Page 41 - Science India August 2022
P. 41

The urbanisation during 1857-1947 both invaded and celebrated colonial archi- tecture. One of the notable architects of the 19th century was Fredrick Wil- liam Stevens who designed some of the key buildings in Bombay such as Victo- ria Railway Station and the Municipal Corporation buildings in distinct colo- nial style. The first architecture school in Asia was established in 1913 at Sir J. J. College of Art, Bombay, designed by George Twigge Molecey, in Neo- Gothic architecture style.
Calcutta was not far behind in ‘colo- nising’ architectural space with edifices in Greco-Roman and European neoclas- sicism. During the same period, Bhai Ram Singh was the foremost architect in Punjab. Patronised by the British, he designed some of the most celebrated buildings in West Punjab in Indo-Sar- acenic style. And, it has etched a strong colonial influence in the urban-scape. For his profound services to the cause of the British, he earned the Royal British honour of MVO (Member of the Royal Victorian Order). The influence of the works of Bhai Ram Singh continues to be so profound that Khalsa College, Am- ritsar is a ‘must-visit’ tourist destination even today. Literature suggests that Bhai Ram Singh also contributed to build- ing the Governor’s House at Shimla, in Tudor style, and housing paintings in Moorish style.
Thus, we note that the architecture during the second half of the 19th cen- tury was an expression of cultural glo- rification of the same class of rulers that the freedom struggle of Bharat was aim- ing to unshackle. Strategic use of ico- nography in the urban-scape has left an indelible impression that has resulted in obsessive imitation of colonial architec- tural style even today. Proliferation of alien architecture in India was a natural corollary to the majestic invasion mush- rooming from urban centres like Bom- bay and Calcutta.
It is fair to infer that the propagation of colonial, Islamic and external archi- tectural influences obscured the search
for identity of Bharat not just in its ar- chitectural heritage but also plunging consciousness into cultural subjugation of Bharatiyata, or rather, leaving behind a legacy of cultural affinity towards the foreign class that India strived to break free of through Independence in 1947.
The ‘Struggle of Identity of Bharatiya Architecture’ during the period of free- dom movement is a story of cultural valour.
The Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya (BHU), Belur Math and DAV institutions are exam- ples that need to be acknowledged for their emphatic assertion of architecture of Bharat while carrying forward the agenda of Bharatiyata through educa- tion and socio-cultural resurgence. The events of 1857 ignited a renaissance of Hindu identity through socio-cultural movements rooted in Vedic philosophy
Santiniketan edifices, such as Singha Sadan (above) and Udayana complex (left), were designed in Indian style, in a perfect blend of environment and architecture
and resurgence of educational institu- tions to assert Bharatiya identity.
This was a distinct rebellion of ar- chitecture to expunge external influ- ences and instil Bharatiyata as the soul of buildings. Rather than glorifying di- versity through varied colonial, Mughal or other influences, these institutions used architectural expression of their buildings with distinct Hindu identity, built-form, scale, classical structural configurations and ancient Indic design embellishments. The aim was to impart experiential motivation of Indianness and ingrain cultural and national iden- tity using iconography and expression consistent with philosophical narra- tive. It was another freedom struggle of Bharatiya Architecture yearning to purge irrelevant and non-contextual influences occupying our own rightful urban space.
IDENTITY AT SANTINIKETAN Architect Surendranath Kar was the mastermind for translating Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s conviction of peace and brotherhood against tides of influences of the western civilization.

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