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Mughal Architecture

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One of the most enduring achievements of Indian civilization is undoubtedly its architecture, which extends to a great deal more than the Taj Mahal or the temple complexes of Khajuraho and Vijayanagara. Though the Indus Valley sites of Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Lothal provide substantial evidence of extensive town planning, the beginnings of Indian architecture are more properly to be dated to the advent of Buddhism in India, in the reign of Ashoka (c. 270-232), and the construction of Buddhist Monasteries and Stupas. Buddhist Architecture was predominant for several centuries, and there are few remains of Hindu temples from even late antiquity. Among the many highlights of Buddhist Art and architecture are the Great Stupa at Sanchi and the rock-cut Caves at Ajanta.

By the eighth century, with the consolidation of Hindu kingdoms, the southern Hindu school of architecture was beginning to flourish. The most notable achievements of the Pallavas were the rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram and the temples of Kanchipuram. The subsequent history of South Indian temple architecture takes us, over the next eight centuries, to Thanjavur (Tanjore), to the brilliant achievements of the Hoysalas (as seen in the temples at Belur and Halebid), and the temple complexes, which represent the flowering of the Vijayanagara empire, of Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai, and Vellore. The most stellar achievement of the later Vijayanagara period may well be the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. In Kerala, however, a distinct style of architecture took shape. In Ellora in western India, Hindus added a new series of temples and carvings at what had once been Buddhist Caves, culminating in the majestic Kailasa temple, constructed in the reign of the Rashtrakuta monarch Krishna I (757-73), while the rock-cut Caves in Elephanta and Jogeshvari, in the proximity of Bombay, were most likely executed in the sixth century.

In north India, meanwhile, architecture was to be a more contentious matter. The fabled temple at Somnath, renowned for its purported riches, is said to have been destroyed by the Muslim invader Mahmud of Ghazni, and after the attainment of Indian independence, the restoration of this temple became a matter of national pride for more ardent defenders of the Faith. The story of Somnath points to the manner in which histories, whether political, cultural, or architectural, have become communalized. But the period from 1000-1300 was, in any case, a Time when Hindu architecture flourished throughout India. In central India, the Chandellas built a magnificent complex of temples at their capital, Khajuraho, between 950-1030 A.D. These temples, which show Vaishnavite, Shaivite, and Tantric influence, have acquired a renewed reputation today as indices of India's libertine past, allegedly indicative of India's relaxed sexual mores before puritanical Muslims made India a sexually repressed society.

The sexual postures depicted in many of the sculptures that adorn some of the temples appear equally on the posters of the Government of India's Tourist Office and the pages of gay and lesbian magazines. The cultural politics of Khajuraho, as indeed of Indian architecture, still remains to be written. In the north-west, the Solanki kings spent lavishly on buildings, and the Surya or Sun temple in Modhera, some 3 hours from Ahmedabad, stills provides striking testimony to their achievements. More stupendous still is the Surya temple at Konarak, built by Narasimha-Deva Ganga (c. 1238-64), though masterpieces of Orissan architecture from the reign of the Gangas are to be found in Bhubaneshwar and Puri as well. The weakness of Muslim dynasties in the north enabled Rajput kings to assert their independence; the results of this Hindu revival are to be seen in Chittor, and elsewhere in Rajasthan where massive forts dot the landscape.

The Mughal emperors of India, most particularly Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, were heavily invested in monumental architecture and spent lavishly on the construction of mosques, mausoleums, forts, palaces, and other buildings. The principal sites of Mughal architecture are Lahore, Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri, though dazzling specimens of Mughal architecture are to be found elsewhere. Shah Jahan constructed a new capital, then to be known as Shahjahanabad, and now a part of Old Delhi.

Its most famous buildings include the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the World, and the Red Fort (Lal Qila), which over the last four hundred years has become uniquely emblematic of state Power. Akbar likewise built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri, a few miles outside Agra, but it was abandoned on account of insuperable difficulties in obtaining a water supply. Some have described the complex of buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, which include the majestic Buland Darwaza and Salim Chisti's tomb, as the most splendrous Accomplishment of Mughal architecture. Among the most exquisite of the Mughal works of architecture are various mausoleums, including Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, Akbar's Tomb in Sikander on the outskirts of Agra, and the Taj Mahal, an edifice of such ravishing Beauty that it has now become iconic of India itself. Mughal emperors also laid down elaborate Gardens, the finest of which are to be found in Srinagar, and built elaborate forts, principally at Agra (1564-), Ajmer (1570-), Lahore (1580), and Allahabad.

Unlike the Mughals, the British contributed little to India's architectural history. Their rule is associated mainly with monumental civic buildings, such as the Victoria Terminus in Bombay, or commemorative exercises typified by the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta. There are some notable specimens of church architecture, such as St. James's Church in Delhi, but the principal regal contribution of the British appears to be the construction of a new capital in Delhi. Meanwhile, indigenous styles of architecture did not entirely suffer a demise, and step-wells continued to be built in Gujarat throughout the nineteenth century.

