Tradition refers to the handing down of beliefs and customs from one generation to the next. In terms of architecture, these traditions are often given a physical manifestation in the form of spatial arrangement and ornamentation. Since ancient times, communities around the world have been looking upon their indigenous traditions for a sense of social unity and identity. For them, the sense of pride and the feeling of belongingness are the same, which is often reflected in the tangible components of their built forms.

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As the social conditions of a society change, so do their tradition and subsequently their architecture. Therefore, traditions are always subjected to change and evolution, and in most cases lead to the construction of structures that are responsive to the needs of the people.

ROLE OF TRADITIONS IN ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE

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The Ancient Architecture was highly influenced by traditions and rituals as the people of that time had a close connection with the supernatural. In ancient Egypt, most of the art and architecture were influenced by the Egyptian’s belief in the afterlife and the veneration of the Gods. Subsequently, a large number of tombs and temples were built in honor of the Egyptian Gods and the Pharos. A typical Egyptian Pyramid was a royal tomb enclosed within a burial complex which also contained a mortuary temple and a pavilion.

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Typical structure of a pyramid ©cdn.britannica.com

A mortuary temple was a place of worship of the deceased king which had the depository for food and objects offered to the dead monarch. The Mastaba on the other hand was characterized by a flat-topped rectangular superstructure of mud-brick or stone with a shaft descending to the burial chamber far below it. The Burial chamber was adorned and decorated lavishly with jewels that were believed to help the king in his afterlife. The Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure located within the same complex are an excellent example of the same.

Another example of the influence of traditions in architecture can be seen in the Indian temples. These temples were originally built to imbibe individuals with positive energies in the form of magnetic waves. Therefore, the temples were usually built in areas where there was a high concentration of the earth’s magnetic waves and the Garbhgriha of the temple was usually made up of a material that could absorb and harness these magnetic waves. These positive energies were then absorbed by the individuals when they visited the temples and circumambulated around the central deity.

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A Complex plan of a Hindu Temple at Madurai ©cdn.kastatic.org

Over time, this underlying understanding of the temples and the science behind their construction gave way to complex rituals and traditions making temples more of a place for prayer and worship. This eventually led to the establishment of vast and complicated temple complexes that had spaces for performances, cooking, and serving food offerings to the Gods. This gradual shift from the original purpose and spatial arrangement of the temples from simple structures to complex religious edifices can be largely owed to the changing traditions and cultures.

ROLE OF TRADITIONS IN MODERN ARCHITECTURE

This shift in traditions is always persistent and subjective to change. With the onset of modernization and the changing lifestyles, the inherent traditions of almost every civilization in the world have evolved drastically. While the traditions of some societies are at the brink of extinction, some societies have molded their traditions in accordance with the contemporary scenario. This is often reflected in contemporary art and architecture. Here are a few examples of the use of traditions in Modern Architecture in India.

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1. The Pearl Academy, Jaipur 

This academic institute in Jaipur is a unique blend of Rajasthani classicism and Mughal architectural styles. Traditional elements such as open courtyards, waterbody, a step-well (baoli), and jaalis have been incorporated in the design in abundance. This has been done for two major reasons. The first reason is to reduce the cost of construction and operation of the building by deploying passive and low energy strategies amongst other cost-saving strategies such as the use of vernacular materials and techniques. The second reason was to influence the contemporary social condition of the new generation by making traditional elements a part of their everyday life.

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Pearl Academy ©pearlacademy.com
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Pearl Academy ©pearlacademy.com
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Pearl Academy ©pearlacademy.com

2. Jawahar Kala Kendra

The Jawahar Kala Kendra is an arts and craft museum in Jaipur that is based on the archaic notion of the cosmos. It is based on the ancient Principles of Vastu Shastra that had in turn inspired the city plan of Jaipur in the medieval era. The plan of the building is divided into 9 grids, where each grid represents a Mandla (planet). Each grid has been provided with the characteristics of the particular planet that it symbolized in terms of the arrangement of spaces and embellishment. The use of the traditional architectural elements of the city Jaipur has been done in the building that portrays a unique narrative of the city in the form of this museum.

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Jawahar Kala Kendra Plan ©hiddenarchitecture.net
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Jawahar Kala Kendra ©hiddenarchitecture.net

As the contemporary lifestyle of the people is subjective to change, so are their traditions and subsequently their architecture. The revival of traditional methods and architecture goes hand in hand with the new technology. As people are adapting to sustainable lifestyles, many are shifting towards the traditional architectural practices that were more resilient and feasible. It would indeed be interesting to witness the changes that the coming decades will bring to our traditions and hence our lifestyles.

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REFERENCES

Monetary Temples definition retrieved from

https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/arch-249-exam-1/deck/2038577

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Temple, Science and Temple Architecture retrieved from – https://www.ishafoundation.org/Dhyanalinga-Energy-Center/science-of-ancient-temples.isa

Author

Rishika Sood is a student of architecture, currently in her third year. She has a keen interest in exploring buildings and aspires to work towards the conservation of historic monuments. She is particularly drawn indigenous art, craft and lives of the craftsmen associated with it.

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