Chapter 4

Rulers and buildings

Between the eighth and the eighteenth centuries, kings and their officers built two kinds of structures. The first were forts, palaces, garden residences and tombs-safe, protected, and grandiose places of rest in this world and the next. The second were structures meant for public activity, including temples, mosques, tanks and wells, caravanserais and bazaars.

Kings were expected to care for their subjects,  and by making structure for their use and comfort, rulers hoped to win their praise.Construction activities were also carried out by others, including merchants. They built temples, mosques and wells.Domestic architecture- large mansions(havelis) of merchants has survived only from the 18th century.

Haveli’s in 18th century

Engineering Skills and Construction

Monuments provide an insight into the technology used for construction.Between the seventh and tenth centuries, architects started adding more room, doors and windows to buildings.Roofs, doors and windows were made by placing a horizontal beam across two vertical columns are style of architecture called ‘trabeate” or ‘corbelled’. Between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, the trabeate style was used in the construction of temples, mosques, tombs and in buildings attached to large stepped-wells(baolis).

Two technological and stylistic developments are noticeable from the twelfth century work.The weight of superstructure above the doors and windows was carried by arches. This archietectural form was called ‘arcuate architectural’, form and use of limestone mixed with stone chips that led to faster construction.

Temples and mosques were beautifully constructed because they were places of worship and meant to demonstrate the power, wealth and devotion of the patron.The largest temples were all constructed by kings. The other, lesser deites in the temples were gods and goddesses of the allies and subordinates of the ruler.Muslim Sultan's and Padshahs did not claim to be incarnations of God, but Persian court chronicle described the Sultan as the ‘Shadow of God.

As each new dynasty came to power, kings wanted to emphasise where moral right to be rulers.

Super structures

Super structures refers to that part of the building which is above the ground.

 Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar is 5 storeys high. Its surface is curved and angular. The band of inscriptions are under its first balcony.The first floor was constructed by Qutbuddin Aybak and the rest by Iltutmish around 1229. Over the years it was damaged by lightning and earthquakes and repaired by Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad Tughlaq, Firuz Shah Tughlaq and Ibrahim Lodi.

Kandariya Mahadev Temple

The Kandariya Mahadev temple dedicated to shiva was constructed in 999 by the kingDhangadeva of the Chandela dynasty.An ornamented gateway lead to an entrance, and the main hall(mahamandapa) were dances were performed.The image of chief deity was kept in the main shrine (garbhagriha).This was the place for ritual worship, where only the king, his immediate family and priests gathered. The Khajurho complex contained royal temples where commoners were not allowed to enter. Thetemples were decorated with elaborately carved sculptures.

 Rajarajeshvara Temple

The Rajarajeshvara temple of Thanjavur had the tallest shikhara among temples of its time. Constructing it was not easy because there were no cranes in those days, and the 90 tonne stone for the top of the Shikhara was too heavy to lift manually. So the architects built an inclined path to the top of the temple, placed the boulder on rollers and rolled it all the way to the top.The path started more than 4 km away so that it would not be too steep. This was dismantled after the temple was constructed.  A village near the temple now a days is calledCharupallam, the ‘Village of the incline.

Limestone cement was increasingly used in the construction. This was very high quality cement.Which, when mixed with the stone chips hardened into concrete. This made construction of large structures easier and faster.

Building temples, mosques and tanks

Temples and mosques was beautifully constructed because they were places of worship and meant to demonstrate the power, wealth and devotion of the patron. The largest temples were all constructed by kings. The other lesser deities in the temple were gods and goddesses of the allies and subordinates of the ruler. The temple was a miniature model of the world, ruled by the king and his allies. As they worshipped their deites together in the royal temples, it seemed as if they brought the just rule of the gods on earth.Muslim Sultan's and Padshah did not claim to be incarnations of god, but Persian courtchronicles described the Sultanas the ‘Shadow of God.As each new dynasty come to Power, constructing places of worship provides rulers with a chance to proclaim their close relationship with God,especially important in an age of rapid political change.


Making precious water available by constructing tanks and reservoirs was highly praised. Sultan Iltutmish won universal respect for constructing a large reservoir just outsideDelhi-i-kuhna.It was called the Hauz-i-Sultani or the King's Reservoir.Rulers often constructed tanks and reservoirs-big and small, for use by ordinary people. Sometimes these tanks and reservoirs were part of a temple, mosque, or a Gurudwara.

Why were temples destroyed?

Since Kings built temples to demonstrate their devotion to God and their power and wealth, they attacked and targeted these buildings when theyattached one another kingdoms. When the Chola king Rajendra-I built Shiva temple in his capital, he filled it with prizedstatues seized from defeated rulers.An incomplete list included a Sun-pedestal form the Chalukya, a Ganesha statue and several statues of Durga; a Nandi statue from Eastern Chalukyas; an image of Bhairava and Bhairavi from the Kalingas of Orissa; and a Kali statue from the Palace of Bengal.Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni attack the temples of defeated kings and looted their wealth and idols. By destroying temple specially the one at Somnath, he tried to win credit as a great hero of Islam. In the political culture of the Middle Ages most rulers displayed their political might and military success by attacking and looting the places of worship of defeated rulers.