Architecture in Rajasthan (1200 – 1800 A.D.)

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Architecture of  Rajasthan (1200 – 1800 A.D.)

Architecture in Rajasthan represents many different types of buildings, which may broadly be classed as secular and religious. The secular buildings are of a miscellaneous order. They include towns, villages, wells, gardens, houses arid palaces. All these kinds of buildings were meant for public and civic purposes. The forts are also included in secular buildings, though they were used for, defense and military purposes. The buildings of religious nature consist of three kinds – The Temples, The Mosques and the Tombs. Taking the secular structure first, it should be noted that it comprises a large series of buildings so varied that no specific description is possible, and they will therefore be dealt within their individual capacity or in group as the case may be.



The villages in Rajasthan were planned according to the natural topography of different kinds. In hilly regions of villages clung to hill tops or dispersed over the upland areas. In plains the villages grew up near rivers or springs. In this category the villages like Hurra, Malpura, Ropa etc. may be included. In desert areas of Bikaner and Jaisalmer villages were planned in a scattered state and laid far apart in small groups with water facilities. The huts were made out of mud thatched with straw. They usually had no windows. The entrance door was low and simple. The houses of well-to-do farmers and artisans of large villages consisted of one or one or two rooms with a verandah in front, roofed with tiles, and having a wide courtyard with on big entrance door.


Town Planning

Though Rajasthan was essentially rural, there were also towns, scattered here and there. These towns were little more than large villages which grew into townships by virtue of their dimension and increased population. According to the tradition of town-planning they were well-protected by strong walls and hills. They were also divided into wards and the wards were connected by narrow streets and lanes. The temples, wells, gardens and imposing palaces also formed the parts of the towns. Again, according to the principles of town-planning the main road of the towns should have shops of dealers in cloths, armaments, Jewellery, betel, fruits, flowers, garlands etc. on both side.

The town of Amber, which flourished about the 10 century A.D. to the 17th century A.D., retains the glimpses of early mediaeval towns of Rajasthan. The account of Jaisalmer preserved in the Jaisal Gazal of the 18th century shows that there were shops of stock and exchange in the central part of the town. Ajmer, which was a flourishing town from the 17th century onward, had wide streets, spacious temples, deep wells and lake. The major improvement of Ajmer goes to Akbar’s time who enclosed the city with strong ramparts and a moat. The contemporary accounts show that by the close our period of study Jodhpur grew up into a good township by the construction of several roads, bazaars, temples, wells and reservoirs. Bikaner also developed as a big town consisting of town wall, palaces, forts, bazaars, temples etc. The town of Udaipur, according to the contemporary writings, had long streets interconnected with lanes each specializing in some trade and craft. It had also several lakes, places and gardens within and outside the town. The city of Jaipur is famous in the world for its wonderful town-planning.



Manda, a celebrated architect of Maharana Kumbha, advises the construction of the palaces either in the center of the town or on some high elevation. According to him an ideal palace should consists of male and female apartments, assembly – hall, dancing hall, treasury, store-house, kitchen, dinning-hall, a repository of aims, etc. allocated at specific spots. The Amber palaces, for example, have been so planned that it seems as if they emerged from the valley. They are in a form extensive castle on the hill with fortified palaces, swinging balconies and a long line of walls and towers. The basic plan of these palaces, with their successive courtyards, suites of two small rooms at both ends, a central hall, the verandah, narrow passages and enclosed open space in between, is typically Rajput. Moreover the capitals and the doorways with sculptured peacock, elephants men and animals are perfectly after Hindu style. The free and profuse use of colors and mirrors on the walls of apartments and on the ceilings reveal the Rajput love of bright color. The palaces of Jaisalmer, modified by subsequent generations, were surrounded by high turrets and battlements. Separate suites of male ad female, together with numerous rooms for storing and other purpose, are typically Rajput in character. “The groups of residences, the balconies, the windows and the doorways have been so exquisitely carved as to form by themselves a treasure-house of Rajput art.” “The palace of Bundi, constructed about 1342 A.D. and added and altered by generations of builders, rises above the town in pinnacled terraces on the top of a hill. Its ill-arrayed and scattered suites of rooms belong to a special type of Rajput art of the early mediaeval period.”

