WATER ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA
ARCHITECTURE RESPONSIVE TO WATERFRONTS AND WATERBODIES
RANI PADMINI PALACE
3. LOCATION, CLIMATE AND COMPLEX
4. SOURCE OF WATER, HISTORY AND EVOLUTION
5. REASON FOR SELECTION, BUILDING
6. GENESIS OF RAJPUT ARCHITECTURAL STYLE
7. PHYSICAL FORM AND SPATIAL ORGANISATION
12. CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES
13. ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES
19. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
RANI PADMINI PALACE
Chittorgarh is located in the
southern part of the state of
Rajasthan, 112 km (69.6 mi) from
Ajmer, midway between Delhi
and Mumbai on the National
Highway 8 (India) on the road
network of Golden Quadrilateral.
Chittorgarh is situated where
National Highways No. 76 and 79 intersect at 24°53′11″N 74°38′49″E. It is situated at a
height of 180m from the Gambhiri River which is a distributary of River Berach.
The climate of Chittorgarh is arid. Summers are quite hot (April-June) and winters are cool
(October-February). It experiences scanty rainfall between June and August.
Chittorgarh fort is the oldest fort of India and the most splendid, located at a height of 180m
and sprawling up to 700hectares of land .It is also known as a Water Fort as it had 84 water
bodies, of which only about 20 exist today. These include talabs (ponds), kunds (wells), and
baories (stepwells). All the talabs have a natural catchment. The kunds and baories are
located below the talabs, so that even the seepage from the latter is not lost. The fort is
roughly in the shape of a fish and has a circumference of 13 km (8.1 mi) with a maximum
width of 3 km (1.9 mi).
The fort is approached through a zig zag and difficult ascent of more than1 km (0.6 mi) from
the plains, after crossing over a bridge made in limestone. The bridge spans the Gambhiri
River and is supported by ten
arches (one has a curved shape
while the balance has pointed
arches). Apart from the two tall
towers, which dominate the
majestic fortifications, the
sprawling fort has a plethora of
palaces and temples (many of
them in ruins) within its
SOURCE OF WATER
40 per cent of the 700 hectare wide sprawl of the fort comprises the water bodies. The
average reservoir depth is about 2 m. taken together;
this means these reservoirs can store about 4 billion
litres of water.
84 odd large tanks and reservoirs situated at a
considerably high level pitching in water from the river
Berach by means of canals and deep bore wells or
seepage of the rain water through soil hence the fort
had a constant supply of water all-round the year.
In a year of more than normal rainfall (average annual rainfall: 700 mm), enough water
would be stored to last the next 12 months. Even after water loss due to seepage and
evaporation and other causes, an army of 50,000 could live in the fort for four years without
fear of thirst.
HISTORY AND EVOLUTION
The construction of the complex dates back to the age of Mahabharata, that is, 3rd century BC
successive to the Vedic age and preceding the Mauryan dynasty.
As cited in the Mahabharata epic, Bhīma, the second of the Pandavas, known for his mighty
strength gave a powerful hit with his fist to the ground that resulted in water springing up to
form a large reservoir. It is called Bhīmlat sarovar, an artificial tank named after Bhīma. Folk
legend also mentions that Bhīma started building the fort.
By the end of the 6th century, Mauryas came into possession of the fort and held their sway
there for about two and a half centuries, the fort is believed to have derived its name also
from one of the Mauryan rulers itself, known as Chitrangada Mori.
Historical records show Chittorgarh fort as the capital of Mewar for 834 years. It was
established in 734 AD by Bappa Rawal, founder ruler in the hierarchy of the Sisodia rulers of
Mewar. It is also said that the fort was gifted to Bappa Rawal as part of Solanki princess’s
dowry in the 8th century.. Three important battles were fought for control of the fort; in 1303,
Ala-ud-din Khilji besieged the fort; in 1535, Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah besieged the
fort; and in 1568, Mughal Emperor Akbar attacked the fort. Not that there were only defeats
at the fort. Excluding the periods of siege, the fort had always remained in possession of the
Sisodia of the Guhilot (or Gehlot/Guhila) clan of Rajputs, who descended from Bappa Rawal.
