Vernacular Architecture Of Kerala Essays About Education

Endowed with ancient socio-cultural institutions, Kerala’s traditional architecture comprises temples, palaces and dwellings built in a unique system of wooden construction that are about 200 to 600 years old. Its homogeneity and continuity is unusual within the country and has been nurtured by the regional arts and crafts. The local materials, craftsmen’s ingenuity and techniques as well as ancient literature on architecture have made this genre a sustainable human endeavour. The basic principles of architecture remained faithful to Hindu scriptures, but the multi-religious social environment of Kerala added richness to the typological essence. The Hindu, Christian and the Muslim communities with their corresponding influences made contributions to this genre of building art with examples that ranged from the pragmatic to the highly expressive. Residential and religious architectures have emerged under two distinct genre. This built environment also pauses a challenge of heritage conservation where tradition is at variance with social and architectural modernity. The course aims at giving an understanding about this architecture and conservation issues both as an expression of culture and as a product of crafts. After an introduction of the various architectural nuances, focus will be developed on craftsmanship, construction systems, technology and case studies through the lens of conservation. The various aspects of building conservation such as repairs, replacement and contemporary adaptation will be explored. Traditional materials, techniques and processes will be explained in detail through some completed and ongoing projects. Illustrated lectures, group discussions and hands-on work (model making/sketching) will be the tools of learning.

The architecture of India is rooted in its history, culture and religion. Indian architecture progressed with time and assimilated the many influences that came as a result of India's global discourse with other regions of the world throughout its millennia-old past. The architectural methods practiced in India are a result of examination and implementation of its established building traditions and outside cultural interactions.[1]

Though old, this Eastern tradition has also incorporated modern values as India became a modern nation state. The economic reforms of 1991 further bolstered the urban architecture of India as the country became more integrated with the world's economy. Traditional Vastu Shastra remains influential in India's architecture during the contemporary era.[1]

Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE - 1700 BCE)[edit]

The Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE - 1700 BCE) covered a large area around the Indus River basin and beyond. In its mature phase, from about 2600 to 1900 BCE, it produced several cities marked by great uniformity within and between sites, including Harappa, Lothal, and the UNESCO World Heritage SiteMohenjo-daro. The civic and town planning and engineering aspects of these are remarkable, but the design of the buildings is "of a startling utilitarian character". There are granaries, drains, water-courses and tanks, but neither palaces nor temples have been identified, though cities have a central raised and fortified "citadel".[2] Mohenjo-daro has wells which may be the predecessors of the stepwell.[3] As many as 700 wells have been discovered in just one section of the city, leading scholars to believe that 'cylindrical brick lined wells' were invented by the Indus Valley Civilization.[3]

Architectural decoration is extremely minimal, though there are "narrow pointed niches" inside some buildings. Most of the art found is in miniature forms like seals, and mainly in terracotta, but there are a very few larger sculptures of figures. In most sites fired mud-brick (not sun-baked as in Mesopotamia) is used exclusively as the building material, but a few such as Dholavira are in stone. Most houses have two storeys, and very uniform sizes and plans. The large cities declined relatively quickly, for unknown reasons, leaving a less sophisticated village culture behind.[4]

Post Maha Janapadas period (600 BCE—200 CE)[edit]

Further information: Hindu temple architecture, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Buddhist architecture, and Indian rock-cut architecture

Further information: Arthashastra and Edicts of Ashoka

Post-Maha-Janapadas Architecture
  • The Great Stupa at Sanchi (4th–1st century BCE). The dome shaped stupa was used in India as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics.