In Rajasthan rich merchants constructed large havelis or residences in which the window work defies description. The most striking of these havelis are to be found in Jaisalmer, also notable for Rajasthan's finest, certainly most romantic, fort. (See also fort architecture.) Though few people associate India with modern architecture, the work of many Indian architects, such as Charles Correa and Balkrishna Doshi, is renowned internationally. Other prominent architects include Satish Gujral, also known as a painter, and Laurie Baker, an Englishman settled in India who first became known for designing low-cost housing and using only local materials. It is also noteworthy that the city of Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier.


Muktirajsinhji Chauhan, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

Adherence to Vastushastra, the ancient and medieval canons on city planning and architecture, has suddenly assumed tremendous significance, particularly among the well- educated and affluent in urban India. It may be difficult to predict if this is just a fad or if it will be a Way of building dwellings, offices, and factories etc. for many years to come.

Interestingly, practically none of the practitioners of Vastushastra has an academic background. So there is a lot of genuine practice as well as hearsay going around. In this brief introduction, the intention is to give a broad overall picture of the vastushastra with some examples.

Vastushastras are canons dealing with the subject of vastu which means the environment. Put differently, one may regard them as codification of good practices of design of buildings and cities, which will provide settings for the conduct of human Life in Harmony with physical as well as metaphysical forces. These canons provide guidelines for design of buildings and planning of cities such that they will bring health, Wealth and Peace to the inhabitants.

Mythological beliefs are certainty at the root of the origins of these canonical texts and their discourse. The first of these relates to Vastupurusha, which appears to be the first step in ordering a part of the vast cosmic space, the brahmand, for human habitation. According to myth, long ago there existed an unnamed, unknown and formless being which blocked the sky and the Earth. The Gods forced it down on Earth and pressed it face down. To ensure that it did riot escape again, Lord Brahma, the supreme creator, along with other Gods weighted it down and called it vastupurusha.

Lord Brahma, of course, occupied the central portion and in a hierarchic distribution along concentric rings assigned different quarters to different major and minor Gods. Thus emerged a geometric configuration, which is called Mandala. From one basic square, the canons have listed up to 1024 divisions of a square and given each one a Name. The most popular among those have 64 and 81 divisions known as Manduka Mandala and Param Sayika Mandala, respectively, which are widely used for temple and dwelling plans.

The Mandala is also given an orientation with Surya, the sun-God, occupying the central point of periphery to east; Varuna, the Lord of winds, to the west; Kubera, the Lord of Wealth, to the north; and Yam, the Lord of Death, to the south. The rest of the squares are occupied by the other minor Gods. With the positions thus assigned and the beneficial or otherwise attributes of Gods established through other myths, it is possible to assign the Activities of living, working and support facilities over the Mandala and therefore the layout of a city or a building.

The Mandala is, of course, the most popular aspect of the vastushastras as it is constantly referred to for the location of the various Activities in a building. The proper texts themselves, however, deal with a wide range of topics relating to built-environment. These include site selection, soil testing, building materials and techniques, design of temples separately by number of floors, palaces, dwellings, gates, image of the Deity, their vehicles and seats even including the making of image of a linga for Shiva temples. All these are treated in different chapters of the canonical texts.

As an example, one may mention the matter of site selection, which is dealt with in both scientific and religious terms. The method of digging a pit and refilling it with excavated Earth is given scientific treatment. If a lot of Earth is left out, then the soil is compact with good load-bearing capacity.

A similar test checks the seepage of water in the soil. It if is quick, the soil is obviously not good. The religious prescription suggest that if the soil is white with ghee-like smell, it is good for Brahmins, if red with blood-like smell it is good for Kashtriyas, yellow with smell like sesamum oil, it is good for Vaishyas and black with the smell of rotten fish, it is good for Shudras. While the first two suggestions would still find the approval of a modern engineer, the third more likely betrays the Caste-ridden nature of some of the Shastra's recommendations.

The Shastras also deal at length with town planning and Form of towns suitable for different purposes such as administrative towns, hill towns, coastal towns or religious towns built at a sacred place. Among the most famous examples of a town planned according to Shastra is the example of Old Jaipur which is based on a Prastar type town described in several texts. Built in 1727 AD, the final Form and structure of the town shows a skillful manipulation, according to the Shastra's prescriptions, of the square Mandala Right from the whole to the smallest of the plots, the location of Activities, and distribution of the Caste groups.

Based on the studies carried out by scholars it is suggested that these texts were written down largely between the 7th century AD to 13th century AD following the Gupta period. They are found in all the major languages of medieval India. Of course, the earliest references are also found in the Vedas, which deal with carpentry among other subjects.

Vastushastras can be said to be companion texts to Shilpashastras and Chitrashastras dealing with sculpture, icons and painting respectively. Strangely, among all these texts, those devoted exclusively to one of the areas. i.e. vastu, chitra or shilpa are rare. This is because in the Indian artistic traditions, each was an important and integral part of the creative endeavor largely because all of these, including performing arts such as the dance and Music, were based at the temple.

Among the vastushastra texts are Mansar, Maymata, Vishwakarma Vastushastra and Samrangana Sutradhara which is credited to Raja Bhoja. The others are believed to have been authored by ancient saints and sages. These include Lord Vishwakarma who is architect to the Gods in the Nagara or northern traditions, and Maya who is architect to the Gods in the Dravida or Southern tradition. In the northern tradition Maya is regarded as architect to the danavas or demons. To give some idea about the size of the text, Masar comprises 5400 verses organized in a total of 70 chapters.