There were also success stories of establishment of the fort and its reconstruction after every
siege, before it was finally abandoned in 1568, all of which are narrated. Rawal Rattan Singh
was the 36th ascendant of Bappa Rawal and the first adopted son of Rana Samar Singh.
REASON FOR SELECTION
The palace was the first of its kind that is, characteristically a lake palace which then inspired
the construction of larger lake palaces of Jaipur, Jodhpur etc. throughout Rajasthan.
The palace was the first to implement science in its most raw form. Although it didn’t show
much of a technical advancement, the selection of materials was done carefully so as to make
the structure as rigid as possible.
Last but not the least the palace is one of the oldest, built with the perspective of regulating
the microclimate and temperature to create comfortable environment for the inhabitants. This
feature corresponded with the directions given to us for choosing a site that was responsive to
the natural or man-made water bodies surrounding them.
The palace is a white, three storied structure (a 19th century reconstruction of the original)
with Chhatris (pavilions) crowning the palace’s roof, cradle like projected balconies at the
openings called jharokhas and a water moat surrounding the palace.
The 84 niches containing idols of the chaurasi deva
This little abode of the then known Indian version of Cleopatra, measures an approximate
200sqm in area and faces north. It appears as a structure floating in lake, guarded by a
massive fortified wall to its north running from west to east and embankments on the other
three sides which have now disappeared due to lack of maintenance. The palace is located to
the southern side of the Chittorgarh fort amidst the chaurasi deva sarovar, the water in which
is primarily sourced from the Bhimlat sarovar, the most ancient of all the reservoirs.
Rani Padmini was the second wife of Maharana Rawal Rattan Singh and originally belonged
to Sri Lanka, then known as Singhaldweep. Since Sri Lanka was abundant with greenery and
water bodies, she was not accustomed to the scorching summer of the arid region and hence
was given a summer retreat in this palace which was surrounded by water on all sides and
was so constructed as to receive minimum glare and have a regulated temperature with the
breeze blowing along the water flowing in, making it as comfortable for the princess as
THE GENESIS OF RAJPUT ARCHITECTURAL STYLE
The architectural style of the palace shall be described as an abstraction of the Hindu temple
architecture of medieval India which was basically devised by many generations of the
Vishwakarma clan, commonly known as Sthapatis and Shilpis, implying the artists, sculptors,
architects, planners etc. while Vishwakarman, himself is the Hindu presiding deity of all
craftsmen and architects. He is believed by Hindus to be the "Principal Universal Architect",
the architect who fabricated and designed the divine architecture of the Universe, the Lord of
The very basic principles of planning and design of structures, in the Indus valley civilization
(earliest known civilization on Indian land) were taken from the vastu shastra belonging to
the Rig Veda. They resulted in well planned cities as well as the supplementary services,
geometrical symmetry in both planning and their elevations while the later Rajput
architectural practice saw a relaxation in the same and hence resulted in irregularity in
planning and asymmetry turned out to be exploited for its own potential. Irregularity, as said
earlier, dominated the planning to a large extent. The various apartments in the complex
typically were joined in a loose, meandering fashion, creating an overall form with irregular
geometry and boundary while no axes predominated. The parts connected in ways which are
logical in function but geometrically casual. The palaces were built in stages over very long
periods of time and so it seemed reasonable to regard their irregularity as a consequence of
their piecemeal construction.
PHYSICAL FORM AND SPATIAL ORGANISATION
Arising directly from the meandering plan, the walls and elevations are similarly irregular.
Fixed in no singular plane, they establish varied rhythms of advance and recess.
The outer walls are often contiguous with the fortifications, which enclose part of the hillside
on which the fort is built, creating the sometimes false impression of a multi-storeyed
The appearance from the exterior is of airy pavilions supported by grim embattled walls.
