Culture is vital in individuals’ lives since it influences their views, values, and practices. Despite every community having its own culture, there are however some aspects of culture which might be imported by individuals and incorporated into their cultures. Such was the case in South East Asia where other communities imported Indian culture and values and incorporated them into their cultures. At the same time, while they were trading with their neighbours, the Indians also borrowed some cultural practices which were then fused and formed part of the Indian culture. Indianization, therefore, can be defined as the incorporation of Indian cultures, behaviors, and ways of life among other features into other cultures. Throughout the class readings, the transformation of some of the Indian culture due to these borrowed practices is termed as Indianization of an “imported original.” The statement, therefore, indicates that there are some practices that Indians might have incorporated into their culture that were not initially Indian; hence the term “imported.” The Indianization of “imported original” was exhibited in various aspects of the Indian people’s lives such as their medicine, education, architecture, dressing, and cuisines. On the aspect of architecture, Indianization was portrayed on how the Indian people planned and designed their structures, the building materials used in construction, as well as the use of sculptures and pictorials which were all borrowed from other communities and religions.
Architecture refers to the process and product of planning, designing, and construction of buildings and other structures. In ancient times, architectural ideas and works were conceived and implemented based on the cultural values, religious doctrines, and materials that existed at that time. Communities architectural works and designed were also often influenced by the climatic condition of the people and their level of civilization. In India, architecture progressed with time and was profoundly influenced by the Indian’s global discourse and interaction with other societies during the ancient trade. Initially, the Indians had a distinct way of building their structures which were symbolic, unique of their culture and religion, and often perceived as one of the best architectural designs across the globe. They mostly made their structures horizontally placing one brick on top of another gradually until they finished their intended construction. Likewise, every other cultural group had their way of building structures. For instance, the Arabic communities were known for their curvaceous building styles which aligned with their Islamic religion. The technique was evident in every structure that they constructed more so their mosques. The interaction between the Indians and the Islamic Arabs led to Indianization since the Islamic groups borrowed and adopted many of the practices from the Indians. Most significantly, the Indians also took the Islam way of construction. Most Indian architects and builders started modifying their previously horizontal building custom with the new curvaceous design that they had learned from Islam hence the saying, Indianization of an “imported original.”
Islamic culture consisted of deep spiritual and religious beliefs that impacted their every way of life including architecture. For them, octagon was more than just a mathematic component. They believed that a circle represented the perfection of heaven and, therefore, the octagon symbolized the stability of their earth’s manifestation. The belief influenced the Muslims’ architecture as was evident in the construction of the saints’ tombs which had three parts. The designed the lower part in either square or cubic forms while the upper portions were always dome-shaped. Finally, the octagons transitioned the upper and lower parts symbolizing the link between the earth (the lower part taking the square form) and heaven (the dome-shaped upper part). This type of construction was manifested in almost all Islamic buildings especially the mosques.
On the other hand, the Hindu also had strong religious beliefs which did not have a significant impact on their building style. The 16th Century Mahanavami platform, Vijayanagara, shows a whole squared construction from top to bottom and proves the Indian’s horizontal style of building. Additionally, unlike the Islamic culture which was uniform and had distinctive styles of architecture, every Hindu architect was at liberty to use their creativity while building their homes. The buildings differed in various forms as proved by the northern Nagara styles which mixed Vessara style and the southern Dravida styles in the photos. These styles came from the influence of the Islamic structures and the Indians’ attraction to them. Most of the architects and builders admired the unique designs more so the art of building both square and dome-shaped structures in the same building. Therefore, most of them adopted the style and was soon evident in the construction of temples all over India. Some of the temples that whose design and architectures incorporated the borrowed Islamic design ideas are the Mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Aurangabad, India, ca. 1678, the Gateway to Akbar’s tomb, Sikandra (near Agra), India, ca. 1610 as discussed in the lecture notes
Man Singh’s Palace fortress stands as the most significant evidence of how imported culture influenced Indian architecture. The building comprises of both Hindu and Islamic designs. Some parts of the building have the original horizontal style while others, especially the upper parts, have the Islamic dome-shaped forms. The interior structures also vary from indigenous Indian culture to Islamic religion aspects. The elephant stable in Vijayanagara shows how the Hindu architects incorporated Islamic culture in their buildings. The stable consists of massive dome-shaped rooms on top of a square-shaped base of the building. Additionally, the windows and doors have a curved frame which differs with the initial Indian designs which were often straight and square.
