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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is aimed at being an authoritative thread on the influence of Islamic architecture in India, and the development of a wide variety of architectural styles that resulted.

I will attempt to cover as many Indo-Islamic buildings as possible, so please check back regularly for updates!

First, a little study:


It was around 610 AD that the prophet Muhammad (c. 570 -632) heard God's message for the first time in Arabia, in the city of Makka. His teachings disseminated rapidly as Islam, which grew as a world religion ruling from Spain to the Central Asia by the 8th century. Its essence is an ideal that God is one and every person is equal before God.
As Muslims worship with prostrations before God five times a day obligatorily, Islam Empire needed mosques for the congregational worships at each area they subjugated. The first mosque was the Muhammad's house in Madina, to which he moved from Makka in Arabia. But since the earliest monumental buildings were built in Damascus in Syria and Jerusalem, they were much influenced by Byzantine architecture that had been flourishing there. When they got to Persia (now Iran), Egypt, and Spain, they developed architecture suitable for each region under the influence of each tradition.

Although Islamic invasions to India had occurred intermittently since early times, they had been temporally occurrences. It was in 1206 that Islamic political power was established in India for the first time, by Kutb al-Din Aibak.
After that, five dynasties occurred in succession in Delhi and the kings named themselves Sultans of Delhi, so those dynasties are called 'Delhi Sultanate' as a whole. Their governing people were Turkish or Afghan nations, but culturally Persia had been ruling the Central Asia from Iran, Islamic architecture brought to India too was Persian Islamic architecture.


At the end of the 12th century when the first Indian mosque was to be constructed in Delhi, India had developed stone construction for thousands of years and its technology and aesthetics had almost reached the stage of perfection.
Their religious backgrounds were Buddhism in ancient times, Hinduism and Jainism in the medieval period. As they were born in the same region and grew under the same climate, they don't have architectural differences basically.
But Islamic architecture had grown under completely different civilization and was alien architecture for India, having principles and sense of beauty totally different from Indian traditional architecture.

Sultans and his ministers were well-grounded in their own architecture and wanted to build mosques and palaces same as in their home countries. Since craftsmen who constructed those buildings actually were conquered Indians, it was to occur strong entanglements between traditional and foreign architectures.
Then, what was the difference between Indian traditional architecture and Islamic architecture coming from outside? Before seeing that, I will expound three categories of world architecture.

The first category is the 'Sculptural architecture' that treats buildings as massive objects and elaborates their sculptural effect as architectural expression. It is represented by the Indian traditional architecture. As typically seen in temples in Khajuraho, not only their walls are completely covered with statues of Gods and other sculptures but also the building itself is regarded as an enormous sculpture as a whole. On the other hand, their interior spaces are quite narrow and inferior as compared with its majestic exterior.

Left : Vishvanatha Temple in Khajuraho, India
Right : Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria

The second is the 'Membranous architecture' or 'Enclosing architecture' that emphasizes their interior spaces or courtyards above all and relegates their exterior forms to second place to the contrary. It is represented by Islamic architecture. The Great Mosque in Damascus and the Friday Mosque in Isfahan are buried in the fabric of town houses and stores, therefore we cannot see their external forms at all. But once inside the mosques, we shall find well-regulated composition and ornament in geometric order and worship halls as magnificent interior spaces.

The third is the 'Framework architecture' or 'Trabeated architecture' that consists of post-and-beam frame and its upper roof, requiring not necessarily demarcation of space with walls. Japanese wooden architecture is typical. Inside and outside spaces become continuous as a result of lacking of walls, and its sculptural effect of exterior is not so strong.

As the political power of Islam in India gradually expanded its dominions from Delhi and constructed mosques in each region, sculptural architecture as the first category and membranous architecture as the second category conflicted and influenced each other after trials and errors. Here Islamic architecture brought from Persia would transfigure with Indianization. We now glance the difference between their masonry systems supporting its architecture.


Before the developing of 'Sculptural architecture' by the use of stone in the Middle Ages, wooden architecture was the mainstream for the ancient India. As wood decreased afterward due to aridification of Indian subcontinent, monumental edifices came to be constructed of stone. But in spite of using stone, Indians who had been totally involved in trabeated structure and aesthetics of wood would continue to persist in trabeation, that is to compose buildings with post and beam method, treating stone as if it were wood.
Since stone is strong against a compressive force but weak against a tensile force, it is not suitable to be used as a horizontal structural member (beam and lintel). Nevertheless Indians persisted in trabeated structure, with the development of which they eventually achieved even the realization of enormous temples. However they could not build large span of interior space with that techniques, having to stand many columns like a grove in big halls.

On the other hand, since there was little wood in the Middle East from the inception, they erected buildings of brick or stone, inventing masonry structure of arch and dome since early in ancient age. Arch is the method to stride a big span by stacking stone pieces (voussoir) radially along a circular arc, with which one can cover a large hall of dozens of meters in diameter without columns. Islamic architecture born in the Middle East made possible to realize all kind of buildings in a membranous way using freely that principle of arch and dome.

Quwwat al-Islam Mosque in Delhi, was also built as a series of arches and domes. But Indian craftsmen who did not know the principles of true arch and true dome and how to construct them took another method of corbelling, which is to pile up ashlars horizontally to protrude upper layer one after another. Consequently, most of those unstable corbelled arches and domes have been collapsed, leaving a few arches and cloisters constructed in an Indian traditional manner intact up to the preset.

Indian architects and craftsmen though versed themselves gradually in the techniques of true arch and dome, and consequently built mosques, madrasas (schools), palaces, and caravanserais in using them freely. At long last they realized an outstanding piece of 'membranous architecture' as a dome structure in diameter of as big as 38m without even one column.

Cross section of Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, India, 1659


During the ages of Delhi Sultanate the construction techniques of Islamic architecture were enough transplanted to India even if leaving roughness. Indian Islamic architecture would reach the summit in the era of Mughals from the 16th to 17th centuries.
Its first realization was the Mausoleum of Humayun, the second emperor, which became the prototype of tomb architecture for subsequent Mughals. Its formation is such that in the center of a huge 'chaharbagh' (four quartered garden) a big square platform is built, on which a mausoleum with same facades for its four sides stands symbolically and is capped with a big dome of white marble. It was in India among the vast Islamic areas that this form of tomb architecture was especially loved and made a great development, there is a reason for that;

Generally Islamic architecture is represented by mosques in every region. Persian architecture inherited 'Iwan' from ancient palace architecture as a square shape framing a big arch opening, inside of which is vaulted half-exterior space, and Persian mosques have four iwans facing each other around a courtyard, that is the form of 'Four Iwans.'

Plan of a "Four-iwans-type" Mosque

But as for Indians who loved 'Sculptural architecture,' such introverted building with obscure exterior view was not a satisfying form. Then they developed extroverted building in order to enlarge sculptural effects, settling those four iwans facing in opposite directions, back to back, and cover the central space by a symbolic dome. This form is rather suitable for mausoleums than mosques and it reached the top at the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra.
This was also applied to mosque architecture, projecting the prayer hall among the four sides of courtyard as if it were an independent sculptural building.

left: Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque) in Delhi
right: Taj Mahal, Agra

There was an emperor among the Great Mughals who intended more positively to merge Indian tradition with Islamic architecture. He was the third emperor, Akbar (1542-1605). He vastly extended his territory to fit to the Empire and practiced a policy of concord among many Indian religions to make the Empire stable.
As a reflection of it, at buildings in Fatehpur Sikri that he constructed as a new capital and his own mausoleum at Sikandra he seldom used arches and domes and deliberately used traditional posts and beams in spite of being Islamic architecture. A Pavilion in Fatehpur Sikri protruding even stone slab eaves providing against the rainy season looks as it were wooden structure.

Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra

As for Akbar's mausoleum at Sikandra, it became an unprecedented unique Islamic building, posts and beams of which were stacked up like a four-storied junglegym as 'Framework architecture' on a high-rise platform. Its components are 'Chatri' (its etymology is 'Chatra' meaning an umbrella in Sanskrit); a turret with apparently heavy roof supported with four columns. This came to be used as an ornamental element for all sorts of buildings.
It is these chatris that make strongest impression in the Indo-Islamic architecture. Even in the age of Shah Jahan who made his buildings revert to Persian style, chatris continued to engrave that the structures were still Indian architecture.



The first mosque in India

The first Indian mosque was built in 629 A.D, at the behest of Cheraman Perumal, during the life time of Muhammad (c. 571–632) in Kodungallur by Malik Bin Deenar.
This mosque was the second in the world, where Juma prayers were started.

The mosque as it originally looked:

The mosque in its current state:


Qutb Complex, Delhi

1.1 Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (1193 CE):

According to a Persian inscription still on the inner eastern gateway, the mosque was built by the parts taken from Jain temples built previously during Tomars and Prithvi Raj Chauhan, and leaving certain parts of the temple outside the mosque proper.

Quwwat al-Islam Mosque with its five corbelled arched screens, and the Iron Pillar in its courtyard

East entrance domed ceiling (The pillars and dome are taken from Jain Temples)

Sanctuary of the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, built using Jain columns

1.2 Qutb Minar

Started 1192 CE - repaired in 1351 - again repaired in 1829 - modified in 1848. It stands 72.5 mts tall.


