The Info List - Indo-Saracenic

Indo-Saracenic Revival (also known as Indo-Gothic, Mughal-Gothic, Neo-Mughal, Hindoo style) was an architectural style mostly used by British architects in India in the later 19th century, especially in public and government buildings in the British Raj, and the palaces of rulers of the princely states. It drew stylistic and decorative elements from native Indo-Islamic architecture, especially Mughal architecture, which the British regarded as the classic Indian style, and, less often, Hindu temple architecture. The basic layout and structure of the buildings tended to be close to that used in contemporary buildings in other styles, such as Gothic revival and Neo-Classical, with specific Indian features and decoration added. Saracen
was a term used in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
in Europe for the Arabic-speaking Muslim people of the Middle East
Middle East
and North Africa. The style drew from western depictions of Indian buildings from about 1795, such as those by William Hodges
William Hodges
and the Daniell duo (William Daniell and his uncle Thomas Daniell). The first Indo-Saracenic building is said to be the Chepauk Palace, completed in 1768, in present-day Chennai
(Madras). Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata, as the main centres of the Raj administration, possess many buildings in the style, although Kolkata
was also a bastion of European Neo-classical style. Most major buildings are now classified under the Heritage buildings category as laid down by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and protected. The wider European version, also popular in the Americas, is Moorish Revival architecture, which tends to use specific South Asian features less, and instead those characteristic of the Arabic-speaking countries, especially Islamic Spain. But architects often mixed Islamic and European elements from various areas and periods with boldness.


1 Characteristics 2 In British Malaya 3 Indian context 4 Mughal style

4.1 Decline and revival

5 Examples

5.1 Bangladesh 5.2 India 5.3 Pakistan 5.4 United Kingdom 5.5 Malaysia 5.6 Sri Lanka 5.7 France

6 References


Features of the confluence of Indian and Persian styles.

Mughal design terms: The Indo-Persian style flourished in the Mughal period, and culminated in the Taj Mahal.

Mughal style soon became individualistic, as the 'Akbari' architecture was further developed into the 'Shahjahani' style in which the parent styles became less visible.

Design vocabulary and changing trends of the Indo-Persian style.

Indo-Saracenic designs were introduced by the British colonial government, incorporating the aesthetic sensibilities of continental Europeans and Americans, whose architects came to astutely incorporate telling indigenous "Asian Exoticism" elements, whilst implementing their own engineering innovations supporting such elaborate construction, both in India and abroad, evidence for which can be found to this day in public, private and government owned buildings. Public and Government buildings were often rendered on an intentionally grand scale, reflecting and promoting a notion of an unassailable and invincible British Empire. Again, structures of this design sort, particularly those built in India and England, were built in conformance to advanced British structural engineering standards of the 1800s, which came to include infrastructures composed of iron, steel and poured concrete (the innovation of reinforced cement and pre-cast cement elements, set with iron and/or steel rods, developed much later); the same can be said for like structures built elsewhere, making use of the same design vocabulary, by local architects, that would come to be constructed in continental Europe and the Americas: Indo-Saracenic’s popularity flourished for a span of some 30-years. Notable, too, is that the British, in fact Europeans generally, had long nurtured a taste for the aesthetic exuberance of such “Asian exoticism” design, as displayed in innovative Indo-Saracenic style and also in their taste for Chinoiserie
and Japanned. Supported by the imagination of skilled artisans of various disciplines, exoticism promulgated itself across a broad demographic of British, European and Americas’ citizenry, Adaptation of such design innovations spilled over into and determined the aesthetic direction of major architectural projects, expressing themselves in the Baroque, Regency and design periods beyond. Today, that spread of elaborate Asian exoticism design fulfillment remains evidenced in many residential and governmental edifices wrought of the masterpiece initiatives of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; much had initially been contributed by the stupendously rich and indulgent sea-merchant Venetian Empire, whose existence spanned nearly a millennium, and whose Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture
came to incorporate a plethora of Asian exoticism elements, such as the Moorish Arch
in its windows, related to the latter "harem window" Generally, the insatiable craze for Asian exoticism relished those earlier periods, testamentary in their parallel Chinoiserie expression, likewise, ushered in this latter colonial British fascination with the luxuriant exoticism found in the indigenous Indian design milieu, whose characteristics includes the following vocabulary list of design elements and motifs (often paralleling and expanding upon the already ornateness of the earlier Venetian’s unique Gothic-Moorish, also known as Venetian Gothic architecture ad-mixture):

onion (bulbous) domes Chhajja, overhanging eaves, often supported by conspicuous brackets pointed arches, cusped arches, or scalloped arches horseshoe arches, in fact characteristic of Islamic Spain
Islamic Spain
or North Africa, but often used contrasting colours of voussoirs round an arch, especially red and white; another feature more typical of North Africa
North Africa
and Spain curved roofs in Bengali styles such as char-chala domed chhatri kiosks on the roofline pinnacles towers or minarets harem windows open pavilions or pavilions with Bangala roofs jalis or openwork screens Mashrabiya
or jharokha-style screened windows

Chief proponents of this style of architecture were these: Robert Fellowes Chisholm, Charles Mant, Henry Irwin, William Emerson, George Wittet and Frederick Stevens, along with numerous other skilled professionals and artisans throughout Europe and the Americas.

