India – A Confluence of Architecture Designs from Around the World

India has always been a melting pot for cultures, languages, and people. Be it the world famous Taj in Agra or Mahabalipuram in Chennai, the Gateway of India, the Buddhist monasteries or even the Rashtrapati Bhawan that is home to our President, it is evident that Indian architecture is as diverse as it is beautiful.

How India became home to different architectural styles

The diversity in Indian architecture comes from the influence of the various emperors, monarchs from diverse cultural backgrounds who settled in the country. Each era and the rule of a new king brought in new peoples and craftsmen, each practicing their indigenous art forms, into the existing architecture and design principles, leading to Indian architecture as we know it today.

Architectural influences across the country

Delhi and several hill stations in North India are dotted with buildings from the British era, marked by Anglo-Saxon and Victorian Gothic architecture. Delhi has many monuments that speak of Turkic, Afghan, Mughal and Gothic architecture. While not much is known of Delhi’s history before the 12th century, it has since then been ruled by 4 different dynasties, before passing into the hands of the British Empire. Each of these dynasties left their mark on the Delhi skyline and present day architecture. The Mughals left an indelible mark with their use of marble, sandstone, domes and minarets, a supreme example being the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. The northern cities of India, to this day, have noticeable elements of Persian and Gothic architecture. Large sprawling gardens, high ceilings, ornate doorways etc. are found even in modern constructions.

While the north saw the impact of cultures that came riding on horseback, the architecture of the south India, largely untouched till the mid-14th century, evolved into a confluence of indigenous styles, and design trends brought in by sea-farers such as Portugese, Dutch and French colonizers. Indigenous architectural styles, such as pillars, central courtyards, slanting and overhanging roofs, made with the use of locally available material such as coconut fibre, black granite and slate merged with colonial patterns. 

While Goa is a firm reminder of Portuguese architecture, itself an amalgamation of Roman, Visigoth, Arab, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles, Puducherry reminds one of French designs. The small port town of Cochin, on the other hand, is home to several buildings inspired by Dutch architecture, since the town was once home to them. The ornate houses in south Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, with their wide verandas and stately designs are a throwback on their Dutch and Portuguese ancestors. The French brought with them villas with high ceilings and large French doors.

Designs in the seven sisters of East India are an amalgamation of architectural designs from countries of the Far East such as Japan, Thailand, Burma and even China, and Buddhist influences. Designs inspired by Buddhist monasteries are evident in the use of toranas, stupas and pagoda style roofs. The simple, clean lines and use of arches can be found in even in modern day designs.

What is truly remarkable is that these different architectural styles from across the world that found a place in India have survived the test of time. We continue to catch glimpses of different eras and cultures from all over the globe even in modern day architecture. Unlike other countries where normally only one form of architecture prevails, India is a confluence of architecture designs, with each being as relevant as the other in terms of aesthetics and design.

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