Page 43 - Science India August 2022
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           longing to him, Swami Vivekananda had envisioned Belur Math to be a unique Indian icon of architecture. Swami Vi- vekananda believed in ‘spiritually em- powered man’. Swamiji’s intent was car- ried forward by Swami Vijnanananda, another direct disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Belur Math was completed between 13 January 1929 and 14 Janu- ary 1938. The Natmandir, or the congre- gational hall, the Garbhamandira, or the sanctum sanctorum, and Bhandar, the store of relics, are typical ancient Indic functional spaces, interpreted in the con- temporary Indian context.
The Math instantly connects with Indianness, be that a subtle impres- sion of Gopuram of South temples or elements of Bengal architecture. Belur Math is an edifice combining architec- tural expressions of rich Indian diversity, and the features of temple architecture to realise the underlying principle of universal brotherhood. The Math is an eye-feasting experience of Indianness. A celebration of Bharatiyata, it repre- sents spontaneous assertion of Hindu Renaissance when invasion of colonial metaphors was resisting the inevitable Independence.
When Lahore was at the centre of the battle of Hindu identity amidst colonial cultural aggression through architectur- al symbolism, led mainly by Bhai Ram Singh, the quest for freedom from the British underlined the need to rebuild
society out of Vedic roots. Arya Samaj was already established in 1875 in Bom- bay but it transformed into a large-scale movement in Lahore almost a decade later. Lala Lajpat Rai and his colleague, Mahatma Hans Raj, founded the DAV College, Lahore in 1886. From there on, DAV educational institutions pro- liferated under emphatic Hindu iden- tity, but providing modernist education while fanning aggression in the freedom struggle.
The effect of Hindu renaissance was so profound that it permeated into the architectural identity of Lahore also. Ar- chitectural expression of the first DAV institution in Lahore registered its pres- ence by incorporating the shikhara (tow- er) of a Hindu temple on every corner of the building and typical Hindu iconogra- phy on entrance structures. This marked the cultural and Vedic theological revo-
lution, safeguarding from missionary conversion influence. Thus, by resort- ing to education and rebellion through Hindu architectural symbolism, Indians implicitly rejected the overpowering co- lonialism. The stylised architecture can be observed in institutions that followed, such as Sain Das School and DAV Col- lege, both in Jalandhar.
During the freedom struggle, it is evi- dent that architecture was employed as an effective tool to register Hindu iden- tity and break free of colonial culture against its formidable tide. The institu- tionalised Hindu renaissance continues its impactful journey in the twenty-first century, only waiting to now tide over ‘new age’ challenges of ‘modernism’.
*The writer is Professor and Head at the Department of Building Engi- neering and Management at School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Left: The Lahore Museum was designed in the syncretic Indo-Saracenic style by renowned architect
Sir Ganga Ram. It’s construction was
finished in 1894
Below: The Hindu renaissance architecture was visible in prominent buildings of pre-independence period, such as the DAV College, Jalandhar

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