Indo-Islamic Architecture

The establishment of the Muslim rule since the end of the 12th century brought together two great architectural traditions. Eventually, this led to a greater synthesis and fusion of the best in both traditions which manifested in some of the most beautiful Indo-Islamic monuments in the Indian sub-continent. Mosques and mausoleum were centres of Islamic architecture in India.

Below are the Characteristic features of Indo-Islamic form of architecture:

  • Buildings in Islamic countries were made of brick, lime and mortar
  • Their styles was arcuate; meaning architecture based on arches, domes and vaults
  • Muslims under religious injunction avoided the use of human figurines rather they opted for geometrical patters (arabesque), floral patterns, inscriptions in various styles, inlay on marble (Pietra dura)

  • Ornamental, perforated lattice screens with arabesques, star motifs and other geometric designs such as pentagons, hexagons, octagons and circles.
  • Gardens were an integral part of Islamic architecture


Styles of Islamic architecture in the Indian subcontinent:

Imperial style

  • The style of this period is also called the early Indo-Islamic style.
  • The existing buildings were converted into mosques with the elements of ruins from Hindu temples
  • The palaces were elaborately decorated and embellished with arches and domes. Floral patterns and other Hindu motifs were used widely


Provincial style:

In this style of architecture which lasted for a period of two-hundred-and-fifty years, they created buildings with the locally available materials, combining the regional styles with the typical Muslim features such as domes, arches, the minarets and the mihrabs. Initially they constructed on the ruins of Hindu, and Jain temples, and later they derived their own style in building art.


Mughal style

  • The Mughal style is the style of architecture that flourished in India under the patronage of the Mughal Empire from the mid-16th to the 17th century
  • It is a unique blend of Indo-Islamic and Persian style with Turkish influences.
  • The buildings were excellent and remarkably symmetrical in form and uniform in pattern with intricate ornamentation.
  1. Mosques
  • Mosques are the places of congregation where men gather to offer prayers. They are also called “masjids” and known as a place for prostration
  • They are basically large columned halls known as hypostyle halls and in some of the mosques, Madrasahs are also a part of the same building
  • An important element used in the mosque was the “mihrab”. It is the niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca towards which all the Muslims pray.
  • The most visible element of the mosque is the “minaret”, the tower which is either adjacent or attached to the mosque from which the call to prayer is announced.
  • The most important (but inessential) element of Islamic architecture and a part of the mosque is the “dome” which is also known as “qubba” in Muslim architecture
  • Calligraphy is also the most visible decorative element in mosques.


  1. Forts
  • They were palaces; a place of accommodation on a larger and more comprehensive scale, thus forming a city within a city
  • They were built for the purpose of defence to protect the monarchs and their people from their enemies.
  • We can also see the influences of different regional architecture of Gujrat and Punjab in the construction of the forts


  1. Tombs
  • Among the architectural marvels that were built during the Islamic rein in India, the most wonderful, and beautiful structure was the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal, which is an integrated complex of many structures.
  • White domed marble, large gardens, pools with fountains reflecting the light, landscape, and four tall standing minarets surrounding the structure imply a symmetrical and a balanced form. This proves the elegance of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. It is a perfect example of an architectural accomplishment of the Mughal building art.

Delhi sultanate

  • With the arrival of Turks during the thirteenth century came a new technique of architecture- the architectural styles of Persia, Arabia and Central Asia.
  • The engineering features of these buildings were the domes, arches and minarets. The palaces, mosques and tombs built by the rulers had these features which were blended with the features of the indigenous architecture and a new synthesis in architecture was achieved.
  • This happened because the Turkish rulers of Delhi utilized the services of the local Indian craftsmen who were very skillful and had already constructed beautiful buildings.
  • The earliest building of this period is Quwwatul Islam Mosque at Delhi and the Qutub Minar. The latter is a tower, whose height is 70 metres. It is a tapering tower that has five stories. There are beautiful engravings of calligraphy both in the mosque and on the tower.

