General Knowledge for IAS Exams (INDIAN ARCHITECTURE)

General Knowledge for IAS Exams (INDIAN ARCHITECTURE)


  • traced as far back as third millennium BC.
  • on the banks of the river Indus particularly at the bends that provided water, easy means of transportation of produce and other goods and also some protection by way of natural barriers of the river .
  • consisted of walled cities which provided security to the people.
  • rectangular grid pattern of layout with roads that cut each other at right angles.
  • used standardised burnt mud-bricks as building material.
  • There is evidence of building of big dimensions which perhaps were public buildings, administrative or business centres, pillared halls and courtyards.
  • There is no evidence of temples.
  • Public buildings include granaries which were used to store grains which give an idea of an organised collection and distribution system.
  • ‘Great Bath’ - public bathing place shows the importance of ritualistic bathing and cleanliness in this culture. It is still functional and there is no leakage or cracks in the construction.
  • most of the houses had private wells and bathrooms.
  • dominant citadal - treated as evidence of some kind of political authority ruling over the cities.
  • evidence also of fortifications with gateways enclosing the walled cities which shows that there may have been a fear of being attacked.

Dholavira , Rangpur, Rojdi, Lothal , Sarkotada , Kuntasi, Padri (Gujarat) Kalibangan (Rajasthan),Bhagwanpura, Banawali (Haryana), Diamabad (Maharashtra), Alamgirpur (U.P.), and Mauda (Jammu).


  • Ashoka, first Mauryan to "think in stone".
  • most of the shapes and decorative forms employed were indigenous in origin, some exotic forms show the influence of Greek, Persian and Egyptian cultures.
  • beginning of the Buddhist School of architecture in India.
  • monolithic Ashokan pillars are marvels of architecture and sculpture. These were lofty free standing monolithic columns erected on sacred sites. Originally there were about thirty pillars but now only ten are in existence, of which only two with lion capitals stand in situ in good condition at Kolhua and Laurya Nandangarh respectively.
  • Sarnath pillar - finest pieces of sculpture of the Ashokan period.
  • Two Ashokan edicts - found at Laghman, near Jalalabad ( Afghanistan).
  • most important ones are located at Bharhut, Bodhgaya, Sanchi, Amravati and Nagarjunakonda.
  • The Chinese traveller Fa-hien was so impressed by Ashoka’s palace near Patna that he stated that "it was made by spirits" and that its carvings are so elegantly executed "which no human hands of this world could accomplish".
  • Its existence was pointed out during the excavations at Kumrahar, near Patna, where its ashes have been found preserved for several thousand years.
  • Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador of Selucas Nikator who visited the Mauryan court described Chandragupta Maurya’s palace as an excellent architectural achievement.



  • hemispherical in shape with a low base.
  • symbolized the cosmic mountain.
  • inscription by the ivory carvers of Vidisha on the southern gateway throws light on the transference of building material from perishable wood and ivory to the more durable stone.


  • built in 2nd or 1st century BC was probably like the one at Sanchi
  • but in later centuries it was transformed from a Hinayana shrine to a Mahayana shrine.


  • further development of stupas at Sanchi and Bharhut.
  • the base, dome and the hemisphere dome are sculpted.
  • stupas of Nagarjunakonda in Krishna valley were very large.
  • Maha Chaitya of Nagarjunakonda has a base in the form of Swastika, which is a sun symbol.

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  • region extending from Punjab to the borders of Afghanistan was an important centre of Mahayana Buddhism up to the 5th century A.D.
  • imbibed all kinds of foreign influences like Persian, Greek, Roman, Saka and Kushan.
  • origin can be traced to the Greek rulers of Bactria and Northwest India.
  • during the reign of Kanishka that the art received great patronage.
  • also known as the Graeco- Buddhist School of Art since Greek techniques of Art were applied to Buddhist subjects.
  • most important contribution- evolution of beautiful images of the Buddha and Bodhisattavas, which were executed in black stone and modelled on identical characters of Graeco-Roman pantheon.
  • “Gandhara artist had the hand of a Greek but the heart of an Indian."
  • most characteristic trait - depiction of Lord Buddha in the standing or seated positions.
  • seated Buddha is always shown cross-legged in the traditional Indian way.
  • typical feature - rich carving, elaborate ornamentation and complex symbolism.
  • tallest rock-cut statue of Lord Buddha - Bamiyan (Afghanistan) - 3-4 century AD.


