When cultures collide, cracks begin to appear, through which flows something newly born, an assimilation of the old seeping into the ground, manifesting itself in the words spoken, in the music made, in the books written and in all things built. Shaped through the hands of several dynasties, Indo-Islamic architecture is a result of centuries of cultural assimilation. Largely built under the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal dynasty, these structures reflect Central Asian influences, mostly comprising tombs, mosques, and forts. Indo-Islamic architecture is usually characterised by domes, minarets, and arches on stunningly larger than life structures. These architectural remnants are not just symbols of an architectural magnificence but also reminders of a glorious culture from the past.
The journey begins at the capital city of Delhi, where the influence of Islamic architecture took roots and proceeds to the city of Agra, the famed town resplendent with monuments from the Mughal era and leads to the city of Lucknow, where this confluence of styles culminated into a fresh school of architecture.
The olden seat of power, Delhi has seen the rise and fall of rulers and dynasties, growing with every event. Like the wrinkles of an old person, the narrow lanes of Delhi bear witness to the many influences that have shaped the city over centuries. Walk through the crowded alleys and be transported back to the Mughal era by the monuments and ruins that lay scattered amongst the modern.
From the capital, the journey takes you into the Royal city of Jaipur. The geometrical composition in Islam, combined with Indian traditional thought gave birth to this spectacular city. It houses the famous Amber Fort which is known to be one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture.
As we travel further inwards, on the banks of river Yamuna lies Agra, a guardian land of Mughal heritage. Known widely for the magnificent Taj Mahal, Agra also holds within it the forgotten city of Fatehpur Sikri and monuments that are masterpieces of Indo-Islamic architecture.
The journey comes to an end in the marvel of a city known as Lucknow. Born out of the experimentation of Awadhi nawabs with different materials and styles is the Awadhi architectural style that decorates the city of Lucknow. Walk across the city filled with markets lively with native craft traditions and cuisine to come across ornate imambaras, durwazas, and other structures that are exemplars of Awadhi heritage.
Situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, Agra is an ornate chest containing the riches and heritage of Mughal era. Known widely for its cherished monument, the city often is cascaded by the magnificence of Taj Mahal. A UNESCO heritage site, Agra is home to sandstone forts and mausoleums, pleasant gardens that stand as relics of a glorious past. Busy cacophonous marketplaces surround these remnants, filling them with life.
Delhi is an enchanting medley of influences, one foot deeply grounded in time-revered traditions, whilst the other steps forth confidently into the future. The country's capital is a labyrinth of old structures speckling the suburbs juxtaposed with concrete blocks and crowded avenues. It is one of India's multifaceted cities, embracing diversity, while simultaneously offering the traveller historic masterpieces and a taste of contemporary India.
The gateway to India’s most flamboyant state, Jaipur is peppered with regal palaces, pink sandstone structures, and imposing forts. There is a sense of opulence and opportunity surrounding the city, which has enough palatial hotels, restaurants, and bazaars to satisfy both the locals and tourists. Home to a long tradition of handicrafts, Jaipur is the perfect centre to explore the crafts of Rajasthan, starting with the iconic indigo dyes and block prints.
The city of Nawabs, Lucknow is the sister of Delhi in terms of its abundant Islamic heritage with its delectable cuisine and meticulous embroidery traditions. An important centre of learning and culture in the days of old, Lucknow continues to be steeped in its rich and refined traditions, offering to its inhabitants and visitors some of the best experiences in art, cuisine, and ethos.
To get some idea of what trading in Agra would have been like in the middle ages, a stroll in Kinari Bazar is the perfect activity. Located in the narrow streets behind Jama Masjid, these days multitudes of colorful little shops spill over, shoppers bargain and vehicles dodge one another. This is the place where some of the finest jewelry in Agra, as well as fabric, clothing, shoes, authentic snack stalls, and Agra’s famous marble work can be found.
The Royal cenotaphs, just outside the city walls, beneath Nahargarh, are an appropriately restful place to visit. The monuments which are intricately carved feel remarkably undiscovered for today. The city's founder, Jai Singh II, has the most impressive marble cenotaph with a dome supported by 20 carved pillars.
Pay homage at the tomb of Waris Ali Shah, a Sufi saint of the early 19th century, in the shrine in his honour and popularly known as the Dewa Sharif. Built in a blend of Hindu and Iranian architecture to depict communal harmony, the shrine's serene setting in the day transforms to a seat of devotional Sufi music in the evening.
For a respite from the bustle of the city's concrete jungles, Lodi Gardens is the perfect destination. Speckled by the crumbling tombs of the Sayyid and Lodi rulers and inhabited by many butterflies and the occasional peacock, it provides a haven of serenity. On weekdays, you will find many an office goer taking a breather, or students playing truant, in the shade of the trees.