Unlike the preceding temple architecture and succeeding typical Rajput architecture, which
was highly ostentatious, the architectural features of Chittorgarh fort were far simpler in form
Rani Padmini Palace also depicted the same in its physical form. It may be compared to a
boat house in function but appeared to be a simple double storeyed house with plane white
walls adorned by Chajjas, jaalis and jharokhas at the openings and Chhatris making up
pavilions while domes and arches marked the places of worship, spaces for reception and
The plan is oriented along the north-south axis with the main entrance on the northern side
accessed by flight of stairs.
The structure stands over a 5m high plinth constructed entirely in random rubble masonry of
limestone with the same mortar as described under the heading of construction materials.
On reaching the plinth level, to the left, there is a balcony; while if you enter straight by the
doorway which is basically a lintel laid over a 2.1m high parapet wall, you reach a courtyard.
To the left of this courtyard, is a room which may be described as the vanity room of rani
Padmini called the shringaar kaksha; while on the right is her dance room called the nritya
Since it was where the princess used to dress up, it demanded for utmost privacy and only
had one little jaalidaar opening towards the north to let in the cool air breezing along the lake
and was accessed through a verandah facing the south. This made for a cool interior of the
The dance room has its access from north while an opening each on east and south so as to let
the light of rising sun and the light through the day in as sun was the main god of obeisance
and again no opening on the west so no glare was received and apart from that, the rays of
setting sun were considered inauspicious.
Looking straight, towards east is a Chhatri (or pavilion) and to its left is the stairway to access
the room on the upper floor which was right above the vanity room and was princess’s
bedroom. Further above is the terrace, where, to the north is a highly ostentatious jharokha in
the middle of the wall and three simpler ones, one on each of the adjacent and opposite walls.
There is only one small opening on the wall facing the west on the upper floor to minimise
the glare while facilitate cross ventilation and large openings on all other walls, placed
diametrically flanked by jharokhas and the one on south was accessed through a verandah.
POL (entrance doorway)
However, large openings are provided on the northern side to receive maximum natural
diffused light and on south (along with projections and jaalis) to receive the winter sun which
is desirable even though the palace isn’t used then.
The shayan kaksha or the bedroom of rani on the first floor had one opening on each wall
with the one to the west being small and the ones on the other three walls being considerably
large. The roof had beams running from east to west at an interval of 1.5m each. The beams
supported overlapping joints of the stone slabs which made up the roof. The openings were
highly ostentatious on the outer side and were called the jharokhas.
LET IN THE
CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES
The principal building material was stone, especially sandstone, marble and limestone
quarried from the Aravalis.
They were usually roughly cut blocks or rubble, faced with plaster and paint on the main
walls while intricate carving was done to articulate the surfaces of columns, brackets and
In this region, masonry work is in limestone in random rubble or dressed stone with mortar.
Stone spans up to 3.6m to 4.5m are achievable in this region by corbelling with stone beams
which was mainly employed for laying the roof and floor slabs. Stone walls in random rubble
are thicker at the base about 0.6m to 1.05m and gradually decrease on the ground floor to
Columns and lintels are also made of dressed stone and stone beams are used in the roof.
Stone walls are on an average 0.45m thick and plastered with lime.
Roof is also 0.45m thick, double layered with a layer of stone veneer with lime kada on it.
Lime, jaggery, thatch and lentils are mixed together in the
mortar for masonry and plaster. This mixture is applied on
stone slabs. The stone slabs had an overlap at an interval of
1.5m approximately supported over beams in the same
direction as the overlap. A layer of Khora or clay pots is then
placed on it with stone slabs on top followed by damp earth.
Then the final flooring is done. Floors were finished with lime
plaster or marble plaster called Arraish. This provided a layer of insulation in the roof to
prevent excessive heating of the topmost room in the building due to the glaring sun and high
The main reason for using jaggery was that it was a raw form of saccharin making for an
adhesive and also rich in iron and on mixing with the protein rich lentils, lime and thatch
made up a reinforced mixture which didn’t readily dissolve in water and hence was suitable
for construction amidst a water body.
Jaggery along with the pulp of Bael fruit also made for a natural water proofing solution
which wasn’t required here due to the presence of jaggery in the plastering mortar.
Arraish work as floor finish and on walls was a common feature. Since the availability of
timber in this region was limited, the same principles of jointing were used in stone, which
was found in abundance. The columns were either assembled with laterite stone or were
monolithic with timber type joints. Since wood was scarce, doorframes and window frames
were also of stone.
There are a common set of rules for construction of the typical forms. These were explained
in the local languages 'Jaag Sawaya, Kothi Puni' meaning in construction of a dwelling, the
length of a court shall always be about1/4th the whole number ('sawaya') of the width.
The openings were defined by erecting one stone slab on each edge while one made for the
base and one for lintel. Stone slabs of large spans were also used for making the floor and
The columns were
and reduced version of the
standard temple columns, less
richly carved, they had the
same essential form, with a
square base, an octagonal or
sixteen sided shaft and a
capital composed of a cluster
The entire column was
divided into three parts,
beginning from the base as the bottom most part, square in plan articulating at different
intervals to reduce the cross section to 0.8 of the base and extending to a height of 0.15 of the
entire height, where the shaft began and extended till 0.30 of the total length; beyond this the
surface was articulated to make an octagon extending till 0.20 of the length and another 0.20
making a sixteen sided surface and finally the capital which was again 0.15 of the total length
of the column and circular in shape with the top cross section equal to that of the base which
then supported the entablature. The same formal fashion was followed in the articulation of
The domes were usually of an
elliptical shape with a low rise
but covering a large span
laterally. The one used in the
dance room of Padmini Palace
was initially supported over a
hexadecagon, preceding an
octagon (both approximately
10cm thick, forming a lintel like
supporting system for the dome
which was circular in plan).the
octagon was then supported over the rectangular plot of beams, ultimately transferring the
load to columns at the four corners of the room.
In addition to this, the circular form was reticulated by corbelling dressed stone pieces in a
circular fashion with each course successively reducing in diameter to reach the top and form
the base for the domical form of a semi-circle which was then finally finished with the same
plaster of mortar. One of such unfinished structure from the same premises shows the
construction. This circular form was supported over an entablature which was composed of
the rectangular beams.
When the base of the dome does not match the plan of the supporting walls beneath it (for
example, a circular dome on a square bay), techniques were employed to transition between
the two. The simplest technique is to use diagonal lintels across the corners of the walls to
create an octagonal base which had been employed here.
A Kalasha was characteristically a highly ornamental
projection atop a dome or the Bangaldar roof forming the
A Chhatri may also be a called a pavilion as it was open on four sides with generally a dome
or flat slab supported over a beam and subsequently by columns, one at each corner of the
plan or placed diametrically in case of a circular or elliptical plans. Chhatris are elevated,
dome-shaped pavilions. Chhatris are commonly used to depict the elements of pride and
honour in the Rajput architecture of Rajasthan. They are widely used, in palaces, in forts, or
to demarcate funerary sites.
A jharokha shall be defined as a cradle like
balcony projecting from the main wall of a
façade. It usually marked an opening on a wall
and may either be left hollow for a person to
stand or be covered by a jaali to create a visual
barrier and facilitate ventilation and ingress of
filtered light. The floor was usually supported
over brackets like a chajja while it was covered
either with a flat slab supported over stubs or a
Bangaldar roof like covering.
A Bangaldar roof may formally be explained as
an elliptical parabloid. A parabola with
downward curvature slid along another
parabola, also with a downward curvature but
larger in magnitude and perpendicular to the
direction of the former.
The more commonly seen form in the fort was a result of articulation of rectangular planned
network of beams subsequently decreasing in size on reaching the pinnacle (each with a
thickness of 7.5cm to 10cm).