  • at the holy city of Mathura between 1-3 A.D.
  • established tradition of transforming Buddhist symbols into human form.
  • Buddha’s first image can be traced to Kanishka’s reign (about 78 A.D.).
  • earliest sculptures of Buddha were made keeping the yaksha prototype in mind.
  • strongly built - right hand raised in protection and left hand on the waist.
  • The figures do not have moustaches and beards as in the Gandhara Art.
  • seated figures are in the padmasana posture.
  • not only produced beautiful images of the Buddha but also of the Jain Tirthankaras and gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.
  • although of indigenous origin, but greatly influenced by the Gandhara School of Art.
  • Guptas adopted, further improvised & perfected Mathura School of Art.
  • observed at - Sarnath, Sravasti and even as far as Rajgir in Bihar.


  • on the banks of the Krishna River in modern Andhra Pradesh.
  • largest Buddhist stupa of South India.
  • construction began in 200 B.C. and was completed in 200 A.D.
  • stupendous stupa could not withstand the ravages of time
  • its ruins are preserved in the London Museum.



  • Mahakaleshwar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India,
  • Kal Bhairava temple, finds a mention in the Skanda Purana, and
  • Mangalnath temple, regarded as the birthplace of Mars, according to the Matsya Purana.


  • flourished in Bengal and Bihar under the Pala and the Sena rulers.
  • Nalanda was its most active centre, whose influence was spread to Nepal, Myanmar and even Indonesia.


  • Khajuraho justly famous for their graceful contours anderotic sculptures.
  • These 22 temples (out of the original 85) are regarded as one of world's greatest artistic wonders.
  • Khajuraho Temples were built within a short period of hundred years from 950-1050 A.D.
  • Kendriya Mahadev temple is the largest and most beautiful of the Khajuraho Temples.
  • Shiva Temple at Visvanath and Vishnu Temple at Chaturbhunj are other important temples at Khajuraho.


AJANTA CAVES (2nd Cen BC to 7th Cen AD)

  • were first mentioned by Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang - visited India between 629 - 645 AD.
  • discovered by the British officers while hunting a tiger in 1819 AD.
  • thirty cave temples at Ajanta are set into the rocky sides of a crescent shaped gorge in the Inhyadri hills of the Sahyadri ranges.
  • 5 caves are Chaitya-grihas, & rest are Viharas(monasteries)
  • caves depict a large number of incidents from the life of the Buddha (Jataka Tales).

ELLORA CAVES(5th-13th Cen AD)

  • representing 3 major religion of india- Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism.
  • Lies on ancient trade route- dakshinpatha.
  • 12 Buddhist caves(1-12)
  • 17 Hindu Caves(13-29)
  • 5 Jaina Caves(30-34)
  • Best example of Religious Harmony


  • located in the Raisen District -Madhya
  • discovered in 1958 by V.S. Wakanker, is the biggest prehistoric art depository in India.
  • Atop the hill a large number of rock-shelters have been discovered, of which more than 130 contain paintings.
  • Excavations revealed history of continuous habitation from early stone age (about 10000 years) to the end of stone age (c. 10,000 to 2,000 years)


  • 6th century Shiva temple in the Elephanta caves is one of the most exquisitely carved temples in India.
  • central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in three-headed form.
  • The Maheshamurti is built deep into a recess and looms up from the darkness to fill the full height of the cave.
  • image symbolizes the fierce, feminine and meditative aspects of the great ascetic and the three heads represent Lord Shiva as Aghori, Ardhanarishvara and Mahayogi.
  • Aghori is the aggressive form of Shiva where he is intent on destruction.
  • Ardhanarishvara depicts Lord Shiva as half-man/half-woman signifying the essential unity of the sexes.
  • Mahayogi posture symbolises the meditative aspect of the God.
  • Other sculptures in these caves depict Shiva's cosmic dance of primordial creation and destruction and his marriage to Parvati.


  • rock-cut Buddhist caves situated in Udayagiri hills, Mumbai.
  • excavated during 200 BC to 600 AD and are now in ruins.
  • comprise of 4 caves on the southeastern face and 15 caves on the northwestern face.
  • Cave 9 is the chief cave and is the oldest and consists of a stupa and figures of Lord Buddha.


