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The Modernity of Indian Art and the Roots

Modern Indian architecture is essentially of two types, religious and civil. If we focus on the most recent religious architecture, it can be argued that this artistic typology has ceased to innovate and to propose new models, limiting itself to taking up ancient themes borrowed both from the art of Orissa (Birla mandir in Delhi) and from the art of the temples of Khajuraho, revised and corrected in relation to modern construction materials (concrete, cement, iron, etc.). The root of indian paintings come from here.

The Objective

The objective of this art is essentially to elevate buildings suitable for the needs of current and qualified cults as neo-Hindus. In Buddhist sites like Sarnath or Nalanda, it is mainly Japanese and Burmese who want to elevate modern structures that, to be adapted to the Buddhist cult of today, have nothing truly Indian. Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the Jaina community took over the architectural formulas of the western part of the Indian peninsula in order to erect modern temples in which we witness a profusion, sometimes heavy and redundant with marbles, like for example the temples of Calcutta and Indore whose walls are entirely covered with pieces of colored glass.

  • The Indian civil architecture, on the other hand, starting from the nineteenth century became more innovative, whether it imitated the English Victorian style almost without actually touching it as in the case of Bombay (now Mumbai), whether using the Hindu motifs or Muslims, as in the case of Victoria Station or the Central Post-Office of the great Indian economic capital.
  • The twentieth century, with the creation of New Delhi by English architects, witnessed the creation of monumental projects, in line with the vastness of the metropolis and the country, and the birth of a new urbanism, unknown before then, which develops with sketches by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. From 1911 until 1931, the new Delhi was built in white marble and pink sandstone, according to the original formulas combining the monumental and grandiose aspect with the Hindu and Muslim forms, in an attempt sometimes desperate to reconcile Indian art with European construction techniques.

The Requirement

The central star square that constitutes Connaught Circus, all surrounded by columned galleries, the immense government building, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the column house of the Parliament House and the imposing triumphal arch called India Gate that looks at the entrance to the via monumentale or Raj Path, a sort of Indian champs elysees, are the most striking examples of the new city and of the new way of understanding architectural space.

Compared to architecture, the artistic elements related to painting and engraving in this age of modernity are more fruitful and more diversified. Following the disappearance of the Mughal school of painting at the end of the nineteenth century, despite the attempts of some local rulers to revive it, European influence gradually made itself felt, mainly translating into the popular images of the Calcutta bazaar or the proliferation of images violently colored pies.