However, the nature, content and format of the texts as discussed above is in total contrast to the Books that have recently been published and gone through, in some cases, half a dozen reprints in a span of one year. They share very little in common. As to what are the origins of the practitioners' texts recently published, I can only suggest that these would he more ritualistic practices broadly interpreted by the various puranic texts such as Agni Purana, Matsya Purana and their Agmic versions in the Dravidian traditions. The parallel I can draw upon is of Brigusamhita used by the palmists, which by itself has no serious pretensions to astronomy. The practitioners themselves are silent and unresponsive when questioned about these aspects.

One of the more recent texts goes so far as to suggest the location of two weighing scales in different parts of the plot in a factory. One was for weighing raw materials which would in that location weigh less than actual, and the other one of weighing finished goods which would register more weight than actual. Very neat, one may say, and very tempting for the factory owner.

As to the beneficial aspects of following the vastushastri's suggestions, the available experience is equally divided. There seems to be an equal number of success stories as well as failures.

Here, I believe, the analogy of the typical palmist is best. Perhaps there are genuine jyotish shastris as well as frauds. Is it that human beings want to be able to put blame on some unknown forces for failures? Or that they would want to appease the unknown to ensure a success? These are more a matter of Faith rather than belief.

Fortunately, Indians are not alone in this in recent Times. Across Asia there is a resurgence of these beliefs and practices. Feng-shui, the Chinese version of Vastushastras, is practiced all over the Far East and South-east Asia. There, too, the situation is one of either you believe and practice or you don't believe and don't practice. Does this mean that one cannot explain vastushastras on a rational basis?

These texts (i.e. the genuine ancient and medieval canons) dealt with the classical manner of arts and architecture. This meant that irrespective of who was doing what and where, a certain quality, content and perfection would always be achieved just by following the texts. To paraphrase Einstein's observation for a similar work, "it makes good easy and bad difficult". This means that a temple made on the banks of Ganga would be as perfect as one made on shipra though patronised and designed by different persons.

Even those uninitiated could learn and practice the entire range of Activities connected with vastu Right from the selection of a site to the execution of all the elemental details. Then there is some reason to believe that some of the suggestions may indeed reflect more real concerns such as climatic suitability of locating the human Activities in a building. An entrance front north ensures that it will always be in cool shade in India, besides allowing the Wealth to flow in as it is the Direction of Lord Kubera. The next alternative of entrance from east certainly brightens up the morning environment with the first rays of sun to start a great new day on a cheerful note.

Then there is a metaphysical aspect to it all. This one concerns the fears of the unknown on one hand, and attempts to intellectually grasp the nature of the World on the other hand. And between these two is the human Desire to do things Right, in conformity and in Harmony with the unknown World and its forces. This is where particularly the Mandala diagrams become very useful. These, in abstract terms, manifest or represent the cosmological conception of the World, albeit the World as conceived or interpreted by the ancient and the medieval scholars.

It is therefore natural that buildings and cities which represent a significant alteration of the terrestrial World be based on the Mandala to make them harmonize with the unknown World. In other words, it, is undertaking a human act in tune with the nature as well as the unknown in the belief that these will not clash but work harmoniously to bring Peace and prosperity to the builder and the inhabitants.

Architecture is a human act. It requires carving out a segment of that omnipotent, universal space of the brahmand, the cosmic space, for the use of the human beings. It is not often that architecture truly rises to the challenges of capturing the divine character of the brahmand in its folds. When it does happen the architectural experience exalts generations of people to come. Is this not true of Mahabalipuram, Khajuraho, Kailashnath? Or the city of Jaipur, its havelis as well those of Samod and Shekhavati region? Let us remember that these are all based on the Vastushastras.

The Cave Temples of Ajanta are situated about sixty two miles north of Aurangabad in western India. The Caves are first mentioned in the writings of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang who visited India between A.D 629 and 645. The Caves were "discovered" dramatically during the course of military manouevres being undertaken by British officers in 1819. Public attention was roused and the East India company instructed the Viceroy to procure good copies of the paintings. Publicity, however, was nearly fatal to the original paintings, as many archaeologists and officials cut out the heads to be presented to museums. Therefore, in 1903, wire screens were fixed in all the important Caves.

