Essential Architecture-  Search by style

Indo-Saracenic Architecture

Khalsa College, Amritsar Government Museum in Chennai (Madras) Victoria Memorial in Calcutta
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Victoria Terminus, now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus The Gateway of India
Mysore Palace Bombay GPO Victoria Memorial in Calcutta
Ripon Building part of the Chennai (Madras) Corporation in Chennai (Madras)    
New Delhi    
Edwardian Baroque with Indo-Saracenic details

The building adopts from Moghul and Rajputana style of architecture. Examples include the use of Jali - decorated stone screens, Chajja - screens slanting outside from a building to protect from scorching sun and monsoon rains of India. Another feature of the building is a dome-like structure known as the Chatri, a design unique to India, used in ancient times to give relief to travelers by providing shade from the hot Indian sun.
For this Lutyens invented his own new Order of classical architecture, which has become known as the "Delhi Order".
The Secretariat Building. Herbert Baker. The Rajpath, Edwin Lutyens. Built c. 1928 India Gate, Edwin Lutyens
The Rajpath, Edwin Lutyens Rashtrapati Bhawan (formerly Viceroy's House), Edwin Lutyens The Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, Delhi
In Pakistan    
Faisalabad Clock Tower Lahore Government College University University of the Punjab
Lahore Museum    
In the United Kingdom    
Royal Pavilion in Brighton Elephant Tea Rooms in Sunderland  

The establishment of Islamic power at the end of 12th century in Northern India brought two contrasting cultures face to face and gave birth to what we call today as the Indo-Saracenic Art or Indian Islamic Art. It drew its inspiration from Syria, Egypt, Northern Africa and Sassanian Persia and its architecture acquired a fundamental character of its own distinguished by standardized forms and concepts.

Fusion with European Architecture

Many European architects who arrived in India took the elements of the Indo-Saracenic architecture and applied to the Gothic and Victorian architecture popular at that time and many buildings built during the 19th century illustrate this school of architecture. The Palace in the city of Mysore is a fine example of this style.

Maharaja's Palace, Mysore

Bombay High Court.
Thanks to

Indo-Saracenic (from Saracen, an archaic name for Muslims used by the British), also known as Indo-Gothic, was a style of architecture used by British architects in the late 19th century in India. It drew elements from native Indian architecture, and combined it with the Gothic revival style favoured in Victorian Britain.


When the British first came to India, they considered themselves the legitimate rulers of India rather than its conquerors, so they sought to justify their presence by relating themselves to the previous rulers, the Mughals. By doing this they kept elements of British and European architecture, while adding Indian characteristics; this, coupled with the British allowing some regional Indian princes to stay in power, made their presence more 'palatable' for the Indians. The British tried to encapsulate India's past within their own buildings and so represent Britain’s Raj as legitimately Indian, while at the same time constructing a modern India of railways, colleges, and law courts.


As mentioned before, it is fundamentally British with Indian characteristics including
onion (bulbous) domes
overhanging eaves
pointed arches, cusped arches, or scalloped arches
vaulted roofs
domed kiosks
many miniature domes
domed chhatris
towers or minarets
harem windows
open pavilions or pavilions with Bangala roofs
pierced open arcading

The chief proponents of this style of architecture were Robert Fellowes Chisholm, Charles Mant, Henry Irwin, William Emerson, George Wittet and Frederick Stevens.

Buildings built in this style were usually grand public buildings such as clock towers, courthouses, civic and municipal buildings, government colleges, town halls, railway stations, museums and art galleries.
Indo-saracenic architecture represents a synthesis of Muslim designs and Indian materials developed by British architects in India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The hybrid combined diverse architectural elements of Hindu and Mughal with Gothic cusped arches, domes, spires, tracery, minarets and stained glass, in a wonderful, almost playful manner.

Robert Fellowes Chisholm(1840 - 1915), Henry Irwin and Gilbert Scott were among the leading practitioners of the time.

Chisholm, one of the most gifted English architects working in India and a vehement supporter of Indian craftsmen, "the men who will actually leave the impress of their hands on the material. These men have an art language of their own, a language which you can recognise but cannot thoroughly understand. For this reason an architect practising in India should unhesitatingly select to practice in the native styles of art - indeed the natural art-expression of the men is the only art to be obtained in the country." Chisholm was the Principal of the School of Industrial Art at Madras, and won the commision for designing the Presidency College and the University Senate House.

Indo-saracenic architecture found its way into public buildings of all sorts such as railway stations, banks and insurance buildings, educational institutions, clubs and museums . Chepauk Palace in Chennai designed by Paul Benfield is said to be the first Indo-Saracenic building in India, referred to as licentious "eclectic" incorporating elements and motifs of Hindu and Islamic precedents. Outstanding examples are spread across the country - Muir college at Allahabad, Napier Museum at Thiruvananthapuram, the Post Office, Prince of Wales Museum, University Hall and Library, Gateway of India in Mumbai, M.S. University, Lakshmi Vilas Palace at Baroda, the Central Railway Station, Law courts, Victoria Public Hall, Museum and University Senate House in Chennai, the Palaces at Mysore and Bangalore.

Influences of the Indo-Saracenic wave can also be seen in Lutyens' design for the viceroy's residence (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) in New Delhi where also a combination of Mogul and European styles was employed - even if somewhat more restrained than many of the examples mentioned above.