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HOW EUROPEAN ARCHITECTURE WAS

IMPORTED TO INDIA IN EARLY


COLONIAL PERIOD?
BY: MANIK BANSAL
3
RD
YEAR-B, 33
SSAA

Colonial India, a part of the Indian subcontinent was under the control of European colonial powers,
through trade and conquest. In the near end of fifteenth century Portuguese were the first to establish
direct trade links with India since roman times, followed by the Dutch and then the British in the
sixteenth century. These colonial powers had a major role in the influx of European architecture to
colonial India.
The Europeans brought with them the concept of town planning and architecture new to India. The
colonial powers created cities, administrative posts and buildings that established a major presence in
the subcontinent. The mingling of these colonial urban and building types with the native hardly
occurred, but a number of new types of built form responding to Indian conditions were developed in
course of time. The European architecture in 16
th
and 17
th
century gave emergence to factories, or
lodges, of the European powers that were walled trading posts consisting of houses for the head or the
president and his subordinates, godowns and offices. Earlier, the English factories were isolated
introverted enclaves, rigidly governed by a president. After these factories the typology shifted to forts
which led to permanent settlement which were located or forming a new town. The coastline of India
had large number of such settlements reflecting its colonial power in character.
Now the Portuguese brought to India the climatically suitable, Iberian galleried patio house which had
been influenced earlier by Moorish architecture.
French under the military and political leadership entered the subcontinent. Settlements in Pondicherry
had rational Cartesian planning and classical architecture which made it important as an urban design
type. The military civil engineers and the architects working in Pondicherry had a formal design
education unlike the designers of the buildings in the British settlements. The main features of the
planning in these settlements were the grid-iron layout, parks, classical public buildings, tree-lined
avenues and garden houses. Moreover classical architecture was used for both the town and suburban
houses that showed an adaption to local climatic conditions. The direct influence of French can only be
seen in their own settlements majorly.

PORTUGUESE:

The Portuguese first came to India for trade in May, 1498. The colonial era in India began in 1502, when
the Portuguese Empire established the first European trading centre at Kollam, Kerala. The city of Goa,
which was the Portuguese main port in Asia from the 16th century on, has actually been called La Rome
de l'Orient.
The Portuguese adapted to India the climatically appropriate Iberian galleried patio house and the
baroque churches of Goa. (Gomez) Se Cathedral and Arch of conception of goa were built in the typical
Portuguese/ gothic style. The St.Francis Church at Cochin built by the Portuguese in 1510 is believed to
be the first church built by Europeans in India. Few other examples built by Portuguese are fort of
castella de aguanda (near Mumbai), the Porte da mer, the Corinthian pillared hall and cathedral of
St.Joseph in bassein fort.
Se Cathedral:

Se cathedral represents the Portuguese-gothic style. It has eight chapels apart from main altar. The
church measures 35.36m height on the faced, 76.2m long and 55.16m wide. It has been built on a raised
plinth made out of laterite that has been covered with lime plaster. There is a long nave, two aisles and
a transept on the southern side of the facade and a bell tower is also apart of southern elevation. It is a
plain building but the interior layout represents a cruciform design. The exterior of the building is Tuscan
and the interior represents Corinthian. A tower was earlier present on the northern facade that
collapsed in 1776. The bell that can be seen in the existing tower is known as the golden bell.
The Portuguese built residential houses in Goa, reflecting a style which is hardly found elsewhere
on the Indian subcontinent. These magnificent palatial houses inspired by European architectural
style are still found in Goa today, although they are confined to the rural areas such as Chandor
and Loutolim. An exception is the commercial town of Margao, which still has some fabulous
houses in its Borda area.

Mansions were also built Goa in an era which saw the Portuguese raking in a handsome profit
from their trading colonies in Africa and South America. Interestingly, the owners were not
usually Portuguese noblemen, but wealthy Goan merchants and high-ranking officials who were
granted land by the Portuguese.

