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Indian Architecture – An Introduction
In broad terms, Indian architecture might show a yearn for continuity and static, but if you look closely at the 4000 years history of Indian architecture, changes and dynamism will come out loudly and clearly. Starting from the urban architecture of the Harappan civilization to the contemporary architecture of India, change has always been vital. Indian architecture of the old has taken influence liberally from the regular inflow of cultures coming to India. In turn, India also played a major role in influencing and shaping the architecture of South East Asian countries.
Travel to India and experience the architectural heritage scattered through the length and breadth of this country. The architectural wonders of India include more than 20 World Heritage Sites and hundreds more about, which not many know.
Before the Islamic elements of architecture were introduced to India, they had already passed through different experimental phases in other countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq. The Indo-Islamic monuments were typical mortar-masonry works formed of dresses stones unlike most Islamic monuments of these countries, which were largely constructed in brick, plaster and rubble.
The Indo-Islamic architecture was eased by the knowledge and skill possesses by the Indian craftsmen, who had mastered the art of stonework for centuries and used their experience while constructing Islamic monuments in India.
In simple terms the Islamic architecture in India can be divided into religious and secular. Mosques and Tombs represent the religious architecture, while palaces and forts are examples of secular Islamic architecture.
When the British left India, besides the legacy of language, social customs, the modes of administrative functioning, and more enduringly, their buildings scattered across twenty-four latitudes and widely varied terrain.
A lot of construction in British India was the work of amateurs and military engineers. Their work reflects a curious adaptation of local materials and weather to a longing for home being expressed in the implantation of European styles in a tropical land. In all of India, apart from Simla, perhaps, it is the city of Bombay, which shows the greatest incorporation of a multitude of divergent styles popular in the Victoria era.
Our tour will take you through a journey, which will make you understand the known and unknown facets of Indian architecture.
Gateway of India from different angles
When the Victoria Terminus was being built a fierce debate was taking place among British architects working in India as to the most appropriate style to develop to meet the demands of the late 19th century boom. One view held that the British should restrict themselves to models derived from the best in western tradition, as the British were to be seen as a ‘civilizing force’ in India. Others argued that architects should draw on Indian models, trying to bring out the best of Indian tradition and encourage its development. By and large, the former were dominant, but as Tillotson argues, the introduction of Gothic allowed a blending of western tradition with Indian (often Islamic Indian) motifs, which became known as the Indo-Sarcenic style.
The area stretching north from Colaba Causeway to Victoria Terminus dates from after 1862, when Sir Bartle Frere became Governor (1862-1867). Under his enthusiastic guidance Mumbai became a great civic centre and an extravaganza of Victorian Gothic architecture, modified by Indo-Sarcenic influences. The journey from Colaba area down to Victoria Terminus, will show you examples of diverse architectural features such as German gables, Dutch roofs, Swiss timbering, Romance arches and Tudor casements mingled with more ethnic oriental embellishments.
St. Andrew’s Kirk (1819), a simple neo-classical church is located just behind the Prince of Wales Museum.
On the east side of the Oval garden is the Venetian Gothic style Old Secretariat (1874), 143 m long, with a façade of arcaded verandahs and porticos faced in buff-coloured Porbandar stone from Gujarat.
The Convocation Hall (1874) to its north was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in a 15th century French decorated style. Scott also designed the adjacent University Library and the 79 m high Rajbai Clock Tower (1870s), based on Giotto’s campanile in Florence. The sculptured figures in niches on the on the exterior walls of the tower were designed to represent the castes of India.
The High Court (1871-1879), in early English Gothic style, has a 57 m high central tower flanked by lower octagonal towers topped by the figures of Justice and Mercy.
The Mint (1824-1829), built on the Fort rubbish dump, has Ionic columns and a water tank in front of it. The Town Hall (1820-1823) has been widely admired as one of the best neo-classical buildings in India. The original idea of paired columns was abandoned as being to monumental and half the columns – imported from Britain, were used at Christ Church, Byculla. The Corinthian interior houses the Assembly rooms and the Bombay Asiatic Society.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus or VT) (1878-1887), the most remarkable example of Victorian Gothic architecture in India, was opened during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year. The frontage is symmetrical with a large central dome flanked by two wings. The dome is capped by a 4m high statue of Progress by Thomas Earp, executed by the Bombay School of Art. The booking hall with its arcades, stained glass and glazed tiles was inspired by London’s St Pancras station.