The British-era Islamia College
was built in an Indo-Saracenic Revival architectural style in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The Rambagh Palace
Rambagh Palace
in Jaipur, for an Indian princely ruler. Early 20th-century.

Structures built in Indo-Saracenic style in India and in certain nearby countries were predominantly grand public edifices, such as clock towers and courthouses. Likewise, civic as well as municipal and governmental colleges along with town halls counted this style among its top-ranked and most-prized structures to this day; ironically, in Britain itself, for example, King George IV's Royal Pavilion
at Brighton, (which twice in its lifetime has been threatened with being torn-down, denigrated by some as a “carnival sideshow”, and dismissed by others as “an architectural folly of inferior design”, no less) and elsewhere, these rare and often diminutive (though sometimes, as mentioned, of grand-scale), residential structures that exhibit this colonial style are highly valuable and prized by the communities in which they exist as being somehow "magical" in appearance. Typically, in India, villages, towns and cities of some means would lavish significant sums on construction of such "indigenous ethnic architecture" when plans were drawn up for construction of the local railway stations, museums and art galleries. The cost involved in the construction of buildings of this style was high, including all their inherent customization, ornament and minutia decoration, the artisans' ingenuous skills (stone and wood carving, as well as the exquisite lapidary/inlaid work) and usual accessibility to requisite raw materials, hence the style was executed only on buildings of a grand scale. However the occasional residential structure of this sort, (its being built in part or whole with Indo-Saracenic design elements/motifs) did appear quite often, and such buildings have grown ever more valuable and highly prized by local and foreign populations for their exuberant beauty today. Either evidenced in a property’s primary unit or any of its outbuildings, such estate-caliber residential properties lucky enough to boost the presence of an Indo-Saracenic structure, are still to be seen, generally, where in instances urban sprawl has not yet overcome them; often they are to be found in exclusive neighborhoods' (or surrounded, as cherished survivors, by enormous sky-scarpers, in more recently claimed urbanized areas throughout this “techno” driven, socio-economic revolutionary era marking India’s recent decade’s history), and are often locally referred to as "mini-palaces". Usually, their form-factors are these: townhouse, wings and/or porticoes. Additionally, more often seen are the diminutive renditions of the Indo-Saracenic style, built originally for lesser budgets, finding their nonetheless romantic expression in the occasional and serenely beautiful garden pavilion outbuildings, throughout the world, especially, in India and England. In British Malaya[edit]

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Railway Station, by Arthur Benison Hubback, 1910

Despite having relatively little relationship to the traditional local style, Indo-Saracenic was exported to British Malaya
British Malaya
(present day Peninsular Malaysia) by British engineers and architects influenced by Indo-Saracenic stylings in British India. During the design of government offices for the Selangor
state government in Kuala Lumpur in the late 19th century, C. E. Spooner, then State Engineer of the Public Works Department, favoured a "Mahometan style" over a neoclassical one to reflect Islamic mores in the region, instructing architect A.C. Norman, with further assistance by R. A. J. Bidwell, to redesign the building.[1] Having previously served in northern India, Norman and Bidwell incorporated various elements of Indo-Saracenic architecture into the building. Upon completion in 1897, the government offices (now known as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building), which would later house the administration of the Federated Malay States and the various post-independence governmental departments, became the one of the earliest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture in Malaya.[1] The building's construction inspired additional civic buildings in the vicinity to be built in a similar style, while a handful of commercial buildings in Malaya have also been known to adopt some of the style's elements. Arthur Benison Hubback
Arthur Benison Hubback
became the leading architect in the style for the early 20th century. The style was also favoured as one of several adopted by British architects for Malayan mosques as they did not feel the need to adhere accurately to the cultural heritage and the traditional culture of the Malays, who remain prominent in Malayan society and are Muslims but lacked the means to design buildings of grand scales; both the Jamek Mosque and Ubudiah Mosque
Ubudiah Mosque
by Arthur Benison Hubback
Arthur Benison Hubback
are examples of mosques that resulted from this combination.[2] While its popularity was limited to the 1890s to the 1910s, the style has inspired designs for newer governments buildings from the late-20th century and 21st century, such as Perdana Putra
Perdana Putra
and the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya. Indian context[edit] Main articles: Indo-Islamic architecture
Indo-Islamic architecture
and British architecture Confluence of different architectural styles had been attempted before during the mainly Turkic, Delhi Sultanate
Delhi Sultanate
and Mughal periods. Turkic and Mughal conquest in the Indian subcontinent, introduced new concepts in the already rich architecture of India. The prevailing style of architecture was trabeate, employing pillars, beams and lintels. The Turkic invaders brought in the arcuate style of construction, with its arches and beams, which flourished under Mughal and Taluqdar
patronage and by incorporating elements of Indian architecture, especially Rajasthani temple architecture Local influences also lead to different 'orders' of the Indo-Islamic style. After the disintegration of the Turkic Delhi Sultanate, rulers of individual states established their own rule and hence their own architectural styles, which was heavily influenced by local styles. Examples of these are the 'Bengal' and the 'Gujarat' schools. Motifs such as chhajja (A sunshade or eave laid on cantilever brackets fixed into and projecting from the walls), corbel brackets with richly carved pendentive decorations (described as stalactite pedentives), balconies, kiosks or chhatris and minars (tall towers) were characteristic of the Mughal architecture
Mughal architecture
style, which was to become a lasting legacy of the nearly four hundred years of the Mughal rule. Mughal style[edit] Main articles: Mughal architecture
Mughal architecture
and Akbari Architecture

