Architecture has always been a symbol of change. Buildings reflect a multitude of dominant factors that influenced their construction. These factors can include the prevalent architectural style of the time, the existing and common technologies, the religious sentiments of the populace, and of course the political ideology of the time. Architecture has always consciously mirrored the idea and beliefs of the people of an era. It is a true reflection of the development of society as a whole.
Politics and architecture have always had a symbiotic relationship with each other. Each of them has sustained and impacted the other with definite intention. Buildings can act as harbingers of change. They can be places of political importance or places that become symbols over time. India, with its rich and tumultuous history, has many such politically important structures. Let us look at some such structures:
1. Parliament House or the Sansad Bhavan
This circular building inspired by the Chausath Yogini temple was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker and opened in 1927.
It houses the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and Rajya Sabha (Council of States), along with ministerial offices, several committee rooms, and an impressive library. At present, there is a proposal to build a new Parliament House since the original iconic structure has been used almost constantly for the past century.
2. Central Secretariat building
Designed by architect Herbert Baker in the Indo-Saracenic Revival style, this complex is made up of 2 symmetrical blocks that flank the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The design of the building also was influenced by Rajasthani and Mughal architecture styles, with several regional motifs and features incorporated into the structure. This building houses some of the country’s most important ministries of the Cabinet of India, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) is also the official residence of the President of India.
3. Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
Situated next to the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a heritage hotel located in Mumbai, India. Built-in the Saracenic Revival style, this hotel has hosted various eminent guests, including presidents of various countries, since its opening in 1903. The structure also acted as a military hospital during the First World War. It was one of the main sites targeted during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Today it is known for being one of the finest hotels in the world, easily recognizable by its mighty, 240-foot high central dome.
4. Fergusson College
Fergusson College is one of the oldest colleges in India. It was established in 1885 by the Deccan Education Society. The college campus is spread over 37 acres and its design shows Victorian, Gothic as well as Indian influences. Located in Pune, India the college has always been closely associated with Indian politics. Its founders were pioneers of the Indian National Congress and also the Indian Socialist Movements. The college has been the alma mater for numerous eminent ministers and legislators. It is also the only institution in India to have been the place of study for two prime ministers.
5. Gateway of India
The Gateway of India is a monument built in the Indo-Saracenic style located in Mumbai, India. It was erected to commemorate the landing of King-Emperor George V and Queen-Empress Mary, but ultimately became the monument from where the last British troops left India, following their defeat and Indian independence in 1947. Its design is inspired by Roman monuments with their grand arches. The structure has now become an icon of Mumbai city, beloved amongst the locals and a popular tourist spot.
6. India Gate
The India Gate is a war memorial located in New Delhi. It was built as a memorial for soldiers of the British India Army in the First World War and other conflicts in the world. The structure is a symbol of sacrifice and duty and has today become a major tourist attraction in Delhi. Over the years it has also become a popular spot for citizens to congregate and protest for civil and humanitarian issues.
7. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
Established in 1969, the JNU is one of the top universities in India, known for its leading faculties and comprehensive liberal arts and applied sciences syllabus. Political activism is an enormous part of the campus life and routine, with intellectual debates on various social issues including feminism, minority rights, etc. being the norm. JNU students have been known to be vocal about any situation of socio-political turmoil in the country.
8. Cellular Jail
The Cellular Jail was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Many political activists and freedom fighters were imprisoned here during India’s fight for independence. The prison was constructed over 10 years beginning in 1896. Prisoners imprisoned here would often be pushed beyond endurance, tortured, starved, and isolated. However, parts of the original prison were destroyed after India gained independence against British rule. Today, the structure is a national memorial monument.
Santiniketan has established in 1863 around 158 km from Kolkata as a place where people of any religion, caste, or gender could seek peace. Later in 1901, it was developed into an experimental abode of learning by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The aim was to allow students to learn beyond the confines of a typical classroom, and in the lap of nature. As a place of learning, Santiniketan was a pioneer of its times, challenging social norms and regulations with its very existence. Today it is an established university offering a range of diverse courses.
10. Jallianwala Bagh Memorial
The Martyr’s memorial at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar pays tribute to the innocent protestors who lost their lives during the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
It is also known as the Massacre of Amritsar memorial and is now a national monument. The memorial has been visited by numerous British dignitaries over the years and is an important fragment of Indian history.