commissioned in 1897. The architecture of the Mysore Palace is characterized by domes, arches, and pillars, and is surrounded by lush green and lavish gardens. Flanked by 12 Hindu temples on its grounds, and splendidly designed interiors and rooms, the palace is an art connoisseur's delight in every right.


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

Victoria Terminus

Location in India: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Style of Architecture: Indo-Saracenic Revival
Period of Construction: 19th century
Nature of the Monument: Train station
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (earlier known as Victoria Terminus, the name was changed in March 1996), is a railway station in Mumbai, India which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways of India. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was designed by Frederick William Stevens in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of the coronation of Queen Victoria. The railway station, constructed using the of-age civil and railway engineering fundamentals, is considered as an exemplary result of the combination of industrially revolutionized technology with the Gothic architectural style.


Rashtrapati Bhavan

Rashtrapati Bhavan

Location in India: Rajpath, New Delhi
Style of Architecture: Indo-Saracenic
Period of Construction: 1931
Nature of the Monument: Presidential palace
The official residence of the President of India, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, is probably unmatched among other official residences in the world, in terms of its size, vastness and magnificence. The most distinguishing feature of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which is visible from a distance, is its dome. The building took seventeen long years to complete and cost a massive 12.8 million pounds at that time. This vast mansion consists of 340 rooms spread over four floors. It has a floor area of 200,000 square feet, and is built by using 700 million bricks and three million cubic feet of stone. A surprising fact is that hardly any steel has been used in the construction of the building. The entire 130 hectare (320 acre) President Estate includes huge presidential gardens, residences of bodyguards, staff, stables, and other offices. Its design is grandly classical overall, with colors and details inspired by Indian architecture.


Gateway of India

Gateway of India

Location in India: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Style of Architecture: Indo-Saracenic
Period of Construction: 1924
Nature of the Monument: Gate
The 26-meter high basalt arch was originally built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai in 1911. After India regained its independence from the British rule, the last of the British regiments made their exit from India through this very arch, marking the end of their rule or British Raj. Designed by Scottish architect George Wittet, the architecture of this monument that symbolized the 'power and majesty' of the British Empire, is a combination of Roman and Indian styles of construction. Its design incorporates the arch inspired by Mughal and Muslim architecture and decorations that highlight Hindu architecture.


Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial

Location in India: Kolkata, West Bengal
Style of Architecture: Indo-Saracenic Revival
Period of Construction: 1906
Nature of the Monument: Originally a memorial building, currently governed by Government of India's Ministry of Culture
The Victoria Memorial, officially known as the Victoria Memorial Hall, was originally established in honor of Victoria, the Empress of India. It also was a representation of the success of British Raj in India. It has now been transformed into a museum, and is now a very famous tourist attraction. The museum houses relics and memorabilia of the Queen and the British empire. Post India's independence, the museum was upgraded to the National Leader's Gallery, which contained memorabilia related to India's independence. Designed by Sir William Emerson, a British architect, the memorial was built extensively on the lines of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture.


Lakshman Jhula

Laxman Jhula

Location in India: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Period of Construction: 1939
Nature of the Monument: Iron suspension bridge
A suspension bridge that stretches over the river Ganges in Rishikesh, in Uttarakhand, India, the Lakshman (Laxman) Jhula is an architectural wonder. According to Hindu mythology, Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama, crossed the Ganges river on jute ropes at this very spot. Built in 1939, the bridge provides a vital connection for pilgrims on their journey to the two holy sites of Badrinath and Kedarnath, further into the Himalayas. This has meant the structure has gained tremendous cultural and religious importance. The bridge is 70 feet tall and 450 feet long, and the views from this bridge are spectacular.


Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

Location in India: New Delhi
Style of Architecture: In accordance to the Shilpa-Shastras
Period of Construction: 1724
Nature of the Monument: Observatory
An astronomical observatory in New Delhi, the Jantar Mantar comprises 13 intelligent architectural astronomy instruments that were designed and built to study, analyze, and predict the periodic movements of the astronomical bodies of the universe, like the Sun, Moon, and the planets. These large-scale structures with their striking combinations of geometric forms have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians worldwide, yet it remains largely unknown to the general public.


Over the years, Indian architecture has grown and evolved by leaps and bounds. Urbanization has come to the forefront, characterized by huge townships, complex building constructions, monumental bridges and creative architecture. To quote, noted American architectural designer and artist Maya Lin, "Architecture is like a mythical fantastic. It has to be experienced. It can't be described. We can draw it up and we can make models of it, but it can only be experienced as a complete whole." Take what Lin said, in your stride. Come to India to experience its rich and varied culture that is displayed through these architectural wonders.
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