The History of Indian Architecture

With thousands of years of history, India’s architectural structures continually evolved to suit the needs of the culture. The first known physical proof of architectural structures dates back around 6,000 years. Archeological evidence discovered near Chotta Nagpur and in Brahmgiri indicates that the people first used stones for building shelters during the Mesolithic period. Primitive Neolithic structures dating possibly as far back as 4000 BC were uncovered close to the Narmada River.

By 2500 to 1500 BC, construction materials evolved from stone to brick. The ancient Indus Valley civilization constructed complex buildings, and evidence of community structures emerged. Excavating the Harappa site in Punjab revealed multi-storied buildings with private bathrooms, drainage systems, sanitary sewer systems and reservoirs. Archeologists found similar architectural features at the Banwali, Chanhudaro and Dholavira sites.

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Around 1000 BC, the sacred Hindu text known as Adharvana Veda makes mention of using iron in construction. The culture incorporated Hellenistic and Roman styles into their designs during the third century BC. Dome shaped structures similar in appearance to the Sanchi stube served as commemorative monuments that held sacred artifacts. Remnants of rock cut wells, stepped ponds and unusual cave temples also came into existence during this time.

During this era, King Ashoka, emperor of India, also commissioned the construction of hospitals. Multi-storied buildings featured large doors, arched windows and high walls. During his reign, Ashoka also constructed a series of pillars throughout the northern region. Each structure stood between 40 and 50 feet tall, weighted up to 50 tons and each had carved edicts. Today, 19 survive bearing the carvings.

The Golden Age of Indian architecture spanned from 230 CE to 1200 CE. The southern regions adopted the complex structures found in the northern regions. Additionally, the various empires began constructing temples. The Chola king, Rajaraja Cholan, constructed the Bragatheeswarar Temple complex. The main temples features five divisions that included the Aradhana Mandapam. Along the dark corridors of this portion of the temple, archeologists discovered floor to ceiling frescoes. The Pala empire constructed the Buddhist Odantpuri Vihar and the Jagaddal Vihar. Impressed with the structural features, architects from China, Japan and Tibet adopted the building styles of the Pala.

The Classical Age followed and lasted until 1526 CE. The Hoysala Empire built various large and small temples that included the Chennakesava temple, the Hoysaleswara temple and the Kesava temple. The Vijayanagara empire constructed the Vijayanagar Raya Gopura during this time. From 1526 CE to 1857 CE, the Mughal Era began. Through this era Islamic and Persian influences merged with traditional architectural styles. Examples of multi-influenced structures include the Fateh pur sikiri, the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal that rulers commissioned during this time. The holy Sikh shrine known as the Golden Temple was constructed in 1604.

The Colonial Era lasted until 1947 and introduced British and European architectural styles that included extended roof overhangs and free standing pavilions. Government buildings, railway systems and roadways predominantly featured the combination of styles. Rastrapathi Bhavan located in New Delhi represents an example of the merged designs.

The Modern Era, or Post Independence phase saw architectural changes based on the needs of the population after 1947. Small villages evolved into urban and industrial regions. Economic increase along with modern globalization, immigration and tourism sparked the introduction of secure government buildings and public structures that allowed the country to compete with developed world countries. One of the most modern architectural structures in recent decades includes the Chennai, Tamilnadu government building. While the county continues advancing in their architectural structures, historical buildings remain well-maintained and treasured.

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