“The Palace of Jodhpur", constructed between the 15th and 18th centuries, crowns a rocky eminence guarded by bastions, ramparts and parapets. The fort with its smaller and regular rows of buildings, named as Moti Mahal, Fateh Mahal, Phul Mahal, Shish Mahal etc. gives the look of compactness and solidity. The guided cupolas, carved panels, intricate passage along with open verandahs, called chopals, in series are striking examples of mediaeval Rajput architecture.

“As regards the old palace of Bikaner”, discussed by us, “founded about 1488, and built a new by Rai Singh, perched on rocky eminence consists of a range of pavilions, towering over massive gateway. The inner apartments of colored plaster are in a way self-con-tamed suite, inter-connected with the courtyards and with small and extensive narrow steps and dark passages. Within the palace area there are gardens, temples, stables and store-houses of mediaeval type, of course, the pleasure garden, carved cornices, foliated arches and latticed openings have a touch of the Mughal style.

“The palace of Udaipur, founded in 1559 A.D. by Rana Udai Singh in the form of a small citadel stands on the verge of extensive lake surrounded by hills of a great beauty. It’s fluted turrets and projecting balconies, supported on carved brackets, are an example of fine medieval masonry and unfold a memorable vision of loveliness and charm so conspicuous in Hindu art. The additions to it made by Amar Singh, Karan Singh and Raj Singh in the forms of Amar Vilas and Bari Mahal with halls and fountains, slender columns and garden, reflect the influence of the Mughal style. But in essence the entire plan and the apart mental adjustment together together with the dining-halls, picture gallery, treasury, zoo, stables, storehouse of gain, arms, musical instruments, grass and water, gives it the appearance of compactness as suggested by Mandan.

Kota was beautified by the construction of a palace in the southern extremity overlooking the river Chambal, over a high elevation. The palace proper is an imposing pile of buildings. The imposing gateway of the main palace, an open courtyard, inner temple, narrow passages, the kitchen, and the Choupal depict Rajput style: while high perforated parapets, the pavilion, the Zenana palace, double pillars, the Diwan-I-Am, the Topkhana and Darukanaare most nearly the reproduction of the Mughal type. The outer buildings are after the traditional fashion.”

The Amber palace is surrounded by a high embattled wall containing within it male and female apartments and quarters for courtiers, stables and the like. Chandra Mahal, Pritamnivas, Shobhanivas, Sukhnivas, Sheesh Mahal, etc., has suites or apartments interconnected with courtyards and corridors after Rajput fashion. It is interesting to note that the carved screens, balconies, arches and brackets are the delightful examples of Hindu architecture. But the Diwan-I-khas and the Diwan-I-Am with colored columns and walls are of the Mughal style.

Like the palaces, the mansions of the nobles, dignitaries and officers of the States had also a specific type of architecture with lofty entrance gate, open courtyards (inner and outer), enclosing walls, halls and adjoining rooms, balconies and small windows. Jaimal and Pattas Mahals of Chittor and Thala – Haveli of Kota are typical mansion of the period under review. Next to the mansions come the houses of middle class and well-to-do people. They also have a typical pattern with covered gate, Choupals, open courtyard and terraces all over the buildings. The quarters of artisans and craftsmen have simple types of houses in which the front portions were reserved for work – shops and back portions were used for living. Other class of people of low status lived in houses, which were built of mud and thatched with straw. Such houses had only one door and no window.



The Forts occupy important place in the study of civil and military architecture of mediaeval Rajasthan as these forts were constructed for residential purposes of the rulers and had all the features of a walled town. Because they were also meant for defense of the reign, they were protected by bastions, gates and guarding towers. They were also provided with wells, tanks and pools. They had also the provision for storehouses for arms, fuels and grain. Agriculture land, palaces, mansions, temples, market place and residential quarters for the subjects formed the parts of the forts. These features of civic architecture can be seen in the ruins of the forts of Chittor, Kumbhalgarh, Mandalgarh, and Ranthambhor. Of course, the forts of Amber and Jodhpur, Bikaner and Nagaur were constructed for the residential purposes of the royal families.

Another purpose of constructing these forts was to hold the conquered country and provide to the subjects the facilities of protection and safety in times of need. The forts and castles were either surrounded by a moat or were upheld by high cliffs, “They not only occupied a strategic importance in the military architecture of the period. The sites of Chitor, Gagron, Ranthambhor, Kumbhalgarh, Achalgarh, Amber etc., were selected on inaccessible precipices with a view to provide defense. Walls were constructed in several rows from the entrance gates to the upper level and were extended in other directions in angles to lessen the chance of direct attack, and give all round defense. Obstacles were set up beyond the wall in the form of thorny bushes and trees or wide moats. The royal residences and the walls of the forts were constructed with devices which allowed narrow and secret passages for exit in the hour of discomfiture. These passages were also useful for ages and ingress, in case the entire encircled by the enemies.”

