10 Famous Architectural Buildings of South Asia

South Asia has many beautiful architectures. Not only are they stunning to view but they also carry culture, heritage and symbolism.

Architectures reflect the diverse landscapes of South Asia.

South Asia, with its rich history and diverse cultures, offers many beautiful architectures.

It is a region known for its rich history, diverse cultures, and remarkable landscapes, and is also home to some of the world’s most stunning architectural wonders.

From ancient wonders to modern masterpieces, the region’s buildings reflect a blend of various architectural styles and eras.

From ancient forts and palaces that tell tales of bygone empires to modern monuments.

Thus, symbolising the aspirations of newly independent nations, the architectural landmarks of South Asia offer a fascinating journey through time.

Here are 10 famous architectural buildings of South Asia that stand as testaments to the region’s architectural and cultural heritage:

Taj Mahal, India

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

It is one of the most iconic and beautiful architectural masterpieces in the world.

It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

The building was to serve as a mausoleum for his wife, who passed away during childbirth.

The architecture is a marvel that showcases the artistry and craftsmanship of the time.

It is a prime example of Mughal architecture, which is a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic architectural styles.

The main structure is made of white marble that reflects hues according to the intensity of sunlight or moonlight.

It also features intricate inlay work using precious and semi-precious stones.

The Taj Mahal complex includes the main gateway, a beautiful garden, a mosque, and a guest house.

Plus several other ancillary buildings, all within a 42-acre complex.

It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

The Taj Mahal has faced threats from pollution and environmental factors that have led to discolouration and damage to its marble facade.

It is open for visitors from sunrise to sunset, every day except Fridays.

Night viewing is also allowed on certain days around the full moon.

The Taj Mahal remains a profound symbol of love and loss, as well as a testament to the rich cultural and architectural heritage of India.

Its timeless beauty continues to captivate and inspire people from all over the world.

Shri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple), India

Shri Harmandir Sahib, widely known as the Golden Temple, is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality.

Located in Amritsar, Punjab, India, it is one of the most revered spiritual sites in Sikhism.

Golden Temple was initially built in 1577 by Ram Das Ji.

The present-day structure was rebuilt in 1764 by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the support of other Sikh Misls.

The temple’s foundation was laid by a Muslim saint, Hazrat Mian Mir Ji of Lahore.

Thus, signifying the Sikhism ethos of openness and acceptance.

The Golden Temple is a two-story marble structure, with an upper layer coated in gold, which leads to its name, the Golden Temple.

Its architecture embodies a unique blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles.

It is situated in the middle of a large Sarovar (sacred pool), known as Amrit Sarovar, from which the city of Amritsar gets its name.

Devotees believe that bathing in the Sarovar can cleanse one’s soul.

The name means “The Abode of God,” and the temple is meant to be a place of worship for all walks of life, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion.

The Sikh holy scripture is present inside the temple during the day and is ceremoniously returned to the Akal Takht (the temporal seat of Sikhism’s governing authority) at night.

A community kitchen runs at the Golden Temple, serving free meals to all visitors regardless of religion, caste, or creed.

The practice of Langar embodies the Sikh principle of selfless service and community.

The Golden Temple is open to visitors 24 hours a day, symbolising the Sikh principle of Tera Tera, which means “everything belongs to God.”

Thus, reflecting the temple’s openness and accessibility.

Lahore Fort, Pakistan

Lahore Fort, also known as Shahi Qila, is a magnificent example of the rich cultural and architectural heritage of Lahore, Pakistan.

It stands as a testament to the city’s historical significance and has been a central figure in the history of the region.

Situated in the northwestern corner of Lahore’s Walled City.

The fort has been continuously occupied and rebuilt since the 11th century, although the existing structure primarily dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries during the Mughal era.

The fort has seen numerous rulers, including the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, and Delhi Sultanate before coming under the control of the Mughal Empire.

The architecture was later occupied by the Sikh Empire and eventually the British Raj.

Lahore Fort reflects the zenith of Mughal architecture with its intricate designs, lavish palaces, and beautiful gardens.

The fort is a blend of Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles.

Within its walls, the fort houses several notable buildings, including the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), Alamgiri Gate, Naulakha Pavilion, and Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque).

Known for its extensive use of mirrors in the walls and ceilings, the Sheesh Mahal is one of the most famous parts of the fort, exemplifying the luxurious lifestyle of the Mughal royalty.

