European colonists brought with them concepts of their “world view” and an entire wealth of the history of European architecture – Neo-Classical, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. The initial colonial structures were functional warehouses and walled trading posts, which gave way to fortified towns  along the coastline. The Portuguese adapted to India the climatically appropriate Iberian galleried ‘patio house’ and the Baroque churches of Goa. ‘Se Cathedral’ and ‘Arch of Conception’ of Goa were built in the typical Portuguese-Gothic style. The St. Francis Church at Cochin (Kochi), built by the Portuguese in 1510 A.D., 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 A.D. The Bassein fort is famous for the ‘Matriz’ (Cathedral of St. Joseph), the Corinthian pillared hall and the ‘Porte da Mer’ (sea gate).

St. Francis Church at Cochin

St. Francis Church at Cochin

The Danish influence is evident in Nagapattinam, 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 (‘Puducherry’) by applying the Cartesian grid plans and classical architectural patterns. French influence is distinct in the ‘Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus’, ‘Eglise de Notre Dame de Anges’ and the ‘Eglise de Notre Dame de Lourdes’ at Puducherry. However, it was the British who left a lasting impact on the Indian architecture. They saw themselves as successors to the Mughals and used architecture as a symbol for displaying their power. They followed different architectural styles like the Gothic, Imperial, Christian, English Renaissance and the Victorian.

Church of St. John at Kolkata

The first buildings were factories but later, courts, schools, municipal halls and ‘Dak bungalows’ came up, which were ordinary-looking structures built by garrison engineers. A deeper thought on architectural styles was given during the construction of 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 Kolkata 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 Kolkata 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 their European counterparts, these buildings were built mostly of brick and stuccoed with lime or ‘chunam’, 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. Several churches evolved with variations as highly original works based on London prototypes, like the St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George in Chennai.

 

Victoria Terminus

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 Mumbai during 1820 to 1835. Governor Sir Bartle Frere tried to give a truly imperial ambience to 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 Frederick Willaim Stevens modelled on the St. Pancras Station, is the finest example of Gothic architecture with a subtle hint of Indo-Saracenic motifs, an extravaganza of polychromatic stone, decorated tile marble and stained glass.

One of the true Gothic monuments in Varanasi, is the ‘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 ‘Mayo College’. In Kolkata, a High Court was constructed following the Gothic style. The ‘Howrah Bridge’ (1943) represents a combination of the Oriental and Roman styles. Fort William and the ‘Victoria Memorial’ in Kolkata (1921), designed by Sir William Emerson, are probably the most imposing of all British structures in India.

Chepauk Palace

The passing of power from the East India Company to the British Crown, the rise of Indian nationalism and 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 native Indian styles in 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 the Mughal and Afghan rulers. In fact it was a pot pouri of architectural styles; a hybrid style that combined in wonderful manner diverse architectural elements, the Hindu and Mughal styles with gothic cusped arches, domes, spires, minarets and stained glass. The 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. The pioneers of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture were F.S.Growse, Sir Swinton Jacob, R.F.Chisholm and H.Irwin. 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 Victoria Memorial Hall, Presidency College and Senate House of Chennai, Muir College at Allahabad, Napier Museum at Thiruvanthapuram, Prince of Wales Museum and the Gateway of India in Mumbai, Maharaja’s Palace at Mysore and the Lakshmi Villas Palace at Baroda.

The first buildings were factories but later, courts, schools, municipal halls and ‘Dak bungalows’ came up, which were ordinary-looking structures built by garrison engineers. A deeper thought on architectural styles was given during the construction of 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 Kolkata 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 their European counterparts, these buildings were built mostly of brick and stuccoed with lime or ‘chunam’, 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. Several churches evolved with variations as highly original works based on London prototypes, like the St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George in Chennai.

 

Rashtrapati Bhawan

The 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 and specifically directed him to “harmonise externally with the traditions of Indian art”. Thus, the Western architecture with Oriental motif was realised with ‘chajjas’, ‘jalis’ and ‘chhattris’, as stylistic devices in the ‘Viceroy’s House’ (now ‘Rashtrapati Bhawan’). Herbert Baker added the imposing buildings of the South Block and North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Another Englishman called Robert Tor Tussell built the Connaught Place and the Eastern and Western Courts.

St. Martin’s Garrison Church, which marks the culmination of the British architectural ventures in India, is a huge monolith with a high square tower and deeply sunken window ledges, indicative of the Dutch and German architectural influences.

 

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