Pictorial drawings were used in traditional architecture to convey cultural ideas and values. Paintings was never a key architectural aspect of the original Indian construction culture and writings were only meant for secular objects. The Indians had known writing since the Asokan times because most public documents existed as stone or metal inscriptions. The idea of writing started after the monasteries at Nalanda sent Buddhist treatises. However, Jain merchants introduced the painting culture in India when they visited other societies for trade. These merchants taught the Indians how to paint using the kalpasutra and kalakacarya as their reference points. The Indians’ interests in painting kept growing thus leading to the formation of a library where others could view various architectural works with unique incorporation of pictorial drawings.
The sultanates later joined and brought other varieties of painting to India including the Arabic, Turkish, Persian texts. They placed them in the libraries and traded with the Indians for new ones. This culture of trade further improved the painting techniques for all the parties involved because they ameliorated their work with the new ideas that they collected from the new foreign materials that they received from the trade. For instance, the Indians learned the significance of using symbolic paint colors to represent various aspects of their culture. Golden tones signified royalty while blue signified the royals. Therefore, any paintings of monarchs or castles often appeared in gold and blue shades. However, despite all these advancements, the Indians still regarded paintings secular and thereby did not include them in their religious buildings.
The next groups to influence the Indians’ painting styles were the Muslims. The Persians had primarily taught the Indians to paint based on their day-to-day way of life. Therefore, most of the pictures depicted slaves working for their masters and other cultural practices. The Muslims brought techniques like the three-quarter faces drawing, the watermarks, and the sidelong glances. These combined with the first styles that the Indians had learned to create eye-catching texts and manuscripts. Within no time, the Indian painters had formed their painting identity. Their methods were also diverse because of their multiple ideas conceived by their masters. Those who had worked with the Persian merchants had the Persian style and so forth. After gaining prowess and starting their galleries and libraries, the Indian painters incorporated all these pieces of knowledge that they had learned from other communities, and revamped the standards of their paints.
The last transformation involved painting living things and sacred beings. As earlier stated, writing and art were regarded as secular in the Indian culture and therefore were primarily for public documentation. However, after witnessing the application of pictorial drawings on other animals and individuals, as was the norm of their neighboring communities, the Indians also borrowed and adopted the idea of painting living things. Their initial belief was that the act was blasphemous, but the Muslim painters managed to convince them otherwise. After that, the main struggle arose in the painting of sacred features like the image of Buddha. The Indians believed that drawing their gods would be both disrespectful and blasphemous. However, the foreign cultures influenced them to reconsider their practices since foreigners like the Muslims Arabs did not have to hold such religious beliefs. Most Indians were, however, more convinced of adopting the idea of painting objects and buildings after some Indians converted to Islam and embraced these new practices. The already turned Indian Muslims begun to convince the Indians that painting part of the body wasn’t harmful provided they did not reveal the face. This belief resulted in multiple paintings of what they believed to be Buddha’s legs and lower body. The Indians later yielded to pressure and started painting the entire pictures of their idols hence the saying Indianization of an “imported original.”
The most significant part of the “imported original” that the Indian painters learned from their neighbors was communication through paintings. The Indians graduated from painting beautiful sceneries and structures to painting the day-to-day life experiences. They used the color symbolism to distinguish royalties from commoners and also to depict and portray different settings and themes. Going through their libraries gives an individual a clear depiction of how distinctive slavery life was part of the Indian royal life. The paintings also provide an actual picture of how the monarchs, temples, mosques and other significant buildings looked like in the olden days. Cave paintings also exist to show that the culture was not only restricted to the big towns like Delphi but also spread throughout India. Today, Indian museums have significant paintings that represent the heritage and the history of the country and its citizens. An example of such paint in Indian temples is the Chamundeshwari Temple
Indian’s sculptural work grew significantly after the introduction of Buddhism from Asoka’s time. The paintings described above, especially those that depicted Buddha, were vital in spreading the Hindu religion throughout country. Many Indians became more interested in the religion thereby converting to the faith. Initially, the believers perceived Buddha as an immortal spirit and withheld their loyalty to him. However, they soon felt that they needed something that they could religiously relate with, something tangible. This need marked the start of sculptures in India which portrayed the image which most Indians perceived was that of Buddha. Most artists sculpted multiple forms of Buddha with different materials such as wood, gold, ivory, or clay soil and depending on their geographic location and wealth status of their masters. One of the Buddha symbol made from sculpture was the Bust of “Priest King”.
The newly gained prowess and unique techniques also manifested in the building and construction industry. Most builders employed the borrowed architectural ideas when design and building their houses and shopping malls, and Hindu temples. The inclusion of these ideas significantly changed the styles of building and construction in India because unlike initially where the buildings were constructed with flat and regular floors, the new buildings were integrated with sculptors curved stone baths and floors, architectural ideas imported from other communities. Some of the critical Indian buildings with such sculptures is the Red Fort. Delhi. Other creative Indians architects also combined their painting and sculptural skills to bring magnificent pieces of art. The artisans curved their portions and then painted them appropriately to depict the real image of the object they were symbolizing.
