Architectural masterpieces of India

Amazing Architecture of India

Indian architecture

Every country has palaces, town halls, cathedrals, striking the imagination with beauty and elegance of forms. They are built in different architectural styles. By the style one can determine the age of construction, level of civilization, customs of the people inhabiting this country, their culture, national traditions. The rich architecture of India reflects all the diversity of historical and cultural traditions of many thousands of years of history of the ancient state.

The development of architecture in India

Indian civilization originated in ancient times. Throughout several millennia, the culture of India has gone through various periods. Since ancient times, the peoples of this unique country have expressed in art their ideas about the universe. In Indian art architecture has always coexisted with sculpture. The walls of temples are covered with elaborate stone sculptures and bas-reliefs. Religious symbolism takes first place in every architectural work. Depending on the religion prevailing in the country, the architecture of ancient India went through three periods: – Ancient Brahmanian, which lasted until about 250 B.C. and left almost no architectural monuments; – Buddhist, which lasted for the next 1,000 years and ended about 750 A.D.; – New Brahmanian, which lasted until the conquest of India by the Muslims (early 13th century). In ancient times, most buildings were built of wood, so they have not survived to our time. At the beginning of our era stone began to be used in construction, which had an impact on Indian religious architecture. Cave complexes, temples, and stupas began to appear, structures made of stone in which sacred relics were kept.

Ancient Buddhist temples

The most impressive cave complexes preserved to this day are the temples of Ajanta and Karli. The Buddhist temples were often surrounded by the cells of monks. There are at least a thousand temple caves in India.

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India Ajanta and Karli temples

Chaitiyas in Karli are Indian religious structures carved into the rocks. The first chaitiyas appeared in the third century BC during the reign of Ashoka Maurya. They were a temple for prayers carved in a rock massif in the form of an oblong hall. Inside the hall there were two rows of stone columns, at the very end there was a stupa or a statue of the Buddha. Later, beginning in the 5th century AD, chaitiyas began to be built in the form of separate buildings, but only some cave structures have survived to this day.

The complex of ancient Indian rock caves Chaitia in Karla was built in the period from II century BC to V century AD. Karla is built on a rocky hillside. A large horseshoe window was carved into the rock to illuminate the interior of the cave. The interior decoration of the Chaitia in Karla is a bit like a basilica. The main cave is a huge hall 45 m long and 14 m high, with pillars adorned with carved sculptures of women, men, lions, elephants and a stupa at the far end of the hall. The prayer hall has a vaulted ceiling and the entrance is in the form of an arch. The stupa temple in Sanchi dates to the 5th century A.D. A Hindu stupa is a very interesting structure architecturally. From the time when the Hindus began to worship the Buddha, there was a need for repositories for relics. At first simple hill-shaped tombstones were built and fences were erected around them. The fence had gates on four sides, oriented on the sides of the world. Memorial stupas were erected in honor of revered Buddhist saints.

India Sanchi temple

Gradually the stupa took on the form of a monumental brick or stone monument. It was made in the form of a hemisphere as a symbol of a bowl of Buddha turned upside down and used by a saint for alms-gathering. A small pavilion crowned the stupa. Precious relics were placed in a special cavity accessible only from above. Gradually the simple construction became more complicated, sculptural and architectural decorations appeared.

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Sanchi Stupa is one of the most ancient similar structures. It dates from the III century B.C. Its height is 23,6 m, diameter at the base is 36,6 m. The cult architectural monument is made of brick, and is faced with red sandstone. It is placed on the ground, to which the steps lead. The stone fence and carved gate are also of interest. The above-ground part of the stupa in Sanchi was built in the 7th century, and the foundation on which it stands is older than it is by a thousand years.

New Brahman period

Around the end of the sixth century, Brahmanical ideas begin to gain influence again, mingling with Buddhist beliefs. During this period, small cave temples gradually transformed into huge above-ground tower-like structures. A new type of temple, the pagoda, which could take the form of a two-story or a multi-story house, became widespread. Indian architects gave religious and symbolic meaning to Indian temples.