  • second largest known cave after the Kailasa cave in Ellora
  • houses a Brahmanical temple dating back to the 6th century AD.
  • Excavated between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD
  • Kanheri is a 109-cave complex located near Borivili National Park in Bombay.
  • The Kanheri caves contain illustrations from Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and show carvings dating back to 200 BC.


  • About 50-60 kms away from Pune,
  • these are rock-cut Buddhist caves dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC.
  • consist of several viharas and chaityas.


  • Rajput palaces - built as inner citadels surrounded by the city and enclosed by a fortified wall as at Chittorgarh and Jaisalmer.
  • Some forts, such as those at Bharatpur and Deeg, were protected by wide ditch filled with water surrounding the fort.
  • Man Mandir, the largest palace in Gwalior, was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1516).
  • Man Mandir has two storeys above, and two below ground level overhanging a sandstone cliff. This gigantic cliff is punctuated by five massive round towers, crowned by domed cupolas and linked by delicately carved parapets.
  • palaces of Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Kota represent the maturity of the Rajput style.
  • All of these palaces were built predominantly in the 17th and early 18th  centuries.
  • city of Bikaner is encircled by 5.63 km long stone wall in rich pink sandstone. There are five gates and three sally ports.
  • Jodhpur Fort dominates the city, which is surrounded by a huge wall with 101 bastions
  • Meherangarh fort stands on a cliff with a sheer drop of over 36 metres.
  • Built by Jai Singh, Jaipur represents a fusion of Eastern and Western ideas of town planning. The city is enclosed by a wall and has bastions and towers at regular intervals. City Palace is at the center of the walled city and is a spectacular synthesis of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. 
  • Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, (1799) has a five-storeyed symmetrical facade composed of 953 small casements in a huge curve each with a projecting balcony and crowning arch.
  • Jantar Mantar, the largest of five observatories built by Jai Singh II in the early 18th century, others being Ujjain, Mathura, Varanasi & New Delhi.


  • only variation - frequent chamukhs or four-faced temples.
  • four Tirthankars are be placed back to back to face four cardinal points.
  • Entry into this temple is also from four doors.
  • Chamukh temple of Adinath (1618 AD) is a characteristic example of the four-door temple.
  • most spectacular of all Jain temples are found at Ranakpur and Mount Abu in Rajasthan.
  • Deogarh (Lalitpur, U.P.), Ellora, Badami and Aihole also have some of the important specimens of Jain Art.


  • concept of arch or dome was not invented by the Muslims but was, in fact, borrowed and was further perfected by them from the architectural styles of the post-Roman period.
  • used cementing agent in the form of mortar for the first time.
  • use of scientific principles helped not only in obtaining greater strength and stability of the construction materials but also provided greater flexibility to the architects and builders.
  • Islamic elements of architecture had already passed through different experimental phases in other countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq before these were introduced in India.
  • typical mortar-masonry works formed of dressed stones.
  • Mosques and Tombs - religious architecture
  • Palaces and Forts - secular Islamic architecture.


  • basically an open courtyard surrounded by a pillared verandah
  • crowned off with a dome
  • mihrab indicates the direction of the qibla for prayer.
  • Towards the right of the mihrab stands the mimbar or pulpit from where the Imam presides over the proceedings.
  • Large mosques where the faithful assemble for the Friday prayers are called the Jama Masjids.