Throughout the Indian construction culture, there had never existed decorations on the walls or the buildings’ general appearance. As earlier stated, the buildings were both flat and horizontal. However, the situation changed with the migration of foreigners into the country with each group of foreigners carrying a distinct sculptural culture. Since the Indian architects were willing to learn and borrow the beautiful and unique ideas brought by these foreigners or traders, they did not mind using them to modify their building structures. The acceptance changed the shape and designs of most buildings in India. The architects started decorating building walls with sculptures and giving them an additional touch of relevant colors. For instance, monarchs and places always had golden statues around them.
Secondly, the architects started using pillars in their building styles. The most remarkable evidence of this is the five-storeyed Panch Mahal mansion. Only posts and sidewalls hold all the floors, and a dome-shaped structure rests on top of the uppermost level. The sculptural frieze in terracotta also symbolizes how the Indians adopted the sculptural culture. They used them not only as a decoration but also as a message to the people who visited the temples. Another significant influence that the sculptural had on the Indian architecture was evident with the construction of the Garuda shrine in Vijayanagara. The shrine’s appearance is in the form of a chariot design which manifests the exceptional creativity that defined the Indians’ sculptural sector. They used the “imported originals” to improvise and improve their day-to-day building cultures.
The interaction with non-native Indians influenced the architectural, graphics, and sculptural aspects of Indian architectural practices. The buildings changed from plain and horizontal buildings to the combination of both cubic and dome-shaped designs—a culture they primarily drew from the Islamic buildings. The presence of merchants from Turkish, Arabs, Persian origin coupled with the Islamic building ideas and values were crucial in influencing the design and pictorial drawings of buildings and structures in India thus proving the aspect of Indianization of imported ideas in the Indian’s architectural practices.
Avari, Burjor. Islamic civilization in South Asia: a history of Muslim power and presence in the Indian subcontinent. Routledge, 2012.
Bednar, Michael Boris. “Mongol, Muslim, Rajput: Mahimāsāhi in Persian Texts and the Sanskrit Hammīra-Mahākāvya.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 60, no. 5 (2017): 585-613.
Blair, Sheila S. “14 Surveying Persian Art in Light of A Survey of Persian Art.” In Arthur Upham Pope and A New Survey of Persian Art, pp. 371-395. BRILL, 2016.
Brown, Percy. Indian architecture (the Islamic period). Read Books Ltd, 2013.
Bust of “Priest King,” Mohenjodaro site, Pakistan, white steatite, H: 19CM.
Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore, India, ca. 2015.
Mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Aurangabad, India, ca. 1678.
Milligan, Matthew David. “Of rags and riches: Indian Buddhist patronage networks in the Early Historic Period.” PhD diss., 2016.
Mukti Jain Campion. How the world loved the swastika-until Hitler stole it. 23 October 2014http://www.bbc.com/new/magazine-29644591.
Sarwade, Walmik Kachru. “A Study of History of Buddhism and its Contribution to Indian Culture.” Journal of International Buddhist Studies (JIBS) 6, no. 1 (2015): 35-44.
The Gateway to Akbar’s tomb, Sikandra (near Agra), India, ca. 1610.
The Red Fort. Delhi: The Throne in the Hall of Public Audience.
 Brown, Percy. Indian architecture (the Islamic period). Read Books Ltd, 2013.
 Avari, Burjor. Islamic civilization in South Asia: a history of Muslim power and presence in the Indian subcontinent. Routledge, 2012.
 Mausoleum for Aurangzeb’s wife, Aurangabad, India, ca. 1678, the Gateway to Akbar’s tomb, Sikandra (near Agra), India, ca. 1610
 Blair, Sheila S. “14 Surveying Persian Art in Light of A Survey of Persian Art.” In Arthur Upham Pope and A New Survey of Persian Art, pp. 371-395. BRILL, 2016.
 Bednar, Michael Boris. “Mongol, Muslim, Rajput: Mahimāsāhi in Persian Texts and the Sanskrit Hammīra-Mahākāvya.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 60, no. 5 (2017): 585-613.
 Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore, India, ca. 2015.
 Sarwade, Walmik Kachru. “A Study of History of Buddhism and its Contribution to Indian Culture.” Journal of International Buddhist Studies (JIBS) 6, no. 1 (2015): 35-44.
 Bust of “Priest King,” Mohenjodaro site, Pakistan, white steatite, H: 19CM.
 The Red Fort. Delhi: The Throne in the Hall of Public Audience.
 Milligan, Matthew David. “Of rags and riches: Indian Buddhist patronage networks in the Early Historic Period.” PhD diss., 2016.