Indo-Islamic architecture and eurocentric scholarship

Mar 2019
while main stream european/western view clearly defines that domes and arches especially pointed arches were distinct Islamic architectural elements which were introduced to Indian subcontinent and that the indo islamic architecture was largely a west asian/central asian architecture which was brought over from west/central asia after the islamic invasion, the notion seem a little hard to believe given the ampey evidences of the arches/pointed arches and domes starting from the sanchi reliefs and presumably the antiquity of pointed arches in india spanning further back in time and more ancient then the islamic architecture.

i have tried to find these particular characteristics in well preserved sassanid architecture, but to no avail, so if islamic architecture is purported to have been influenced from pre islamic sassanids of persia and their architecture, then these characteristics should be very prominent in their architecture, but it doesnt seem to be the case. most of the arches sassanids apply are semi circular and not pointed arches.

The pointed arches are clearly seen in sites like takht e bahi, hindu brick temples from the eighth to tenth century, mahabodhi temple arches are just not even a brainer with a clear seventh century example of a well defined pointed arch and even supporting arches which later appear and dominate the brick architecture of south east asia perticularly burma etc.

There is a prominent role of chartaq/four fold architecture from central asia and especially in their tombs for instance samanid tombs, pakistani tombs from multan, even taj mahal, but it is thought that influence is from persia and not india, but persians have been known to borrow chartaq configuration allegedly from the romans, but my research doesnt show that the ground plans sassanids applied for their chartaq plans were inspired by the romans, so it probably maybe from india.

The brick architecture of India is very lacking, there are very few examples of Indian architecture surviving from pre islamic era, but those architecture actively demostrate the use of pointed arches even in their few remains.

A lot of generalisation is made on the indian architecture based on hindu stone temples, but my argument is, hindu stone architecture was undamentally different from indian brick architecture. One prominent example of surviving brick architecture from pre islamic indian subcontinent are the polonnurawa temples from srilanka and very few brick chola temples and few buddhist tempels from the fourth century AD, all these examples actively demonstrate the pointed arches and something which can be related to indo islamic architecture. There is also an issue of the domes.

i think that Indian architecture needs reassessment, i think it involves too much eurocentric bias and western pre disposed assumption that buddhist/ indian architecture had no role to play even after its dominant cultural influence especially in wet asia and buddhist architecture/ indian architecture didn't influence the Islamic architecture. This kind of debate is very similar to ''hellenistic debate'' of the greater indian architecture of central asia and north western india, where the indian architecture is completely dismissed as greco buddhist even though there are no parallels of such an architecture in the greek world itself.

I have also read that after the islamic conquest of Sindh and parts of punjab, architectural concepts went from north west india to west asia, especially during the period of the abbasids, the architecture of the ummayads and the abbasids shows remarkable difference, since the ummayad one seems more like sassanid architecture with lots of semicircular architecture, while the abbasid architecture shows pointed arches more frequently, i think that this area should be well researched especially by the indian historians and archaeologists.

So may basic question is, if indian architecture lacked arches/pointed arches then why do they appear in burmese architecture and south east asian brick architecture? there are many other architectural elments too which i want to discuss as well which have been ''by default'' declared islamic and west asian influence.

pointed arches in india

mahabodhi temple



in the picture you can clearly see four pointed arches, the outer arch/pavillion likely collapsed which exposed the supporting relieving pointed arches


Photograph of a ruined vishnu temple at Deo Baranark, Bihar, taken by Henry Baily Wade Garrick in 1881-82 has visible pointed arch built in the eighth century


archive photo of Trivikram Temple (appropriated Buddhist chaitya)



an unknown buddhist temple from pre islamic era possibly from eighth to tenth century AD


Observation of R.L. Mitra regarding presence of voussoir arch in Both Gaya Temple(read last lines carefully) See the section of temple at Konch in 3rd pic Excavations at Nalanda also revealed ancient vaulted brick chamber with section similar to that of Barabar caves(brick arch).


bhitargaon temple, notice the pointed arches front before it was demolished during restoration process.

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