Victoria Terminus from different angles
Opposite the CST station are the grand Municipal Buildings (1893), built by Stevens. The tower is 78m high and the statue crowning the gable is designed to represent ‘Urbs Prima in India’ (The first city in India).
Crawford Market (1865-1871), now Jyotiba Phule Market, was designed by Emerson in the 12th century French Gothic style. Over the entrance is more of Lockwood Kipling’s work, the paving stones are from Caithness.
Cave architecture in India dates back to the 2nd century BC while the latest date to the 7th century. The splendid sculptures and lovely frescoes adorning these caves make them one of the glorious monuments of India’s past.
The Ancient Cave Architecture
Ellora, about 30 kms from Aurangabad is famous for its Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves, carved in volcanic rocks – are among the finest in India. Lying near an important ancient trade route between Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and the west coast, the caves are thought to be the work of priests and pilgrims who used the route.
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ellora caves were abandoned and forgotten. 12 of the 34 caves are Buddhist (created from circa 600-800 AD), 17 Hindu (600-900 AD) and five Jain (800-1100 AD). Most have courtyards in front. They face west and are best seen in the afternoon. The best way to see the caves is to start at the east end and visit the Buddhist Viharas first. In this way the magnificent Hindu Kailasnatha temple is seen towards the end.
Kailasnatha Temple (mid-eighth century onwards). This is the most magnificent of all the rock-cut structures at Ellora, and is completely open to the element. It is the only building that was begun from the top. Carved out of 85,000 cubic metres of rock, the design and execution of the full temple plan is an extraordinary triumph of imagination and craftsmanship.
This is a city of architectural delights. Home to the indo-sarcenic style, Ahmedabad has one of the best examples of the second period of Gujarat’s provincial architectural development. In 1411, Ahmad Shah I, the founder of a new dynasty, laid the foundation of the city, which was to be his new capital.
Jama Masjid regarded by many as one of the finest mosques in India, was completed in 1423. Ahmad Shah encouraged others to construct monumental buildings as well. As a result there are over 50 mosques and tombs dating from his period within the city. Mahmud I Begarha (ruled 1459-1511) established the third phase of Gujarat provincial architecture, building some of India’s most magnificent Islamic monuments.
The newer part of the city is however dotted with architecture of more contemporary design. The Sanskar Kendra Museum, is an award winning design by Le Corbusier with ramps of steps leading up from a fountained pool. Amdavad-ni-Gufa in the university campus is an inspirational venture by the famous architects Doshi and the artist MF Hussain.
Campus of Indian Institute of Management
Taking inspiration from Le Corbusier’s creativity who designed the new city of Chandigarh in Punjab, a young Indian architect D.V. Joshi also designed the Institute of Indology.
The architecture of New Delhi was the crowning glory of the British Raj. Robert Byron described New Delhi as ‘The Rome of Hindustan’. The British built New Delhi as a systematically planned city after it was made the capital in 1911. The British Viceroy made Sir Edward Lutyen responsible for the overall plan of Delhi. He was specifically directed to harmonise externally with the traditions of Indian art. Thus the western architecture with oriental motif was realised with chajjas, jails and chhatris, as stylish devices in the Viceroy’s house (now Rashtrapati Bhawan). Herbert baker added the imposing buildings of the South Block and the North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Another Englishman built the Connaught Place and the Eastern and Western Courts.
The Parliament House
The Asiad Village in New Delhi, designed by Raj Rewell and built as a colossal complex with more than 800 residential units, landscaped courts, streets, restaurants and shops, all catering to sports persons who had assembled for the 1982 Asiad Games, is one of the architectural landmarks of modern India.
The lotus shaped Bahai Temple in New Delhi, designed by Fariburz Sabha in 1980 and completed in December 1986, is an awe-inspiring example.
Lotus Temple of the Bahai’s
Indian architecture witnessed a revolution when the Punjab government engaged Le Corbusier to design the new city of Chandigarh. Built in three stages, Corbusier divided the city into three sections. The ‘head’ consisted of political, bureaucratic and judicial buildings, the administrative parts of the city. The ‘body’ housed the university and residential complexes in the heart of the city. The ‘feet’ consisted of industrial sectors and the railway station. Apart from the initial layout of the city, Corbusier also designed several buildings in Chandigarh. The High Court building has a sloping roof, supported by concrete walls which allow air to pass through them. The Assembly is a squarish structure topped with a huge industrial chimney while the Secretariat is made up of hundreds of rooms with an airy exterior.