India pagoda

The architects based their work on mystical theories invented by the priests. For example, the prototype of a cult building was a mythical structure on Mount Kailas in the netherworld. It was believed that the architectural form of the supreme deity was revealed only to a select mortal, the architects, the priests. Hindus believed that the architect visited heaven in his sleep, was inspired by the beautiful temples that served as prototypes, and the divine powers used him as a tool to carry out their designs. Kailas in Ellur belongs to the transitional forms, from cave to tower architecture. The cult building carved in a massif of rock has not only an interior space, but also an exterior volume. In terms of composition the Ellur temple consists of horizontally arranged platforms, decreasing in the upward direction, with many individual elements and sculptural images. The New Brahman period architects rarely used brick to build tower-like temples, preferring stone. The main structure of the temple of this period is a tall tower and several lower towers closely adjoining it. The interior of the temple is small, cave-like, inherited from the Buddhist chaitiya, but the exterior is striking in its colossal size. From the outside, the temple looks like a large, artificially sculpted hill with almost no windows. At the same time, against the background of the blurring mass of the heavy temple, towers stretch upward, expressing in architectural forms the power of growth. The towers, consisting of rounded stucco massifs, have almost no clear straight lines. The tower itself and each of its parts seem to circle from inside out, and the building as a whole is associated with a plant with an internal point of growth. The towers grow like outlandish flowers.

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The exterior mass of the structure forms an architectural composition in which two groups are represented. The first group includes elements that only complement the composition and are incomprehensible when separated from it. The other group of elements not only complement but also represent compositional unity in their own right. Architecture of the New Brahman period is characterized by numerous repetitions of forms and parts, but at different scales, for example, towers and turrets or horizontal folds. This repetition of architectural forms, large and small, creates the visual effect of unity of matter. The temples of India of the New Brahman period are found in such localities: – Kailas (Ellur); – Sirpur; – Ganesha Rata (Mamallapuram); – Aikhol; – Potgatsakal; – Kanchipuram; – Siddeshwara (Banikur); – Bhubaneshwar; – Khajuraho; – Rayarani (Bhubaneshwar); – Bodhgaya; – Konarak; – Tanjor; – Khalebid; – Madur; – Gujarat. One of the magnificent examples of New Brahman architecture is the temple at Khajuraho, which is a single composition of several towers rising on a geometric stone pedestal. The secondary towers gradually increase in height toward the main tower. This central tower, resembling a plant, has three main elements united by a common form. The petals seem to be formed into a flower.

India temple in Khajuraho

Muslim Architecture

During the period of the spread of the Islamic religion in India in different parts of the country, especially in the northern part, were built architectural structures of the Muslim direction, with the presence of portals, domes, high minarets. The flowering of Muslim architecture in India took place in the 16th-17th centuries, the time when the Mughal Empire was established on the territory of the country. During this period fortresses, mausoleums, mosques and palaces began to be erected on a mass scale.

India Muslim mosque

Akbar’s reign left a special mark in history. Then was built a lot of architectural ensembles, among them such as Akbar’s palace, the fortress in Agra, Lal Qila in Delhi. At that time in India, buildings were built of red sandstone, less often of a dark yellow hue. Instead of sculpture, forbidden in Islam, ornamentation and stone carving were used in decoration. In the 17th century, when India was ruled by the Shah Jahan, marble and inlaid expensive types of stone began to be used in the architectural constructions. The famous palace of fabulous beauty, the Taj Mahal, was built by this ruler as a mausoleum for his wife.

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India Taj Mahal

The architecture of ancient India, especially of the New Brahman period, was widely distributed in the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Siam, Java and Ceylon. However, the religious buildings in these countries are very different from those in India. They show the influence of Indian architecture, but in a much less pronounced form. They do not show the stages of development as in Indian architecture, but are only variations on a certain theme.

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