The fort has undergone various conservation efforts to preserve its structures and artworks, especially those that have deteriorated due to environmental conditions and neglect.

Lahore Fort is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world to explore its grandeur and delve into the rich history of the region.

Lahore Fort stands as a proud emblem of Pakistan’s rich history, showcasing the splendour of Mughal architecture and the cultural depth of the region.

Its preservation and continued appreciation are crucial for future generations to understand and cherish the historical and cultural legacy of Lahore and Pakistan.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Sigiriya, often referred to as the “Lion Rock,” is a historic and archaeological marvel located in the Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.

This ancient rock fortress and palace ruin is celebrated for its significant archaeological importance and stunning natural beauty.

Sigiriya is believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times.

However, its most notable period began in the 5th century AD when King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) chose the site for his new capital.

King Kasyapa built his palace on the top of this 200-meter-high rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes.

After his death, the site was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

The entrance to the palace halfway up the rock was through a gateway in the form of an enormous lion, of which only the massive paws remain today.

Some of the best-preserved ancient frescoes in Sri Lanka can be found on the walls of Sigiriya, depicting celestial maidens.

Originally polished to a high sheen, the Mirror Wall is covered in graffiti written by visitors to Sigiriya over the centuries, dating from as early as the 8th century.

The sophisticated water gardens at the base of Sigiriya are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, showcasing advanced ancient hydraulic technologies.

The architecture is a major tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, drawing visitors from around the world.

The climb to the top offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding jungle and countryside.

Visitors should be prepared for a strenuous climb, including narrow staircases and walkways.

Early morning or late afternoon is recommended to avoid the heat of the day.

To fully appreciate the historical and cultural context of Sigiriya, consider taking a guided tour.

Sigiriya stands as a testament to the artistic and engineering marvels of ancient Sri Lanka, offering a window into the past and an unparalleled view of the country’s rich cultural landscape.

Swayambhunath Stupa, Nepal

Swayambhunath Stupa is often referred to as the Monkey Temple due to the large population of monkeys living in the area.

The architecture is one of the most ancient and revered holy shrines in Kathmandu, Nepal.

This iconic Buddhist stupa is perched atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, offering panoramic views of the city.

The origins of Swayambhunath are believed to date back to the beginning of the 5th century CE, making it one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal.

According to legend, the valley was once a lake where a lotus grew.

When the bodhisattva Manjusri cut a gorge through the mountains with his sword, the water drained out, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies.

The lotus transformed into the hill and the flower became the stupa.

The stupa consists of a dome at the base, above which is a cubical structure with the eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions.

These eyes symbolise the omnipresence of the Buddha.

The entire structure of Swayambhunath Stupa symbolises elements of the universe.

The base represents the earth, the dome is the water, the conical spire represents fire, the upper lotus the air, and the pinnacle symbolises ether.

Colourful prayer flags adorn the stupa, carrying mantras and prayers into the wind.

Swayambhunath is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world.

It is also revered by followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

The stupa is a focal point for festivals and religious activities, especially during Buddha Jayanti (the birthday of Buddha) and Losar (Tibetan New Year).

Visitors can reach the stupa via a long stairway leading up the hill, which is lined with shops selling religious and cultural artefacts.

The site offers a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere, with the sounds of prayers and the sight of monks, pilgrims, and tourists circumambulating the stupa.

The hilltop location provides stunning views of Kathmandu and the surrounding valley.

Swayambhunath Stupa is not just a symbol of Nepal’s Buddhist heritage but also a testament to the country’s ability to preserve its history and culture amidst modernisation and natural disasters.

Its serene beauty and spiritual ambience make it a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Nepal.

 Jaisalmer Fort, India

Jaisalmer Fort is located in the heart of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India.

The architecture is one of the world’s largest fully preserved fortified cities.

Known as “Sonar Qila” or “Golden Fort” due to its yellow sandstone walls that glow magnificently at sunset, the fort is a stunning blend of Rajput military architecture and cultural heritage.

Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 AD by the Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives its name.

The fort stands on a hill called Trikuta Hill in the vast sandy expanse of the Thar Desert.

Over the centuries, Jaisalmer Fort has been a key defensive fortification for the Rajput rulers against various invasions.

Its strategic location along the ancient caravan routes made it a wealthy city through the trade of spices, silk, and other commodities.

The fort is built with yellow sandstone that reflects a lion’s colour during the day and turns to a magical honey-gold as the sun sets.

This natural defence mechanism camouflages the fort in the desert.

