Masterpieces of Traditional Indian Architecture takes the reader through the centuries and gives a rich insight into her heritage and architecture. For years the preserve of scholars this is a presentation of the myriad forms, schools and styles of architecture in an informative yet reader-friendly manner focusing on aspects of Indian aesthetics, principles of engineering, history and the philosophic ideas that impart to Indian architecture its grandeur and majesty.
Masterpieces of Traditional Indian Architecture is a comprehensive book that illustrates the evolution of architectural forms and their usage over the centuries. It explains how different cultures, religions and people have contributed in the making of distinctive styles. These have created stupendous architectural marvels: from the towering minars of Islamic architecture to the exquisite cave architecture of the Buddhists, from the dazzling Dilwara Temple to the glorious Sun Temple.
It is a book replete with the history of Indian architecture, brilliant visuals and illuminating perspectives.
Professor of Architecture Satish Grover is the author of three books on the history of Indian Architecture entitled, Architecture of India, Buddhist and Hindu (Vol 1), Architecture of India, Islamic (Vol 2) and Building Beyond Borders, a book on contemporary architecture in India. He was also the founder editor of Architecture plus Design, a premier architecture magazine in India.
A practicing architect for more than thirty years, his projects have included hotels, group housings, the Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and a Buddhist temple in Thailand. The swimming pool he designed for the 1982 Asian Games held in India won him the prestigious National Prize.
The history of architecture in India begins from the time the earliest known wave of immigrants settled, some five thousand years ago, in Sindh, Gujarat and Punjab. They built the cities of the Indus Valley Civilization (about 2000 B.C.) with timber and brick of which evidence still exists.
The Vedic people (1500-800 B.C.) lived in grottos and hamlets made of natural materials such as bamboo and thatch, their forms replicated in stone by later civilizations. The Buddhists built in brick and stone, and carved caves from the second century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. The Hindus built their religious edifices in stone from the fifth to the fifteenth century A.D.; their secular architecture, built of brick and timber has vanished. In early Hindu architecture the temple was the social and economic focus of a town. The ancient architects followed sacred building rites as prescribed by the Vaastu Shastra. The Hindu period gave way to the architecture of Islam (A.D. 1000-1700), and the Muslims constructed their buildings from the tenth to the seventeenth century A.D. in arcuate stone masonry occasionally using brick.
The architecture of the Indus valley cities comprised functional, practical buildings in brick set within the rectangular grid of the town plan. The caves of the Buddhists were wonderous caverns of light. These were the chaityas of Karle and the viharas of Ajanta cut out of stone cliffs. The timber structures have disappeared but stone and brick structures, such as those at Sanchi and Nalanda, have survived. Hindu domination for over a thousand years climaxed in the building of the great temple clusters of Konark, Modhera and Khajuraho and the vast sprawling temple cities in the south such as Srirangam, Rameshvaram and Madurai. With their knowledge of arcuate masonry the Muslims were able to build large-span structures and engineered glorious mosques, tombs and palaces, culminating in the Taj Mahal.
The architecture of north India was based on political and historical change. The styles that emerged with each successive alteration were distinctively different but inherently Indian in their execution. However, all were influenced by the climate and the local building traditions. Unfortunately few of the structures before the twelfth century have survived the ravages of climate and the local building traditions. Unfortunately few of the structures before the twelfth century have survived the ravages of climate, war and time, yet the region is still rich in the remains from that period. An interesting feature of such architecture is the effortless merging of Hindu and Islamic styles within individual structures, combining the sensuality of Hindu temple architecture with the more austere facets of Islamic architecture.
The techniques for constructing true domes and arches were learnt by the Indian masons from the Muslims after the twelfth century. With the addition of the carving skills of the Hindu craftsmen it became possible to blend the two styles to complement the other and create a style that was Indian in its totality.
From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century the architecture of the mughal period was designed to awe the viewer and assert the exalted status of their imperial patron. The buildings whether built in red sandstone or marble symmetry, landscaping and grandeur were some of the common features. The inclusion of fine inlay and latticework, arches, domes and minarets gave these buildings an ethereal grace and offset their massive sizes.
The transmutation of architectural ideas, building materials and structural techniques from one religion to another, and from one region to another is the glorious tradition of Indian architecture.
The fourteen architectural monuments and sites celebrated in this volume represent the supreme creations of the many civilizations and religions that prospered in India. Each is nourished by local attributes but transcends the regional to mingle with universal concepts of beauty. These are the cave of Karle, the Stupa at Sanchi, the Kailash Temple at Ellora, the Kandariya Mahadev Temple at Khajuraho, the Dilwara Temple at Mount Abu, the Sun Temple at Konark, the Qutub Minar at Delhi, the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the Taj Mahal at Agra. Also included are the temple town of Madurai, the palaces of Padmanabhapuram and Fatehpur Sikri and the cities of Vijayanagar and Jaisalmer.
The Sanchi complex contains all the structural gestures of Buddhism, the chaityas, viharas, the torana, the vedika and the remains of lats. It is the most sanctified of Buddhist sites in the world. Carving of caves was a very unique and developed art form in India. Karle is a huge magical cavern cut out of a cliff side in the shape of a chaitya hall. The Kailash Temple is another novel form of building that originated in India. This large temple was built by cutting down a hill slope to leave a huge monolith of a temple in one sculptured building from stone. The Kandariya Mahadev Temple at Khajuraho and the Sun Temple at Knoark are magnificent examples of the Indo-Aryan style and represent the best of the Khajuraho and Orissa styles. Dilwara displays the wealth of the Jains in temples that are built entirely in while marble. The Qutub Minar marks the earliest settlement of the Muslims in India; the Gol Gumbaz is the most robust of the regional building styles of the Muslims, and the Taj is the acknowledged masterpiece of the Mughals. Meenakshi in the south is more than a temple; the folds of its parikramas transform it into a throbbing temple town of Mudurai. Padmanabhapuram and Fatehpur Sikri are exquisite example of Hindu and Muslim palaces each enriched by its own vocabulary, social nuances and climatic conditions. At Vijayanagar are the ruins of a once grand Hindu city and Jaisalmer is a living fortified city in the desert of Rajasthan.
In totality, these buildings cover the wide spectrum of Indian architecture and town planning in style, religion or location. These are example of Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Islamic architecture built with different materials and techniques of construction. From rock-cut caves to stone monoliths to dry and arcuate stone masonry, they represent places of worship, palaces of power, cities to live in and fortresses to defend them all. These Masterpieces will never age. Each is the acme of the period to which it belongs.
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