Unravelling The Incredible India

This article was written for CEA Fest 2011 Newsletter ‘Contour’.

Some of the finest monuments of India can really give us an insight into the civil expertise of workmen and craftsmen of yesteryear. India has an extremely rich craft tradition, distinguished by great aesthetics and multifarious art history. Intricate designs, patterns, painfully crafted monuments, temples and sculptures, all are magnificent masterpieces of craftsmanship. All Indian crafts and patterns were mostly depictions of everyday living, socio political conditions and palace and court scenes.

Ajanta and Ellora Caves, located in the City of Gates Aurangabad are some of the earliest monuments which exhibit the architectural and structural expertise of Indian artists. 31 rock cut cave monuments, chiseled out from a single rock mountain without any kind of machinery and turned into huge prayer halls, are the surviving manifestations of the ancient sculptors’ perseverance and commitment. Interestingly, it was a Britisher who accidentally discovered the entrance to one of the cave temples while hunting for tiger. Soon, Ajanta Caves became renowned for their exotic setting, impressive architecture featuring colossal figurines of Buddha, historic artwork depicting Jataka Tales, and a long-forgotten history.

Mount Abu, Rajasthan only hill station, is the home to one of the most beautiful Jain pilgrimage sites in the world. The Jain Dilwara Temples are testimonies to the fact that world class expertise and creativity of Indian craftsmen knew no boundary. Although the Jains built some of the most beautiful temples in the other parts of India, none come close to these in terms of architectural perfection. Stunning use of marble and the simplicity the simplicity in architecture truly reflect Jain values like honesty and frugality. Intricate and exquisite cravings upon archways, pillars, ceilings and panels showcase the ornamental detailing and perfection of the creators.

One of the largest forts in the world, the Jaisalmer fort can be seen like a rising mountain as soon as you enter the Golden City of Jaisalmer. The fort, built on hillock called Trikuta Hill, is like a huge crown as it can be practically spotted from any part of the city. During medieval times, it housed the royal families as well as the families of the royal attendants. 3 layers of yellow sandstone walls were built to protect the residents from enemies. The roofs were made up of wood to keep the rooms cool. Every kind of civic facility like wells, shops, schools, temples etc was made available to ensure standard quality of living. Thus, even after 900 years, more than 40,000 descendants reside in that fort without AC or coolers in the harsh climatic conditions of Rajasthan. A millennium old structure along with a millennium old basic facilities sustaining about one fourth of an Indian city’s population is no mean feat. And it only goes on to show that how proficient and resourceful were our architectural ancestors.

Likewise, the Somnath Temple in Gujarat, the Sun Temple in Konark, Golconda Fort in Hyderabad and many such structural wonders which adorn our motherland makes me feel privileged and blessed as an Indian.

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