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Indo-Saracenic Architecture in Sindh

This article describes the Indo-Saracenic architecture in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Indo-Saracenic architecture refers to the type of architecture the British patronized during their rule on the Indian subcontinent from 1857 to 1947.  


Like that of the Greek and Tuko-Afghan empires, the establishment of the British Raj also gave birth to a fusion of European and local architectural styles of the Indian subcontinent.  This new syncretic style of architecture developed during the British Raj is also known as Indo-Saracenic architecture.

Among European architectural styles, the Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical styles dominate the buildings. Similarly, the Indo-Islamic architectural style forms an important part of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Most of the Indo-Saracenic buildings are in the cities of Hyderabad and Karachi. 

Main features of Colonial Model of architecture 

The buildings of Indo-Saracenic architectural style are characterized by: 

  1. elaborate structures on the same footing as that developed during Mughal rules. 
  2. public and religious buildings i.e. universities, colleges, courts, churches, cathedrals; and palaces built by rulers of princely states.
  3. Onion-shaped bulbous domes, an architectural feature of Mughals. 
  4. arches of different shapes i.e. pointed, cusped, and scalloped arches.
  5.  overhanging eaves called chhaaja, a feature of Indo-Islamic architecture. 
  6. Horseshoe-shaped arches, a feature adopted during the time of Islamic Caliphates.  
  7. voussoirs with white and red colors, a feature of medieval Africa and Europe. 
  8. Kiosks on the roof with domed chhatris and pinnacles as part of minarets. 
  9. Pavilions, Jarokha shaped windows, and jail and large rooms called iwans. 

Important Indo-Saracenic architectural monuments

Following are some of the architectural monuments in Karachi that display Indo-Saracenic architectural style:  

1. Frere Hall 

Built 1880s, Frere Hall was intended to serve the purposes of the town hall of the coastal city of Karachi.

The structure of Frere Hall: 

  • reflects an architectural blend of Gothic and local architectural styles. 
  • contains pointed arches, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and quarterfoils.
  • made of yellow-toned limestone along with red and grey colored sandstone. 
  • contains has a tall octagonal tower at one of its corners with an iron cage at the top. 
  • has a roof coated with Muntz metal and;
  • has two large lawns in its surrounding. 

2. Empress Market, Saddar Karachi

Built between 1884 and 1889, Empress Market is one of the living examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Named in commemoration of Queen Victoria, the market still serves as one of the most popular shopping places in Saddar Town of Karachi. 

Arranged around a courtyard of 100ft by 130 ft, the building contains 4 galleries of equal size (46 ft). The market housed around 300 shops and stalls at the time of its inauguration.  

3. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Karachi

Located in the Saddar Town of Karachi, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the examples of Gothic architecture. The cathedral was built in 1881 during the British period (1857 -1947) and acts as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the coastal city of Karachi. The building also houses the Monument of Christ that was later on built between 1926 and 1931 to commemorate the Jesuit’s mission in Sindh. 

4. Saint Andrews Church 

Located in Saddar town in Karachi, Saint Andrews Church is another example of Indo-Saracenic architecture in the province of Sindh in Pakistan. 

Built between 1867-1868 for Christian prayer services, the church depicts a blend of Gothic and Romanesque styles of architecture. Another important characteristic this monument depicts is an18 feet diameter large rose-shaped window.  

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