The materials and techniques for the construction of such houses were usually local while the
furnishings and decorations came from all around the world. The walls and pillars were built of
red laterite stone and local wood while the roof was overlay with terracotta roof tiles from
Mangalore. Inside there was fine porcelain from China and Macau, cut glass and mirrors from
Venice, chandeliers from Belgium and tapestries from Portugal. The exquisite furniture was
carved from rosewood by the local craftsmen.
Salvador Costa mansion
This mansion in Loutolim, a South Goa village is famous for the many large and beautiful houses spread
out in a radius of about 1 km from the nucleus of the village. The Costa mansion was built in the 19th
century by two wealthy siblings and priests, Padre Pedrinho and Padre Laurence. Built in the Indian style
(low pitched tiled roof, wide verandas) with European accouterments (Gothic- style windows, cluster
columns), its architecture straddles both worlds just as Goa still does.
DUTCH:

The Dutch entered India with the only interests of Trade in the early 17th Century. During their 200
years in India, they colonized Surat, Bharuch, Venrula, Ahmedabad, Malabar Coast, Kochi and Sadras.
Few significant buildings of this period are: Bastion bungalow This Dutch styled building near the
Fort Kochi beach was built to protect the harbor. Thakur House the Dutch built this bungalow
overlooking the sea as a club. Sadras 17 km (11 mi) from the rock cut temples of Mamallapuram is
another Dutch settlement. Pullicat Pullicat Lake 55 km north of Madras is a million years old and the
second largest lagoon in India. It was the most important trading post of the Dutch. They built two
cemeteries. One was ruined due to negligence and at the entrance is flanked by stone pillars, having 76
tombs. Images of skeletons are carved onto the gravestones, symbolizing life and death. Dutch cemetery
The cemetery runs parallel to the beach and is the oldest European cemetery in India. It holds 104
tombs that visually narrate the Dutch influence in Architecture during the era. The cemetery is guarded
by heavy walls and the entrance pillar still carries the original calligraphic inscription 1724 David Hall
which was the residence of the famous Dutch Commander and Governor of Kochi, Adrian van Reed lot
Drake stein was built in 1695.
Thakur House, on Dutch Cemetery Road, is another building that reflects the glory of a bygone era. It
was built on Gelderland bastion and was earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow.
(https://www.keralatourism.org/kochi/thakur-house-fort-kochi.php) The House, atop a cliff facing the
sea, has been an important landmark of Fort Kochi for centuries. It has lovely lawns and is cooled by
breeze from the sea below. With graceful lines reflecting the leisurely lifestyle of the colonial
era, it exudes a quiet grandeur. Nestled amidst neatly manicured lawns, Thakur House is
isolated from the noise and bustle of the nearby Chinese Fishing Nets and Fort Kochi bus
stop. Thakur House sports several trademarks of Dutch architecture, with its wooden floors,
spacious rooms and large bay windows. Sparkling crystal and earthen pottery adorn tables
and shelves, and ancient glass lamps hang from the rafters. It is an art -lover's paradise, for
several paintings, decorates the walls of the rooms. But, the most beautiful scenery of all
lies right outside the window - the Arabian Sea stretching away to the horizon. There have
been instances when it served maritime operations and military defense purposes against
invaders. Hence the secret tunnels that lie beneath the house.
BRITISH:

The English first came to Indian in 1615, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Indian
colonial architecture evolved in three distinct phases. Many factors influenced the buildings designed
and constructed by the British; chief among them was the projection of power and control. It is with this
mindset that British architects began dominating the visual landscape of India.
(http://empirestudies.com/2011/03/20/the-birth-of-indic-architecture/ )In 1873, T. Roger Smith
concluded:
As our administration exhibits European justice, order, law, energy, and honour and that in no
hesitating or feeble way so our buildings ought to hold up a high standard of European art. They ought
to be European both as a rallying point for ourselves, and as raising a distinctive symbol of our presence
to be beheld with respect and even with admiration by the natives of the country.
It is evident from Smiths conclusion that architecture must be European to inspire respect and
admiration and also, to be distinctive. This idea of using a European style was preferred by both
administrators and architects, most notably in Bombay and Calcutta.
The English took inspiration from Italy when building in the East: at the end of 1700 Lord Wellesley, with
his Palladian "Building Programme" in Calcutta.
This Building Programme consists of:
1. A new and strong "classical" image for the East India Company to frighten and fascinate the local
populations.
2. By using the Palladian style, he found an extremely effective way of opposing the Baroque used by the
French for example in the cities of Chardanagore and Pondicherry.
Lord Wellesley was the first to fight for the building of the famous Government House in
Calcutta, identical to the drawings of Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi's Renaissance-style Villa Mocenigo, and
the one who began a new architectural fashion in India based on the Greek-Roman model. From this
moment on, in fact, pediments and Doric columns appear all across the Indian subcontinent, from
Barrack pore with the Greek Revival project of The Temple of Fame, all the way to Bombay (now
Mumbai), with the powerful Doric arcade of the Town Hall. Both of these buildings date back to the first
half of the 19th century.
European architecture in India is most prevalent in British hill town stations. Hill town stations were
generally defined as places of play for the British elite. (Gomez) These areas exemplify one avenue of
the colonial mindset clearly: separation between two distinct people at its fullest. Within these towns,
one is able to see how the British viewed both themselves, as well as their Indian subjects, and how
these discourses were represented within the architecture. There were two major appeals to the hill
town stations founded by the British in India: one appeal being the more desirable climate, as hill town
stations are focused within higher altitudes in India and therefore afford cooler climates; the other
appeal being the scarcity of actual Indians within these areas. These areas completely isolated the
British inhabitants from India itself, as these stations were to be a piece of Europe away from Europe.
European styles of architecture were once again chosen for such structures. With an almost fantastic
atmosphere (having a home so similar to that of England within India), the British therefore were able to
also adopt a sense of superiority, as the elite rulers of India. This assertion was physically manifested by
the distance the British put between themselves and the Indians in the plains, and only strengthened
the assumptions of racial difference and British superiority.
BOMBAY:

Bombay began expanding under the governorship of Sir Bartlet Frere (r. 1862 1867), who tore down
the walls of the old Fort St. George. Christopher London argues, A convinced Gothic enthusiast, he
devised a master plan for the city, and implemented his vision during his five year tenure. Prior to the
Mutiny and the emergence of the Gothic Revival style, Bombay was molded in the same Neo-Classical
framework as Calcutta. For instance Bombay Town Hall (1833) and the Mint (1829) both display the
columns, pediment, and porticoes, so essential to the Classical style, but this would change shortly.
The Gothic style that came to define Bombay was unlike the Calcutta Classical style. Yet it was still, at its
core, a foreign architectural style constructed with local materials and sensitive to local weather
conditions.(http://empirestudies.com/2011/03/20/the-birth-of-indic-architecture/) The most prominent
Gothic buildings in Bombay include the Victoria Terminus Railway Station (1887) Senate Hall, University
of Bombay (1878) Rajabai Clock Tower, University of Bombay (1878), and Bombay High Court (1878).

Rajabai clock tower:
The Rajabai Clock Tower at the University of Bombay designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott is evocative of
the shift in colonial architecture from Classical to Gothic. Reminiscent of Big Ben at the Palace of
Westminster, London (1859), the Gothic clock tower at Bombay combined the British obsession with
control. In its foreign style it included sculptures of the twenty-four castes of India, combing the
English need for information that led to colonial control, which ultimately led to order in the colony. The
architecture aimed at reinforcing the colonial hierarchy, and this was the message the foreign
architectural style sent to the natives.
The tower was built in a fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles. It is built out of the locally available buff
colored Kurla stone. The tower has one of the best stained glass windows in the city.
The ground floor has two side rooms. The tower forms a carriage porch and a spiral staircase. The
Tower, over the carriage porch, has a square form up to the gallery at the top of the first level. The form
changes from a square to an octagon.
During its time, it was the tallest structure in the city of Mumbai.

Victoria Terminus:
Frederick William Stevens Victoria Terminus was masterpieces of Neo-Gothic architecture.
The structure became a symbol of Bombay and the city was labeled the 'Gothic City' due to this
magnificent building's architectural styles. Apart from being the hub for major mercantile activities, the
CST is the perfect amalgam of British and Indian designs. During the British rule, the station was
eventually redesigned and rebuilt by F.W. Stevens, who named it as Victoria Terminus.
The main architecture of the building reflects the Victorian Gothic styles and designs of the late 19th
century. The style and the ornamentation of the edifice were acceptable to both Indian and European
culture. Complete with turrets, pointed arches and an eccentric ground plan, the CST was a novel
achievement during that period. The entrance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus is flanked by figures of
a lion and a tiger representing the two countries-great Britain and India. The main structure is made of
sandstone and limestone, and the interiors of the station are lined with high-quality Italian marble.
Bibliography:
empirestudies.com/2011/03/20/the-birth-of-indic-architecture/. empirestudies.com/2011/03/20/the-
birth-of-indic-architecture/. [Online] [Cited: March 2, 2014.]
Forging the Raj: Essays on British India in the Heyday of Empire. Metcalf, Thomas. 2005. New Delhi :
Oxford University Press, 2005. 105.
Gomez, Fernando T. Cities of Dreams. Examining the Ideology of Colonial Architecture in India.
http://empirestudies.com/2011/03/20/the-birth-of-indic-architecture/. [Online]
https://www.keralatourism.org/kochi/thakur-house-fort-kochi.php.
https://www.keralatourism.org/kochi/thakur-house-fort-kochi.php. [Online]
Smith, T. Roger. 1873. Architecture Art in India. s.l. : Journal of the Society of Arts XX1, 1873.