Qutub Minar

  • Ala-ud-din Khilji enlarged the Quwat-ul-Islam mosque and built a gateway to the enclosure of the mosque. This gateway is called the Alai Darwaza. He also built the Hauz Khas in Delhi which was a hydraulic structure.

Quwat-ul-Islam mosque

  • The tomb of Mohammad Tughlaq, Firoz Tughlaq and the forts of Tughlaqabad are some more examples of structures built during this time
  • During the Afghan rule the tombs of Ibrahim Lodi at Delhi and Shershah’s tomb at Sasaram were built
  • The architecture of this period also shows how indigenous styles were adopted and utilized by the builders. During these years, the Turks were still in the process of settling down. The rulers were threatened by the Mongols, who made sudden invasions from the north. This is why the buildings of this period are strong, sturdy and practical.

Regional kingdoms

  • With the establishment of regional kingdoms in Bengal, Gujarat and the Deccan, beautiful buildings having their own style were constructed.
  • The Jama Masjid, the Sadi Saiyyad Mosque and the shaking towers at Ahmadabad are a few examples of this architecture
  • In Mandu (central India) the Jama Masjid, Hindola Mahal and Jahaz Mahal were built.
  • In the Deccan, the Sultans erected a number of buildings. The Jama Masjid at Gulbarga, the Madarsa of Mahmud Gawan at Bidar, Ibrahim Rauza, Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the fort at Golconda are just a few famous buildings.
  • Gol Gumbaz has the largest dome in the world. All these buildings vary in design and style from the buildings of north India.

Gol Gumbaz

  • In Bengal the oblong shape of many structures and the peculiar style of roof construction were some of the distinctive features of the regional architecture of Bengal like the Adina mosque and the tomb of Jallal-ud-din at Pandua, Khil Darwaza and Tantipara mosque at Gaur.
  • In Jaunpur, the Atala mosque build by the Sharqui rulers had a gigantic screen covering the dome while the tomb of Hoshang Shah at Malwa is made entirely of marble and is made of yellow and black marble inlay work beautifully done by craftsmen.
  • The Bahamani sultans borrowed from the styles of Persia, Syria, Turkey and the temples of Southern India. The Jama Masjid at Gulbarga is quite well known. The courtyard of this mosque is covered with a large number of domes and is the only mosque in India which has a covered courtyard.


  • The advent of the Mughals brought a new era in architecture.
  • Indo-Islamic architecture reached its zenith during this period
  • The first building of this rule was Humayun’s Tomb at Delhi. Red sandstone was used in this building. It has a main gateway and the tomb is placed in the midst of a garden. Many consider it a precursor of the Taj Mahal
  • Akbar built forts at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. The Buland Darwaza reflects the grandeur of the mighty Mughal Empire. This building was made following Akbar’s victory over Gujarat
  • The tomb of Salim Chishti, Palace of Jodha Bai, Ibadat Khana, Birbal’s House and other buildings at Fatehpur Sikri reflect a synthesis of Persian and Indian elements.
  • During the reign of Jehangir, Akbar’s Mausoleum was constructed at Sikandra near Agra. He built the beautiful tomb of Itimad-ud-daula which was built entirely of marble.
  • Shahjahan was the greatest builder amongst the Mughals. He used marble extensively. Decorative design in inlay work, (called pietra duro) beautiful arches and minarets were the features of his buildings
  • The Red Fort and Jama Masjid of Delhi and above all the Taj Mahal are some of the buildings built by Shahjahan.

Taj Mahal

Jama Masjid

  • The Taj Mahal, the tomb of Shahjahan’s wife, is built in marble and reflects all the architectural features that were developed during the Mughal period. It has a central dome, four elegant minarats, gateway, inlay work and gardens surrounding the main building.
  • The Mughal style of architecture had a profound influence on the buildings of the later period. The buildings showed a strong influence of the ancient Indian style and had courtyards and pillars. For the first time in the architecture of this style living beings- elephants, lions, peacocks and other birds were sculptured in the brackets