Indo-Islamic Architecture

  • Beginning: Muslims of Gujarat and Sind had begun construction work in the 8th century itself. But it was only in the 13th century that building activity on a large scale began by the Turkish State (Delhi Sultanate under Slave Dynasty). Islamic architecture took many local influences and amalgamated them in their own practices.
  • Indo-Saracenic or Indo-Islamic architecture: It is a mix of many techniques, stylized shapes, and surface decorations evolved through a continuous amalgamation of architectural elements from various styles.

Types of Indo-Islamic Architecture : 

  1. Imperial Style (Delhi Sultanate)
  2. Provincial Style (Mandu, Gujarat, Bengal, and Jaipur)
  3. Mughal Style (Delhi, Agra, and Lahore)
  4. Deccan Style (Bijapur, Golconda)

Features of Indo-Islamic Architecture:

  • Indo-Islamic architecture begins with Ghurid occupation of India at the close of 12 century AD.
  • Islamic style of construction was based on arches, vaults and domes, on columns and pyramidal towers or slender spires, called trabeate.
  • Distinctive features of Indo-Islamic architecture were: (a) dome; (b) lofty towers or minarets; (c) arch (d) vault.
  • Although there exists some evidence to suggest that the true arch may have been known in India earlier, it is the Muslims who are believed to have brought the principle of building a true arch to hold up the roof or ceiling or a top part of a structure.
  • The result was that flat lintels or corbelled ceilings were replaced by arches or vaults, and the pyramidal roof or spire by the dome.
  • The mode, theme or motifs or ornamentation employed in Islamic buildings also made a departure from the earlier vogues.
  • Hindu style or ornamentation is naturalistic showing human and animal forms and luxuriant vegetation life.
  • As among Muslims representation of living beings was taboo, they introduced geometrical and arabesque patterns, ornamental writing and formal representation of plant and floral life for decoration.
  • Among architectural features introduced by them mention may be made of arches, domes, minars and minarets, the pendentive, squinch arch, half domed double portals, kiosks (chhatris) and use of concrete as a factor of construction.
  • They also introduced gilding and painting in varied colours and designs.
  • Muslims, like Romans, were also responsible for making extensive use of concrete and lime mortar as an important factor of construction and incidentally used lime as plaster and a base for decoration which was incised into it and held enamel work on tiles.
  • Designing on plaster through incision or stucco. Its designs were either left plain or filled with colours.
  • Motifs included flowers (both Indian and foreign) and were painted or carved.
  • Blue, green, yellow, and turquoise tiles were used since the 14th century. The roof was generally a mix of the central dome and other smaller domes, chhatris, and tiny minarets.
  • In the wall panels, the surface decoration was done by techniques of tessellation (mosaic designs) and pietra dura (a decorative art that is an inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished coloured stones to create images).
image 330

Fig: Pietra dura work, Agra

  • Other decorative features: arabesque, calligraphy, high and low relief carving, and profuse use of jalis.
  • There was generally an inverted lotus flower motif and a metal or stone pinnacle atop the central dome.

Materials used in Indo-Islamic Architecture:

  • Walls were quite thick and made of rubble masonry.
  • They were then coated with chunam or limestone plaster or dressed stone.
  • Stones used: sandstone, quartzite, buff, marble, etc.
  • Polychrome tiles were also used.
  • Bricks were used from the 17th century.
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