The Buddhist stupa, a dome shaped monument, was used in India as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics.[5] The stupa architecture was adopted in Southeast and East Asia, where it became prominent as a Buddhist monument used for enshrining sacred relics.[5] Fortified cities with stūpas, viharas, and temples were constructed during the Maurya empire (c. 321–185 BCE).[6] Wooden architecture was popular and rock cut architecture became solidified.[6]Guard rails—consisting of posts, crossbars, and a coping—became a feature of safety surrounding a stupa.[6] Temples—build on elliptical, circular, quadrilateral, or apsidal plans—were constructed using brick and timber.[6] The Indian gateway arches, the torana, reached East Asia with the spread of Buddhism.[7] Some scholars hold that torii derives from the torana gates at the Buddhist historic site of Sanchi (3rd century BCE – 11th century CE).[8]

Rock-cut stepwells in India date from 200–400 CE.[9] Subsequently, the construction of wells at Dhank (550–625 CE) and stepped ponds at Bhinmal (850–950 CE) took place.[9] Cave temples became prominent throughout western India, incorporating various unique features to give rise to cave architecture in places such as Ajanta and Ellora.[6]

Walled and moated cities with large gates and multi-storied buildings which consistently used arched windows and doors are important features of the architecture during this period.[6] The Indian emperor Ashoka (rule: 273—232 BCE) established a chain of hospitals throughout the Mauryan empire by 230 BCE.[10] One of the edicts of Ashoka (272—231 BCE) reads: "Everywhere King Piyadasi (Ashoka) erected two kinds of hospitals, hospitals for people and hospitals for animals. Where there were no healing herbs for people and animals, he ordered that they be bought and planted."[11] Indian art and culture has absorbed extraneous impacts by varying degrees and is much richer for this exposure. This cross fertilization between different art streams converging on the subcontinent produced new forms that, while retaining the essence of the past, succeeded in the integrating selected elements of the new influences. A long tradition of art and culture was already established well before the beginning of 20th century in India. Indian painting can be broadly divided into two categories — murals and miniature.

Early Common Era—High Middle Ages (200 CE—1200 CE)[edit]

Further information: Architecture of Karnataka, Kalinga architecture, Dravidian architecture, Western Chalukya architecture, and Badami Chalukya Architecture

Nalanda and Valabhi university housing thousands of teachers and students—flourished between the 4th–8th centuries.[12]South Indian temple architecture—visible as a distinct tradition during the 7th century CE.[13]

Māru-Gurjara temple architecture originated somewhere in the sixth century in and around areas of Rajasthan. Māru-Gurjara Architecture show the deep understanding of structures and refined skills of Rajasthani craftmen of the bygone era. Māru-Gurjara Architecture has two prominent styles Maha-Maru and Maru-Gurjara. According to M. A. Dhaky, Maha-Maru style developed primarily in Marudesa, Sapadalaksha, Surasena and parts of Uparamala whereas Maru-Gurjara originated in Medapata, Gurjaradesa-Arbuda, Gurjaradesa-Anarta and some areas of Gujarat.[14] Scholars such as George Michell, M.A. Dhaky, Michael W. Meister and U.S. Moorti believe that Māru-Gurjara Temple Architecture is entirely Western Indian architecture and is quite different from the North Indian Temple architecture.[15] There is a connecting link between Māru-Gurjara Architecture and Hoysala Temple Architecture. In both of these styles architecture is treated sculpturally.[16]

The South Indian temple consists essentially of a square-chambered sanctuary topped by a superstructure, tower, or spire and an attached pillared porch or hall (maṇḍapa or maṇṭapam), enclosed by a peristyle of cells within a rectangular court. The external walls of the temple are segmented by pilasters and carry niches housing sculpture. The superstructure or tower above the sanctuary is of the kūṭina type and consists of an arrangement of gradually receding stories in a pyramidal shape. Each story is delineated by a parapet of miniature shrines, square at the corners and rectangular with barrel-vault roofs at the centre.

