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Architectural developments of Madras under the British dominance brought out great political change and power dominance. It totally took over the origins of Indian Architecture and introduced the British architectural way of thinking. The reason for this change primarily started in the sector of religious and political observations and constructions, when the construction of magnificent churches was starting to take place. My neighborhood is situated in the place where it all took place; my ancestors had a hand in developing the ancient Indian Architecture into a more western and British style of Architecture.
When the reconstruction of Madras took place, Quarters and mansions were looked at too by the British East India Company so that it can bring out great architectural change. The early 19th century was when there was a tremendous rise of such constructions, when the Company took over the port of the city near the Marina Beach.
When we consider the political history of Madras, we have to consider the different caste system that is associated in India and how it affected the Indian architecture as well.
There are many different caste systems in India such as the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. In Politics, when one of the leaders comes from one of these castes, they will essentially prioritize their own caste system and their own people over the others. During the years of 2010 to 2016 the central minister of Tamil Nadu was Mr. Karunanidhi, and he belonged to the Kshatriyas caste. When he came into power, he brought new architectural development to sites that belonged to his caste and this brought out great changes to my neighborhood since the area I lived in belonged to his segment of the caste.
This was said to be the modern age of Madras and when the architectural style was completely revolutionized, before all the styles were greatly influenced by British and French Architecture, but when he came into power he wanted to form an architectural style that represented India only. He brought in top Architect and Engineer firms around the globe such as Gensler and Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP to design something that was completely different from the western world. In my neighborhood, only three houses including my family’s stands that represents the British style of Architecture, the others are all renovated or have been brought down so that it can bring out a new change that will make people believe that we Indians can stand up and fight for what we believe is right.
The revolutionary architectural change in Madras came in during the 1800s, the Governor of Madras, Edward Clive took the existing Triplicate Garden House which is located 10 minutes away from my neighborhood and changed it drastically that it lost all the meaning that it had for the natives of that region. It was an area, where the natives believed that goddess Parmeshwar set foot in South India, and the British knowing this sentimental meaning decided that they would have to destroy this mindset of Indians in order to follow their goal and take command. The structure was brought into place in the year of 1746 and in 1753, Governor Thomas Saunders signed the property to the British East India Company to serve as the Governor’s new Quarters. Clive wanted to renovate the house so he gave the project to his head architect Mr. Goldingham who extended it from 130 to 205 feet in width, moved the main entrance from the west to the east, built a two-story high verandah and generally altered the interior so that it follows the British style. The house was surrounded by a seventy-five-acre parkland as well, it went from something that fully represented Indian Architecture into being something that was renovated to match the British style. People even today still state that the British took over the property that belonged to the gods. This place is now part of my neighborhood now, the house still stands and people gaze at it with still great respect. In the modern day of Madras, in order to renovate or change a building’s architectural style, one has to follow the South Indian Aatchi rule that holds all constructional documents in one place. All the properties that the British left behind, are in the hands of the Indian congress now, and they want to keep it all in intact so that everyone can remember what history once was. All the houses around my neighborhood follow that treaty that was signed 50 years ago, we are not allowed to sell or buy property around that area unless it goes beyond 200 crores rupees. There is a constant rise for modern architectural structures in Madras, and high financial properties need land area to start their companies. These companies are negotiating many deals with the government to free up land space, but the Indian Congress has stated the it will never demolish or give up the primary land area used by the British because it holds great historical value.
It is really interesting to see how the British political change is still affecting the daily lives of Indians and the architecture in the modern day. Many say that that the British misused their power, and took advantage of the Natives, meanwhile others say that the British colonial rule brought great wonders to India as a whole. The Indians helped expand the British empire, and one could say that India is still helping expanding the British empire that was left behind. The British style of Architecture still exists in Madras today, and there are still buildings being constructed that copy this style such as the GRT Taj hotel in T-Nagar, Chennai which resembles a lot of the Victoria Palace that was built in the year of 1838. Architecture is constantly evolving in India especially because it is a developing nation, but at the same time we are bringing back something that we worked so hard to get rid of. This is the point that many political leaders are making right now, Madras is starting to open up new businesses with international markets, but what they don’t understand is how much it will affect the people and the lifestyle of the natives that they are so used to living in.