  • The Delhi or the Imperial Style of Indo-Islamic architecture flourished between 1191-1557 AD and covered Muslim dynasties viz., Slave (1191-1290), Khilji (1290-1320), Tughlaq (1320-1414), Sayyid (1414-1444) and Lodi (1451-1556).
  • earliest construction work was began by Qutubuddin Aibak, who started erecting monumental buildings of stone on Qila Rai Pithora, the first of the seven historical cities of Delhi associated with Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • The Qutub Mosque (1192 AD) is one such building, whose arcaded aisles were composed of pillars carved in the Hindu style. Named as the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, it is considered as the earliest mosque in India.
  • Qutub-ud-din Aibak also started the construction of Qutub Minar in 1192 (which was eventually completed by Iltutmish in 1230). The Qutub Minar, built to commemorate the entry of Islam, was essentially a victory tower, decorated with several calligraphic inscriptions. 
  • Adhai-din-ka-Jhopra, located beyond the Ajmer darga in Rajasthan. It was constructed in 1153 AD and converted into a mosque in 1198 AD.
  • Allauddin Khilji established the second city of Delhi at Siri, built the Alai Darwaza near the Qutub Minar and dug a vast reservoir at Hauz Khas around 1311AD.
  • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-1325 AD) built Tughlaqabad, the third city of Delhi. Tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, built of red sandstone, is an irregular pentagon in its exterior plan and its design is of the pointed or "Tartar" shape and is crowned by a finial resembling the kalasa and amla of a Hindu temple. 
  • Delhi's fourth city Jahanpanah was built by Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq in mid-14th century. Firoz Shah Kotla ground is the only remnant of its past glory. He is also credited with founding the fortified cities of Jaunpur, Fathabad and Hissar.
  • Kali Masjid, Khirki Masjid and Kalan Masjid also belong to this period, the last two being raised on a tahkhana or substructure of arches.
  • The Tombs of Mubarak Sayyid (d. 1434 AD), Muhammad Sayyid (d.1444 AD) and Sikander Lodi (d.1517 AD) are all of the octagonal type.
  • The square tombs are represented by such monuments as the Bara Khan Ka Gumbad, Chota Khan Ka Gumbad, Bara Gumbad (1494 AD), Shish Gumbad, Dadi Ka Gumbad and the Poli ka Gumbad.
  • The Tomb of Isa Khan (1547 AD), the Tomb of Adham Khan (1561 AD), Moth ki Masjid (c.1505 AD), Jamala Masjid (1536 AD) and the Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid (c.1550 AD) belong to the final phase of the Delhi style of architecture.



  • Under the Sharqi dynasty Jaunpur became a great centre of art, culture and architectural activity.
  • Atala Masjid was built by Shamsuddin Ibrahim in 1378.


  • Gujarat witnessed significant architectural activity for over 250 years starting from Muzaffar Shah's declaration of independence from Delhi and the formation of the Sultanate of Gujarat in 1307 AD until the conquest of Gujarat by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1500 AD.
  • Ahmedabad is a city full of architectural masterpieces which include Sayyid Alam's mosque (1412),Teen Darwaza (1415), Tomb of Ahmed Shah (1440), Rani-ka-Hujra (1440), the Jami Masjid (built by the city’s founder Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1423), Qutubuddin's mosque (1454), Rani Sipri Mosque (1505), Sidi Bashir's Mosque (1510), which is famous for its “shaking minarets”, and the Kankaria Lake, constructed in 1451 by Sultan Qutub-ud-Din.


  • earliest period of architectural development started in 1347 when Allauddin Bahman Shah constructed the Gulbarga Fort and the Jami Masjid at Gulbarga.
  • The second phase is represented by the architecture of Bidar initiated by Ahmed Shah (1422-1436),which includes the Bidar Fort, Mahmud Gawan's Madrassa and the Ali Barid's Tomb.


  • The Qutub Shahi and Nizam Shahi dynasties contributed greatly towards the development of the Deccan style of architecture.
  • Charminar (1591) - Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah.
  • Mecca Masjid- started in 1614 by Abdullah Qutub Shah and completed in 1687 by Aurangzeb.
  • Golconda Fort (1525)- Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, was an impregnable fort of great strategic importance to most of the rulers.
  • Falaknuma Palace(1870) by Nawab Vikar-Ul-Ulmara, is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture.


  • Gol Gumbaz built by Mohammad Adil Shah, which is largest masonry dome in the world. KASHMIR:-
  • typified by use of woodwork.
  • log construction using deodar trees for the construction of wooden bridges called kadals or the wooden shrines called ziarats
  • mosque of Shah Hamdan in Srinagar and the Jami Masjid at Srinagar built by Sikandar Butshikan (1400AD) - examples of the wooden architecture
  • Fort of Hari Parbat, the Pattar Masjid (1623) and the Akhun Mulla Shah's mosque (1649) are illustrations of art of stone building in Kashmir.