North Indian temples showed increased elevation of the wall and elaborate spire by the 10th century.[17] Richly decorated temples—including the complex at Khajuraho—were constructed in Central India.[17] Indian traders brought Indian architecture to South east Asia through various trade routes.[18] Grandeur of construction, beautiful sculptures, delicate carvings, high domes, gopuras and extensive courtyards were the features of temple architecture in India. Examples include the Lingaraj Temple at Bhubaneshwar in Odisha, Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha, Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

Late Middle Ages (1100 CE—1526 CE)[edit]

Further information: Hoysala architecture and Vijayanagara architecture

Vijayanagara Architecture of the period (1336 – 1565 CE) was a notable building style evolved by the Vijayanagar empire that ruled most of South India from their capital at Vijayanagara on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in present-day Karnataka.[19] The architecture of the temples built during the reign of the Vijayanagara empire had elements of political authority.[20] This resulted in the creation of a distinctive imperial style of architecture which featured prominently not only in temples but also in administrative structures across the deccan.[21] The Vijayanagara style is a combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles which evolved earlier in the centuries when these empires ruled and is characterised by a return to the simplistic and serene art of the past.[22]

Hoysala architecture is the distinctive building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire in the region historically known as Karnata, today's Karnataka, India, between the 11th and the 14th centuries.[23] Large and small temples built during this era remain as examples of the Hoysala architectural style, including the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. Other examples of fine Hoysala craftmanship are the temples at Belavadi, Amrithapura, and Nuggehalli. Study of the Hoysala architectural style has revealed a negligible Indo-Aryan influence while the impact of Southern Indian style is more distinct.[24] A feature of Hoysala temple architecture is its attention to detail and skilled craftmanship. The temples of Belur and Halebidu are proposed UNESCOworld heritage sites.[25] About a 100 Hoysala temples survive today.[26]

Early Modern period (1500 CE—1947 CE)[edit]

Indo-Islamic Architecture[edit]

Further information: Mughal architecture and Indo-Islamic architecture

Indo-Islamic Architecture
  • Qutub Minar a prominent example of Indo-Islamic architecture in India.

  • The Taj Mahal in Agra, arguably the greatest example of Indo-Islamic architecture in India.

Mughal tombs of sandstone and marble show Persian influence.[27] The Red Fort at Agra (1565–74) and the walled city of Fatehpur Sikri (1569–74) are among the architectural achievements of this time—as is the Taj Mahal, built as a tomb for Queen Mumtaz Mahal by Shah Jahan (1628–58).[27] Employing the double dome, the recessed archway, the depiction of any animal or human—an essential part of the Indian tradition—was forbidden in places of worship under Islam. The Taj Mahal does contain tilework of plant ornaments.[1] The architecture during the Mughal Period, with its rulers being of Turco-Mongol origin, has shown a notable blend of Indian style combined with the Islamic.

Some scholars hold that cultural contact with Europe under Manuel I of Portugal (reign: 25 October 1495—13 December 1521) resulted in exchange of architectural influences.[28] Little literary evidence exists to confirm the Indian influence but some scholars have nonetheless suggested a possible relation based on proximity of architectural styles.[28]

Taj Mahal in Agra, India is one of the wonders of the world. Taj Mahal is a symbol of love for some, and barbaric brutality to others due to the treatment meted out to the artisans who built it.

Maratha Architecture[edit]

The Marathas ruled over much of the Indian subcontinent from the mid-17th to the early 19th centuries.[29] Their religious activity took full shape and soon the skylines of Maharashtrian towns were dominated by rising temple spires. Old forms returned with this 'renewal' of Hindu architecture, infused by the Sultanate and later the Mughal traditions. The architecture of Maratha period was planned with courtyards suited to tropical climates. The Maratha Architecture is known for its simplicity, visible logic and austere aesthetic, made rich by beautiful detailing, rhythm, and repetition. The aisles and arcades, punctured by delicate niches, doors, and windows create space in which the articulation of open, semi-open and covered areas is effortless and enchanting. The materials used during those times for construction were –

  1. Thin bricks
  2. Lime mortar
  3. Lime plaster
  4. Wooden columns
  5. Stone bases
  6. Basalt stone flooring
  7. Brick pavements

Maharashtra is famous for its caves and rock cut architectures. It is said that the varieties found in Maharashtra are wider than the caves and rock cut architectures found in the rock cut areas of Egypt, Assyria, Persia and Greece. The Buddhist monks first started these caves in the 2nd century BC, in search of serene and peaceful environment for meditation, and they found these caves on the hillsides.