The thirty temples at Ajanta are set into the rocky sides of a crescent shaped gorge in the Inhyadri hills of the Sahyadri ranges. At the head of the gorge is a natural pool fed by a waterfall. Though this pristine spot was chosen to enable the Buddhist Monks to meditate undisturbed, it should be noted that all sites of Buddhist excavations were situated close to the main trade routes.The excavations span a period of about six centuries. The earlier monuments include both Chaitya halls (halls divided into a central nave and side aisles by two rows of columns) and Monasteries. These date from the 2nd to 1st centuries B.C. After a period of more than six centuries, excavations once again revived during the Vakataka ruler Harishena. The sculptures contain an impressive array of votive figures, accessory figures, narrative episodes and decorative motifs. The series of paintings is unparalleled in the history of Indian Art, both for the wide range of subjects and the medium. A large number of incidents from The life of the Buddha are depicted. Tales from the Jataka legends were executed vibrantly by large scale compositions depicting Life in court, town or forest. Overlapping figures suggest perspective, colors are harmoniously blended, and the linework is sinuous. However, the identities of the artists responsible for the execution of the Ajanta Caves are unknown. This is not only a testimony to their extraordinary Faith in The Buddha, but is characteristic of Indian traditions of anonymity and abnegation of Self. Even today, these Cave Temples at Ajanta provide the most complete illustration of Buddhist tradition

Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, was the chief seaport of the Pallavas who ruled over much of South India from as early as the first century B.C to the eighth century A.D., and it is now recognized as the site of some of the greatest architectural and sculptural achievements in India. Under the reign of Narasimha Varman (c. 630), this seaport began to grow as a great artistic center. The beautiful Cave Temples and gigantic open air reliefs carved from blocks of granite date to the seventh century.

The descent to Earth of the sacred River Ganges is the subject of the most prominent relief. The relief depicts the auspicious moment when the River flows down to the Earth after the intervention of the Lord Shiva. About 20 feet high and 80 feet long, it contains over a hundred figures of Gods, men and beasts. A cistern was provided at the top which released water on special occasions to add a touch of reality to the tableau.

At the southern edge of Mahabalipuram is a group of five free-standing temples. Four of them were carved out of a single long granite boulder. These temples are actually detailed replicas of ancient wooden structures. These temples represent the rathas (chariots) of Arjuna, Bhima, Dharmaraja, Nakula-Sahadeva -- the five Pandava princes of the epic Mahabharata -- and their common wife, Draupadi. Work on these five temples was stopped after the Death of Narasimha Varman in 668.

In early eighth century, work was begun on the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram. This temple was built to honour Lord Shiva. Unlike the temples described above, the Shore Temple was built with granite blocks. The design of the Shore Temple is significant because it is the earliest known example of a stone-built temple in South India. The Shore Temple also influenced the architecture of the Cholas, who succeeded the Pallavas as the dominant dynasty in the area now covered by Tamil Nadu.Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is among the most famous of the 'temple cities' of Tamil Nadu. Its temples house different Hindu sects. Though today it is only a destination for pilgrims, and a repository of major architectural monuments, in antiquity it occupied a more preeminent place in the history of South India. The city was the political capital of the Pallava rulers during the 7th - 9th centuries. It remained an important city during the succeeding Chola and Vijayanagara periods.The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallava ruler Rajasimha. The temple is almost entirely constructed of sandstone and is integrated into a coherent complex. A large variety of Shaiva images adorns the outer walls; the inner walls were once painted. A polished linga (phallus, the Symbol of regeneration associated with Shiva) is enshrined within.

The Ekambareshvara temple is the principle Shaiva Sanctuary and its soaring gopuras dominate the city's skyline. This temple was erected in 1509 by the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya. The temple is preceded by a long columned mandapa into which earlier shrines and altars have been incorporated. A corridor surrounds the principle shrine on four sides, presenting a continuous sequence of receding piers.The Vardhamana temple is the most important Vaishanava temple. Local legend has it that the temple commemorates the site where the Lord Brahma performed a yajna (Fire sacrifice) to invoke the presence of Vishnu. It has a long history spanning the Chola and the Vijayanagara periods. One of the two high towered gopuras resemble 12th-13th century Chola projects while the other is characteristic of the 16th century Vijayanagara period. The main Sanctuary enshrines bronze images of Vishnu flanked by his consorts. Some specimens of Vijayanagara paintings are still preserved on the walls.

Kanchipuram is among the most famous of the 'temple cities' of Tamil Nadu. Its temples house different Hindu sects. Though today it is only a destination for pilgrims, and a repository of major architectural monuments, in antiquity it occupied a more preeminent place in the history of South India. The city was the political capital of the Pallava rulers during the 7th - 9th centuries. It remained an important city during the succeeding Chola and Vijayanagara periods.The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallava ruler Rajasimha. The temple is almost entirely constructed of sandstone and is integrated into a coherent complex. A large variety of Shaiva images adorns the outer walls; the inner walls were once painted. A polished linga (phallus, the Symbol of regeneration associated with Shiva) is enshrined within.

The Ekambareshvara temple is the principle Shaiva Sanctuary and its soaring gopuras dominate the city's skyline. This temple was erected in 1509 by the Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadeva Raya. The temple is preceded by a long columned mandapa into which earlier shrines and altars have been incorporated. A corridor surrounds the principle shrine on four sides, presenting a continuous sequence of receding piers.The Vardhamana temple is the most important Vaishanava temple. Local legend has it that the temple commemorates the site where the Lord Brahma performed a yajna (Fire sacrifice) to invoke the presence of Vishnu. It has a long history spanning the Chola and the Vijayanagara periods. One of the two high towered gopuras resemble 12th-13th century Chola projects while the other is characteristic of the 16th century Vijayanagara period. The main Sanctuary enshrines bronze images of Vishnu flanked by his consorts. Some specimens of Vijayanagara paintings are still preserved on the walls

