Architecture Planning and Preservation Architecture of South Asia
Pushkar Sohoni
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0052


‘South Asia’ is a term used for the Indian subcontinent after its rearrangement into several independent nations in the mid-20th century. It includes the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Most of these countries have roots in common, shared history and culture, and very frequently, they have been part of the same empires—for example under the Mauryas, or the Mughals. The region is home to several faiths, the birthplace of the Indic religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. In addition, the region has a long-standing presence of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. The entire region has rich architectural traditions, with various geographical and cultural zones employing their own regional idioms of construction while also participating in much larger aspirational architectural styles. Exploring a span from the Indus Valley civilization in the Bronze Age (3rd and 2nd millennia BCE) to the modernism of new nations in the 20th century, there are several works that center on the architectural history of South Asia. While there are some journals that are dedicated to the architectural and art history of South Asia, there are others that include architectural history of South Asia significantly though the publication might have a slightly different focus. Most monographs are dedicated to specific periods, geographies, and themes. Because of the identity politics of the modern nations in South Asia, most architectural themes after 1947 (when the British left South Asia) are usually limited to each single nation, often not relating that nation’s architecture to that of neighboring countries. However, books before 1947 tend to use ‘India’ as a generic civilizational term for the entire South Asian region, and not just the nation state of India. This bibliography deliberately leaves out several kinds of publications such as archaeological reports, volumes in which architecture is only one of the many cultural facets, common textbooks that are usually introductory surveys of both architecture and art, and monographs that are narrowly focused on period and place.


The architecture and art of South Asia has been the focus of many publications, some which were explicitly written as textbooks, but these are excluded here. In this section are four broad themes: the Historiography of the history of architecture in South Asia, the surveys published Before 1947 and After 1947—a landmark year when South Asia was politically reconfigured into new nations—and publications paired with Exhibitions that try to align or question the role of architecture and the nation state.

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