“These forts were well-provisioned with guns, cannons, gun powder and adequate store of food material and other necessities of living, such as salt, gur, grain, oil etc., so that they could last out successfully against a long siege. Side by side with these material needs the forts did not lack from the point of view of supernatural defense by the presence of temples. These at least gave mental satisfaction to those who resided in the fort or to those who were fighting for the fort.” This kind of religious constructions inspired confidence and strength



The rulers and devoted persons of Rajasthan constructed temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Mahavir, Hanuman, Ganesh during the period of our study. We know from inscriptions that Bappa Rawal constructed the temple of Ekiinga, which was repaired from time by Maharana Mokal, Kumbha and Raimal. Several rulers of Rajasthan endowed lands to this temple for the worship and maintenance of it. Besides the kings and queens, the feudatory chiefs and common people built temples to obtain spiritual merit for themselves and their relations.

The chief features of the temple architecture comprise of shikhara, mandapa, niches, inner chambers etc of the main deities. The walls of the temples have recesses divided into sections. Roofs are supported by columns with cross corbels. The capitals have elaboration with pot-and-foliage and lotuses. The Dwarapalas and other godlings, images of Kubera and other minor gods and goddess form the part of carvings on doors, niches, columns and outer body of the temples. Later on due to Mughal influence the Mandapas began to construct with wider galleries and porches surrounding them. They began to show tat the local style of architecture was mixed with contemporary Mughal motifs resulting in making a better impression. The Shikars also displayed all the wealth of mediaeval art.

Among temples of earlier period of our study, temples of Vimla and Luna Vasati built at Delwada in the 11th and 12 centuries are of extraordinary beauty. They show the extent to which marble could be finely chiseled. “In these temples human faces do not radiate the spiritual bliss and divine glory of inner consciousness but the loss is largely repaid by the richness and beauty of decoration and fine caring.” The dome of the main hall of the Delwada temple at Mt. Abu, “with an exquisitely wronged huge lotus pendant hanging from it rests on eight stilted pillars arranged in an octagon, and rises in concentric circles of various decorative motifs.” Here sixteen brackets show figures of sixteen Tantric goddesses called Mahavidyas of unique iconographic value. “All available space in the ceilings, wall, door-frames or pillars is utilized in presenting scenes from Jaina mythology, different gods and goddesses or designs which are veritable dreams of beauty.” The second shrine is equally attractive. Another shrine called Chaumukha temple of the 15th century contains on its outer walls the in iconography of all the Vidyadevis Yakshinis and Digpalas. “These temples are conspicuously noteworthy for the exuberances of ornamental detail minutely wrought in a manner that remains unsurpassed even in India which was justly for such kind of work.”

However, Shri S.K., Saraswati while appreciating the temple of Abu, states, “In spite, however, of the splendid wealth of intricate ornamentation expected with a perfection seldom achieved by human endeavourer, architecturally none of the halls can be declared to be free from flaw. The multiplicity of plastic detail, repeated innumerable times, obscures to a large extent the structural properties in respect of which, again, the fundamental rules of architectural composition seem to have been ignored. There is no doubt, a certain beauty, endless as it seems, levels the visitor with a sense of tiresome surfeit, and there are very few structural merits to compensate fro this defect.”

Another notable shrine of the 15th century is the Chaumukha temple of Ranakpur. It is situated in the highland of Mewar and is dedicated to Rishabnath. It was built by Maharana Kumbha’s favourite, Dharanaka in 1439 and was designed by the architect Dipaka. It is a four storied structure supported by numerous columns of forty feet height. The interior is inlaid with mosaics of cornelian and agate. In the words of Mr. Ferguson “It is the most complicated and extensive Jain temple, I have myself ever had an opportunity of inspecting. Indeed, I know of no other building in India of the same class that leaves so pleasing an impression or affords so many hints for the graceful arrangement of columns in an interior. In amount of labor and of sculptural decorations it far surpasses any.”