The south Indian style of temple architecture is very distinct from that of the rest of India. It is convenient to resolve the types of architecture into four periods corresponding to the principal kingdoms which ruled in southern India down the centuries. Pallava (AD 600-900)

The greatest accomplishments of Pallava architecture are the rock- cut of temples at Mahabalipuram. The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram is a fully realized temple complex with a towered Sanctuary and mandapa (columned hall preceding the Sanctuary). Chola (900-1150)

Chola architecture achieved its peak at Thanjavur, the capital established by the Chola ruler Rajaraja I. The sanctuaries have rising pyramid towers crowned with dome-like roofs. Sculptures and paintings adorn the walls. Bronze sculptures of this era are the finest in southern India. These are delicately modeled, especially those depicting the Lord Shiva in his many aspects. Hoysala (1100-1350)

Temples erected during the Hoysala kings have complicated plans with numerous angled projections. Carved surfaces are executed with remarkable precision, usually in chlorite. The columns are lathe-turned or are multi-faceted. Temples from the Hoysala period can still be seen at Belur, Halebid and Sringeri. After the reign of the Hoysalas, architectural traditions were interrupted by Muslim raids at the end of the 13th century. Monumental temple building resumed later under the Vijayanagara empire. Vijayanagara (1350-1565)

By the 16th century almost all of southern India was part of the Vijayanagara empire. The characteristic feature of this period is the development of the temple complex: concentric series of rectangular enclosure walls with the gopuras (towered gateways) in the middle of each side. Of the numerous Vijayanagara complexes in southern India, the most magnificent are those at Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai and Vellore.

During this Time, Kerala on the western coast developed a distinct style of architecture. Because of the heavy rainfall, the temples here were roofed with sloping tiers of metal or Terra cotta tiles. The Vadakkunatha temple at Trichur dates from the 12th century. Later temples are found at Chengannur, Kaviyum and Vaikom. One of the most celebrated manifestations of Indian architecture is to be found in a group of temples at Khajuraho in central India. Situated a hundred miles south-east of the town of Jhansi in the modern-day state of Madhya Pradesh, these temples are over thirty in number. These temples, unlike many others in central or south India, do not illustrate a development over a long period of Time, but were erected over a relatively narrow period of hundred years from A.D. 950. The Khajuraho temples represent, one might say, a happy and almost unique coincidence of religious emotion, abundant patronage, artistic genius, and aesthetic sensibility. Fortunately, these temples have weathered the climate for a thousand years and have withstood neglect surprisingly well.

The Khajuraho temples were built during the reign of the Chandelas. While some show marks of a Shaivite sensibility, others clearly manifest the influence of Vaishnaism, Jainism, and tantrism. These temples have an architectural character distinct from that of any other group of temples elsewhere in The country. Instead of being contained within the customary enclosure wall, each temple stands on a high and solid masonry terrace. Though none of the temples are very large, they are still imposing structures because of their elegant proportions and rich surface sculpture.

Unlike the rather plain treatment of other central Indian temple interiors, the Khajuraho temples are richly decorated with sculpture. Other than numerous Deities enshrined in wall niches, there are attendants, graceful "maidens" in a variety of provocative postures, dancers, musicians and embracing couples. On one temple alone, the figures thus depicted are over six hundred and fifty in number. Many of these compositions display great sensuality and warmth. There are also scenes of explicit sexual activity which possibly illustrate the tantric rites that accompanied temple worship. It is quite reliably said that some of the sexual postures follow the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian manual of Love-making.The Khajuraho temples now grace the posters of the Indian Tourist office, and numerous films have been shot at the temple grounds. It is with these temples in the background that some of the greatest exponents of Indian classical dance have performed for admiring audiences. But it is in discussions ranging around the cultural construction of sexuality that Khajuraho has featured prominently. The sheer eroticism of the sculptures is often pointed to as evidence of India's libertine past. Thus, gays and lesbians have found in Khajuraho evidence of the Enlightened attitudes of the pre-modern Indian culture, while others point o the allegedly baneful influence of the Islamic and British presence in India, which is supposed to have led to repressive sexual mores. But few have asked what Khajuraho tells us about everyday notions of sexuality, or what inferences we are to derive about Indian sexual mores and practices from these temples.The temples at Orissa, or Kalinga which is its ancient Name, provide some of the finest examples of the Indo-Aryan style of temple architecture, which is distinct from the south Indian style. The main group of temples is concentrated in the town of Bhubaneshwar where there are over thirty of them. A few miles from this temple town are two of the largest buildings in eastern India, the temple of Jagannath at Puri and the Sun temple at Konarak. Other examples of this style of architecture can also be seen further north on the southern borders of Bengal.

The earliest of these temples date from the eighth century A.D and the largest and latest, the Sun temple at Konarak, was erected in the middle of the thirteenth century. Thus these temples represent the scene of sustained architectural activity for nearly five hundred years. The earliest temples (c. A.D 750 to 900) are all present in Bhubaneshwar. Even in this early phase, the sculptural treatment was elaborate.

