Explore Indian Architecture Through These Digital Archives On Instagram

(L) Masjids of Malabar; Calcutta Houses (R)
(L) Masjids of Malabar; Calcutta Houses (R)(L) @masjidsofmalabar; @calcuttahouses (R)

Staying cooped up at home for the better part of two years was not my idea of fun. I had just moved back home from university just before the beginning of the pandemic, and I was eager to start re-exploring my city after being away from home for so long. But alas, it was not meant to be. So just like thousands of other people, I turned to an online community to explore Mumbai. Instagram, which started out as a photo-sharing app, has the unique ability to be an online, free, and open database for archival photos. People took advantage of that and created accounts for documenting the gorgeous architecture of cities across India.

From the quaint bungalows of Bandra to the Mughal-inspired homes of Dehradun, these archival Instagram accounts have it all.

Described as a ‘tableaux of photographs and illustrations of Calcutta Houses’, Calcutta Houses shows us everything from the gorgeous Art Deco buildings of yesteryear to the pastel-hued vintage standalone houses, some of which are still in use to this day and others which have crumbled under the changing of the times but are still very much a part of the rich and vibrant cultural history of the city.

Image Courtesy: @calcuttahouses; @decoindelhi

Supported by India Foundation for the Arts, Deco in Delhi archives and researches Delhi’s art deco buildings and elements. Along with the images, they also explain the history and significance of the buildings they feature. They also feature explanatory posts on the different art deco motifs found on the older buildings in the city. This account is a paradise for history and architecture buffs, and a great way to explore Delhi’s architecture from a by-gone era online.

Run by a Dehradun local, Houses of Dehradun focuses on documenting the architectural and cultural environment of old Dehra. They also shine a light on the revival of the colonial-era gharats, or water-mills. Using hydropower, the farmers of Doon are able to grind 60-70 kilograms of grain each day and make more money than they would have using traditional farming methods.

Image Courtesy: @houses_of_dehradun; @artdecohyderabad

IV. Art Deco Hyderabad
Run by architecture student Nitya Gonnakuti, Art Deco Hyderabad focuses on showcasing elements like windows, doors and staircases. The account also runs walks around the city, featuring old buildings like single-screen cinemas. Gonnakutti says that the architecture of the city shows how the city has evolved from the Qutb Shahi, to the Nizams, to the colonial era, eventually paving the way to modernity and that while the city is changing rapidly, it is important to document and preserve the older buildings for future generations.

Mumbai’s Bandra locality has an old-world charm to it that is so clearly visible in Houses of Bandra’s curation. Reminiscent of a time when Bandra was all paddy fields and Pereiras, the account’s loving treatment of the homes that it archives brings a sense of nostalgia to the viewer. Iconic Bandra bungalows like The Trellis and The Gabion finding permanent places on this account shows a care for the stories and histories that these bungalows hold, as well as for the people in them.

Image Courtesy: @housesofbandra; @masjidsofmalabar

Prior to the Indo-Saracenic architecture coming through from the north of India, Kerala’s Malabar coast had already seen a widespread acceptance of the Islamic religion through the words of the last Chera king, who converted to Islam while in Mecca. However, the local artisans had no idea what a mosque was meant to look like, and thus we have mosques that are in the local architectural style of the time. The Masjids of Malabar account curates these vernacular masjids with their red-tiled sloping roofs and their white and pastel-coloured arches.

Image Courtesy: @windoors_india

VII. Windoors India
Last, but definitely not least, is an account dedicated solely to featuring unique doors and windows across the country. Run by photographer Krithika, the account features openings from Varanasi to Coorg. From exceptionally ornate doorways to dilapidated, boarded-up windows, this account is a feast for the eyes with its saturated colours and super tight shots.

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