(Last Updated on : 14/01/2010)
Religious influence on Indian architecture can be traced fromm the primitive times starting from the Hindus. With the rise of Islam, the religion which came to India due to several invasions also significantly influenced the architectural designs of Indian artisans. Indian architecture has also absorbed some of the traits of the Christian art along the Buddhist, Jain and Parsi forms of architecture.
With the development of Islam
in India a complex interaction took place at various levels between the Muslim and the Hindu faith, culture and practices, which resulted in the change of both the cultures. The chief reason for the success of the Islamic conquest of India and the spread of the faith at a popular level was the significant advantage which an open, dynamic and cosmopolitan society enjoyed when it met the static, closed societies of northern India, which had discontinued being receptive to alien influences. The Islamic influence in India architecture could be seen in the construction of several mosques or masjids, which are the principal social, political and religious centres of Islam, intended for daily prayers, one of the five pillars of the faith. Tombs of Muslim rulers and saints are constructed whish are some of the masterpieces in Indian architecture. Apart from the Mosques and Tombs, Madrasas are established which serve as the center of Islamic learning. Khanqahs or monastic mosques or retreats were founded for the kindered souls.
Decorative art plays a prominent role in all the Islamic architecture
in India. It envelops buildings like a mantle, with the intention of concealing rather than revealing the structure. The key elements are geometry, calligraphy and foliation. The facades of Islamic buildings are rigorously controlled by primary and secondary grids, which create frames within which elevations arc strictly organized. The most famous example is the Taj Mahal
, with its central pointed arch contained within a rectangle, a motif which is repeated in a reduced form on the flanking niches. The repetitive use of this simple but powerful motif imparts a basic unity to the entire composition.
The ancient tradition of the Indian masons, who had constructed their great stone temples to the very limits of their artistic and structural abilities but because of the static nature of society, never developed new techniques or methods of construction while the energetic, pluralistic traditions of the Muslim conquerors, who had absorbed new architectural principles and technical practices in their expansion cast and west. Stylistically, the Indian tradition was based on the use of posts and beams, in contrast to the Muslims, who employed arched styles and introduced the arch to India. The Muslims also brought with them mortar masonry, which offered far greater versatility in design than the primitive method of placing one stone upon another. As Muslim influence spread, the ancient pointed spire or shikhara of Hindu temple architecture was counter-pointed in the cities and countryside of India by the distinctive silhouette of the bulbous Islamic dome. By the time the first Muslim buildings were constructed in India, the constructional principles of Islamic architecture had been well established in the great mosques of Cairo and Damascus and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
Apart from Islam, other religions like Buddhism
, Jews, etc influenced to some extent the Indian architecture. The Parsis constructed the Fire temple in India since they worship fire and have also formed the `Towers of Silence` where they place their dead bodies.
The Bungalows originated in the state of Bengal and generally referred to as local village huts. It was from these crude prototypes that the bungalow developed. With the arrival of Europeans, however, the word was soon corrupted and applied to any single-storey building with a veranda. The increasing numbers of officials, planters and soldiers residing in up country locations stimulated demand for a form of housing that could be quickly built from available local materials. The British adopted the bungalow as the ideal form of tropical housing and exported it all over the world. From the crude early vernacular prototypes, bungalows soon acquired elements which reflected the social status of the occupants. Masonry and tiles replaced thatch and bamboo. Tuscan and Doric columns replaced wooden posts. Ornamental balustrades, arcaded verandahs and louvered screens were added to provide a better external appearance.
Thus, besides the Hindu religious architecture, several other faiths also contributed in shaping the Indian architecture. While bungalows derived a completely different meaning, a host of churches were constructed throughout India. These churches were further divided on the basis of their construction. For example, there were Portuguese churches Syrian churches, Protestant churches and Catholic churches. While the building idiom of these religious monuments was simple, most of them contained detailed messages from Jesus and the Holy texts carved within the walls.
Considering the various kinds of religious influences on Indian architecture, it can be easily said to have a heterogeneous characteristic.