The two temples of monumental proportions, the Lingaraja at Bhubaneshwar and the Jagannath at Puri, were constructed around A.D 1000. Both these temples consist of four structures which comprise the fully developed Orissan style of temple architecture. Even today, the great tower of the Lingaraja dominates the entire town of Bhubaneshwar with its height and size; the Jagannath temple at Puri is still larger and of a slightly later date. In colonial Times, an elaborate set of representations was built around the Jagannath temple: it became iconic of Hindu fanaticism, as devotees were supposed to hurl themselves in front of the temple's large chariot and get crushed by its gigantic wheels. The word 'Juggernaut' is derived from Jagannath.

The grandest achievement of this school of architecture is the Sun temple at Konarak (c. A.D. 1250) , standing entirely by itself some twenty miles from Puri. The temple is dedicated to Surya, the Sun God, who has traditionally been represented as riding his winged chariot drawn by seven horses. The temple is therefore fashioned like a ratha (chariot) and the base of the structure has 12 giant wheels, each nearly ten feet high. The entire surface is filled out with sculpted forms, some of outstanding Beauty, while the others are of a markedly erotic character. These indicate the emergence of a particular phase of Hinduism, better known as Tantrism. However, it appears that this cult soon lost much of its following, and today the temple lies abandoned, under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, unlike the Jagannath temple at Puri which is an important Pilgrimage site. Though much of this structure is now in ruins, its sheer grandeur and size still inspires awe.

The Mughal dynasty was established with the crushing victory of Babur at Panipat in 1526. During his short five-year reign, Babur took considerable Interest in erecting buildings, though few have survived. Babur's son Humayun was dissolute and wayward in his early years and the Mughal empire fell to the Suris in 1540. The tomb of Sher Shah Suri is an architectural masterpiece that was to have a profound impact on the Evolution of Indo-Islamic funerary architecture. Humayun reestablished the Mughal empire in 1555. His tomb at Delhi represents an outstanding landmark in the development and refinement of the Mughal style. It was designed in 1564, eight years after his Death, as a mark of devotion by his widow, Haji Begum.

Architecture flourished during the reign of Humayun's son Akbar. One of the first major building projects was the construction of a huge fort at Agra. The massive sandstone ramparts of the Red Fort are another impressive achievement. The most ambitious architectural exercise of Akbar, and one of the most glorious examples of Indo-Islamic architecture, was the creation of an entirely new capital city at Fatehpur Sikri.

After the Death of Akbar in 1605, his son, Prince Salim, ascended the throne and assumed the title of Jahangir, "Seizer of the World". He was assisted in his artistic attempts by his able wife, Nur Jahan. The Mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra, outside Agra, represents a major turning point in Mughal history, as the sandstone compositions of Akbar were adapted by his successors into opulent marble masterpieces. Jahangir is the central figure in the development of the Mughal garden. The most famous of his Gardens is the Shalimar Bagh on the banks of Lake Dal in Kashmir.

Jahangir's son Prince Khurram ascended the throne in 1628 as Emperor Shah Jahan. His reign is characterized by monumental architectural achievements as much as anything else. The single most important architectural change was the use of marble instead of sandstone. He demolished the austere sandstone structures of Akbar in the Red Fort and replaced them with marble buildings such as the Diwan-I-Am (hall of public audience) , the Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience), and the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque). In 1638 he began to lay out the city of Shahjahanabad beside the Jamuna River. The Red Fort at Delhi represents the pinnacle of centuries of experience in the construction of palace-forts. Outside the fort, he built the Jami Masjid, the largest mosque in India. However, it is for the Taj Mahal, which he built as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, that he is most often remembered.

Shah Jahan's extravagant architectural indulgence had a heavy price. The peasants had been impoverished by heavy taxes and by the Time his son Aurangzeb ascended the throne, the empire was in a state of insolvency. As a result, opportunities for grand architectural projects were severely limited. This is most easily seen at the Bibi-ki-Maqbara, the tomb of Aurangzeb's wife, built in 1678. Though the design was inspired by the Taj Mahal, it is half its size, the proportions compressed and the detail clumsily executed. After the Death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire rapidly declined under a rapid succession of ephemeral rulers: various successor states gradually took its place.

The remarkable flowering of Art and architecture under the Mughals is due to several factors. The empire itself provided a secure framework within which artistic genius could flourish, and it commanded Wealth and resources unparalleled in Indian history. The Mughal rulers themselves were extraordinary patrons of Art, whose Intellectual calibre and cultural outlook was expressed in the most refined taste

The royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, was built at the orders of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. While Akbar himself was illiterate, he took a keen Interest in literature, architecture, and the arts. He is also reputed to be a very tolerant ruler, and the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri blended both Islamic and Hindu elements in their architectural style. One of the buildings even reflects the new sycretistic Faith founded by Akbar, Din-e-ilahi, which though very short-lived remains a matter of controversy.