When the British came into India, they had one goal in mind which was to colonize and take the rich resources back to their homeland. The British brought with them a new colonial architectural design that symbolized power and dictatorship. The new design was different and it allowed the natives to approach it in a new way and they soon learned to adapt to it directly or modified to fit their own social and cultural constructs. While the British held deep admiration for the ancient Indian culture and its remnants, which includes architecture, even to a point where they wanted to keep the unique traditions intact and aesthetics that made both the British and the natives comfortable. However, they had other ambitions in mind so they intentionally introduced new philosophies, technological advancements, symbolisms, materials, and building methods to the natives. These new innovative ideas and elements that the British brought to Indian architecture fundamentally changed not only the general aspect, but also the meaning, functionality of the Indian system. India was part of the British Empire and the aftermath still exists as a direct result of this interaction between these two manners. To this extent many outcomes can be drawn between the two societies of India at the time and Britain long past. The religious texts or even commands in these Indian languages were only understood and read by the religious leaders to the labors, essentially giving the powerful a monopoly on religious salvation, and thus social standing. In order for the general, illiterate populace to have access to texts not only on religion but on of politics, morals and values through other means such as imagery and symbols, these needed interpretations that their own local traditions and histories imparted meaning to. Much of the Indian populace at that time were literate only in their own languages, so their thoughts were all joint and the only way they can speak their thoughts is by the few religious leaders who were able to communicate with the British. The only way we can truly feel how the natives felt about the colonization is through the inscription on any building in deep detail and painstaking craftsmanship the very symbols that make up the basic understanding of any tale or tradition of any culture or religion. The most notable of these buildings were the inscriptions tended to be churches, temples, palaces, mosques, and other buildings of government or worship.
The British had their own set of architectural standards and symbols that they had to follow and they soon started to appear in their manifestations of India. The Indians acquired more and more of the desired British Taste, opinions, words and intellect. They were being taught on ways to improve their own social and class standings in this recognized new order of things. Incorporation into new buildings, and introduced a new way of life in that the Indians have never had or needed before such as railroad stations, libraries, or other public amenities, became the most recognizable by the British. Indians at first thought this change was unnecessary and that their lives were perfect the way it was, but as tradition became less and less an economically viable reason for the extra work that went into the creation of such ornament in a building new meaning and reason had to be appended. Meaning not for logics sake but for the deep spiritual and communicative connection that Indians had with many of their great buildings.
The British had their own agenda, and they wanted the natives to follow whatever format they put out. In the year of 2012, Madras went on a viral demolishing stage of old constructional buildings, and they wanted to follow the methods of Modern-day New Delhi. The whole landscape of Madras changed during this period of time, the President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam stated “This is a new direction for India, if we are to look ahead, we should first change our surroundings so that we don’t live in the past”. In the Marina Beach which highlights Madras, a central park from New York kind of look was created where it organized the commercial and residential areas into different segments. Local companies in Madras had signed agreements to open up new International markets so a lot of space was created in order for this change to push through. There were advantages and disadvantages to this change. The benefit of this was that Madras was open to the outside world and it allowed a new breakthrough were other international companies can join hands. Different politicians from different states came into the congress room to discuss about this case, and they all agreed that India especially the southern part has to become more modern. The rich thought about the growth of the nation, but the poor had no where to look for support.
The Modern day Madras has become a tech city because of the international markets that were taking place and forming new connections with multinational companies around the globe just like Bangalore and Mumbai, but the people who impact the wealth of the nation were decaying and were treated very poorly. The negative impact was that it affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers who lived in the Dharavi region, a lot were forced to quit their jobs and find a residential place outside the city. A lot of them moved to villages outside the city and the others who were impacted started to look for other jobs or go into labor jobs in other nations where they could find more profit. In 2016, there was a shortage of jobs for farmers since Madras and other developing states around that region started importing food resources from other nations. The farmers of India pledged their case about the need for some kind of an income to feed their families, but the government chose not to listen to their cries. Because of this four Indian farmer families commit suicided in order to get their points across to the outside world. It took four innocent family lives to bring out the issue that has been haunting people for years. It is very tough to survive as an ordinary citizen in India, if one doesn’t step up for himself, the other will simply step over and take over. Architecture in India is categorized by class, the rich will always have better designs that best serve their needs, and the poor still use systems that does not use any technological advancements.
Political changes have been made by the government through recent years to bring in advanced architectural methods to help the people of the Dharavi region, but architecture itself cannot help with an income or lifestyle of a normal citizen. My neighborhood is situated in an area where it houses many politicians, so I am very thankful to god for giving a lifestyle that takes in modern advancements and has access to many necessities. The only way people like me can hear the cries of people living in worse conditions is through the media. If the government is not going to take any action then the media should be the first one to point out all the crisis that’s going one before incidents like this happens. The idea of the rich deserving modern architectural designs and the poor being left to living in houses made out of simple bricks should be broken. Architecture should not be a way of judging the social class, but it should prevail a way in making one’s life work better and develop a better understanding of a lifestyle in general. Modern Architecture is causing a lot of conflicts within the people in Madras, but one should figure out a way in applying these modern architectural methods in a fair manner.
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