Saturday, May 7, 2011

Architecture of India

The architecture of India has been as magnificent as its history, culture and religion. The shades of many outer influences can be felt in Indian architecture because of the country's discourse with other regions of the world throughout its history. Established building traditions of India and outside cultural interactions impacts the architectural methods practiced in India.

Indus Valley civilization (7000 BCE-1500 BCE) possessed a flourishing urban architecture. The residential buildings were mainly brick and consisted of an open patio flanked by rooms. Private bathrooms, were found in nearly all the houses of the Indus Valley Civilization. The residential buildings were also serviceable enough. The major cities associated with Indus Valley civilization, including Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and Kalibangan, were laid out on a grid pattern and had provisions for an advanced drainage system.

During 1500 BCE-200 CE, multi-storied buildings which consistently used arched windows and doors were common in walled and moated cities with large gates.  Fortified cities with stupas, viharas, and temples were constructed during the Maurya empire. Wooden architecture was popular and rock cut architecture became solidified. Temples were build on elliptical, circular, quadrilateral, or apsidal plan using brick and timber during this period.

During early common era (200 CE—1200 CE), Universities flourished at Nalanda and Valabhi. These universities had housing capacity for thousands of teachers and students. Visible as a distinct tradition during the 7th century, South Indian temple architecture consisted essentially of a square-chambered sanctuary topped by a superstructure, tower, or spire and an attached pillared porch or hall, enclosed by a peristyle of cells within a rectangular court. Adhering to the shikhara temple style architectur, richly decorated temples including the complex at Khajuraho were constructed in Central India. North Indian temples displayed increased elevation of the wall and elaborate spire by the 10th century. 

Mughal architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture influenced Mughal Era (1526 CE-1857 CE). During this period Persian influence is noticable in Mughal tombs of sandstone and marble show. The Red Fort at Agra (1565–74) and the walled city of Fatehpur Sikri (1569–74) are among the architectural achievements of this period. The Taj Mahal, built as a tomb for Queen Mumtaz Mahal by Shah Jahan (1628–58) is undoubtly the most beautiful construction of this period.

Between 1857 CE—1947 CE, European colonialism and British Raj bought with it a wide array of influences to Indian architecture. Colonial architecture became assimilated into India's diverse traditions. Fusion has been a consistent feature of modern Indian architecture and is visible in the architecture of 'Rastrapati Bhawan' during this period.

Modern Indian architecture (post Independence 1947 onwards) also incorporated modern values as India became a modern nation state. Indian buildings, even today, reflect India's culture and myths. The ancient Indian architectural text of Vastu Shastra is widely used for planning houses, residential complexes, office, commercial, industrial and other building types. The economic reforms of 1991 further bolstered the urban architecture of India as the country became more integrated with the world's economy.

Indian architecture reflects its various socio-cultural sensibilities which vary from region to region. Growing awareness of ecology has influenced architecture in India during modern times and 'Green Buildings' are now a very popular concept. Urban housing in India balances space constrictions and is aimed to serve the working class.