Sikh Architecture[edit]

Further information: Sikh architecture

Sikh Architecture is a style of architecture that is characterized with values of progressiveness, exquisite intricacy, austere beauty and logical flowing lines. Due to its progressive style, it is constantly evolving into many newly developing branches with new contemporary styles. Although Sikh architecture was initially developed within Sikhism its style has been used in many non-religious buildings due to its beauty. 300 years ago, Sikh architecture was distinguished for its many curves and straight lines; Shri Keshgarh Sahib and the Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) are prime examples.

European colonial architecture[edit]

As with the Mughals, under European colonial rule, architecture became an emblem of power, designed to endorse the occupying power. Numerous European countries invaded India and created architectural styles reflective of their ancestral and adopted homes. The European colonizers created architecture that symbolized their mission of conquest, dedicated to the state or religion.

The British, French, Dutch and the Portuguese were the main European powers that colonized parts of India.[32]

British Colonial Era: 1615 to 1947[edit]

Main article: Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture

The British arrived in 1615 and over the centuries, gradually overthrew the Maratha and Sikh empires and other small independent kingdoms. Britain was present in India for over three hundred years and their legacy still remains through some building and infrastructure that exist in their former colonies. The major cities colonized during this period were Madras, Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Agra, Bankipore, Karachi, Nagpur, Bhopal and Hyderabad,[32] which saw the rise of Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture.

St Andrews Kirk, Madras is known for its colonial architecture. The building is circular in form and is sided by two rectangular sections one is the entrance porch. The entrance is lined with twelve colonnades and two British lions and motto of East India Company engraved on them. The interior holds sixteen columns and the dome is painted blue with decorated with gold stars.

Black Town described in 1855 as "the minor streets, occupied by the natives are numerous, irregular and of various dimensions. Many of them are extremely narrow and ill-ventilated ... a hallow square, the rooms opening into a courtyard in the centre."

Garden houses were originally used as weekend houses for recreational use by the upper class British. Nonetheless, the garden house became ideal a full-time dwelling, deserting the fort in the 19th Century.

Calcutta – Madras and Calcutta were similar bordered by water and division of Indian in the north and British in the south. An Englishwoman noted in 1750 "the banks of the river are as one may say absolutely studded with elegant mansions called here as at Madras, garden houses." Esplanade-row is fronts the fort with lined palaces.[39]

Indian villages in these areas consisted of clay and straw houses which later transformed into metropolis of brick and stone.

The Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, is the most effective symbolism of British Empire, built as a monument in tribute to Queen Victoria’s reign. The plan of the building consists of one large central part covered with a larger dome. Colonnades separate the two chambers. Each corner holds a smaller dome and is floored with marble plinth. The memorial stands on 26 hectares of garden surrounded by reflective pools.

Republic of India (1947 CE—present)[edit]

Further information: List of World Heritage Sites in India and Category:Indian architecture

In recent times there has been a movement of population from rural areas to urban centres of industry, leading to price rise in property in various cities of India.[42] Urban housing in India balances space constrictions and is aimed to serve the working class.[43] Growing awareness of ecology has influenced architecture in India during modern times.[44]

