Q. 1. Explain any three broad architectural styles used by the British for the public buildings in the Colonial cities with examples.
Ans. For Public buildings, three architectural styles were used by the British in India:
(a) The Neo-Classical style – The Neo-classical or the new classical style had several features. It comprised constructions of geometrical structures fronted with raised pillars. This style was adopted from the buildings of Ancient Rome. The British wanted to display Grandeur of Imperial Rome. This architectural style was found suitable for tropical weather of India. The Town Hall in Bombay was built in this style.
(b) The New-Gothic style – The building constructed in the Neo-Gothic architectural style had high-pitched roofs, pointed arches and extensive decoration. This style was adopted in the construction of the churches in northern Europe during the medieval period. It was again revived in England in mid 19th century. It was the time when the Bombay Government was building important government buildings like the Secretariat, the High Court and the University of Bombay.
Few Indians also gave money for construction. For example, Sir Cowasjee Jehnagir donated to build the University Hall. He was a rich Parsi Merchant. In the same way, Premchand Roychand funded the making of the University Library Clock Tower. This tower was named after his mother as Rajabai Tower. Indian Merchants also liked the Neo-Gothic style because they believed that the building styles of British were also progressive, like their ideas and it would help convert Bombay into a modern city.
The most spectacular and bewitching example of the Neo-Gothic Style is the Victoria Terminus, the Station and Head quarters of the Railway Stations in city because they were proud of themselves that they had built an All-India Railway Network. Central Bombay was a group of these buildings. Their uniform Neo-Gothic Style gave a special character to the city.
(c) Indo-Saracenic style – A new hybrid architectural style was developed in the beginning of the 20th century, which was a mixture of the indo European style. This style was given the name of Indo-Saracenic style. The word ‘Indo’ was a short form of ‘Hindu’ and the word ‘Saracen’ was used by Europeans to designate Muslims. This style was inspired by the medieval buildings in India with their domes, chhatris, jalis, arches, etc. By integrating Indian Style with European style, British wanted to express that they are the legitimate and natural rulers of India. In 1911, the Gateway of India was built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to India. It is the most famous example of the traditional Gujarati style. The famous Industrialist Jamsedji Tata built the hotel Taj Mahal in a similar style.
Q. 2 . “The architectural style in Colonial Bombay represented ideas of Imperial Power, Nationalism and Religious glory.” Support the statement with examples.
Ans. One way of realising the Imperial vision was through town planning. The other was through embellishing cities with monumental buildings which could include Forts, Government Offices, Educational Institutions, Religious structures, Commemorative towers, Commercial depots or even Docks and Bridges.
Since meant for only serving function needs, like Defence, Administration and Commerce, these were rarely simple buildings. They were meant to represent ideas such as Imperial Power, Nationalism and Religious glory. It was exemplified in the case of Bombay. By the late 19th century, Indian merchants in Bombay were investing their wealth in new businesses and patronised building activities in the city. As Bombay’s economy grew, there was a need to expand railways and shipping and administrative structure.
Many new buildings were constructed at this time and these buildings reflected the culture and confidence of the rulers. The architectural style was usually European. This importation of European styles reflected the Imperial vision in many ways. First, it expressed that British desired to create a familiar landscape in an alien country and thus to feel at home in the colony. Secondly, the British felt that European styles would best symbolise their superiority, authority and power. Thirdly, they thought that buildings that looked European would mark out the difference and distance between the Colonial Masters and their Indian subjects.