High Court Secretariat
Today Chandigarh is 114 sq. kilometres of invigorating asthetics. It combines architectural elegancy with wide tree lined avenues, green belts and gardens and offers a pleasant living experience to its residents and guests.
Chandigarh provides a contrats to annalic cities of India, like Agra, Delhi. This city of the 20th century has not only surpassed the colourful architecture of these cities but has supplemented them in significant interests. Besides these cities of past and with a wonderful token of history, India has got Chandigarh as a city of the future.
Tombs, although not actually religious in nature, the tomb or maqbara introduced an entirely new architectural concept. While the masjid was mainly known for its simplicity, a tomb could range from being a simple affair (Aurangzeb’s grave) to an awesome structure enveloped in grandeur (Taj Mahal).
The Taj Mahal
The tomb usually consists of solitary compartment or tomb chamber known as the huzrah in whose centre lies the mortuary or the maqbara, in which the corpse is buried in a grave or qabr. Smaller tombs may have a mihrab, although larger mausoleums have a separate mosque located separately from the main tomb. Normally the whole tomb complex or rauza is surrounded by an enclosure. The tomb of a Muslim saint is called a dargah. Almost all Islamic monuments were subjected to free use of verses from the Holy Koran and a great amount of time was spent in carving out minute details on walls, ceilings, pillars and domes.
The Taj Mahal from different angles
An Architectural Tour of India
Day 01: Arrive Bombay
Arrive early this morning in Mumbai and after completing Customs and Immigration formalities, transfer to your Hotel. (Rooms will be held for immediate occupancy).
Morning will be at leisure and time to get over the Jet lag. Early afternoon there will be an orientation meeting and a briefing. After lunch, tour this spectacularly crowded city of contrasts with its skyscraper skyline and traditional outdoor laundries. Originally a group of islands inhabited by fisher folk, Bombay is today India’s busiest port and most affluent and industrialized city.
Tour the area stretching north from Colaba Causeway to Victoria Terminus. Mumbai’s architecture is a mixture of florid Gothic styles, characteristic of the 18th and 19th centuries and contemporary designs. The older administrative and commercial buildings intermingle with skyscrapers and multi-storey concrete block buildings.
You will also visit the Prince of Wales Museum, a legacy of the British Empire, which houses a fine collection of miniature paintings and sculptures. You will also visit Mani Bhavan, a small museum where wax miniatures depict scenes from Mahatma Gandhi’s life and India’s freedom struggle.
Return to your Hotel and in the evening gather for a Welcome Cocktail and Dinner reception.
Day 02: Bombay – Aurangabad
This morning take a pleasant one hour boat ride from the gateway of India, constructed in 1927 by the British as a ceremonial entrance to Bombay harbour, to Elephanta Island. Several cave temples, dating from the 5th to 10th centuries, were built here. The most magnificent of the group is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. This is a 6th century temple and is one of the most exquisitely carved temples in India. Return to the Hotel for lunch.
Transfer to the airport in the evening for your flight to Aurangabad and upon arrival, transfer to your Hotel.
Day 03: Aurangabad
Spend the day exploring the Ajanta caves, famous for their wonderfully vivid and colourful paintings of scenes from the lives of the Buddha. They show the unimaginable richness of the culture and religion of two thousand years ago. The cave temples and monasteries were cut into the steep face of a gorge; in 1819 they were accidentally rediscovered after a thousand years’ abandonment.
Day 04: Aurangabad – Bombay
In the morning, drive to the caves at Ellora. Dramatic sculptural reliefs carved in the 34 cave temples, built by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains during the 7th to 12th centuries, make Ellora one of the most impressive art historical sites in India.
Cave 16, the Kailashnath temple is an architectural marvel. Built from the top down, this gigantic monolithic structure would have necessitated the removal of 200,000 tons of rock. Along with other ancient legends, scenes from the epic Ramayana are carved on the temple walls, recounting the story of Lord Rama and his struggle with Ravana.