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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
2.1 The first Islamic Tomb in India, Sultan Ghari, Delhi (1231)

The crypt or the tomb is implanted in a Ghari (cave), approached by winding steep stairs made of stone, and supported by pillars and flooring, which strongly depict ruins looted from Hindu temples of the seventh century. The cave is covered by an unusual octagonal roof slab. The exterior of the tomb structure built in Delhi sandstone with marble adornment exhibits a walled area with bastions (towers) on corners, which impart it the look of a fortress in aesthetic Persian and Oriental architecture.

2.2 Mausoleum of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, Delhi (1321)

The actual mausoleum is made up of a single-domed square tomb (about 8 m x8 m) with sloping walls crowned by parapets. In contrast to the walls of the fortification made up of granite, the sides of the mausoleum are faced by smooth red sandstone and inlaid with inscribed panels and arch boders from marble.


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
3. Lodhi Gardens, Delhi

Spread over 90 acres , it contains, Mohammed Shah's Tomb, Sikander Lodhi's Tomb, Sheesh Gumbad and Bara Gumbad, architectural works of the 15th century Sayyid and Lodhis, a Pathan dynasty which ruled much of Northern India during the 16th century

3.1 The tomb of Mohammed Shah, the last of the Sayyid dynasty rulers, the earliest of the tombs in the garden, was built in 1444 by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah. The architecture is characterised by the octagonal chamber, with stone chhajjas on the roof and guldastas on the corners.

3.2 Sheesh Gumbad

3.3 Bada Gumbad (1494)

3.4 Sikander Lodhi's Tomb (1517)


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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
4. Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur, Karnataka

The tomb, located in the city of Bijapur, or Vijapur in Karnataka, southern India, was built in 1659 by the famous architect, Yaqut of Dabul (modern Dabhol, Maharashtra). The structure consists of a massive square chamber measuring nearly 50 m (160 ft) on each side and covered by a huge dome 37.9 m (124 ft) in diameter making it among one of the largest dome structures in the world.


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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
5. Ibrahim Roza, Bijapur, Karnataka

Ibrahim Roza was constructed by Ibrahim Adil Shah II in the early 1600s for his queen, Taj Sultana. The minarets, or prayer towers, are 24 m (about 79 ft) high and may have inspired those of the Taj Mahal. Ibrahim Adil Shah and his family are buried here.


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Indo-Islamic architecture is WAY too vast, diverse, and unique to included as part of that thread.
Definitely agreed, it's a topic that requires a separate thread.

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Definitely agreed, it's a topic that requires a separate thread.
I think it was the need of the hour. Few SSC Pakistani forumers were deliberately trying to troll "Classical Islamic Architecture" thread straight to gutter. But thankfully Marathaman saw that. Its best to educate these "jaahils" (ignorants) than argue with them. :)

Basically, once Islamic architecture started making inroads into Indian subcontinent (India + Pakistan + Bangladesh + Nepal + Bhutal + Sri Lanka), they were initially Persian Islamic architecture or central Asian Islamic architecture, but as decades went by, distinct forms or inter marriage between regional centuries old indian architecture started creeping into them.

Since british time & even today, this is called Indo-Islamic Architecture. this includes: Sultanate, Slave (mamluk), Shahi (imperial), Mughal, Nawabi & nizami (muslim Maharajas or Rajas) architecture.

Now appreciate this. this is like almost 900 years worth of influence. It kept evolving & transforming as it moved from region to region throughout Indian Subcontinent. From Kashmir in the north to Mysore in the South, from Rangoon in the East to Peshawar in the West. :)

Enjoy it while it last. These centuries old stuff is extremely pathetic shape. sooner or later they will be lost forever.

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Good thread Marathaman, and great pictures you shared! However I believe Indo-Islamic architectural story doesn't stop at the Islamic Architecture of the Deccan plateau! What about all of North India, Bengal and current region of Pakistan? All that is included in the Indo-Islamic architectural lineage. Keep it up! You are doing a good job at cataloguing all this heritage of ours!

(and this is coming from a Pakistani!).

For all those saying this shouldn't be a separate thread, why not? the subcontinent is a separate geographical entity and was ruled over history with very interlinked empires. No doubt the architecture imported was Central Asian Persian, however in the Indian ethos, there were significant divergences from traditional Central Asian in terms of motifs, massing and ornamentation because of which it deserves its own classification. Some main differences:
- Indo-Islamic was primarily made of stone whereas Persian/Central Asia was mostly brick-based
- Indo-Islamic primarily used sculpted ornamentation and extensive use of inlay stonework rather than painted or glazed tile-work
- The massing was more solid and on a grander scale than contemporary Persian or Central Asian.

Looking forward to more additions to this thread!!
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