Architecture in Medieval period in India

The architecture of the Delhi Sultanate

The arch and dome were new architectural additions of the period.

The use of lime-mortar in the construction of buildings and houses altered the building techniques.

The development of the true arch was an important feature of the architectural style of the period.

In the 14th century, a variant of the arch called the four-centered arch was introduced by the Tughluqs in their buildings.

Stone has been used abundantly in the masonry work of this period.

The material commonly used for plastering buildings was gypsum.

Lime-plaster was reserved for places that needed to be secured against water leakage as in roofs, canals, and drains.

In the later period, gypsum mortar became popular in buildings.


The Sultanate Period

Monuments like the Quwwatul Islam mosque (1198), Qutab Minar (1199–1235), Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra (1200) and Iltutmish’s tomb represent the early forms of Indo- Islamic architecture.

The early buildings show signs of being worked upon by local craftsmen while the later buildings show the development or the maturing of the Indo-Islamic style.

In these monuments, one can see the gradual development of the dome and the true arch.

The best examples of this are the tombs of Iltutmish (1233–34) and Balban (1287–88).

The Alai Darwaza in the Qutub complex (1305) and the Jamat Khana Masjid at Nizamuddin (1325) are examples of Khalji period.

The new architectural style of the Tughluq period is represented with:

  • the use of stone rubble as the principal building material
  • the battering of walls and bastions
  • a new type of arch called the four-centered arch
  • the emergence of the pointed dome
  • the introduction of an octagonal plan of tomb building.
  • the “batter” or sloping walls


Regional Variations

In eastern India:

  • there was the development of two distinctive schools in Bengal and in Jaunpur.
  • These schools introduced two important features.
  • The first was the ‘drop arch’, which had a span greater than its radius and centers at the import level.
  • The second was the method of raising the roof in a system of arched bays where small domes supported by diagonally arranged brick pendentives that helped transition from a square to a circular base.
  • the transition from constructing bamboo houses to brick structures.
  • The best illustrations of the architecture styles from Jaunpur are the mosques.
  • The styles here bear a close resemblance to the Tughlaq style.
  • The use of the arch and beam are notable features of this style.


In western India:

  • the development of regional architectural forms is notable in 14th century Gujarat.
  • there was a large scale use of building material from demolished temples.
  • there is a development of a new style in which the layout of the mosques copied the architectural imprint of temples.


In central India the development of new art forms is noticeable in the Malwa region; the cities of Dhar and Mandu are illustrations of this style.

Another important region that developed its distinctive style was the Deccan where the Bahmani kingdom created a very different architectural style as compared to the northern architectural forms.

The Deccan style developed with the fusion of the Tughlaq style from the north and the Iranian style.

The development of the architectural style here coincides with the shifting of the kingdom’s capital from Gulbarga (1347) to Bidar (1425) and eventually to Golconda (1512).

In the first phase in Gulbarga, the architectural style is representative of a distinctive Islamic architecture that followed the Tughlaq style.

In the second phase, there is an adaptation of Iranian architectural styles, this is accompanied with the use of colored tiles, mural paintings and a change in the shape of the domes.


Another important regional development in the Deccan was Vijayanagara art.

The distinctive style is best illustrated using the architectural forms in the city of Hampi.

Besides palaces and temples, the city also had an extensive network of waterworks and public buildings such as the elephant stables and the Lotus Mahal.

The unique features of this style were the use of pillars for architectural and decorative purposes.

The shrines on Hemakuta hill, Virupaksha temple, and the Hazara Rama temple are examples of Vijayanagara temple architecture.


The Architecture of the Mughal Empire

The Mughal Emperor Akbar initiated the grand projects that symbolize this period.

Among the early structures of this period are the two mosques built by Babur at Sambhal and Panipat in 1526.

Babur also built gardens at Dholpur and at Ram Bagh and Zahra Bagh at Agra.

Two mosques one at Agra and the other at Hissar belong to the reign of the second Mughal emperor Humayun.

The grandness of Mughal architecture began with the construction of Humayun’s tomb and its design by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas from Persia.

This tomb is the earliest specimen of a garden enclosure and is raised on an arcaded sandstone platform.


The Jahangir Mahal is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic building designs.

Mughal architecture under Akbar entered a new phase with the construction of Fatehpur Sikri.

This city-palace was built entirely of red sandstone between 1571–1585.


The important buildings of the reigns of Jahangir include the Tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and the tomb of Itmad Ud Daula.


Among the important monuments of the reign of Shah Jahan are the Lal Qila (in Delhi), the Moti Masjid (at Agra), the Jami Masjid in Delhi and the Taj Mahal (at Agra).

The Taj Mahal is the grandest project of Shahjahan.

The construction of the Taj began in 1632 and was completed by 1643.


The Moti Masjid at Lal Qila in Delhi, the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore and the mausoleum built for his wife Rabia ud Dauran at Aurangabad are the main examples of Mughal architecture under Aurangzeb.

The mausoleum at Aurangabad was modeled on the Taj Mahal.

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