Art & Culture Notes Part 5 – Rajput, Jain and Indo Islamic Architecture in India

Cave architecture of India

AJANTA CAVES (2nd Cen BC to 7th Cen AD)

  • They were first mentioned by Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang – visited India between 629 – 645 AD.
  • It was discovered by the British officers while hunting a tiger in 1819 AD.
  • These thirty cave temples at Ajanta are set into the rocky sides of a crescent-shaped gorge in the Sahyadri hills of the Sahyadri ranges.   5 caves are Chaitya-grihas, & rest are Viharas(monasteries)
  • The caves depict many incidents from the life of the Buddha (Jataka Tales).


  • Located in the Raisen District -Madhya
  • Discovered in 1958 by V.S. Wakanker, is the biggest prehistoric art depository in India.
  • A top the hill many rock-shelters have been discovered, of which more than 130 contain paintings.
  • Excavations revealed the history of continuous habitation from early stone age (about 10000 years) to the end of the stone age (c. 10,000 to 2,000 years)


  • Temple in the Elephanta caves is one of the most exquisitely carved temples in India.
  • Central attraction here is a twenty-foot high bust of the deity in three-headed form.
  • The Maheshamurti is built deep into a recess and looms up from the darkness to fill the full height of the cave.
  • Image symbolizes the fierce, feminine and meditative aspects of the great ascetic and the three heads represent Lord Shiva as Aghori, Ardhanarishvara and Mahayogi.


  • The second largest known cave after the Kailasa cave in Ellora houses a Brahmanical temple dating back to the 6th century AD.
  • Excavated between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD
  • Kanheri is a 109-cave complex located near Borivali National Park in Bombay.
  • The Kanheri caves contain illustrations from Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and show carvings dating back to 200 BC.

Rajput Architecture

  • Rajput palaces – 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 the wide ditch filled with water surrounding the fort.
  • Man Mandir, the largest palace in Gwalior, was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486-1516).
  • Man – Mandir has two storeys above, and two below ground level overhanging a sandstone cliff. This gigantic cliff is punctuated by five massive round towers, crowned by domed cupolas and linked by delicately carved parapets. palaces of Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Kota represent the maturity of the Rajput style.
  • All these palaces were built predominantly in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
  • The city of Bikaner is encircled by 5.63 km long stone wall in rich pink There are five gates and three sally ports.
  • Jodhpur Fort dominates the city, which is surrounded by a huge wall with 101 bastions, nearly 9.5 km long.
  • Meherangarh fort stands on a cliff with a sheer drop of over 36 metres.
  • Built by Jai Singh, Jaipur represents a fusion of Eastern and Western ideas of town planning.
  • The city is enclosed by a wall and has bastions and towers at regular intervals. City Palace is at the centre of the walled city and is a spectacular synthesis of Rajput and Mughal architectural styles.
  • Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, (1799) has a five-storeyed symmetrical facade composed of 953 small casements in a huge curve each with a projecting balcony and crowning arch.
  • Jantar Mantar, the largest of five observatories built by Jai Singh II in the early 18th century, others being Ujjain, Mathura, Varanasi & New Delhi.

Jain Architecture

  • The only variation in these temples was in the form of frequent chamukhs or four-faced temples.
  • Four Tirthankars are to be placed back to back to face four cardinal points.   Entry into this temple is also from four doors.
  • Chamukh temple of Adinath (1618 AD) is a characteristic example of the four-door temple.
  • Most spectacular of all Jain temples is found at Ranakpur and Mount Abu in Rajasthan.
  • Deogarh (Lalitpur, U.P.), Ellora, Badami and Aihole also have some of the important specimens of Jain Art.

The Indo – Islamic Architecture

  • The concept of arch or dome was not invented by the Muslims but was, in fact, borrowed and was further perfected by them from the architectural styles of the post-Roman period.
  • Used cementing agent in the form of mortar (mortar=mortar is used for holding bricks /stones, but mortar alone can’t stand up like how the concrete does, mortar must be replaced every 25-50 years, it isn’t practical for structural projects) for the first time.
  • Use of scientific principles helped not only in obtaining greater strength and stability of the construction materials but also provided greater flexibility to the architects and builders.
  • Islamic elements of architecture had already passed through different experimental phases in other countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq before these were introduced in India.
  • Typical mortar-masonry works formed of dressed stones.
  • Mosques and Tombs – religious architecture
  • Palaces and Forts – secular Islamic architecture.


  • Basically, an open courtyard surrounded by a pillared verandah crowned off with a dome
  • Mihrab indicates the direction of the qibla for prayer. Towards the right of the mihrab stands the mimbar or pulpit from where the Imam presides over the proceedings.
  • Large mosques where the faithful assembles for the Friday prayers are called the Jama Masjids.


  • The Delhi or the Imperial Style of Indo-Islamic architecture flourished between 1191-1557 AD and covered Muslim dynasties viz., between 1191-1557 AD and covered Muslim dynasties viz.,   1290), Khilji (1290-1320), Tughlaq (1320-1414), Sayyid (1414-1444)   and Lodi (1451-1556).
  • Earliest construction work was beginning by Qutubuddin Aibak, who started erecting monumental buildings of stone on Qila Rai Pithora, the first of the seven historical cities of Delhi associated with Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • The Qutub Mosque (1192 AD) is one such building, whose arcaded aisles were composed of pillars carved in the Hindu style. Named as the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, it is considered as the earliest mosque in India.
  • Qutub-ud-din Aibak also started the construction of Qutub Minar in 1192 (which was eventually completed by Iltutmish in 1230). The Qutub Minar, built to commemorate the entry of Islam, was essentially a victory tower, decorated with several calligraphic inscriptions.
  • Adhai-din-ka-Jhopra is located beyond the Ajmer darga in Rajasthan. It was constructed in 1153 AD and converted into a mosque in 1198 AD.
  • Allauddin Khilji established the second city of Delhi at Siri, built the Alai Darwaza near the Qutub Minar and dug a vast reservoir at Hauz Khas around 1311AD.
  • Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-1325 AD) built Tughlaqabad, the third city of Delhi. Tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, built of red sandstone, is an irregular pentagon in its exterior plan and its design is of the pointed or “Tartar” shape and is crowned by a finial resembling the kalasa and amla of a Hindu temple.
  • Delhi’s fourth city Jahanpanah was built by Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq in the mid-14th century. Firoz Shah Kotla ground is the only remnant of its past glory. He is also credited with founding the fortified cities of Jaunpur, Fatehabad and Hissar.
  • Kali Masjid, Khirki Masjid and Kalan Masjid also belong to this period, the last two being raised on a tahkhana or substructure of arches.
  • The Tombs of Mubarak Sayyid (d. 1434 AD), Muhammad Sayyid (d.1444 AD) and Sikander Lodi (d.1517 AD) are all the octagonal type.
  • The square tombs are represented by such monuments as the Bara Khan Ka Gumbad, Chota Khan Ka Gumbad, Bara Gumbad (1494 AD), Shish Gumbad, Dadi Ka Gumbad and the Poli ka Gumbad.    The Tomb of Isa Khan (1547 AD), the Tomb of Adham Khan (1561 AD), Moth ki Masjid (c.1505 AD), Jamala Masjid (1536 AD) and the Qila-iKuhna Masjid (c.1550 AD) belong to the final phase of the Delhi style of architecture.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.