Mughal interiors Racinet, c. 1876

The Mughal style was conceived by Akbar the Great, the third Mughal emperor and also the architect of the Mughal empire. This "Akbari" Style was an amalgam of earlier Timurid, Persian and indigenous Indian styles. This style was further consolidated by his grandson and fellow architecture enthusiast, Shah Jahan. Some of the significant architectural legacies of the Mughals are Humayun's Tomb, the Taj Mahal, the Forts of Agra and Lahore, the city of Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar's Tomb. Decline and revival[edit] Shah Jahan was succeeded by his puritanical son, Aurangzeb, who had no soft spot for art and architecture. As a result, Mughal architecture suffered, with all artisans migrating to work under the patronage of local rulers. With no major architectural projects undertaken, the Mughal style rapidly declined. This decline was evident in buildings such as Bibi Ka Maqbara, built by Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb. However, local rulers embraced the style, as they had emulated it during the respective reigns of Jahangir
and Shah Jahan.[3] The last architectural marvel produced during this waning period of Mughal rule was Safdarjung's Tomb, mausoleum to the second Nawab of Awadh. By the early 19th century, the British had made themselves the virtual masters of the Indian Subcontinent. In 1803, their control was further strengthened with the defeat of the Marathas
under Daulatrao Scindia. They legitimized their rule by taking the then weak Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II
Shah Alam II
under their protection, and ruling through him. However, their power was yet again challenged when in 1857, the Indian soldiers in their employ, together with rebellious princes lashed out in open revolt, which came to be known as the Revolt of 1857. However, this uprising was doomed from the start, and was crushed by the British with ferocity, marking the end of the Mughal Empire.[4] At first, the new British regime lacked respect for Mughal buildings, demolishing a significant number of buildings in the Red Fort, latterly the main imperial Mughal residence, to build barracks. There was even a proposal to demolish the Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal
and sell the materials. Over the following decades, attitudes changed and the British established the Archaeological Survey of India
Archaeological Survey of India
in 1861 and restored several important monuments. To usher in a new era, the British "Raj", a new architectural tradition was sought, marrying the existing styles of India with imported styles from the West, such as Gothic (with its sub styles of French Gothic, Venetian-Moorish etc.), Neoclassical and, later, new styles such as Art Deco. 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 South Asia's past within their own buildings and so represent Britain's Raj as legitimate, while at the same time constructing a modern network of railways, colleges, and law courts. The main building of Mayo College, completed in 1885, is in the Indo-saracenic style, the architect being Maj Mant. Examples in Chennai
include the Victoria Public Hall, Madras High Court, Senate House of the University of Madras, and Chennai
Central station. The building of New Dehli
New Dehli
as the new imperial capital, which mostly took place between 1918 and 1931, led by Sir Edwin Lutyens, brought the last flowering of the style, using a deeper understanding of Indian architecture. The Rashtrapati Bhavan
Rashtrapati Bhavan
(Viceroy's, then President's Palace) uses elements from ancient Indian Buddhist architecture as well as those from later periods. This can be seen in the capitals of the columns and the screen around the drum below the main dome, drawing on the railings placed round ancient stupas. Examples[edit] Bangladesh[edit]

