Some structures really make me wonder how advanced ancient human engineering truly was – gothic spires reaching out to the skies, and domes that seem to have no visible support (especially to an untrained eye like mine). Every time I come across a beautifully-shaped dome, my mouth drops, my eyes split wide open, and my neck locks at an odd angle. If that’s the kind of effect domes have on you, then here’s a list of five domes in India that are absolute wonders, and deserve a visit.
Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur
Gol Gumbaz (round dome) is one of the largest domes in India. This is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur and his family. You walk into a large, vacant space with walls on all sides that rise to around 150 feet. If this structure doesn’t leave you marvelling at its design, then the gallery along the inner surface of the dome surely will. Interestingly designed, the Whispering Gallery manages to carry even the faintest of sounds right across the inner surface of the dome.
Taj Mahal, Agra
This monument of love needs no introduction. The marble dome is believed to be 35 meters tall and is crowned with a beautiful lotus design. Given its shape this is often called the onion dome. This dome is surrounded by minarets and chhatris. You almost never see it in isolation, and maybe, therein lies its beauty and grace.
Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai, Mumbai
This tall golden pagoda, standing to one side of Mumbai, is crowned with a dome that is made of self-supporting interlocking stones; with no pillars for support. The dome is believed to be twice the size of the Gol Gumbaz and covers a meditation hall of approximately 65000sq ft. Guess how many people can meditate here at one time? 8000 is the claim made.
Matrimandir, Auroville, Puducherry
This dome is a symbol of the mother with her four aspects as described by Sri Aurobindo. Each section has a main pillar that stands for one aspect of the mother – Maheshwari for wisdom; Mahakali for strength; Mahalakshmi for grace and opulence; and Mahasaraswati for knowledge and the drive for perfection. If that’s not enough, this dome is covered with small golden discs that reflect light. Radiance, indeed.
Great Stupa, Sanchi
Commissioned by Emperor Ashoka, this stupa was built sometime in the 3rd century BC. This is the oldest dome on this list and also the only one that’s filled! Like all Buddhist stupas, the inner structure is made of bricks with a chamber that holds relics of the Buddha. Legend says that this started as a low structure but was later expanded to what you see today.