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European colonists brought
with them to India concepts of their "world view" and a whole baggage of the
history of European architecture --- Neo-Classical, Romanesque, Gothic and
The initial structures
were utilitarian warehouses and walled trading posts, giving way to fortified
towns along the coastline.
Portuguese adapted to India the climatically appropriate Iberian galleried patio
house and the Baroque churches of Goa.
Arch of Conception
of Goa were built in the typical Portuguese-Gothic style.
The St. Francis Church at Cochin, built by the Portuguese in 1510, is believed
to be the first church built by the Europeans in India. The Portuguese also
built the fort of
Castella de Aguanda
near Mumbai and added fortifications to the Bassein fort built by Bahadur Shah,
the Sultan of Gujarat, in 1532 AD. The Bassein fort is famous for the
(Cathedral of St Joseph), the Corinthian pillared hall and the
Porte da Mer (sea gate).
Danish influence is evident in Nagapatnam, which was laid out in squares
and canals and also in Tranquebar and Serampore. The French gave a
distinct urban design to its settlement in Pondicherry by applying the
Cartesian grid plans and classical architectural patterns. The
Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus (Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus),
the Eglise de Notre Dame de Anges
Eglise de Notre Dame de
Lourdes at Pondicherry have a distinct French influence.
However, it was the British who left a lasting impact on the India
architecture. They saw themselves as the successors to the Mughals and
used architecture as a symbol of power.
The British followed various architectural styles – Gothic, Imperial,
Christian, English Renaissance and Victorian being the essentials.
first buildings were factories but later courts, schools, municipal
dak bungalows came
up, which were ordinary structures built by garrison engineers.
A deeper concern with architecture was exhibited in churches and other
public buildings. Most of the buildings were adaptations of the
buildings designed by leading British architects of that time like Wren,
Adam, Nash and others in London and other places.
For instance, the Church of St. John at Calcutta was built in 1787
inspired by St. Stephens Church at Walbrooks, the Government House in
Calcutta was built by Capt. Charles Wyatt modelled on the Kedleston Hall
of Derbyshire, the Indian Government Mint in Calcutta is a half-scale
replica of the Temple of Minerva at Athens and the Pachaiyappa's Hall in
Chennai was modelled on the Athenium Temple of Theseus.
Unlike Europe, however, these buildings were built mostly of brick and
stuccoed with lime or
sometimes "facades" incised to look like stones. Some later buildings
were, however, built with stones.
Churches, which were symbols of colonialism, were built in great style.
Based on London prototypes, several churches evolved with variations as
highly original works. The earliest example is the St. Mary's Church in
Fort St. George in Chennai.
Neo-Gothic architecture flourished in different parts of India under
the British, inspired by the Houses of Parliament in London. Colonel
Thomas Cowper built the town hall in Bombay during 1820 to 1835.
Governor Sir Bartle Frere tried to give a truly imperial ambience to the
city of Bombay. During his reign the old town walls were broken down and
the Gateway of India was built in the Gothic style of architecture. The
Secretariat, University Library, Rajabai Tower, Telegraph Office and the
Victoria Terminus all followed the Victorian Gothic style, similar to
buildings in London. Undoubtedly, the Victoria Terminus, designed by the
architect Frederick Willaim Stevens modelled on the St.Pancras Station,
is the finest example of Gothic architecture with a subtle hint of the
Indo-Saracenic motifs, an extravaganza of polychromatic stone, decorated
tile marble and stained glass.
Stevens also designed other buildings like the Churchgate Terminus and
the Municipal Building opposite the Victoria Terminus.
Varanasi, one of the true Gothic monuments is Queen’s College, built in
a perpendicular style by Major Kitoe from 1847 to 1852. In Allahabad,
the British built a series of edifices including the University, All
Saints Cathedral, the High Court and the Mayo College. In Calcutta, a
High Court was constructed following the Gothic style. The Howrah Bridge
(1943), with its red brick facade surrounded by eight square towers
represents a combination of the Oriental and Roman styles. Fort William,
the stronghold of the British in mid 19th century that took
13 years to construct at a cost of more than $3.5 million and the
Victoria Memorial in Calcutta (1921), designed by Sir William Emerson,
are probably the most imposing of all British structures in India.
passing of power from the East India Company to the British Crown, the
rise of Indian nationalism and the introduction of Railways were the
watersheds in the British Colonial Indian architectural history. New
materials like concrete, glass, wrought and cast iron opened up new
architectural possibilities. The British also started assimilating and
adopting the native Indian styles in the architecture. All these factors
led to the development of Indo-Saracenic architecture towards the end of
the 19th century. Victorian in essence, it borrowed heavily
from the Islamic style of Mughal and Afghan rulers. In fact it was a
pot pouri of architectural styles; a hybrid style that combined in a
wonderful manner diverse architectural elements of Hindu and Mughal with
gothic cusped arches, domes, spires, tracery, minarets and stained
Indo-Saracenic style was Indian on the outside and British inside since
the facade was built with an Indian touch while the interior was solely
Victorian. F.S.Growse, Sir Swinton Jacob, R.F.Chisholm and H.Irwin were
the pioneers of this style of architecture. The Chepauk Palace in
Chennai designed by Paul Benfield is said to be the first Indo-Saracenic
building in India. Other outstanding examples of this style of
architecture include the Law Courts, Victoria Memorial Hall, Presidency
College and Senate House of Chennai, Muir College at Allahabad, Napier
Museum at Thiruvanthapuram, the Post Office, Prince of Wales Museum and
the Gateway of India in Mumbai, the Maharaja's Palace at Mysore and
M.S.University and Lakshmi Villas Palace at Baroda.
architecture of New Delhi was the crowning glory of the British Raj.
Robert Byron described New Delhi as "The Rome of Hindostan". The British
built New Delhi as a
systematically planned city after it was made the capital in 1911. The
British Viceroy made Sir Edward Lutyens responsible for the overall plan
of Delhi. He was specifically directed to
"harmonise externally with the traditions of Indian art". Thus, the
architecture with Oriental motif was realised with
chajjas, jalis and
as stylistic devices in the Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan).
Herbert Baker added the imposing buildings of the South Block and the
North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Another Englishman
called Robert Tor Tussell built the Connaught Place and the Eastern and
Martin’s Garrison Church marks the culmination of the British
architectural ventures in India.
The Church is a huge monolith with a high square tower and deeply sunken
window ledges reminiscent of Dutch and German architecture.
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