Indo-Saracenic Architecture

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Vandana Baweja

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Indo-Saracenic Architecture

In colonial historiography, architecture in South Asia is stylistically classified as Neoclassical, Gothic, and Indo-Saracenic. The debates on style in South Asia were closely tied to the nationalistic battles between proponents of the Neoclassical and Gothic styles in Britain. In the South Asian colonial context, the debate over an appropriate style hinged on how architectural styles should represent Britain’s status as the imperial ruler of South Asia—whether colonial architecture in South Asia should be built in styles that were prevalent in Britain or in Indic indigenous styles. After the mutiny when the British crown took over the governance of India, the quest for an appropriate assimilationist indigenous style led to the development of the Indo-Saracenic style as a modernized native style. It drew its aesthetic expression from a synthetic reconfiguring of regional indigenous architectures, which were combined with modern functional planning and engineering. The term “Saracenic” referred to Islamic architecture in nineteenth century India. G.H.R. Tillotson locates the Indo-Saracenic style in a larger global context to argue that it was a South Asian iteration of the global developments that were taking place in reconstituting Neoclassical and Gothic architectural styles with modern technologies and spatial planning. Indo-Saracenic architecture can thus be understood as part of a synchronic global revivalist phenomenon in the mid to late nineteenth century along the colonial networks of the Empire. G. H. R. Tillotson, 'George S.T. Harris: An Architect in Gwalior,' South Asian Studies, 20, no. 1, (2004), 9–24.

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