Page 42 - Science India August 2022
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Swatantrata ka Amrut Mahotsava
The context of Santiniketan can be traced back to Raja Rammohun Roy’s revolutionary ideas of 1772 that were a significant starting point in the entire notion of them, the British, versus us, the Indians. Jorasanko Thakur Bari, where Gurudev was born in 1861 and died in 1941, was the epicentre of philosophical ideas and cultural fusion of Bengal art movement. Gurudev had inherited a rich legacy and propounded his conviction through poetic sensibilities from Upani- shadic humanism. Gurudev carried for- ward sansakars leading to experiments in education, art and architecture at Santiniketan. This led to the creation of a unique Indian cultural identity around the architecture of Visva-Bharati, while the Non-Cooperation movement raged alongside.
The initial evolution of architecture was around local Bangla thatched struc- tures and subsequently it was immensely influenced by Brahmanical architecture, the Indian cave monasteries and Jha- rokhas of Gujarat. Contrary to symbolic aggrandisement of the imperial power, the campus was designed on the princi- ples of minimalism. It was an endeavour of fusion of Indian traditions and their application in the educational system. Gurudev believed in Indian folktales as part of education using metaphor and descriptions enshrined in the Puranas. In typical Indian style, Santiniketan is perfect blending of environment and ar- chitecture, converging on the goals of nationalistic education.
The architectural language was in- spired by local styles visible in surround- ing villages, thus leading to sustainable use of local materials as well. The tra- ditional Guru Shishya Parampara was at the core of teaching that integrated
When Pt Madan Mohan Malviya decided to create Benaras Hindu University (right), he approached Rabindranath Tagore for advice on its architecture
learning within the space and outside in open. In Santiniketan, where the first school was established by Gurudev in 1901, the built form reflects unity in humanity where the world would form a single nest. Rejecting colonial influ- ences invading India’s cultural identity, the Visva-Bharati brought back the sense of Indianness, in dialogue with nature. It was truly an Indian sustainable phi- losophy that synthesised creativity and intellectual revolution rather than em- bracing subjugation to the language of the oppressors.
IN SEARCH OF INDIAN IDENTITY When Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya decided to create a unique Hindu Univer- sity, he approached Gurudev Rabindra- nath Tagore for the guidance on archi- tectural character befitting Indianness. And, thus the services of Surendranath Kar were solicited to create an iconic uni- versity. A glance is enough to compre- hend the essence of design, as described in the University Anthem as ‘...Primordi- al design of divinity alone, Mansions of Knowledge, center of all creation...’. It is an emphatic imprint of Hindu identity of architecture and the cultural values that University imbibes through its ambience. The aim was to bring Hindu community under a system of education and thus, Pt Malviya ji referred to the university as ‘Vidya Mandir’ in pursuance of ‘passion for Indian culture’.
The crescent shape of the campus plan evolved from ‘Karmuka’ plan, symbolising the half-moon gracing the forehead of Lord Shiva and the temple of Lord Vishvanatha at the centre, the Garbhgriha (sanctum sanctorum), of the university, referred to as cosmogenic Banaras. The temple embodies Dwa- dasheshvar, the twelve Shiv-lingas with six sub-divisions (upakhandas) or blocks on north and south side of the radial path. Pt Malviya wished for the orienta- tion such that students could see river Ganga in the east in the morning and recite the Gayatri Mantra.
BHU was hailed as ‘India’s own Uni- versity’, drawing inspiration from Shilp- shastras. The architecture of BHU has a profound effect on the cultural identity that the institution aspires to pursue. Iconography is a tangible integral part of the Hindu ethos and intangible mes- saging entwined inseparably together. The result is the learning environment devoid of any distractions, focused at the all-pervading Bharatiyata. The transfor- mational effect of Indian architecture- built form, perusal of cultural values, freedom from the mindset of colonial subjugation, combined with Indian ar- chitecture being the causal force behind.
As a tribute to the Master — Ramakrish- na Paramhansa — and house relics be-

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