Chhatris, amazing Hindu architecture that is part of Mogul design

The Hindu architecture varies in India across the regions. For example, in the state of Kerala, the design is different from the rest of India and it is dominated by slanting tiled roof projecting just beyond the boundary walls as this place is prone to heavy Monsoon rains. Further, mostly, they are wooden structures  nicely cut and chiseled as per requirement. The SW Monsoon that begins in June will bring in heavy  rains for a few months and this design is well suited to the terrain here.  In states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra, commonly the public buildings have high ceiling with large ventilation to avoid radiation during the summer time. In the olden days, lime-mortar  was  widely used for such buildings.  In the northern states, the same trend is followed. Besides, the design is dominated by good ventilation and high ceilings. Many buildings, in particular, palaces, etc.,  are dominated by chhatris that provide relaxation, fresh air and fun in the evening during summer time.  Chhatris in the facade of the structure normally enhance the beauty of the building  and make it 
more impressive and elegant. In many northern states Chhatris are a basic element of the Hindu
architecture. The general belief is that  such chhatris are symbolic of affluence and ornamentation with no utility value at all. 

The term chhatri, used for the canopy-like structures, is a  Hindustani word literally meaning umbrella or elevated dome-shaped pavilion  and are found through out the northwestern region of Rajasthan as well as in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The Chhatris have been around us for a long time and their origin goes back as far as 2000 years  at Fort Kangara.

During the Mogul period, the rulers were much impressed by Chhatris  and integrated them in their Mogul design. This is corroborated by their use in  

Bada Bagh, Rajasthan,

Above image: Bada Bagh means ‘Huge Garden’. built during Maharawal Jait Singh’s period in the beginning of 16th century. Jait Singh's son Lunakaran completed  it after his father's death. The garden served as a memorial where the nobles and their families were cremated.......................

in most of the mausoleums of Mogul Emperors  which have two burial chambers, the upper one with a cenotaph, as in Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, or the Taj Mahal, Agra, while the real tomb often lies exactly below it, or further removed. Similarly,  in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, chhatris are built over  the cremation sites of affluent and  distinguished individuals. Such  structures are simple and consist of one dome supported  by four pillars. Some buildings may  contain  many domes and a basement with several rooms.

Chhatris at corners, Fatehpur Sikri palace 
Maharani ki Chhatri: Royal Cenotaph,

Above image: The historical site of  Maharani ki Chhatri, located on the Amber Road near the Jal Mahal, Jaipur is a special area for funeral for the Maharanis or the royal ladies. The cenotaphs were the status symbol for such women. They are built using diverse materials. While some were made from pure white marbles, the others were built with local stones depending upon the importance of the women in the nobility. The popular belief has been that a cenotaph would be finished with a roof structure 
only if the queen died before her king. In case
 she died after the ruler, the roof  would remain unfinished. This was true of Rajput rulers of by-gone era.....................................

Insofar as you  define Chhatris  architecturally, two different things emerge. The widely understood meaning is of a memorial, usually well embellished,  ornate, built over the funeral or cremation  site of an important personage. Such memorials usually consist of a platform ringed by a set of ornate pillars which support  a stone canopy. The other known meaning is of small pavilions that adorn  the corners and roof 
of the entrance of major buildings. It is to be noted that such  pavilions are purely decorative in nature and have no utility value and are a classic folly, trumpeting  the status and wealth of the owner. They commonly carry elements of pride and presumption. In the case of ruling classes, they represent honor and dignity as in the case of  Jats, Marathas and Rajputs. Hence, they are mostly incorporated in  palaces, in forts, or to demarcate funerary sites.

Chhatri of Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia,

 Above image:  Chhatri of Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia,Sivpuri: The Royal Chhatris complex has two beautiful and magnificent Marble Cenotaphs, one dedicated to the Scindia dynasty king Madho Rao Scindia and the other to his mother Maharani Sakhya Rao Scindia. The place is being maintained by the local trust......................................

Having roots in Rajasthani architecture, what was once a symbol of  memorials for royalty, Chhatris  were later adapted as a standard feature in all buildings in Maratha-ruled states, Rajasthan, and most importantly in Mogul buildings.  Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra are good examples. Surprisingly, during the colonial rule many English architects incorporated main elements of  Chhatris in designing many building across India.

Anyway, Chhatris, the typical and simple Hindu architectural element native to India, bring out the power of imagination that makes the beautiful buildings come alive with more splendor than ever before.