''Chhajja,'' an inspiring and attractive Indian architectural element of past era

Jodha Bai's palace, Fatehpur Sikiri. upload.wikimedia.org

chhajja /overhanging eave  Jodha Bai's palace
Fatehpur Sikri. 

Above Images:  Jodha Bai's palace; chhajja /overhanging eave on the palace in Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, UP.

1571 CE Raja Birbal palace, Fatehpur Sikiri. 

Above image:  Raja Birbal palace, Fatehpur Sikri near Agra, UP. chhajja / overhanging eave all along the outer wall above window, etc supported by stone brackets all along ................

Diwan-i-khas, Fatehpur skri.

Unlike the westerns architecture of bygone era, the Indian architecture was varied. The design elements and construction materials vary from regions depending on the rocks available in that region and cultural ethos. There are many architectural elements native to India such as temple towers, ornate pillars, jaali (lattice windows), onion shaped dome, chhajja, chhatris, etc. The colonial architects were baffled by the varieties  of architecture that vary from regions and they began incorporating certain exotic  decorative features in their design of public buildings to make the native feel at home and get connected to the colonial rulers.  

chhajja is an essential part of Indian architecture native to this country and it is nothing but  an overhanging eave or roof covering  typically  with large support brackets having different artistic designs.  There are  a plethora of variations based on architects' choice and the importance and utility of the proposed buildings.  This design style is part of architecture of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

chhajja upload.wikimedia.org

Above image: Fatehpur Sikri. Jodha Bai Mahal complex. Rajasthani style  chhatris in the faux window. A typical example of medieval period Hindu architecture. 

chhajja upload.wikimedia.org

Above image: Fatehpur Sikri. Jodha Bai Mahal complex;  window with Mughal and Rajasthani style.

 chhajja Rajasthan design  bluelapisroad.wordpress.com

 chhajja Rajasthan bluelapisroad.wordpress.com

chhajja with jaali. window  stock.adobe.com/in

chhajja tomb of Ali Bairid Shah, Bidar, KA

modern blgs. chhajja healthyhomes.co.in

window sunshade projection chhajja healthyhomes.co.in/

Above images: Chajja' is fixed  just above the window to  provide shade and prevent  rain from entering the window. So, Chajja is nothing but a 'Sun Shade'......... 

The functions of  large chhajja  vary and are similar to other overhangs or eaves in that they enhance the look of entrances and  protect the arches, windows, walls from the outside elements like sunlight and rains. They keep the rain waters away from the main outer walls. Some styles of roof act as large chhajja.

As to the origin of  chhajja it has been around for centuries in India far before the arrival of Moguls. However. Moguls widely used them as architectural decorative elements. Credit goes to Mogul dynasty and later Rajasthani rulers  who had popularized  chhajja as an integral  part of  the Indian architectural element. 

 The architectural design of chhajja owes its origin to the huts in the rural areas with  bamboo and thatched roof  of older period. Particularly, in Tamil  Nadu  sloping roof on the hut extend over the pial (thennai) in front and other sides all around  giving protection from rains and sunlight.  They  may be built of stone or bricks or dried mud, but they had a dignified look and cool interior in rural areas.  The purpose of such design elements is to deal with specific climate of the region and one can see incorporation  of  such older architectural designs on buildings that were built in the later period.  Hence in the olden days when public or palace buildings were built adaptation of a tried and tested design with stronger materials was recommended by the architect. Apart, it improved the aesthetics of the buildings and their look. 

The Moguls introduced improvised designs of  chhajja.  Curved chhajja became popular in Mughal  design  particularly during and after the reign of Shah Jahan. In many buildings at Fathpur  Sikri complex   like Jodha Mahal, Birpal palace and  Jahangiri Mahal  chhajja became part and parcel of distinctive  architectural element of Mughal architecture. Zafar Mahal stands as a good example of the dual use of  the chhajja for both practical and ornamental purposes.

During the Mogul rule and later many Rajathani rulers, Mahals and palaces were commonly incorporated with richly extravagant artistic chhajja. Example.  Zafar Mahal built by the  late Mughal rule. Quite innovative is a chhajja formed with multi-foliated arches resting on four baluster columns creating a stunning look. 

In the early mosques chhajja was not used but after Akbar in the mosques built in the  later period esthetically eloquent chhajja was a feature  as in the mosques of Sirhind.

In the Maratha region  lesser known  structures built in occupied territory also feature the hanging eve. Example: tin Bahadurgarh, formally known as Saydabad. Here,  more practical utilitarian value of  chhajja is emphasized.   The usual aesthetically eloquent chhajja constructions was  seen in Indian architecture, but  a more practical utilitarian version was  introduced in forts as found in the remains at Bahadurgarh.

Contemporary Architecture (1920 – 1930) indian,  slidesharenet.

Chhajja and other decorative elements that supplement it appeared in many public  administrative and  residential,  structures besides  pavilions. In  the 1800 s the British architects like Robert Chisholm, Henry Irwin et al , being innovative and mavericks took off from the conventional European style designs and borrowed widely many elements from the Indian  architecture such as  onion domes (Delhi and Bijapur) , chhatris, Chhajja (of Rajasthan) and sloping roof (of Kerala) towers or corridors and mythological elements like yali or vyala , etc of Hindu temple.  Their aim was to create buildings with a blend of Indo European style to create an emotional  rapport between the British rulers and natives. Hence countless colonial buildings came up in Madras and Baroda with what is called Indo-Saracenic architecture. Example: The Madras university  Senate House and Lakshmi Vilas palace of Baroda. They have Indian features like chhatris, Chhajja, domes, etc.