Ahsan Manzil
Ahsan Manzil
in Dhaka

Curzon Hall
Curzon Hall
in Dhaka

Tajhat Palace
Tajhat Palace
in Rangpur

Shashi Lodge
Shashi Lodge
in Mymensingh

Natore Rajbari

Rose Garden Palace

Uttara Gonobhaban

Murapara Rajbari

Puthia Rajbari

Bangladesh Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation

Ruplal House

Old High Court Building, Dhaka

Chittagong Court Building


The Gateway of India

The Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal
Hotel in Mumbai

Mysore Palace

The National Art Gallery (Chennai)

Victoria Public Hall
Victoria Public Hall
in Chennai

Senate House (University of Madras)

Victoria Memorial in Calcutta

Ripon Building
Ripon Building
part of the Chennai
Corporation in Chennai

GPO, reminiscent of the Gol Gumbaz

Khalsa College, Amritsar

Daly College, Indore
by Samuel Swinton Jacob

Secretariat Building, Govt of India, New Delhi

Secretariat Building, New Delhi, headquarters of the govt of India

Chepauk Palace


Aitchison College, Lahore

Lahore Museum, Lahore

Clock Tower, Faisalabad

University of the Punjab

Karachi Port Trust
Karachi Port Trust
Headquarters, Karachi

National Academy of Performing Arts, Karachi

Darbar Mahal, Bahawalpur

Sadiq Dane High School, Bahawalpur

Noor Mahal, Bahawalpur

Islamia College
University, Peshawar

Government Higher Secondary School, Peshawar

Ghanta Ghar (Multan)

Municipal Corporation Building

United Kingdom[edit]

Sezincote House, 1805

Royal Pavilion
in Brighton, 1815-23

Western Pavilion
in Brighton, 1828, designed by Amon Henry Wilds
Amon Henry Wilds
as his own home

Elephant Tea Rooms, Sunderland, 1877

Sassoon Mausoleum, now a chic Brighton
supper club, 1892


Jubilee Clock Tower
in George Town, Penang

Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
in Kuala Lumpur

National Textile Museum
in Kuala Lumpur.

The Old High Court Building in Kuala Lumpur

Old Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Town Hall

Jamek Mosque
Jamek Mosque
in Kuala Lumpur

Railway Administration Building, Kuala Lumpur

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar, Perak

Kellie's Castle, Batu Gajah, Perak

Sri Lanka[edit]

Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
in Colombo

Jaffna Public Library
Jaffna Public Library
in Jaffna


Palais du Bardo, parc Montsouris, Paris


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture.

^ a b Gullick, John Michael (1998). "The British 'Raj' style ", The Encyclopedia of Malaysia (Architecture), p. 82–83. ^ Mizan Hashim, David (1998). "Indian and Mogul influences on Mosques", The Encyclopedia of Malaysia (Architecture), p. 84–85. ^ The rulers of Rajputana would construct their palaces in Mughal style to impress their overlord, the Great Mughal. Examples of such structures are the Amber Fort
Amber Fort
near the city of Jaipur, the Orchha palace in Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
and most of the Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort
in Jodhpur ^ The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II
Bahadur Shah II
became a pawn of the mutineers and was arrested and exiled for treason

v t e

Historicism and Revivalism in Western architecture and decorative arts


Revival Beaux-Arts Byzantine Revival Carpenter Gothic Egyptian Revival Gothic Revival Greek Revival / Neo-Grec Moorish Revival Neoclassical New Classical / Neo-Historism Renaissance Revival

Châteauesque Italianate Palazzo style

Romanesque Revival Second Empire Spanish Colonial Revival Swiss chalet style Vernacular


French Renaissance Henry II style Louis Treize Style Louis XIV Louis Quinze Louis XVI Neoclassicism in France Directoire style Empire style Second Empire Belle Époque Art Nouveau Art Deco

Germany, Austria-Hungary

Biedermeier Gründerzeit Nazi architecture Resort style Rundbogenstil

Great Britain

Adam style Bristol Byzantine Edwardian Baroque Indo-Saracenic Revival

British India

Jacobethan Queen Anne style Regency Scottish baronial style Tudor Revival / Black-and-White Revival

Greece and Balkans

Mycenaean Revival Serbo-Byzantine Revival


Stile umbertino


Mayan Revival


Traditionalist School

Nordic countries

National Romantic style Dragon Style


Pombaline Neo-Manueline Soft Portuguese style

Russian Empire and USSR

Byzantine Revival Russian Revival Stalinist architecture



United States

Jeffersonian architecture American Renaissance Collegiate Gothic Colonial Revival Federal style Greco Deco Mediterranean Revival Mission Revival Polish Cathedral style Pueblo Revival Queen Anne style Richardsonian Romanesque Territorial Revival

Modern architec