India by Design

Taj Mahal at sunrise, simply transcendent in a pink light at dawn
I had the extraordinary good fortune to travel through India recently, in five states spread over 1.7k miles. There are endless facets to India with its history, sheer land mass, and population of 1.2 billion+ people. But there are themes in the art and architecture that I enjoyed repeatedly:

1. the glory of rich, complex, and overlapping pattern;

2. never forget the ceiling, the fifth wall;

3. vibrant color applied with abandon on both the sacred and the mundane;

4. spectacular use of sunlight, candlelight, and reflection;

5. celebration of the natural world.

Pattern is everywhere, in all varieties: geometric, curvilinear, freeform.
Qutb Minar complex, Delhi built c. 1200

Red Fort, Delhi. Even a small knob on a door panel has wonderful attention to detail.

Always look UP.  Whether painted plaster, carved stone, or inlayed reflective glass, ceilings are surfaces not to be missed.

Ceiling in Red Fort, Delhi

Meherangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Venetian glass was used for decoration in the lavish Phool Mahal chamber c. 1730-50

The carved marble ceiling of the Adinath Jain Temple, built in the 1400s at Ranakpur, is intricate & stunning
The Adinath Temple has 1,444 columns, EACH one is unique!

Pattern, light, and reflection are designed to intersect, with gorgeous results.

Reflecting pool at the Taj Mahal at sunrise
(aside: the Taj Mahal is even MORE fabulous than the hype)

Mosaics made with reflective mercury glass would provide incredible effects at night,
walls shimmering with the dancing light of torches, 
Meherangarh Fort

The Ceiling is a key actor, playing with light in reflective mosaics!
During the day that same ceiling would glitter with jewel tones
of the rich carpets spread on the floor below -- so all times of day & night would be spectacular.

Shadows created by the screens are mesmerizing.

I loved seeing modern use of the shadow and light effect,
both in a hotel lobby & even at the airport phone stand:

Pattern, pattern everywhere.
classic shot of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Pattern in marble bracket detail, Fatehpur Sikri

Inlaid stone pattern on the Taj Mahal, Agra, creates
an optical illusion of multiple surfaces -- it's actually FLAT

This Warli wall painting art, above, translates nicely into a modern-made gate, below

This modern sculpture is a great take on the face painting for Theyyam worship in southern India:

Use of color in Indian art is simply delicious...

painted miniature, Merherangarh Fort, Jodhpur

detail of Peacock, glass inlay wall relief, City Fort, Udaipur

India is a dangerous place for a fabric junkie (like me). The textiles are over-the-top gorgeous.

detail of hand embroidered shawl

Even the carpet in the airport is fantastic... as is a rustic blue door in a remote village.

If you're going to carry a bundle of sticks, do it in a fuchsia sari.

You'd have no trouble finding your way to this Hindu temple in time for services.

Holi Festival powders

Many patterns, particularly in the architecture, were inspired by the natural world, especially the science of astronomy. 
Ceiling Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

Red Fort, Delhi

Actual flowers from nature (not stylized) are a constant design element, both in carved stone at major monuments, and as live petals in modern settings.

Hard to imagine the number of Marigold petals pulled apart to make this floating carpet of petals in a lotus-inspired fountain.

 "Goodnight" in my hotel room included delicate flower petal art on the bathroom counter.


  1. The photos are interesting and depict such beauty and color, and your commentary helpfully enhanced my appreciation of them. Thank you! Love the screens and shadow, especially! Great for a sliding barn door, perhaps...

  2. Fantastic and inspirational-- the parallels btw old and new are terrific--- thank you!!

  3. Fantastic photos Fannie. You have a great eye. I too loved India for its crafts, architecture, patterns and beauty. Sometimes it seemed like it was still a thousand years ago.

  4. Thank you so much for including me...these beautiful photos lightened my day.