Singar Chanvari is another shrine which is graceful and richly carved at Chittor. It was built by Bhandari Velka or Vela, son of Maharana Kumbha’s treasurer in 1448-49 A.D. The temple is square in plan with four wings projecting from its four sides. The central part of the building is covered by a circular Jain dome built in horizontal layers richly ornamented. The exterior walls are beautifully sculptured in horizontal bands containing numerous figures and floral scrolls. It architecture is admirable and the building, although small, is one of the most attractive in Chitor.


Towers and Chatris

Kumbha’s Kirtisthambha of Chittor is an important monument of his genius. This celebrated Tower of Victory was erected to commemorate the victory, which Maharana Kumbha had obtained over Sultan Mahmud Khilji of Mandu in 1438 A.D. Describing it, Mr. Fergusson says “A pillar of victory like that of Trajan at Rome, but in infinitely better taste as an architectural object than the Roman example” James Tod has also appreciated the Tower by saying. “The only thing in India to compare with this is the Kutab Minar at Delhi, but though much higher, it is a of a very inferior character. This column is one hundred and twenty feet in height. It has nine distinct storeys with openings at every face of each storyes and all these doors have colonnaded porticoes.” In the words of Sarda, “It is one mass of sculpture of which a better idea cannot be conveyed than the remark of those who dwell about it, that it contains every object known to their mythology.”

Another beautiful specimen of the 17th century is the Nochauki of Rajnagar of Mewar. The Nochauki is a group of Chattries having the simple and most natural form. Of a rectangular framework composed of pillars, beams, brackets, wide projecting caves and design of triple cornice above. “Its entire appearance marks it artistically beautiful by means of the sculptured art over its body. No portion of the edifice is free from the treatment of fine carving. There the objects of superb art are the pillar, capitals of pillars, the architraves, the brackets and ceilings themselves, use of vase and foliage, the relief of bell, chain, elephant and nymph are the chief characteristic of the art applied at pillars. The shaft of pillars are divided into decorative zones and end in a bracket capital with inclined struts or braces each carrying an image, usually a female figure of a crocodile or elephant, or the design of folded leaf of plantain carved in high relief. One of the ceiling and studs of the middle part have been especially devoted to a dancing party. The intense energy of the movement of the bodies has been cleverly balanced by the upright pose of the head and the horizontal and angular extension of the arms. Flowing lies of garments and jeweled ornaments respond with subtle variations to the rhythmic movements of the dance.”

Another attractive feature of the Nochauki is the panels carved on three sides at the edge half the upper platforms which are the parts of the dam of Rajasamudra lake. “These panels represent a dynamic impulse of art which comes from a people’s effort at self realization. The art which comes from a people’s effort at self-realization. The art preserved in these panels is influenced by the model of life, religious thought and impressions derived by the artists from the environment of the age.


Mosques and Tombs

With the coming of the Arabs and Turks a new Indian style of architecture grew. In the earlier period the temples were modified to appear and assume the form of mosques. The task was not very difficult. The open courtyard, chambers, verandahs ad colonnades of temples were the features, which could be adjusted and adapted for converting temples to mosques. The addition of domes and minarets could easily transform temples into mosques for faithful. This is what the Muslim rulers did in their early phase of conquest and that also with a remarkable skill. The celebrated mosque at Ajmer known as Adhai-din-ka Jhompra represent one of the most instructive examples of such a case. Qutab-ud-din had built this mosque about 1200 A.D. Iltutmish subsequently beautified it with an arched façade in front of prayer chamber. Here the craftsmen achieved success in composition and created a prayer hall of solemn and impressive beauty. The formation of the exquisite Mihrab and circular bastions, add to the beauty of the entire design. The proportions between the façade and the prayer chamber is more pleasing: the engrailed arches represent a refreshing novelty: the decorative patterns are admirable of their kind and their work-man-ship is faultless. Yet, with all its merit the Ajmer screen lacked the delicate and subtle beauty of Qutb-ud-din’s screen at Delhi. Magnificent as it was, it is a perfect example mathematical precision and technical skill; but there are many features in it that sufficiently betray a certain limitation on the part of designer in respect of imagination as well as well as artistic vision; on no accounts, can it be regarded as an artistic triumph.”

To our period of study may also be assigned certain other structures, such as the Dargah of Ajmer, Atarkin-ka-Darwaza at Nagaur, and masjids and tombs at Jalor and Chitor. From the study of the architectural designs, compositions and pillars, it is clear that these “structures are, more or less, a re-assemblage of the spoils of the earlier buildings and material. In their finished states they reveal an exquisite sense of grouping and architectural composition.