Popular legend has it that since Akbar was without an heir for a long Time, he made a Pilgrimage to the renowned Sufi saint, Sheik Salim Chisti, to seek his Blessings. When a son -- later to be known as Jahangir -- was born to him, Akbar named him after the saint as a mark of his Gratitude and built the new capital to mark his birth. Construction of the new ceremonial capital, with its elaborate palaces, formal courtyards, reflecting pools, harems, tombs and a great mosque, commenced in 1571. A large number of masons and stone carvers worked hard on an area that was over two miles long and a mile wide; they used a brilliant red sandstone available locally, which provides the buildings with much of their lustre. Shortly after the work was completed fifteen years later, it was realized that there was a lack of an adequate water supply and the pristine complex was abandoned.Fatehpur Sikri is now a World Heritage site. The Panch Mahal , or Palace of Five Storeys, and the Buland Darwaza, a massive gate which provides entrance to the complex, number among the finest specimens of Mughal architecture, and it is even arguable that Fatehpur Sikri is the greatest Accomplishment of Mughal architecture, surpassed only in reputation but not in its Beauty and the awe it inspires by the Taj Mahal. The cultural politics of the site remains to be written: perhaps the mammoth chess board, where human figures were used as chess pieces and moved at the emperor's will, provides a cue.The Taj Mahal in Agra is indisputably the most famous example of Mughal architecture. Described by Rabindranath Tagore as "a tear on the face of eternity", it is in popular imagination a veritable "wonder of the World".

The white-splendored tomb was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his favourite wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen of the Palace"). She married Shah Jahan in 1612 to become his second wife and inseparable companion, and died in childbirth at Burhanpur while on a campaign with her husband in 1629. Shah Jahan was, it is said, inconsolable to the point of contemplating abdication in favour of his sons. The court went into mourning for over two years; and Shah Jahan decided to commemorate the memory of Mumtaz with a building the like of which had never been seen before. The dead queen was brought to Agra and laid to rest in a garden on the banks of the Jamuna River. A Council of the best architects was assembled to prepare designs for the tomb. Though some attribute the design to Geronimo Verroneo, an Italian in the Mughal service, evidence suggests that it was designed by Ustad Isa Khan Effendi, a Persian, who assigned the detailed work to his pupil Ustad Ahmad. The dome was designed by Ismail Khan.

The tomb which is higher than a modern 20-storey building took 22 years to complete with a workforce of 20,000. Craftsmen from as far as Turkey came to join in the work. The marble was quarried at Makrana near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Precious stones were imported from distant lands. A two mile ramp was built to lift material up to the level of the dome. It is alleged that on its completion, Shah Jahan ordered the Right hand of the chief mason to be cut off so that the masterpiece could never be recreated. As one might expect, numerous other legends are associated with the Taj Mahal: thus, according to one story, Shah Jahan desired to have another Taj built across the River, this one entirely in black marble.The tomb was provided with sumptuous fittings and furnishings, including rich Persian carpets, gold lamps and candlesticks. It is reliably reported and documented that two great silver doors to the entrance were looted and melted down by Suraj Mal in 1764, and a sheet of pearls that covered the sarcophagus was carried off by Amir Husein Ali Khan in 1720. In a manner of speaking, the pillage of the Taj continues unabated: more recently, the fumes from the surrounding industries have started deteriorating the marble, though various court orders have resulted in industries around the Taj being moved to more distant points. The latest desecration of the monument took place, ironically, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence, when the mediocre rock star Yanni, whose elevator Music has attracted a World-wide audience, was allowed to give a live and certainly unprecedented performance at the Taj.

The surroundings of the Taj Mahal have been restored to the original designs of Ali Mardan Khan, a Noble at Shah Jahan's court. The main vista is accentuated by a red sandstone channel set between rows of cypress Trees. The main entrance is from the west, but there are two other entrances -- from the east and from the west. The main gateway is a large three-storey sandstone structure with an octagonal central chamber with smaller rooms on each side. The walls are inscribed with verses from the Quran.

The Makrana white marble of the Taj Mahal assumes subtle variations of Light, tint and tone at different Times of the day. At dawn it assumes a soft dreamy aspect; at noon, it appears to be a dazzling white, and in the moonlight the dome looks like a huge iridescent pearl. Not surprisingly, then, the Taj is today regarded all over the World as a supreme labour of Love.

Though the architectural history of the Taj has received much attention, a cultural and political interpretation of the Taj has never been attempted. While it never fails to move and dazzle, one can scarcely forget that its history, like that of other monumental achievements of pre-modern (and even modern) states, is bound to oppression and Slavery. Who thinks of the large force of serfs whose labor was exploited to satisfy the Love of one man, and how brutal was the repression of the peasantry in Order to increase the revenues of the state? Or consider this: is it not oppressive that the Taj charges an admission fee of Rs. 100, an amount that the majority of Indians still do not make in one day's work, for the luxury of viewing it by moonlight? The monument remains the supreme icon of India to the rest of the World, along with the over-population, notorious poverty, and "Mysticism" of this ancient land. It is one of India's largest tourist-revenue earners, and no tourist image predominates as that of the visitor snapped in front of the Taj. The image of the Taj appears in countless advertisements, and the Taj has taken on another Life of its own. Thus a history of the representations of the Taj is still wanting. Rajput architecture is in some sense an anomaly because it is a "Hindu" Art dating from a Time that is usually described as an "Islamic" period. The Rajputs were a group of warrior clans who lived in what is now Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. As Kshatriyas (members of the warrior Caste) they considered it their Dharma, or divine duty, to fight, and stories of their extraordinary courage on the battlefield are legion. Under British rule, they came to constitute one of the principal 'martial races'.

Despite their preoccupation with War, the Rajputs were great patrons of Art and architecture, the finest examples being their forts and palaces. In contrast to the perfect symmetry of Mughal architecture, Rajput palaces are complex compositions. Generally, most palaces were 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 moats.The oldest surviving palaces date from the mid-fifteenth century and are found at Chitor and Gwalior. The Man Mandir is the largest palace in Gwalior and was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1516). Each of these palaces is a complex grouping of small spaces enclosed by a fortified wall. The Man Mandir has two storeys above, and two below, ground level overhanging a sandstone cliff. Here in the underground chambers, royal prisoners were tortured and killed. This gigantic cliff is punctuated by five massive round towers, crowned by domed cupolas and linked by delicately carved parapets. The whole facade is enriched with brilliant blue tiles.

The palaces of Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Kota represent the maturity of the Rajput style. All of these palaces were built predominantly in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The huge fortified city of Jaisalmer is situated far out in he Thar desert. The buildings are constructed with the local yellow-brown stone and they have been remarkably preserved owing to their remote location. The fort is enclosed by an imposing 30 feet high sandstone wall. Wells within the fort provided a regular source of water. The fort at Jaisalmer has now acquired another kind of history, becoming a favorite locale for film shootings: even Satyajit Ray shot Sonar Kela (The Golden Fortress) here.Bikaner was founded in 1488 by Bikha. The city is encircled by a three and a half mile long stone wall in rich pink sandstone. There are five gates and three sally-ports. Junagarh fort was built between 1588 and 1593 by Raja Rai Singh, one of Akbar's generals. The fort has an excellent library of Persian manuscripts and ancient Sanskrit Books and an impressive armoury.The fort at Jodhpur dominates the city and can be seen for miles across the bare desert. The old city is surrounded by a huge wall with 101 bastions, nearly six miles long. The Meherangarh fort stands on a cliff with a sheer drop of over 120 feet.

The foundation of Jaipur, the fabled "pink city", in 1727 represents the final phase of Rajput architecture. Built by Jai Singh, Jaipur represents a fusion of Eastern and Western ideas of town planning. A huge battlemented wall with bastions and towers at regular intervals, loopholed for musketry, encloses the city. The City Palace is at the center ofthe walled city and is a spectacular synthesis of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles. The Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, (1799) is the building that put Jaipur on the tourist map. The five storey symmetrical facade is composed of 953 small casements in a huge curve each with a projecting balcony and crowning arch. The fact that it is no more, in architectural terms, than a facade points to the continued Indian fascination with dissimulation. This dialectic of Illusion and reality is also to be found in the Jantar Mantar, the largest of five observatories built by Jai Singh II in the early eighteenth century. The Jantar Mantar, a scientific and yet playful array of astronomical buildings, is truly the abode of magic.


Water has played an important role in the architectural heritage of western India from the earliest Times. One of the most characteristic features of the early Harappan towns (3000 BC) was the presence of a sophisticated system of drains, wells and tanks. The practice of making wells into an Art Form was begun by the Hindus but it developed under Muslim rule.

The vavs or baolis (step-wells) of Gujarat consist of two parts: a vertical shaft from which water is drawn and the surrounding inclined subterranean passageways, chambers and steps which provide access to the well. The galleries and chambers surrounding these wells were often carved profusely with elaborate detail and became cool, quiet retreats during the hot summers.

One of the earliest of these step-wells is the Mata Bhavani's vav at Ahmedabad, built in the eleventh century. The water is approached by a long flight of steps above which rises a sequence of two, three and four storey open pavilions. The elaborate ornamentation of the columns, brackets and beams, and the friezes of motifs are in the Solanki school of temple architecture.

The Rani Vav (Queen's well) at Patan, built during the late eleventh century, is probably the most magnificent step-well in Gujarat. Multi-storey colonnades and retaining walls link a stepped tank to a deep circular well. Throughout, the ornamentation is sumptuous. Columns, brackets and beams are encrusted with scrollwork and the wall niches are carved with figures. Hindu Deities alternate with alluring maidens on the walls flanking the staircase. Its monumental construction and ornate treatment suggest that it also served a Ritual ceremonial purpose.

The Dada Harir's vav at Ahmedabad, together with the vav at Adalaj, is the finest example of the Muslim period. The Dada Harir's vav is modeled on the earlier Mata Bhavani's vav, though it has an additional domed pavilion at the entrance. One striking feature of this vav is the complete absence of figural themes. The motifs in stylized scrollwork that adorn the wall niches may be compared with those that appear in Islamic architecture. The vav at Adalaj, located 12 miles north of Ahmedabad, is octagonal. As the long flight of steps descend, columns and connecting beams create open structures of increasing complexity; the receding perspectives of columns and cross-beams are particularly striking. Wall niches incorporate miniature pilasters, eaves and roof-like pediments.

Step-wells are most certainly one of India's most unique, but little-known, contributions to architecture, and it is uncertain whether they are to be encountered anywhere outside the Indian sub-continent