The architecture of India was governed largely by religion. Because India has had many different religions throughout time, it has a wide variety of architecture.
The oldest known Indian buildings date back to nearly the fourth century BC. The remains of some of the earliest Indian structures are burnt brick buildings at Johenyo-daro and Harappa (in present day Pakistan). They are believed to be Buddhist burial mounds. The most common examples of Buddhist-Indian architecture are the stupas. They originated from prehistoric burial mounds, but soon became much more. They were often covered with an umbrella shaped stone canopy, and marked as important places. The later stupas had entrances into them marked with "gates," and with chambers inside, often with statues of Buddha. A good example of a stupa is the Great Stupa, in central India.
Jainism, another religion that was not as popular as Buddhism, was also in India at about 300 BC. The first Jain structures were rock-cut shrines. Later, the temples were stone buildings with a dome and spire on top. Jain and Hindu buildings often had far more decorations than Buddhist architecture. A well known example of Jain architecture is Pilitana. It is a complex of Jain temples built over the centuries since 1000 ad.
Hinduism, although one of the oldest religions in India did not have much notable architecture until around 600 ad. After Hinduism became the prominent religion in India, there was a manual on the proper construction of Hindu temples. Hindu temples, like Greek temples, were meant as places for the gods, not for the use of mortals. Their architecture is distinguishable by lots of decorations and pyramid-shaped roofs. The Hindu religion spread through Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia; where they built thousands of temples. One of the biggest is Angkor Wat. It is a rectangular shaped compound, surrounded by a two and a half mile long moat. It is shaped somewhat like a step pyramid with a tower at each corner and one in the middle.
With the Muslim conquest beginning in the tenth century, a new style of architecture arose. The first Muslim mosques were built in Delhi and Amjer during the twelth century ad. They bore a resemblance to Hindu and Jain temples, but had new features like pointed arches, stucco work, floral patterns set in geometrical patterns, domes, and minarets. In the mid sixteenth century, the Mogul Empire was created. The ruler of this empire, Akbar, had some splendid architectural works made. He had the royal town of Fatehpur Sikri (1569-1580) constructed on top of a hill. It was deserted because of difficulties getting water there, but the buildings still stand. He also had several tombs, including one for his father, built. The most famous building in India is the Taj Mahal. It was built by Emperor Shad Jahan as the tomb for his wife. It's white marble dome is inlaid with multi colored gemstones. The Taj Mahal is set upon a platform, set off by four slender minarets, and reflected in a giant reflecting pool.