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  • 04 Jul 2019 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    The construction of various architectural forms in ancient and medieval India demonstrated the power, wealth and devotion of the patron. Comment. (250 words)



    • List the architectural forms in India that demonstrate power, wealth and devotion of the patron.
    • Explain how these architectural forms show the patron’s or ruler’s influence on them.
    • Conclude by giving a few examples of how in contemporary times the architectural forms reflect strength and ideals of the nation-state.


    From the pillars of Ashoka to Rajarajeshwara temple, the rulers from different times have used architectural forms to demonstrate their power, wealth and devotion. The architectural forms provided the rulers means to immortalise their beliefs and ideals, placing their reigns in the history of the land.


    Demonstration of Power

    • Architectural forms were built to mark the victory over rival rulers.
      • Eg gateway Buland Darwaza was built by Akbar to commemorate his victory over Gujarat.
      • When the Chola king Rajendra I built a Shiva temple in his capital he filled it with prized statues seized from defeated rulers.
    • These forms also marked the expanse of a King’s territory.
      • eg Ashokan pillars from eastern India to far north-west to southern parts of the country mark the expanse of his empire.
    • These architectural forms also demonstrated their claims to be protectors of the people they ruled, by generating employment for the artisans.
      • Eg- generations of artisans worked over several architectural forms like Ajanta and Ellora caves under various patrons.

    Demonstration of Wealth

    • The expenditure on the grand architectural forms reflected the wealth acquired by the rulers to imply the prosperity and financial stability of the King’s reign. Eg- Taj Mahal and other monuments built during this time showcased the wealth and grandeur of Shah Jahan reign.

    Demonstration of Devotion

    • As each new dynasty came to power, kings wanted to emphasise their moral right to be rulers. Constructing places of worship provided rulers with the chance to proclaim their close relationship with God, especially important in the different ages of rapid political change.
    • Rulers also offered patronage to the learned and pious, and tried to transform their capitals and cities into great cultural centres that brought fame to their rule and their realm.
      • Eg The dargah of Shaikh Salim Chishti (a direct descendant of Baba Farid) constructed in Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s capital, symbolised the bond between the Chishtis and the Mughal state
      • Various Chaityas and Viharas (eg-Barabar caves) were built in the Mauryan empire to highlight the rulers’ moral inclination.
    • The architectural forms helped the rulers in the propagation of their culture and beliefs.
      • Ashoka propagated his Dhamma to the public through his inscriptions at various places.


    The practice of expressing the wealth, power and devotion of the rulers has been transformed in contemporary times to express the ideals and identity of different groups. For eg- parks and monuments built by Dalit political leader Mayawati assert identity, power and devotion of the Dalits.

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