Climate responsive architecture has long been a feature of India's architecture but has been losing its significance as of late.[45] Indian architecture reflects its various socio-cultural sensibilities which vary from region to region.[45] Certain areas are traditionally held to be belonging to women.[45] Villages in India have features such as courtyards, loggias, terraces and balconies.[43]Calico, chintz, and palampore—of Indian origin—highlight the assimilation of Indian textiles in global interior design.[46]Roshandans, which are skylights-cum-ventilators, are a common feature in Indian homes, especially in North India.[47][48]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcSee Raj Jadhav, pp. 7–13 in Modern Traditions: Contemporary Architecture in India.
  2. ^Rowland, 31-34, 32 quoted; Harle, 15-18
  3. ^ abLivingstone & Beach, 19
  4. ^Rowland, 31-34, 33 quoted; Harle, 15-18
  5. ^ abEncyclopædia Britannica (2008), Pagoda.
  6. ^ abcdefChandra (2008)
  7. ^Encyclopædia Britannica (2008), torii
  8. ^Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System (2001), torii.
  9. ^ abLivingston & Beach, xxiii
  10. ^Piercey & Scarborough (2008)
  11. ^See Stanley Finger (2001), Origins of Neuroscience: A History of Explorations Into Brain Function, Oxford University Press, p. 12, ISBN 0-19-514694-8.
  12. ^Encyclopædia Britannica (2008), education, history of.
  13. ^Encyclopædia Britannica (2008), South Indian temple architecture.
  14. ^The sculpture of early medieval Rajasthan By Cynthia Packert Atherton
  15. ^Beginnings of Medieval Idiom c. A.D. 900–1000 by George Michell
  16. ^The legacy of G.S. Ghurye: a centennial festschrift By Govind Sadashiv Ghurye, A. R. Momin, p-205
  17. ^ abEncyclopædia Britannica (2008), North Indian temple architecture.
  18. ^Moffett et al., 75
  19. ^See Percy Brown in Sūryanātha Kāmat's A concise history of Karnataka: from pre-historic times to the present, p. 132.
  20. ^See Carla Sinopoli, Echoes of Empire: Vijayanagara and Historical Memory, Vijayanagara as Historical Memory, p. 26.
  21. ^See Carla Sinopoli, The Political Economy of Craft Production: Crafting Empire in South India, C. 1350–1650, p. 209.
  22. ^See Percy Brown in Sūryanātha Kāmat's A concise history of Karnataka: from pre-historic times to the present, p. 182.
  23. ^MSN Encarta (2008), Hoysala_Dynasty. Archived 2009-10-31.
  24. ^See Percy Brown in Sūryanātha Kāmat's A concise history of Karnataka: from pre-historic times to the present, p. 134.
  25. ^The Hindu (2004), Belur for World Heritage Status.
  26. ^Foekema, 16
  27. ^ abEncyclopædia Britannica (2008), Mughal architecture.
  28. ^ abLach, 57–62
  29. ^An Advanced History of Modern India By Sailendra Nath Sen, p.16
  30. ^ ab"(Brief) History of European – Asian trade". European Exploration. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  31. ^Dutta, Arindam (29 March 2010). "Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny". Journal of Architectural Education. 63 (2): 167–169. doi:10.1111/j.1531-314X.2010.01082.x. 
  32. ^See Raj Jadhav, p. 11 in Modern Traditions: Contemporary Architecture in India.
  33. ^ abGast, 77
  34. ^Gast, 119
  35. ^ abcSee Raj Jadhav, 13 in Modern Traditions: Contemporary Architecture in India.
  36. ^Savage 2008
  37. ^Thomas George Percival Spear; Margaret Spear, India remembered, Orient Longman, 1981, ISBN 978-0-86131-265-8,  
  38. ^Pavan K. Varma, Sondeep Shankar, Mansions at dusk: the havelis of old Delhi, Spantech Publishers, 1992, ISBN 978-81-85215-14-3,  


  • Foekema, Gerard (1996), A Complete Guide to Hoysaḷa Temples, Abhinav Publications, ISBN

Vijayanagara market place at Hampi, along with the sacred tank located on the side of Krishna temple.

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