A tiger skin hangs majestically in the drawing room, the column at la Martiniere,Lucknow is a fitting tribute to the surrounding landscape, the card room of Faluknama Palace, Hyderabad gives you a glimpse of the British aristocracy … These were some of the displays at the ‘Shadow of the Raj’ exhibition by photographer Derry Moore who had captured some of the Colonial scenes in mid 1970’s. All set in monochromatic tones, the architectural scenes, the landscapes and the portraits succeeded in ushering you back to the colonial era. Derry Moore had mainly toured Calcutta, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, Mushirdabad,Mumbai and captured the British colonial scenes back then…
The exhibition prompted me to explore a bit about the colonial architecture in the country and here is what I found..
The ancient Indian scene:
The Indian architectural scene had been rich and diverse even before the arrival of the European powers be it Portuguese, French, Dutch or the English in the country . Just take a look at the ancient Indian architecture – Sanchi Stupa,Mahabodhi temple, cave temples ….
Or the medieval architecture that saw Mughal styled structures- Tajmahal, Fatehpur Sikiri to name a few.
The foreigners who arrived initially came with the sole intention of trade. So these European powers began building ware houses, offices, churches in the beginning. Their architecture styles especially churches predominately revolved around Roman, Gothic, French influences etc.
With the political dominance of English in the country there was a fusion of European architecture with Indian buildings. The initial structures were the barracks, residential buildings of the cantonments. There was a influence of local element too especially in the officers residences. The Bangla of Bengal was adapted to suit the tastes of the European officer and so it became the vast free standing Bungalows of today.
Before the 1857 revolt the construction of colonial buildings depicted the imperial power of the English. The official structures be it the post office, police stations or administrative offices were modeled to showcase this aspect. Often they followed the European classic style or the Gothic style revealing the superiority of the buildings of the west.
After the revolt the structures built were to showcase solidarity between the British and India. Thus European buildings now started adding Swadeshi elements. Thus the resultant style was often Indo- Saracenic found in most of the buildings in Chennai- Senate House, Courts, Post offices etc. Bombay however retained its Gothic style. Victoria Terminus is a fine example of this.
With the shifting of capital to Delhi in 1911, the British focus was to showcase the imperial strength of their empire. The planned city incorporated a fusion of styles- Mughal, Buddhist symbols… You can still see domes, arches,lotuses and symbols like Elephants in the buildings of the new capital. A glimpse of this type of building can be seen in many of the city’s strutures- prominent one being the Rastrapathi Bhavan.
With the British leaving the country, these colonial structures remained in remembrance of their rule. Alongside these heritage structures mushroomed skyscrapers, apartments,corporate housing and the shiny glass and chrome buildings that we see today. Yet these yesteryear structures say many a tale of the days gone by. And these are the very stories that we explore in our British walks be it the Bungalow Walk or the Cathedral Walk in our city. Come join us to hear more of such interesting tales.