Modern Architecture

The arrival of Europeans to India further enriched the architectural traditions of our country. It saw the synthesis of the indigenous architectural traditions of India with the European architectural styles. In the beginning of the colonial rule there were attempts at creating authority through classical prototypes. In its later phase the colonial architecture culminated into what is called the Indo-Saracenic architecture.

The colonial architecture exhibited itself through institutional, civic and utilitarian buildings such as post offices, railway stations, rest houses and government buildings.

Major monuments built by various colonial empires

  1. Portuguese
  • Many of the early architecture of the Portuguese are manifested in churches, cathedrals and schools. These churches were built in the Iberian style
  • Western India, especially Goa and Daman and Diu have seen the maximum influence of Portuguese colonization.
  • The Basilica do Bom Jesus in Old Goa, with its three stories and baroque style reminds one of the late Renaissance architecture. The Cathedral de Santa Catarina is a mix of Tuscan and Corinthain styles and home to its big Golden Bell. Other religious structures that are heavily influenced with Portuguese style of building and were built during their reign include the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Convent of Santa Monica, Chapel of the Weeping Cross, Sanctuary of Saint Joseph Vaz and more.
  • Other famous Portuguese monuments in India: The Bandel Church in West Bengal on the banks of the River Hooghly. In Mumbai, the Madh Fort, Castella de Aguada and St. John’s Baptist Church are structures that remain from the Portuguese colonial rule.
  1. French architecture in India
  • France had a strong presence in India
  • The Parisian architectural styles can be seen in various places in India
  • The French architecture made use of local raw materials and took into account the climatic conditions of the place
  • French shutter windows, carvings on archways and narrow street fronts were the French style
  • Monuments of this style can be seen in Puducherry, Bengal, Karaikal, Mahe etc
  • French grid patterns, clear sectors and perpendicular streets are the three distinct features that comprise the plan of the French towns
  • Some of the noted buildings and monuments bearing French style include statue of Joan of Arc at Dumas street; ‘Le Café’; Mairie building that presently houses the Puducherry Municipality; the French consulate building; ‘Le Foyer du Soldat’, a legion hall for veteran soldiers
  1. British architecture
  • The Palladian style was sought to be introduced by the British officer in the 18th The famous example of a building of this style is, Constantia, it was erected by general martin at Lucknow
  • In the 19th century, there grew a movement to combine the best elements from India and Western architecture. The pioneer of this movement was, FS Growse
  • The museum at Jaipur and the Moor Market in Chennai are examples of this form of architecture
  • G Wittet designed the Gateway of India in Mumbai, borrowing several elements of Mughal style

Gateway of India

  • The Victoria terminus station in Mumbai is an example of Victorian Gothic revival architecture in India, deriving themes from Indian traditional architecture. It was designed by FW Stevens

Chhatrapathi Shivaji terminus

Indo-Saracenic movement

At the end of the Victorian era, India entered the era of national awakening and movement. The architecture represented the character of the time, a combination of imperial and national urges. It was this urge that led to the movement of Indo-Saracenic. This movement drew elements from the indigenous and Indo-Islamic architecture and combined it with the Gothic revival and Neo-classical styles favored in Victorian England

Salient features of this form of architectural style are:

Bulbous domes

  • This is one of the most characteristic feature of Indo-Saracenic buildings
  • The Bulbous dome is a hemispherical structure evolved from arch, usually forming a ceiling or roof.
  • The Dome is considered as a symbolic representation of the vault of the heaven
  • Some of the examples with Bulbous Domes are Egmore Railway Station, Chennai Museum

Overhanging eaves (Chhajja)

  • It is a protruding structure which provides protection for the lower walls
  • This feature was common in Mughal architecture. Ex: Tomb of Salim Chishti, Fatepur Sikri, India
  • This feature became part of the Indo-Saracenic architecture during 19th and 20th Ex: Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus, Rashtrapati Bhavan

Chhajja in Rashtrapati Bhavan

Vaulted roof

  • Vaulted Roofs are ceilings with intersecting arches.
  • These roofs can be seen in mausoleum which was built during the Islamic period.
  • However, this feature was adopted by the British into the monuments they built during their time in Ex: St.Matthias’ Church, Chennai.


  • Chhatris are an elevated, dome-shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture.
  • The word chhatri is also refer to the small pavilions that mark the corners, roof of entrance of a major building
  • These pavilions are purely decorative and have no utility, but they are a classic folly which represents the status and wealth. Ex: Tomb of Humayun
  • This feature can also be found in Indo-Saracenic style. Ex: Rashtrapati Bhavan.


  • It is a tall spire with a conical or onion-shaped crown.
  • Minarets are either free-standing or taller than associated support
  • The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft, and gallery
  • In Chennai, the Senate house is the best example of Indo-Saracenic architecture with Minarets.


  • Pavilion refers to the subsidiary building that is positioned separately or as an attachment to a main building.
  • Palaces or other large houses may have one or more subsidiary pavilions that are either freestanding or connected by covered walkways in the buildings of Mughal architecture.
  • These pavilions can be found in the forts, palaces of British architecture in Indo-Saracenic style.

Cusped arches

  • The cusp in architecture is the intersections of lobed or scalloped forms, particularly in arches (cusped arches) and tracery (ornamental stone work)
  • The monumental cusped arch had become the standard Mughal style component by the end of 17th Century
  • The British builders also used the cusped shape arch universally and frequently enriched it with representations of leaves, flowers, or even human heads at the tip. Ex: Chennai corporation building, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus