The architecture of India has deep roots in history, culture, and religion. There are different styles in Ancient Indian architecture, with Dravidian style in the south of the country and Nagara style in the north of the country. But there are also many more regional styles. Housing styles vary between regions as well.
The architecture of the Indian subcontinent dates back to around 800 CE. It has roots in the history of Buddhism and Hinduism.
- 1 Ancient Indian Architecture Styles
- 2 Wonders of Indian Architecture
- 2.1 Taj Mahal
- 2.2 The Humayun Tomb
- 2.3 Nalanda Ruins
- 2.4 Galden Namgey Lhatse, Tawang
- 2.5 Ruins of Vijaynagar Empire, Hampi
- 2.6 Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
- 2.7 Mahabodhi Temple
- 2.8 The Iron Pillar, Delhi
- 2.9 Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves
- 2.10 Champaner Pavagadh Archeological Park
- 2.11 Bhimbetka Shelters
- 2.12 Chola Temples
- 2.13 Elephanta Caves
- 2.14 Rani Ki Vav
Ancient Indian Architecture Styles
We said there are different styles in the Indian subcontinent. Indian Architecture has always been inquisitive. Fun fact: among the 830 World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO, 26 are part of India?
Here are some different architectural styles.
With a long history in India, temple architecture developed almost instantly in all regions of the country. The origins of the style are the same, but there are different varieties in temple construction. It is mainly to the geographical, climatic, and historical diversities in India.
The Indian temple can be classified into three different types. Those are Nagara or the northern style, Vesara or mixed style, and Dravida or southern style.
This architectural style emerged as a unique blend of Islamic, Persian, and Indian architectural style. It found its roots in the 16th century and continued to make an impact to this day. Remember, at one point, India was ruled by the Mughal emperors. Thanks to their influence, the country has amazing structures like Humayun’s Tomb, Taj Mahal, Akbar’s Tomb, and many more.
Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture
This style is a fusion of Indian architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture. Some call it Indo-Gothic or Mughal-Gothic style.
The style inherits exotic elements of Indian architecture and blends it with Islamic architecture.
It is not just a style used for temple construction. Emerging in the southern region, the style is famous for the structures called Kovils. They are dependent on complex carved stone. Dravidian architecture has many statues of kings, deities, warriors, and dancers.
It gained popularity across the globe, but it started in India. It started as the evolution of modernism and progressive style in Indian architecture. It is all about attractive curves and straight lines.
This type of architecture began in the third century BC. The Jain monks and the Buddhists used it to build homes and places to worship. Caves are part of three different religions in India, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
Wonders of Indian Architecture
We do not have enough space to write everything you need to know about this masterpiece. It is part of the 7 wonders of the world. The mausoleum built in a span of 22 years by Mughal emperor Shah Janah for his bellowed wife Mumtaz displays a combination of Hindu and Indo-Islamic architecture.
To this day, it remains one of the first associations with India. More than twenty thousand artisans contributed to the building of this wonder.
The Humayun Tomb
Most people know about the Taj Mahal. But do you know about the monument to love that inspired the Taj Mahal? The Humayun tomb came before the Taj Mahal.
It is a pioneering example of Mughal architecture with a glorious combination of Persian and Indian forms. The garden tomb houses more than 150 members of the Mughal family. UNESCO considers it one of the greatest examples of architecture.
The ancient center of higher learning in Bihar, India was a Buddhist center of learning. The library was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it.
Galden Namgey Lhatse, Tawang
The Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India. Founded near a small town in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, the monastery is close to the Tibetan border.
Ruins of Vijaynagar Empire, Hampi
Hampi Ruins are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Vithala temple complex has 56 musical pillars, constructed in a way that when struck, each one emits a unique musical tone.
The temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi. There are three towers there, rising at 160 feet.
Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
The Sun Temple of Konak, or Surya Mandir, is famous for its architectural grandeur. But it is also famous for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work.
The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels. Each wheel is 10 feet in diameter. Seven horses drag the temple. There are also two lions that guard the entry.
This is the temple where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment. India has a rich and varied tradition in religion and learning. This one is all about Lord Buddha, a prince who left all the worldly pleasures to find impart peace and end the suffering of this world.
The temple is comprised of six major structures. As you might assume, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Iron Pillar, Delhi
This building dates back to the 4th century AD. It bears a Sanskrit inscription in the Brahmi script. According to historians, it was erected in the honor of the Hindu God, Vishnu, and in the memory of the Gupta King Chandragupta II.
The iron pillar highlights ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. It is made of 98% wrought iron and has stood for more than 1600 years without rusting or decomposing.
Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves
Ajanta Caves, thirty of them in number, were made in the 2nd century BC. They are full of religious themes around Buddha. Paintings in these caves are made on the ground of mud-plaster.
Ellora caves, on the other hand, are rock-cut shrines representing three different faiths in India, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. The caves are famous for their striking proportion, elaborate workmanship, architectural content, and sculptural ornamentation.
Both are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
Champaner Pavagadh Archeological Park
This land surrounded by misfortune and beautified by architecture was inhabited since the Copper Age. It remained cut off from the rest of the world until 400 AD.
The architecture here bears silent testimony to the era bygone and shows a blend of Indo-Muslim architecture.
The park comprises of 16 heritage structures, including a major mosque and a hallowed hill temple of Goddess Kali.
Famous as a portal to the historic and prehistoric era, these shelters present a stunning allusion to what we know as the Mesolithic era.
There are 243 shelters in the Bhimbetka group and 178 more in the Lakha Juar group. They stretch to more than 10km.
This is the place where the walls sing and sculptures dance. The ancient Indian temples are living tales of the empire the Cholas established in Thanjavur. The magnificent temples were built during the reign of Rajaraja.
They were also used for lending money to ship-owners, craft guilds, and villagers on a fixed interest rate. This is not an ordinary temple. It served more as a business establishment than a religious center.
Here are other caves part of ancient Indian architecture. They are a timeless story carved in rocks. The blend of aesthetic beauty and sculptural art echoes the story of rich dynasties that ruled the place.
You can find here many sculptures that pay tribute to Lord Shiva.
Rani Ki Vav
The temple turned upside down to worship water was built by Rani Udaymati in the 11th century AD. It was built to worship the hallowed waters of the Saraswati River. It is a great example of subterranean architecture.
There are more than 500 sculptures in the temple, all of which represent humans, nymphs, gods, and kings in different forms.