earliest remains of Indian architecture are to be found in Harappa,
Mohenjodaro, Ropar, Kalibangan, Lothal and Rangpur, belonging to
a civilization known as the Indus valley culture or the Harappan
culture. About 5000 years ago, in the third millennium B.C. a lot
of building activity went on in these areas. Town planning was
excellent. Burnt brick was widely used, roads were wide and at
right angles to one another, city drains were laid out with great
skill and forethought, the corbelled arch and baths were constructed
with knowledge and skill. But with the fragmentary remains of the
buildings constructed by these people it is not yet possible to
know enough about the architectural skill and tastes of the people.
However, one thing is clear, the extant buildings do not give us
any clue as to aesthetic considerations and there is a certain
dull plainness about the architecture which may be due to their
fragmentary and ruined condition. There does not appear to be any
connection between the cities built in the 3rd millennium B.C.,
with an astonishing civic sense, of first rate well-fired brick
structures, and the architecture of subsequent thousand years or
so, of Indian art history, after the decline and decay of the Harappan
civilization and the beginning of the historic period of Indian
history, mainly the time of the great Mauryas of Magadha. These
thousands years or so were a period of tremendous, intellectual
and sociological activity and could not be barren of any artistic
creations. However, due to the fact that during this time sculpture
and architecture was utilising organic and perishable materials
such as mud, mudbrick, bamboo, timber, leaves, straw and thatch,
these have not survived the ravages of time.
General view of House, Lothal Gujarat
important remains of the oldest times are fortifications of the old
Rajagriha town, in Bihar and the fortified capital of Sisupalgarh,
perhaps the ancient Kalinganagar, near Bhubaneswar. The Rajagriha fortification
wall is made in the roughest possible manner, unhewn stones being piled
one on top of the other. This belongs to the 6th-5th century, B.C.
However at Sisupalgarh in the 2nd-1st century B.C. stone masons were
at work using large blocks of stones to make a very well-made fort
entrance that could be closed with huge doors turning on hinges.
know it for a fact that stone masonry and stone carving were imported
in Ashoka's times from Persia. There is abundant evidence of stone
masons marks similar to those at Persepolis. However, wood was still
the dominant material and in architectural remains of Ashokan times,
the gradual transition from wood to stone is apparent. At Pataliputra,
remains have been found of a great timber wall that once surrounded
the imperial capital, a fact clearly mentioned by Megasthanes who states
that everything in his day was built of timber in India.
there is one important exception to this and that is the rock-cut architecture
of India. We are including a study of cave architecture for the simple
reason that the early Indian cave temples and monasteries are masterpieces
of "organising space" with beauty and utility in view.
typical example of early cave architecture is the most datable cave
of all, the so-called Lomas Rishi cave in the Barabar Hills of Bihar.
An inscription proves that this was excavated for the Ajivika sect
in the time of Ashoka himself. The cave carved out of the living
rock, measures 55'x22'x20'. The entrance is a representation in stone
of a hut entrance, with the end of the roof constructed of bent timber
supported by cross beams, the ends of which are shown protruding.
A carved frieze of elephants is a stone imitation of similar work
in wood along with a stone imitation of trellis work made of small
stick of bamboo. This is an excellent example showing the development
from earlier shapes in timber translated into stone. The period is
the 3rd century B.C.
Lomas Rishi cave, Bihar
the aegis of Ministry
Government of India
15-A, Sector - 7, Pappankalan, Dwarka,
New Delhi - 110075
Centre for Cultural Resources and Training