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The British Rule: Indian Architecture

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Development Of Architecture under British Rule

During early years of their rule architecture and building empire was regarded needless but followed by it they understood that architecture reflects extension of Europe in Asia as well as their local self-governance which can be seen through beautiful buildings across Madras, Calcutta and Bombay as well as their colonial buildings. Over their rule they adopted different architecture styles like Hindu, Muslim, Gothic and finally Indo-Saracenic style which now in modern India is considered as too vague and inclusive. Therefore, British ruled over India but at no time they stop to define themselves as above or apart from India’s past and subjects as seen through developing architectural styles under their rule.

Architecture which British regarded as needless and wastage of profit until mid nineteenth century was later considered as an opportunity to mix an essence of Britain as well as Europe to India by building architectural buildings through various architectural styles. Early architecture was seen alone in presidency capitals of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay which is an example of hybrid architecture where European forms mixes with Indian styles. With abolishment of East India Company there was a need of building British Empire with use of architectural buildings. However one of the prominent features for enduring architectural structure was to bring styles of two religious communities together with an essence of European style. This was an important feature as Hindu style provided certain continuity and elegance but still lack mechanical deficiencies which could only be filled up by bringing together Muslim style or Saracenic style of architecture. Thus this gave rise to Indo-Saracenic style of architecture which was marked as an era in architectural development in India.


Chepauk Palace was the official residence of the Nawab of Arcot from 1768 to 1855

Chepauk Palace is situated in the neighbourhood of Chepauk in Chennai, India and is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture

Chepauk Palace is situated in the neighbourhood of Chepauk in Chennai, India and is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture

Distinct Architectural styles under British Era

  • Lord Mayo insisted Hindu style for building Mayo College however Gordon visited Dig as well as nearby capitals of Agra and Fatehpur Sikri which gave rise to this style of Indo-Saracenic architecture. This style was a perfect example of intermingled religious contribution to build British Empire. Though Hindu style borrowed very much from the Muslim style therefore there was no barrier to make use of such mixed style architecture as well as it was most admirably suited to then modern buildings. Moreover, features of this style like affordability, mix match designs and picturesque makes it the best option for British to adopt for its colonial buildings.
  • Moreover, architectural towers like Qutub Minar in Delhi were another architectural style adopted during their rule. The clocks designed among the towers also marked a new era in developing architectural style.
  • Though Indo-Saracenic style was suitable for public buildings but not for temples and mosques for which English Georgian style was used. However churches were built with essence of Gothic style. Therefore, developing style of architecture under British rule ought to mark British Empire in Indian terms.




The Architectural Tower

The Rajabai tower is a clock tower in South Mumbai, India. It is a part of The Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai, which was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 2018.

The Rajabai tower is a clock tower in South Mumbai, India. It is a part of The Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai, which was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 2018.

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”

— Frank Gehry

Essence in Indian Architecture!

Essence of religion:

Architectural approach of religion as to how architecture style of two different communities intermingled perfectly to provide architectural buildings to the British Empire. Indo-Saracenic is the best example where essence of Hindu as well as Muslim style was mixed to come to conclusions.

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European essence:

The use of European essence in building colonial architectures in India marked an essence of Europe in Indian soil. Moreover, building bungalows mainly in Bengal and South India with European essence is an example of how British essence was well mixed with Indian style and how British wants to develop India with its own past and subjects.

Therefore Britishers brought two communities together but through different approaches. Moreover, they throw light on how British Empire wanted to mix with India’s own styles, past and subjects.

The Gothic Style

St Paul’s Cathedral is a church of North India cathedral of Anglican background in Kolkata, West Bengal, India noted for its Gothic architecture and dedicated to Paul the Apostle

St Paul’s Cathedral is a church of North India cathedral of Anglican background in Kolkata, West Bengal, India noted for its Gothic architecture and dedicated to Paul the Apostle

"The principle of the Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable. It is no doubt a sublimer effort of genius than the Greek style; but then it depends much more on execution for its effect."

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

British Rule Subjected Indian Past for Architecture?

British Empire built beautiful architectural buildings but never built temples and mosques which could have harmed pride of rulers. Moreover, towers with clocks are classic examples of how British mixed Indian style and subject with their form. Though there were two religions in India but they mixed them well by organizing Indo-Saracenic style of Architecture. They asserted a claim to knowledge and hence to power from within. (Metcalf, 1984). Therefore British never stop defining themselves as above or apart from Indian past and subjects.



Indian Architectural Church under British Colonial Era

Church of St Francis Assisi in Goa, India

Church of St Francis Assisi in Goa, India

Bibliography:

Metcalf, T. R. (1984). Architecture and the Representation Of Empire India. California: University Of California Press.

The Architectural style!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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