The fort has a complex structure with a 30-foot high wall and features 99 bastions, of which 92 were built between 1633 and 1647.

Inside, the fort encompasses palaces, homes, temples, and commercial establishments.

Within its walls, there are several beautifully carved Jain temples dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries, dedicated to various Tirthankaras.

Unlike many other forts, Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort.

It houses nearly one-fourth of the city’s population within its walls.

There are shops, hotels, and age-old havelis (mansions) where generations continue to live.

The fort is a testament to the ingenuity of its builders, with its intricate Rajput architecture and the seamless integration of cultural and community life within its walls.

Visitors to the fort can explore its narrow lanes, interact with the local residents, visit the Jain temples, and enjoy stunning views of the city and desert beyond the fort’s ramparts.

The best time to visit Jaisalmer and its fort is from October to March when the weather is cooler and more conducive to exploring the desert city.

Jaisalmer Fort remains one of India’s most extraordinary historical landmarks, offering a glimpse into the medieval martial architecture of Rajasthan and the enduring spirit of its people.

Its golden hue, rich history, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in India’s royal heritage and architectural wonders.

Bhutanese Dzongs, Bhutan

Bhutanese Dzongs are distinctive and iconic fortresses that are found throughout Bhutan.

It serves multiple functions as religious, military, administrative, and social centres of their district or region.

These architectural marvels are integral to Bhutanese culture and are symbolic of the country’s historical Buddhist traditions and its unique approach to governance.

The tradition of building dzongs in Bhutan began in the 12th century, with the construction of Simtokha Dzong in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

The architecture is a key figure in Bhutanese history, marking the beginning of a unified Bhutan.

Dzongs were strategically built to serve as both religious and administrative centres.

They typically house the monastic body of the district and the administrative offices of the dzongkhag (district) administration.

Bhutanese dzongs are renowned for their massive structures, featuring towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards, temples, offices, and monks’ accommodation.

The architecture is traditional and without the use of nails or architectural plans, following ancient construction methods.

The design of a dzong is a physical representation of Buddhist philosophy, with every element symbolic of spiritual teachings.

The layout is geometric, creating a harmonious balance between form and function, and is designed to fit into the surrounding landscape.

Built without the use of nails or written plans, dzongs are constructed using traditional methods passed down through generations.

The walls are made of compacted earth and stones, and the interiors are richly decorated with wood carvings and paintings that depict Buddhist lore and Bhutanese history.

Punakha Dzong known as the ‘Palace of Great Happiness,’ is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful and significant dzongs, serving as the winter residence of the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body).

It was the second dzong to be built in Bhutan and is the winter capital of the country.

Paro Dzong also known as Rinpung Dzong, this fortress is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture.

It plays a central role in the annual Paro Tshechu, a religious festival that draws thousands of visitors.

Finally, there is the Trongsa Dzong which is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family.

It plays a key role in the country’s history and is an architectural masterpiece.

Many dzongs are the site of annual religious festivals known as Tshechus, which are marked by days of dances, prayers, and ceremonies.

These festivals are a vibrant part of Bhutanese culture and attract both locals and tourists.

Bhutanese Dzongs are not just buildings; they are living institutions that embody the spirit and heritage of Bhutan.

They stand as a testament to the country’s architectural ingenuity, religious devotion, and unique Bhutanese way of life, making them an essential aspect of any visit to Bhutan.

Amer Fort, India

Amer Fort, also known as Amber Fort, is a captivating historical site located near Jaipur, in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

This magnificent fort is perched on a hill and is one of the most famous forts in India, attracting tourists from all over the world with its stunning architecture and rich history.

Amer Fort was built by Raja Man Singh I in 1592.

Man Singh was one of the trusted generals of the Mughal Emperor Akbar and played a key role in the expansion of the Mughal Empire.

The fort was expanded and renovated by subsequent rulers over a period of about two centuries, reflecting the architectural styles and preferences of different eras.

The architecture is renowned for its blend of Hindu and Mughal architectural styles.

The fort’s majestic structure and intricate details showcase the craftsmanship of the Rajput builders and artisans.

The fort complex includes several remarkable buildings, such as the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience), Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), and Sukh Niwas (Pleasure Palace).

The Mirror Palace is one of the most famous parts of Amer Fort, known for its walls and ceiling adorned with beautiful mirror mosaics and coloured glasses.

Sukh Niwas is a section of the fort that uses a natural cooling system that carries air from the cool water cascades, creating a pleasant environment even during the hot summer months.

