What Is Indo Islamic Architecture


Indo-Islamic architecture is a style of architecture that developed in India, blending elements of Muslim and Hindu architecture. This style of architecture is often referred to as Mughal architecture, though it is a composite style of architectural elements from both the Mughal and Hindu empires. India has a long history of cultural exchange and has adopted elements of many different eras and influences, including the Islamic period. The Mughal Empire, which lasted from 1526 to 1858, left a strong imprint on India’s culture and art, particularly in architecture. During this time, building styles were heavily influenced by religious beliefs, and as a result, a number of distinctive architectural elements emerged. The most common characterizing features of Indo-Islamic architecture include the use of curved or domed roofs, sandstone blocks, and elaborate decorations in the form of tile mosaics or intricate carvings.

History and Development

The history of Indo-Islamic architecture is closely intertwined with the history of the Mughal Empire. The Mughal Emperor Babur was the first to introduce Islamic elements into the architecture of north India. His son Humayun continued his father’s work, creating some of the most iconic monuments including the Taj Mahal. However, it was the Emperor Akbar who created a unified style of architecture that combined elements from Hindu, Islamic, Persian, and even Buddhist traditions. His son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan further developed this style and created many iconic projects, such as the Red Fort of Agra and the Jama Masjid in Delhi. The Mughal Empire continued to provide patronage for architects until 1858 when the British took power.


The most prominent feature of Indo-Islamic architecture is the dome or curved roof. This style of roofing is inspired by Islamic architecture and is often seen in Mughal palaces, mosques and tombs. Another key feature of this style of architecture is the use of sandstone blocks. This material is often seen in the facades and interiors of Mughal monuments, and is sometimes decorated with intricate patterns or tile mosaics. Other common features of Indo-Islamic architecture include carved pillars, arches and colonnades, as well as elements of symmetry, balance and contrast.


The development of Indo-Islamic architecture was heavily influenced by religion. This type of architecture combines elements from both Hindu and Islamic traditions, and as a result, structures were designed to cater to both faiths. For example, Hindu temples and palaces often feature symmetrical, imposing facades, while Islamic structures incorporate domes and minarets. Mughal architects also drew inspiration from Persian and European styles, creating an eclectic mix of architectural styles. The city of Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, is home to some of the most iconic Indo-Islamic buildings, including the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and the Jama Masjid.


The decorative element is one of the most important aspects of Indo-Islamic architecture. Mosques, tombs and palaces will often feature intricate carvings, tile mosaics, and intricate plasterwork. One of the most popular styles of ornamentation is called jaali, which is created using stone screens or latticework. This type of decoration is often seen in Mughal tombs and palaces, as well as palaces from Hindu Rajas. Other common decorative elements include floral motifs, geometric designs and calligraphy, which pay homage to Islamic culture.


The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most iconic example of Indo-Islamic architecture, having been built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. This majestic mausoleum combines elements from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, creating an unforgettable structure that has become a symbol of love and devotion. The Red Fort of Agra is another example of Indo-Islamic architecture, though it was built in a Hindu Rajput style. This grand palace was built by the same Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal, and it is renowned for its impressive sandstone walls and intricate carvings. In Delhi, the iconic Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India and features an imposing sandstone facade and four minarets.


Indo-Islamic architecture is an integral part of India’s history and culture. The structures created during this period still hold great historical and architectural significance, representing a unique fusion of two different cultures. The Taj Mahal, for instance, stands as a testament to the Mughal Empire’s fascination with intricate art and design. Today, these monuments are some of India’s most visited tourist attractions and serve as a reminder of the nation’s rich history and diversity.


In recent years, reproductions of Indo-Islamic architecture have become increasingly popular in the West. There are now many replicas of famous monuments in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. For example, the replica of the Taj Mahal located in Abu Dhabi was designed to replicate the original structure in every detail possible. This trend has helped to spread awareness about this type of architecture and is a testament to the impact it has had on global culture.

Garden Features

Indo-Islamic architecture often includes elements of landscape design, such as gardens and terraces. These spaces are often designed with symmetrical sandstone pathways and planted with trees and flowers, creating a peaceful environment. The gardens of the Taj Mahal, for example, feature four terraces, fountains and a network of pathways lined with trees. These outdoor spaces are often used to host gatherings and events, as well as provide respite from the heat of the sun.

Influence on Modern Architecture

Though Indo-Islamic architecture was first developed several centuries ago, it continues to influence modern architects today. Contemporary architects often draw upon the iconic features of this style in order to create structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. For example, the use of domed roofs and sandstone blocks are common features in modern buildings, though the intricate details and ornamentation are often simplified. Many modern architects also continue to combine elements from different cultural traditions in their designs, further showcasing the influence of Indo-Islamic architecture.


In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Indo-Islamic architecture. This has led to a revival of some of the designs and elements, such as jali screens and delicately decorated sandstone blocks. Architects are also experimenting with new technologies, such as 3D printing, to create new interpretations of traditional designs. This modern revival is helping to keep alive the unique blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture, while introducing a much-needed update to the style.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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