  • Sasaram in Bihar - Sher Shah's Tomb, tomb of his father, Hasan Sur Khan built in 1535, tomb of his son Salim Shah and tomb of Alwal Khan, the chief architect of Sher Shah.
  • completion of the sixth city of Delhi called the Shergarh or Dilli Sher Shai around the Purana Qila area in 1540s.
  • Purana Qila has three main gates - the Humayun darwaza, Talaqi darwaza and Baradarwaza. Qila-ikuhna masjid built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541 AD in the Purana Qila.



  • mosque at Kabuli Bagh at Panipat and Jami Masjid at Sambhal near Delhi


  • Persian influence - result of Humayun's observance at the court of Shah Tahmasp during the period of his exile.
  • Humayun's Tomb at Delhi, (1564) built by his widow Haji Begum as a mark of devotion, eight years after his death.


  • Use of red sandstone.
  • Construction of a huge fort at Agra.
  • Massive sandstone ramparts of the Red Fort, New Delhi.
  • Buildings at Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal and Dargah of Saleem Chisti are the most imposing of all the buildings of Fatehpur Sikri. Diwan-e-Khas in the complex which was designed for private audiences.


  • Shalimar Bagh on the banks of Lake Dal in Kashmir.
  • Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra near Agra, which was completed in 1613.
  • Jahangir's Tomb at Shadera near Lahore, built by his wife Nur Mahal


  • Substitution of marble for the red sandstone.
  • Marblized Diwan-i-Am and Diwan-i-Khas build by Akbar at Red Fort, Delhi.
  • Shah Jahan built the Jami Masjid at Agra in 1648 in honour of his daughter Jahanara Begum & Wazir Khan's mosque in Lahore,1634.
  • Taj Mahal - a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.


  • Bibi-ki-Maqbara, tomb of Aurangzeb's wife Begum Rabia Durani, a poor replica of the famous Taj Mahal
  • a fine example of Mughal architecture in the Deccan region.



  • Safdar Jung's tomb, built in the honour of Safdar Jung (1739-1753), who was the nephew of the first Nawab of Oudh. 
  • Bara Imambara built by the Nawab in 1784. Absence of pillars in the main hall and simplicity of style and symmetry are its unique features.
  • Chattar Manzil - main attractions are the underground rooms and a beautiful dome surrounded by a gilt umbrella.
  • Kaiser Bagh is a quadrangular park with a baradari (pavilion) and yellow-coloured buildings on three sides.
  • Roshanwali Koti and Begum Koti at Hazratgunj - Italian style is more prominent.


  • developed under the influence of the Mughal style.
  • characterised by certain indigenous features like the multiplicity of chattris or kiosks, use of fluted dome generally covered with copper or brass-gilt and enrichment of arches by numerous foliations.
  • Golden Temple at Amritsar(1764) built by the fourth Sikh Guru Ramdas.



  • Portuguese adapted to India the climatically appropriate Iberian galleried patio house and the Baroque churches of Goa.
  • Se Cathedral and Arch of Conception of Goa were built in the typical Portuguese-Gothic style.
  • St. Francis Church at Cochin( 1510) is believed to be the first church built by the Europeans in India.
  • fort of Castella de Aguanda near Mumbai and added fortifications to the Bassein fort built by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat, in 1532 AD.
  • Bassein fort is famous for the Matriz (Cathedral of St Joseph), the Corinthian pillared hall and the Porte da Mer (sea gate).


  • French gave a distinct urban design to its settlement in Pondicherry by applying the Cartesian grid plans and classical architectural patterns.
  • Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus), Eglise de Notre Dame de Angesand, Eglise de Notre Dame de Lourdes at Pondicherry have a distinct French influence.


  • British followed various architectural styles – Gothic, Imperial, Christian, English Renaissance and Victorian being the essentials.
  • Church of St. John at Calcutta (1787) inspired by St. Stephens Church at Walbrooks.
  • St. Mary's Church in Fort St. George in Chennai.
  • Law Courts, Presidency College and Senate House of Chennai.
  • Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta (1921), designed by Sir William Emerson.
  • Gateway of India in Mumbai, Maharaja's Palace at Mysore and M.S.University and Lakshmi Villas Palace at Baroda.
  • New Delhi as a systematically planned city after it was made the capital in 1911.
  • Sir Edward Lutyens made responsible for the overall plan of Delhi and constructed India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan.
  • Herbert Baker added South Block and North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
  • Englishman called Robert Tor Tussell built the Connaught Place.

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