Mark Twain once said, “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.” The ancient country of India, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, houses some of the most diverse architectural marvels — which showcase the nation’s rich cultural history, multiple races, religions, and languages. In fact, this land is a goldmine for architects who wish to research on the evolution of architecture throughout history. As India progressed across the years, each entry of a new dynasty introduced a phenomenal transition in art and architecture. We can easily notice this diversity being reflected in monuments all across the country.
Below, we have listed 10 of the greatest masterpieces from Indian architecture. Although each of these examples are exemplary pieces of architectural finesse, they are quite different from each other when it comes to style, design, and cultural implications.
1. Taj Mahal
Of course, the first entry in our list, no doubt, is The Taj Mahal. Located in Agra, this impressive marvel of Indian architecture was constructed in 1653 under the rule of the Mughal ruler Shahjahan. Noted as the representation of Indian architecture, The Taj is actually the tomb of the emperor’s beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal. The symbol of love, one of the finest instances of Mughal grandeur, is a white marble monument, consisting of a square plinth that encloses a central structure in the middle. The huge dome at the top and surrounding four minarets at the sides complete its construction. The Taj falls among one of the seven wonders of the world and boasts around 3 million visitors each year.
2. Lotus Temple
The next inclusion in this catalog is the famed Lotus Temple, which is a hotspot for both Indian and international tourists. Built in the shape of a Lotus flower, this Baha’i House of Worship welcomes people from all religions, castes, and races. Defining the secularism and openness of India, Lotus Temple was conceptualized by an Iranian architect named Fariborz Sahba. Comprising 27 petals, that are designed in sets of three, it consists of nine such petal trios that form a circular boundary — which follows the ritualistic beliefs of the Baha’i community.
3. Amber Fort
Displaying the rich architectural style of Rajasthan, Amber Fort is constructed in Rajputana style and is seated atop a hill, located 11 km away from the city of Jaipur. The whole building is made of red sandstone and marble. The Moata Lake graces its boundaries. In fact, Amber Fort features an advanced ventilation system that is quite rare from that bygone era of Rajasthani royalty.
4. Ajanta-Ellora Caves
Yet another unmissable example from Indian architecture is Ajanta Ellora Caves, which were built way back during the years between the 2nd century B.C. and 6th century A.D. Exemplifying rock-cut caves, Ajanta Ellora is carved out from volcanic ballistic formations. The whole formation consists of 34 caves, covering a mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples. Each wall is engraved with depictions from the life of Lord Buddha. Originally, monks used to meditate in the solitude of these caves and today, they attract so many visitors each year. In fact, Ellora is known for being the site of the largest monolithic excavation that led to the discovery of the great Kailasa temple.
5. Chand Baori
Located in Rajasthan, Chand Baori is the deepest stepwell in the world. Constructed in the 9th century, it used to serve as a source of water for residents in the vicinity. Built in a square shape, it has a height of 100 feet and consists of 3500 steps, with a circumference of 140 meters. Chand Baori, an ideal example of Vernacular architecture, depicts amazing geometrical talent of the engineers and artisans from that era.
6. Sun Temple
Yet another example of detailed Indian architecture is the Sun Temple in Konark, located in the Bay of Bengal coast. A fine instance of Dravidian Style, and also called the Black Pagoda, it is a spectacular monument in India. Constructed in the 13th century, it is built in the form of a massive chariot, featuring 12 intricately crafted wheels that are pulled by seven horses.
7. Sanchi Stupa
A splendid specimen of Buddhist architecture, Sanchi Stupa was built in the 3rd century B.C. Yet another grand monument from ancient India, this hemispherical dome structure is embedded with relics of Lord Buddha, which comprise ornamented footprints, thrones, wheels etc.
8. Victoria Memorial
Heading to Kolkata, the next entry on our list is the Victoria Memorial, built in memory of Queen Victoria by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The general public gained access to it from 1921. Designed by Sir William Emerson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, it features an Indo-Saracenic revivalist style of architecture. As per Lord Curzon, “Let us, therefore, have a building, stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Calcutta will turn, to which all the resident population, European and Native, will flock, where all classes will learn the lessons of history and see revived before their eyes the marvels of the past.”
Victoria Memorial is made with Makrana marble, carried all the way from Rajasthan. The structure also houses several artifacts from the British era. Additionally, its architectural elements such as the great dome, four subsidiaries, octagonal domed chattris, tall portals, the terrace and the domed corner towers are all built with the highest degree of accuracy.
9. IIM Ahmedabad
Designed by Louis I Kahn, IIM Ahmedabad is the best building when it comes to the construction of educational institutes in India. Showcasing a seamless blend of modern and traditional architecture, its geometrical compositions feature spaces like elaborate hallways and plazas. The design also features voids in the facade of the building, which counts as one of its most prominent aspects.
10. Thikse Monastery
Ending this list is the Buddhist monastery, called Thikse Monastery, which graces the Indus Valley. Rested atop a hill, it is composed of multiple divisions. While the residents live in the lower parts, the shrines are located at the top. Situated at a height of 3,600 meters, this 12-storey structure showcases some of the rarest and most precious stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. When it comes to its architecture, the monastery uses vernacular techniques that are evident in the construction of the walls, columns and roofs.
Each of these above structures is examples of the sheer magnificence of Indian architecture. Many such buildings have also been converted into heritage 5-star hotels — just to preserve the grandeur of our ancient architectural history. If you wish to experience the aura of our grand art and culture, then you must surely pay a visit to at least one of these sites.