In the late afternoon, transfer to the airport for the flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival transfer to a nearby airport hotel.
Day 05: Bombay – Ahmedabad
Transfer early this morning to the airport for the flight to Ahmedabad. Upon arrival transfer to your Hotel.
After breakfast take a city sight-seeing tour, visiting the Jama Masjid area, home to the Indo-sarcenic style of architecture. Continue to the newer part of the city to see architecture of more contemporary design.
This afternoon also visit the Calico Museum, a part of the Sarabhai Trust, is an attractive old haveli in the botanically interesting Shahi Bagh gardens. It is regarded as one of the finest museums of its kind in the world. Some exhibits date from the 17th century and include rich displays of heavy brocades, fine embroideries, saris, carpets, turbans, maharajahs costumes and royal Mughal tents.
Later this evening visit Vishala, 5 kms from the city – is a purpose-built collection of Gujarati huts for dinner. Dinner is accompanied by music, traditional dancing. Light is provided entirely by lanterns. You sit cross-legged at low tables (low stools are also provided), eat of green leaves and drink water from clay tumblers.
Day 06: Ahmedabad – Delhi - Chandigarh
Transfer early this morning to the airport for your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi transfer to a Hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, tour Old Delhi, the capital of India between the 12th and 19th centuries. See the 17th century Red Fort and Jama Masjid, both built by Emperor Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame. Also see the 16th century Tomb of Humayun. Walk through the narrow winding lanes of colourful and bustling Chandni Chowk and also visit Raj Ghat, the site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
Lunch in a Hotel in Delhi. Continue and see the majestic government buildings and wide boulevards designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s, Parliament House and Rashtrapati Bhawan, Connaught Place. The Asiad Village complex and the Lotus Temple. Later that evening transfer to the railway station for your train to Chandigarh. Upon arrival in Chandigarh transfer to your Hotel.
Day 07: Chandigarh - Delhi
This morning tour this city. The initial plans were drawn in New York by mayer and Novicki. When the latter died in 1950 the work was entrusted to the internationally renowned architect Le Corbusier who supervised the layout and was responsible for the grand buildings. Fry and Drew designed the residential and commercial areas.
Jawaharlal Nehru said of Chandigarh ‘Let this be a new town symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past, an expression of the nation’s faith in the future’. Its detractors describe it as a concrete praire, the product of ‘the ivory tower school of architecture’, certainly unfettered by the past.
Visit the Capitol Complex, consisting of the Secretariat, Legilative assembly and High Court in the northeast with the Shiwalik Hills as a backdrop. Cultural zone for education which also includes a museum and a campus university with institutions for engineering and architecture.
Also visit the Rock garden or garden of Nel Chand. The creation of Nek Chand, a road inspector in the capital city project, the garden comprises an extraordinary collection of stones from the nearby Shiwaliks and domestic rubbish transformed into sculptures.
Transfer this evening to the railway station for your train to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi transfer to your Hotel.
Day 08: Delhi – Agra
After breakfast drive this morning to Agra. Although Agra is an ancient city in India’s heart-land, it came into prominence in medieval times when the lavish patronage of the Mughal rulers created forts, tombs and palaces in red sandstones.
This afternoon visits the massive Agra Fort where the aging Emperor Shah Jahan, imprisoned by his son, watched from a distance the fulfilment of his life’s dream – the incomparable Taj Mahal, built in memory of his beloved wife. The high point of the day will be a visit to the Taj Mahal, incredibly perfect in its symmetry. On the inner walls, jewel-like stones create beautiful designs in white marble.
Day 09: Agra – Delhi
Early this morning re-visit the Taj Mahal to gain a sunrise perspective of the site. After breakfast drive to Fatehpur Sikri, a spacious red sandstone city built in the 16th century by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, one of India’s greatest rulers. Remarkably broad minded for his time, this Muslim king married many a Rajput princess in order to win over his Hindu subjects. The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri is a combination of Hindu and Muslim styles, expressing Akbar’s vision of synthesizing the cultures.
Return to Agra in time for lunch. After lunch drive to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi check in to your Hotel.
In the evening gather for a farewell Cocktail and Dinner Reception.
Overnight Hotel Or Transfer To The Airport Late In the Evening For Flight back Home.
Day 10: Delhi – London
Transfer this morning to the airport for your flight back home.
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