The term Nation Building ascribes to the idea of planning and designing architecture that is pertinent to a particular country/nation. In other words, it is a proposal to conceive a National Identity. Every country has a  varied history, culture, context, tradition, fables, beliefs, law and democracy, and these factors are the chief backers in Nation Building. A nation represents the above elements and projects it to the world with the use of architecture. Architecture has the vastest potential to render a sense of identity to a country and to uphold a nation’s integrity and diversity. 

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The following article explores how India has leveraged architecture for its Nation Building.

Historic Overview

The history of Indian architecture symbolised triumph, power, morality, mythology, tradition, melody, sincerity and many more such diverse characters. Every piece of architecture that was erected served a purpose and vigour, and that reared the foundation of India’s nation-building. The Nation Building of India started as early as 250 BC- a period profuse enough to help India evolve and formulate a unique image for itself. 

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The ancient architecture of India lauded elaborate, colossal structures and intricate detailing. These characteristics were the inception of Nation-Building in India. 

Timeline of Indian Architecture and its Influence in Nation Building 

The first phase in the timeline of Indian architecture is the Indus Valley Civilization 2600 BC- 1000 BC. The architecture during this time was purely function-based. The architectural complex was devoid of aesthetic and visual lures. 

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Jainism and Buddhism 900 BC- 300 BC

This period was an absolute contradiction of the Indus valley. The architecture of this epoch consisted predominantly of rock-cut temple architecture. The temples and stupas adorned heavy embellishments and intricate detailing. This period led to the rich cultural heritage of India. 

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Mauryan Period 321- 232 BC

This period led to the introduction of cut stone and sculptures. The Mauryan architecture brought in elements like free-standing pillars, stupa railings, colossal statues, lion cathedrae, etc. Mauryan is one of the most glorifying periods of Nation Building because it proffered India with its National Emblem. 

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Chola Dynasty 1000 AD- 1200 AD

The Chola era was a reigning period for the south of India. This period marked the origin of the famous and everlasting pyramidal temple roofs and majestic temple complexes. Along with that, the art of sculpting stone and bronze was perfected in this period. The temples of the Chola Dynasty still stand tall and are the jewels of Tamil Architecture. 

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These are the most significant periods that gave India a national identity and an ingenious architectural character. In the age of no internet, authentic architecture soared. Indian architects were gushing with approaches and artistic expressions that were true to the nation’s calling. The architectural identity of India was deep-rooted to its culture, belief and context. And those were the stalwart periods of nation-building, wherein the ideas and solutions emanated from the episodes and problems of the nation. And every material and style was local and inherent. This also highly contributed to the nation’s economy. 

Nation Building revolution 

The ancient era planted the seed and blossomed to be the noble and symbolic representation of the architecture of India. But the 20th century and progression demanded an architectural revolution in India. Soon architects started travelling abroad and laid eyes on modern architecture. From this period on, architects started shunning cultural philosophies and beliefs and fancied newer technology and theories. 

India required an overhaul that fulfilled prevailing demands and problems with a modern approach and fresh perspective. 

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The desire for a new India commanded the solicitation of foreign architects. One of the first architects to change the game of Indian architecture was Le Corbusier. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited Le Corbusier to design the city of Chandigarh. The city was an architectural dream and a modern revelation for the nation. 

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The expression of Indian Architecture had evolved tenfold hereon. Le Corbusier renounced ornamentation and embraced brutalism. The buildings were dressed in exposed concrete and primary colours. The national identity made a gradual transformation from heavy carvings and embellishments to industrial and raw architecture.

But amidst all this, Le Corbusier stayed true to the context and history of India. He may have changed the face of architecture but kept the dogmas and beliefs of Indian architecture unimpaired. 

Building materials, planning, designing and architecture as a whole found a new meaning in this period. And this changed the nation building’s appearance. 

Foreign Architects and their contribution to Nation Building

After the successful contrivance of Le Corbusier, a lot more architects were invited to India to help create a more modern outlook. A lot of architects did justice to India, but also many exploited the architecture of India. Architects like Louis Kahn, Edwin Lutyens, and Laurie Baker brought in the honest principles of architecture and humble application of materials. They gave architecture a new meaning and perspective in India and conferred exceptional case studies to many Indian architects to discover, learn and adapt.  

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Use of Architecture today for Nation Building 

India, like any other country, relies chiefly on architecture for Nation Building to date. Today India is surging with a multitude of architects like never before in the history of India. Since there are a lot of young architects bustling with new and futuristic approaches, the architecture of India today is experiencing an unswerving paradigm shift. 

The Nation is on a constant technological advancement and is on the journey toward a more inclusive country. Architects are fighting for problematic causes and trying to make a difference by building inclusive architecture. Architects are up to date with current affairs and are trying to create architecture that addresses the nation’s needs. The infrastructure is swiftly advancing too. Also, architects have taken up the role of sustainability in their stride and are working and improving consistently for an environment-friendly country. 

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While architecture in India is witnessing some great innovations, the country is also experiencing an all-time low. It’s a paradox. Most of the architecture today is either highly influenced or blatantly plagiarised. With comfortable access to the internet, the need to bring about unprecedented and honest architecture is lost. 

The sad truth is that even though architecture today is futuristic in its look, it’s not futuristic in its thought. 

References

  • Culturopedia. (2020). Mauryan Architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.culturopedia.com/mauryan-architecture/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].
  • ‌Wikipedia Contributors (2019). History of architecture. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_architecture.
  • ‌K, A.S. (2020). Nation-building and Architecture: [online] Medium. Available at: https://architect-anupama.medium.com/nation-building-and-architecture-99a37a9b97db [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].
  • ‌www.linkedin.com. (n.d.). Architecture and Nation Building: An exploration. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/architecture-nation-building-exploration-adwait-limaye/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2021].
  • Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Indus Valley Civilisation. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilisation.
Author

She is an architect, trying her hands at architectural writing currently. She’s charmed by the 3C’s of architecture- conscious, contextual, cultural. Her heart does not lie in a high profile job or an elaborate resumè. She yearns to enrich the architectural world with honest, humble, and free-spirited writing.

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