These were the L-shaped or right angled supporting
elements, also known as corbels. It was usually a
piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any super
incumbent weight. They also had an ornamental
value associated to them as they had chiselled
grooves along their length to provide an aesthetic
appeal in addition to the structural value. The
chiselled grooves imparted articulation to the plane surface.
The dripstone was a sloping shelf projecting out
of the wall to shelter an opening and sometimes
the entire wall as well.it is usually supported on
a carved bracket or just suspended as a
Jaali is the term for a perforated stone or
latticed screen, usually with an ornamental
pattern constructed through the use of
calligraphy and geometry. Early work was
performed by carving into stone. However,
unlike the jaalis of Mughal character; these
jaalis had comparatively simpler patterns and
used simple geometrical shapes congregated
together to form a composition. Three basic rules were followed for the design of jaalis, they
Start at the centre.
Keep equal borders.
Stick to odd numbers in the design.
The usual pointed arch ornamented by foliage like elements as the leaves covering the entire
thickness of the arch (intrados). The cusped arch was divided in five parts and had the
proportions in ¾ and ¼ of a whole. The arch is significant because, in theory at least, it
provides a structure which eliminates tensile stresses in spanning a great amount of open
space. All the forces are resolved into
compressive stresses. This is useful
because several of the available building
materials such as stone can strongly
resist compression but is very weak
when tension, shear or torsional stress is
applied to it. By using the arch
configuration, significant spans could be
achieved. This is because all the
compressive forces held it together in a
state of equilibrium. This even applied to frictionless surfaces. However, one downside is that
an arch pushes outward at the base, and this needs to be restrained in some way, either with
heavy sides and friction or angled cuts into bedrock or similar.
In addition to these, mouldings, cornices and miniature columns adorned the interiors,
particularly at junctions of wall to wall, wall to ceiling, or a window opening.
There were inscriptions adorning the walls depicting
floral patterns, dancing human figures, fish and snakes that existed in the sarovar and
geometrical patterns which were an integral part of all the craft works including the jaalis. All
these inscriptions were descriptive of the general practices of the region.
Openings along the junction of the roof slab and parapet wall to suspend of the rain water
collected overhead and let into the sarovar itself.
The structure became significant amongst the various events of the history of India as it was
here that the practice of JAUHAR began in India. Jauhar refers to the ancient Indian tradition
of self-immolation of women whose husbands had gone to war and were either killed or were
taken prisoner. This was done by the women to safe guard their honour.
Such painful method was preferred over other painless and easy ways like poisoning or
hanging as these were considered against the self-respect of any human in Hindu mythology.
Legend has it that Rani Padmini was famous for her beauty. Alla-ud-din Khilji was besotted
by her beauty and wanted to possess her. Deceitfully he took the Rani’s husband prisoner.
The Raja decided to fight for his and his wife’s honour. Rani Padmini was certain of the
Raja’s defeat, so to save her honour and dignity she along with the other women of the palace
self- immolated herself. And thereon started the practice of Jauhar.
ARCHITECTURE OF THE INDIAN DESERT – KULBHUSHAN AND MINAKSHI JAIN
STONES IN THE SAND- THE ARCHITECTURE OF RAJASTHAN-GILES TILLOTSON
ANTIQUITIES OF CHITTORGARH – R.NATH
STRUCTURE SYSTEMS FOR ARCHITECTURE – PROF. HARBHAJAN SINGH
VISUAL SERIES FROM RANI PADMINI KA JAUHAR
MAPS FROM GOOGLE EARTH
RAJPUT ARCHITECTURE – SHIKHA JAIN
THE ILLUSTRATIONS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BELONG TO THE TEAM ITSELF
EXCEPT FOR THE FIRST THREE WHICH HAVE BEEN TAKEN FROM THE ABOVE
The proper nouns used across the report may vary from context to context as the
pronunciations remain the same but the spellings are perceived differently due to the actual
linguistic script being devanagari and all these words been written here in English.