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Architecture of India

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Modern Architecture||Sculpture in India||World Heritage Sites|| 
||Famous Architects & Sculptors of India|| 


After the British left India in 1947, Indian architecture dropped into an abyss. Indian architects, who were relegated to the role of being assistants to the British architects under the British Raj, took their own time to express their ingenuity. Perhaps, there was an identity crisis, a dilemma whether to bask in the glory of the past or move forward with times using new ideas, images and techniques. While in other fields like art, music and culture, the distinct Indian imprint was more enhanced in the post-Independence period; no such thing was discernible in the case of architecture.  It is no doubt that the Indian architects were unable to achieve a transformative architecture despite the existence of great potential at the time of Indian Independence.

 The post-Independence period saw the emergence of two schools of thought in architecture -- the Revivalist and the Modernist.  The Revivalists, who advocated "continuity with the past", could not break the shackles of the colonial legacy and left no significant impact on the neo-Indian architecture. The Modernists too depended heavily on the European and American models and tried to adopt them in India without taking into consideration the regional aspirations, diversities and requirements.  The contemporary Indian architecture was also beset with problems like population explosion, lack of vision among the planners, lack of support from the government and a less than satisfactory standard of architecture education.  The result was that during the initial years after the Independence, foreign architects continued to play a leading role in Indian architecture.

 Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, had called for an open architectural competition for the design of the Ashoka Hotel in 1956, which was won by B.E.Doctor, an architect from Bombay. Using technology to create large pillar-less spaces, Doctor created a facade that borrowed from Islamic, Hindu, British and modern architecture.

Indian architecture witnessed a revolution when the Punjab government engaged Le Corbusier to design the new city of Chandigarh. Built in three stages, Corbusier divided the city into three sections. The 'head' consisted of political, bureaucratic and judicial buildings, the administrative parts of the city. The 'body' housed the university and residential complexes in the heart of the city. The 'feet' consisted of industrial sectors and the railway station. Apart from the initial layout of the city, Corbusier also designed several buildings in Chandigarh. The High Court building has a sloping roof, supported by concrete walls which allow air to pass through them. The Assembly is a squarish structure topped with a huge industrial chimney while the Secretariat is made up of hundreds of rooms with an airy exterior.

 Taking inspiration from Le Corbusier's creativity, a young Indian architect D V Joshi designed the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad.  Charles Mark Correa, Doshi’s contemporary, designed the Hindustan Lever pavilion for the India International Trade Fair in 1961. The pavilion was an exposed concrete structure resembling a crumpled packing case made of concrete with a zigzag ramp to walk along. Correa also designed the Gandhi Sanghralaya in Ahmedabad as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

 The Asiad Village in New Delhi, designed by Raj Rewell and built as a colossal Bahai Temple complex with more than 800 residential units, landscaped courts, streets, restaurants and shops, all catering to sports persons who had assembled for the 1982 Asian Games, is one of the architectural landmarks of modern India. The lotus-shaped Bahai temple in New Delhi, designed by Fariburz Sabha in 1980 and completed in December 1986, is an awe-inspiring example of the ingenuity of the Indian architects.

 However, the fact remains that the contemporary architecture in India has failed to inspire.  Even after 50 years of Independence our cities are still symbolised by pre-independence buildings. For instance, Calcutta is symbolised by the Victoria Memorial, New Delhi by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Mumbai by the Victoria Terminus and the Gateway of India and Chennai by the Victoria Memorial Hall.  The post-independence buildings such as the New Secretariat building in Calcutta or the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi has nothing much to offer in terms of architectural style. 

 In contrast most major cities in the world have splendid modern buildings to boast off, like Sydney has its Sydney Opera House, Paris has new Grand Arch and the Georges Pompidos Centre, New York has its World Trade Centre, Chicago has the Sears Tower and Toronto has the C.N.Tower.   Even cities in other Third World countries have several buildings to feel proud about, like Kuala Lumpur has its Petronas Tower, Shangai has the TV Tower, Hong Kong has its Hongkong and Shanghai Corporation building and the Bank of China Building and even Colombo has its new Parliament building.

 In November 1998, the media reported that the foundation stone of World Centre of Vedic Learning, the world's tallest building would be laid at Karondi village, in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. The building, which will be built by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University, is being designed according to the Maharishi Sthapatya Veda symbolising the victory of India's ancient knowledge of Vastu Vidya. The proposed centre for Vedic consciousness, which is modelled on Sao Paulo Tower of Brazil, would be 677 metres (2222 feet) high and 339 metres (1111 feet) wide at the square base. Once completed it will be more than 213 metres (700 feet) taller than the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur and will achieve the distinction of being the world's tallest building.  It was also reported that a consortium of architects and engineers who have designed several of the tallest structures in the world is undertaking the design of the building. Indeed, India will have something to cheer about if this building materializes!

 Madhya Pradesh seems to be the only state in India which has several grand public buildings and international award winning projects.  The New Assembly building in Bhopal and the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board office in Jabalpur, The Judicial Academy in Bhopal, the Rajiv Gandhi Jal Grahan Mission in Raipur and the proposed "White House" in Bhopal are some fascinating examples which show that global aesthetics is moving very fast into the smaller Indian cities.  Paradoxically, it is the smaller cities and towns like Indore, Raipur, Rajkot, Baroda and Bhopal, with no greatly visible architectural traditions like that of Jaipur, Hyderabad or Lucknow, that are displaying unprecedented alacrity in adapting to 'international styles'.  There is a growing brand of young and dynamic architects, which include Charles Correa, Prashant Diwakriti, Ajay Kataria, Anjum Gupta, Vineet Chadha, Nikhil Sompura and others, who do not shy away from experimentation.  Most often these architects employ a hybrid style that is a free mix of Roman, English, Gothic, Rajasthani and Mughal styles.  This new-age architectural aesthetics has redefined the idea of space. The emphasis now seems to be on having more open spaces, green spaces and natural lighting.  It is, however, not possible to term this new trend as a 'representative' architecture of our times as it is highly restricted in geographic terms and also confined to the affluent lot.

||Introduction||Temple Architecture|| Cave Architecture||Rajput Architecture|| Jain Architecture || Indo-Islamic Architecture||Colonial Architecture||Modern Architecture||Sculpture in India||World Heritage Sites|| 
Famous Architects & Sculptors of India|| 

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