Indo-Islamic or Indo-Saracenic – UPSC GS1

What do you understand by the term ‘Indo-Islamic’ or ‘Indo-Saracenic’ architecture? How did this architecture evolve in India? Discuss. (200 Words)

Indo-Islamic architecture in India is neither an exclusive local variant of Islamic architecture nor it is another kind of Indigenous style. Instead it is assimilation of both Islamic and Indian design and methods.
It started emerging from around 11th century AD and reached its peak state during Mughal rule. Initially, under Delhi Sultanate, false domes and false arches were used in architecture.
These were actually constructed by tailoring the indigenous trabeate technique to create the illusion of arch. Even the tomb of Iltutmish had experienced some collapse due to this inefficient technique.
In course of time, Indian craftsmen could learn the skill of dome and arch technique through collaboration with Middle East sculptors. Alai Darwaza, during Alauddin Khilji’s rule, is one of the first structures in which true arches and domes were used which made possible to span large spaces and withstand the weight without the need of pillars.
Indigenous brackets and pendentive supports have lent additional support for the Islamic technique of domes.
Though both indigenous and Islamic styles favoured ornamentation, Indo-Islamic architecture mostly had decorative elements of arabesque and floral elements deviating from indigenous animal and human figures.
However, in Gujarat, Indo-Islamic architecture incorporated Indian temple traditions such as toranas, lintels in mihrabs, and carvings of bell and chain motifs.
Thus Indo-scenic architecture is a fusion of both Indian and Islamic styles but not always in equal proportions.


Compare and contrast the Indo-Islamic architecture with that of temple architecture in India. (200 Words)
Indo-Islamic Architecture:
  • Started with 12th Century after Turks settled in India subcontinents.
  • Turks and Afghans Muslims having inherited a wealth of varied designs from Sassanian and Byzantine empires and being naturally endowed with good taste for buildings
  • Ornamental decoration, open space for prayer toward mecca(quibla), light and open, lesser decoration in prayer hall, purdah hall system for females coming for prayer, tower/minaret to call prayer(azaan),
  • Re-brought the fashion of true arch, trabeate(horizontal layers of bricks in arch, lintel). Often contained qabr at centre if it is masouleum, arches, domes, minars and minarets, the pendentive, squinch arch, half domed double portals, kiosks (chhatris) and the use of concrete as a factor of construction
  • Ornamental decoration contain non-human figures, mainly floral decoration, symmetry, rhythmic pattern, arabic writing in beautiful way.
  • The Muslims, like the 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.
  • Elaborate gardens like charbagh, fountains were given importance.
Indian Temple Architecture:
  • Small prayer hall, many pillars, shikharas, small garbha-griha, mandapas.
  • Initially Arch were used but during Mauryan and Magadha time, Arch usage disappeared and after later part of 14th century remerged in southern India.
  • Ornamental decoration were largely containing animal, humans motifs and postures.
  • Use of sandstone was important to carve delicate motifs



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