The fort hosts a captivating light and sound show in the evening, which narrates the rich history of Jaipur and the fort itself, making for an enchanting experience.

Visitors can also experience elephant rides at the fort, which offer a unique way to explore the complex, although this has become a subject of ethical consideration in recent years.

Amer Fort stands as a symbol of the rich cultural heritage and architectural brilliance of Rajasthan.

Its history, combined with the stunning views it offers, makes it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the royal past of India.

Minar-e-Pakistan, Pakistan

Minar-e-Pakistan is a national monument located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, symbolising the freedom and sovereignty of the Pakistani people.

This iconic tower stands in Iqbal Park, one of the largest urban parks in Lahore, and is a significant landmark that commemorates a pivotal moment in the history of Pakistan.

The foundation of Minar-e-Pakistan was laid on March 23, 1960, to commemorate the Lahore Resolution, which was passed on March 23, 1940.

The resolution called for the creation of independent states for Muslims in the northwestern and eastern zones of British India, laying the groundwork for the formation of Pakistan.

The construction of the monument was completed in 1968, taking eight years to build.

The tower was designed by Naseer-ud-Din Murat Khan, a Pakistani architect of Russian descent.

The structure reflects a blend of Mughal and modern architecture, symbolising the fusion of traditional and contemporary values.

Minar-e-Pakistan is made of reinforced concrete, with the exterior covered in marble and tiles.

The tower stands approximately 70 meters (230 feet) tall, dominating the skyline of the surrounding area.

The base of the tower is shaped like a five-pointed star, and it rises in a series of steps to form a tapering tower.

Each of the four platforms represents a significant event in the struggle for Pakistan’s independence.

Minar-e-Pakistan serves as a powerful symbol of the country’s independence and the realisation of the dreams of its founding fathers.

It is a place of national pride where various ceremonies and festivals are held, especially on Pakistan Day (March 23).

Situated in Iqbal Park, the monument is easily accessible from different parts of Lahore.

The park itself offers a pleasant environment for visitors to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Visitors can enter the tower to view historical documents and reliefs depicting the struggle for Pakistan’s independence.

The top of the tower offers panoramic views of Lahore.

Minar-e-Pakistan stands as a testament to the spirit of the Pakistani people and their journey towards independence.

It remains a beacon of freedom and a reminder of the sacrifices made for the country’s sovereignty.

Humayun’s Tomb, India

Humayun’s Tomb, located in Delhi, India, is a magnificent architectural masterpiece and a significant historical monument.

It was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum) in 1565 AD, and designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas.

It was commissioned by Empress Bega Begum in 1565, nine years after the death of her husband, Emperor Humayun.

The construction of the architecture was completed in 1572 AD.

It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, setting a precedent for future Mughal architecture, including the Taj Mahal.

Humayun’s Tomb is a splendid example of Mughal architecture, which is a blend of Persian, Turkish, and Indian architectural traditions.

The tomb is set in a geometrically arranged garden, divided into four main parts by walkways or water channels.

This type of garden is known as a Charbagh and is a Persian-style garden layout.

The structure is primarily made of red sandstone, with white and black marble used to create a striking contrast in the detailed inlay work and to highlight the Islamic geometrical patterns.

The central dome is a prominent feature, symbolising the Persian influence in Mughal architecture.

It stands on a high, terraced platform that faces the Yamuna River, adding to its majestic appearance.

The tomb is located in the eastern part of Delhi, near the crossing of Mathura Road and Lodhi Road.

The best time to visit Humayun’s Tomb is from October to March when the weather is cooler and more pleasant for outdoor activities.

The monument is open from sunrise to sunset, every day.

Humayun’s Tomb is not just a burial place for the Mughal Emperor Humayun, but also houses the graves of several other members of the royal family.

It is regarded as a significant historical and architectural site.

Its serene beauty, combined with its rich history, makes it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the heritage of India.

Each of these architectural masterpieces tells a unique story of the civilisations, rulers, and people who built them.

These buildings are not just structures; they are a testament to the ingenuity, artistic vision, and cultural heritage of the peoples of South Asia.

They reflect the diverse religious, cultural, and historical landscapes of South Asia, making the region a treasure trove for historians, architects, and travellers alike.

Kamilah is an experienced actress, radio presenter and qualified in Drama & Musical Theatre. She loves debating and her passions include arts, music, food poetry and singing.

Images courtesy of Unsplash.

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