Architecture of Delhi Sultanate

The architecture of Delhi sultanate includes the buildings and monuments built in 320 years in Delhi and surrounding areas by Slave, Khalji, Tughluq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties.

Salient Features

Sultanate era marked the evolution and development of a new-type of Hindu-Muslim architecture in which decorative exuberance of the Hindu architecture was toned down and its place was taken by new elements such as use of geometrical shapes, calligraphy, inscriptional art etc. However, the elements of Hindu architecture still formed the basis of new architectural style. This was mainly because of three reasons. Firstly, the Muslim rulers had to employ Indian architects and masons; Secondly, early mosques were built by demolition of temples and the Muslim rulers used the same material of Hindu temples in making their mosques and tombs. Thirdly, rather than building new monuments from scratch, the early Muslim rulers resorted to convert the Hindu and Jain temples into mosques by making few alternations here and there.

From Delhi Sultanate era, we see the beginning of use of the false archs and false domes (such as Quwwat-ul-islam Mosque) to true arch and domes (begins from Alai Darwaja) and reached its mature phase as Indo-Islamic art in the Mughal Era.

While numerous square-plan mausoleums were built in Delhi, the new form of octagonal plan with a surrounding colonnade was developed from the last stage of the Sayyid through the Lodi rule. This is the best represented by Muhammad Shah’s Tomb (1443) and Sikandar Lodi’s Tomb (1517/8) in Lodi Gardens.

Introduction of the Double Dome feature

The tomb of Sikandar Lodi was the first example with a double dome. The method of making double dome was originally practised in East Asia before it was imported into India.

A double dome has two layers and its objective was to lift the height of the monument and also keep its attraction intact. The problem with the single dome was that if it was erected very high, it left a deep void inside the building. If it was kept low, then it diminished the monumental effect of the building. To shoot both the birds with one arrow, the double dome was devised. In double dome, the dome instead of consisting of one thickness of masonry was composed of two separate shells viz. inner and outer with ample space between them.

The inside layer provides ceiling to the interior of the building, while the outer layer crowns the buildings.  Use of two domes enables the ceiling inside to be placed lower and in better relation to the Interior space it covers. This is done without disturbing the proportions and the effect of elevation of the exterior.  The attempts in the direction of Double Dome started with tomb of Taj Khan (1501 ) and the tomb of Sikandar Lodi (1518), both in Delhi. However, the fully mature form of the double dome is seen, for the first time in India in the tomb of Humayun.

Example Monuments of Delhi Sultanate

The starting point for the development of the Delhi Sultanate architecture was Qutub Complex in Mehrauli of New Delhi. Here some 27 Hindu and Jain temples built previously during Tomars and Chauhans were destroyed. Using the same material in haste, the new mosques and minars were built. Due to hasty process of their making, the structural techniques of archs and dome were not used. Many of these building collapsed later but few of them are standing there even this date. The important monuments in Qutub Complex are as follows:

Alai Darwaza

Mamluk dynasty did not employ true Islamic architecture styles and used false domes and false arches. The first example of the true arch and true dome is in Alai Darwaja located in Qutub Complex. It was built by Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1311 AD.

Qutb Minar

The minar is originally inspired by the Afghan architecture. It was to be built as a Victory Tower, to commemorate the victory of Mohammed Ghori. Its construction, as we all know was started by Qutub-ud-din and was finished by Iltutmish and later repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Sikandar Lodi.

The Qutb Minar was constructed from material collected from Hindu buildings and temples. For its decoration the Hindu craftsmen were used and they applied the same style of inlaying which they had been using in building temples. The floral designs, bells and chains were made to decorate the minar from exiting material remains of temples.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

This was first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India and the oldest surviving example of Ghurids architecture in Indian subcontinent. Built mainly on the rubbles of the 27 Hindu and Jain temples.

Alauddin Khilji’s tomb and madarsa

This stands as one of the early example of amateur Islamic architecture in India.

Alai Minar

Alauddin wanted to build a minar that should be double of height of the Qutub Minar. But this dream could never become true as the Sultan died even when the first storey was not complete!

In the oldest courtyard stands an iron pillar 7.5m long, which is thought to have been produced by Chandragupta II, in the 4th century. It was a Stambha dedicated to a Vishnu temple according to its inscription, and it seems to have been brought here before the Islamic conquest. This wrought iron pillar, with a Gupta-style capital on the top, is so highly refined that it has not suffered rust at all in spite of its exposure to the elements for 1,600 years.


Tughlq Dynasty constructed Tughlaqabad with magnificent stone ramparts. The important building is the tomb of Sultan Ghiyasuddin, which is a cubic structure of red sandstone crowned with a dome of white marble, becoming a model of later brilliant Mughal mausoleums in spite of its small scale. Tughlaqs also constructed the Firozabad, of which only the ruins of the fort of Firoz Shah Kotla and a part of the Friday Mosque remain.


  1. Shubham Dutta

    May 20, 2020 at 7:42 am


  2. Shivanshi Batra

    June 21, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Really helpful sir
    Thanks a lot!!!

  3. emma

    September 9, 2020 at 11:52 am

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  4. dua

    September 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    nice work! but you should consider working on the spellings

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