Ghats and Dams

“Closely connected with the religious structures of the Hindus are the Ghats, or public bathing places, as ablutions form an essential part of the social system as well as of the Hindu religious ritual. Most representative of this type of building are the ghats and their structural accessories, some of which display considerable architectural character. On the ghats themselves an effect is obtained by kiosks and small shrines being interposed along or at the side of the fights of steps, but the more important appearance is provided by the facades of the palaces which form their background.” Of this type are the famous ghats of Pichola, Udaipur and Dungarpur. Others may be seen at Bundi, Jodhpur, Chittor etc. Of course every town in Rajasthan has tank in its vicinity with a ghat and shrines at the side.

With the ghats may be classed the bunds or dams of the artificial lakes which have been constructed by the rulers. Walls masonry work, fights of steps, embankment, baradiris, ornamental arches of white marble are the essential features of the entire scheme. Such are the Rajsamand to the north of Udaipur, Jaisamand to the south of Udaipur, Badi-ka-talab to the west of Udaipur, Udaisagar to the east of Udaipur and the Ana Sagar at Ajmer. Whatever may have been the purpose, utilitarian or pleasure; these structures no doubt, represent the style of the time and are the result of the artistic sensibility that pervaded all classes at the period of their construction



The description of the monuments may aptly be concluded with an account of the art of planning and construction of gardens, which was one of the greatest contribution of Rajastha’s art and architecture. From the description of flowers and trees of the garden of Ajmer preserved in the Taj-ul-Maasir, it seems that the Chauhans had a developed sense of gardening in the 11th and 12th centuries. The author of the work records, the garden of Ajmer are robed in seven colors. Flowers so adorn the gardens and that the plains as if a garden had been sent to the earth from Heaven itself. The fountains of sweet water in Ajmer compete with Kasar (the spring water of Paradise). The city and the suburbs are exceedingly beautiful, owing to general brightness and light, the beauty and plurality of its flowers, the purity of its air and earth, and abundance of water and trees; it is a place of inestimable enjoyment and luxury.

Mandan also refers to the gardens as a part of towns. He recommends various kinds of fruit-bearing trees and flower-baring plants and creepers as essentials for a good garden. He further recommends that a garden should also have raised seats (Vedika) pavilions (mandap), showers and tanks for water pranks. The art of garden-building, which Babur brought with him to India led to the adding of new characteristic to the waterfalls along the path, raised beds and terraces on sloping grounds, fountains, outer and inner walls, delightful flowers etc., formed the parts of royal gardens. The Amar-bag of Jaisalmer, Mandor garden of Jodhpur, Suhelion-li-bari of Udaipur and pleasure garden of Jagmandir, with their fountation, baths, flower-beds, artificial irrigation, pavilions etc. approximate to Mughal style.


Rajasthan Information: History - Culture - Heritage - Music - Dance - Art - Architecture - Society

Sources of the History and Culture of Rajasthan
(From earliest times up to 1200 A.D.)

Rajput - Muslims Relations
 (1200 – 1526 A.D.)

Architecture in Rajasthan (1200 – 1800 A.D.)

Kalibangan - the largest prehistoric site in Rajasthan

Excavations at Ahar (South Rajasthan)

Origin of the Rajputs

Origin of the Guhilas, their Rise and Bappa Rawal in Rajasthan

Moguls & Chauhans Resistance in Rajasthan

Rawal Ratan Singh of Rajasthan and his Resistance against the Turks

Maharana Kumbha (1433 – 1468) and his Political Achievements

Maharana Kumbha & his Cultural Achievements

Maharana Sanga & his Achievements (1508 – 1528 A.D.)

Rajasthani Paintings Schools

Merger of Rajput states in the Indian Union

Resistance of Mahararana Pratap of Mewar Against Akbar

Maratha - Rajputs Relations

Raja Man Singh of Amber

Rathore – Sisodia Alliance & Achievements of Raj Singh in Mewar

Role of Durga Dass Rathor in the history of Rajasthan

Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur , Mughals and Marathas

Rajasthan’s Cultural Heritage


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17 Days Vacations in Rajasthan

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19 Days Rajasthan - North India Tour

28 Days Heritage Tour of Rajasthan

31 Days Holidays in Rajasthan

31 Days Rajasthan Wildlife Tour

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