Hawa Mahal

I first  became acquainted with cameras and photography as a very young child,  My father was a photo developer and finisher at Berkey Photos which in its heyday, from the early to late 1900’s was second only to Eastman Kodak in the photo processing business. I reaped many benefits from this association – (pre-digital age) unlimited  rolls of film and developing.Many weekends I would join my father in the photo lab and learn not only how to prepare the rolls of film  using developing fluid , stopbath and fixer,  but also  the more artistic techniques of “painting” a sepia or black and white photograph using either colored chalk, colored pencils, or artist oils, or use a processing machine to adjust each picture using a specialized keyboard can change exposure or  add or subtract  levels of  color  to get the desired final coloring effects.  It was all very fascinating – to be able to create on film what the eye sees and even embellish it. This began my love of photography.

Over the years, I have found myself most drawn to photographing nature  and secondarily to architecture. I am mesmerized by lines and shapes, planes and angles, arcs, symmetries, echoing  patterns etc found in  manmade structures. In India, with structures carrying influences from a myriad of cultures and building styles I had much to choose from.

So please forgive me – my nerd side has totally taken over this post. So much of the architecture of India –   the temples, monuments,  palaces, even the internal furnishings I have seen have elicited a similar reaction.  Not only do I find them intrinsically beautiful, their architectural symmetries create a calmness and serenity.   I wanted to see if there was a reason why.

As I researched this, I found my self falling into a well of  information.  I searched for reasons for the often repetitive lines, shapes, arcs and geometric shapes as discussed in a previous post and I came upon a number of mathematically studies which appear to explain why Indian architecture often utilizes the effect of infinite mirror imaging.  I don’t know whether any of these theories have been proven, but as far as I am concerned they make sense.  Bear with me as I try to explain.

Most Indian structures, particularly Hindu temples are symmetry driven, using perfect geometric shapes such as circles and squares to build upon the belief that all things are one and everything is connected. Temple architecture replicates the order of the cosmos –  and to maintain harmony maintain the same measurements and principles with which the cosmos is made.  The patterns in the structures repeat again and again, like the parts of the cosmos or like the cells of an organism – mirroring and at the same time being like the totality of the universe.  The architecture expresses the beauty and flow of energy of the universe.

It does this by repeating shapes, or by fractal structures (a fractal is a pattern, observed in nature, repeating over and over again) at many different scales, and where any small part resembles the whole,  or by infinite mirror imaging. For example in the rock temples of Mahabalipuram a large tower is next to smaller towers and shapes are repeated on the towers in smaller and smaller versions. Even the bulls sitting guard around the temple are repeated again and again.

I don’t want to burden you with too much mathematical and scientific verbosity – so let me instead just show you what I find so pleasing:


Golconda Fort

Most people are  familiar with the incredible beauty of such iconic works as the Taj Mahal in Agra:

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi:


The ghats of Varanasi:

There’s more:

Shish Mahal – Agra Fort



Falaknuma Palace


Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai

Falaknuma Palace Hyderabad


There is one group of monuments that is the perfect example of symmetry, infinite mirroring and fractal repetitions.  Unfortunately, I have been unlucky and have not yet been able to see one in person –  stepwells.  These are multilevel storage or irrigation tanks and are simply breathtaking in their symmetrical splendor.  Here is an example of a magnificent 9th Century stepwell,  the deepest in the world – the Chand Baori which is located in Rajasthan:

I think the need to see these as “well” as many other great reasons will send me back to India.




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