ARCHITECTURE AS A SYMBOL OF POWER
Architecture is and always has been used deliberately and
unintentionally to deﬁne relationships among individuals,
interest groups, cities, and nations.Those relationships,
whether adversarial or not, are based on power. Power can
be political, economic, social, cultural or any other. Power
play through architecture is not limited to legislative
buildings. It is the nature of subjugation that decides the
trend in architecture.
For example, to assert their power over the native Hindu
population in India, the Islamic rulers resorted to building
mosques, as a symbol of might of Islam.I am not endorsing
"hindutva" or anything.This is just one example to state that
power has been reiterated in different ways in different
contexts throughout our history.
The TajMahal ,for example, built by Mughal
emperor Shahjahan in 1653 demonstarates the
economicalwell being of the state at that time and the
political power of the ruler.
Following are the main objectives of preparing this
(i)To discuss how architecture demonstrates power.
(ii)To exlain the different styles of architecture of India.
(iii)To explain how Indian Temple architecture
demonstrates power of the Ruler.
(iv)To explain the contribution of Mughal Empire in
(v)To discss howBritishers used architectural style as a
symbol of Power.
Indian Architecture &The Demonstration Of Power
Indian architecture has evolved through various ages in different
regions of the country.Apart from these natural and obvious
evolution from the pre-historic and historic periods,evolution of
Indian architecture was generally affected by the emergence and
decay of great empires and dynasties in the sub-continent .
The temple is the most significant monument of ancient Indian art
and architecture.The actual soil of India is thought by many to be
the body, or residence of the divinity, especially in its feminine
manifestation. However, this identification of the land of India
with the sacred makes it unsurprising that the whole terrain of the
subcontinent is covered with the
habitations of the God-their temples.
Despite the incursions of other
religions, India is still a country of
temples & shrines, and wherever you
travel, the Gods of Hinduism is
MeenakshI Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the southern bank
of river Vaigaiin the temple cityof Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.The temple
is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, and has been mentioned since
antiquity in Tamil literature, though the present structure is built during 1623
to 1655 CE. The annual 10 day MeenakshiTirukalyanam festival celebrated
during April–May attracts 1 million visitors.
The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Hindu temple dedicated
to Jagannath and located in the coastal town of Puri in
the state ofOdisha, India. The temple was built in the 11th century atop its
ruins by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty,
King AnantavarmanChodaganga Deva.
The Kamakhya Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother
goddess Kamakhya, one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas,situated on the
Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India.The ruins of
the temple was said to have been discovered by Vishwasingha, the founder
of theKoch dynasty, who revived worship at the site; but it was during the
reign of his son, Naranarayan, that the temple reconstruction was completed
In the constant struggle for power, forts and fortified settlements
were a potent symbol of authority.In ancient India as elsewhere,
forts were the measure of Monarch's strength. There are many
references to Forts and fortifications in ancient and medieval
literature dating from the Vedic times.
Thus, when writing the history of any era,of an empire,it is the
forts of that period which dominate the rise and fall of fortunes.
Some of the finest examples of the fort architecture in India are the
forts of Chitorgarh, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Agra, the Red Fort and
The Red Fort is a 17th-century fort complex constructed by
the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old
Delhi (in present day Delhi, India) that served as the residence of
the Mughal Emperors.The fort was the palace for Mughal
Emperor Shah Jahan's new capital, Shahjahanabad, the seventh
city in the Delhi site.
Mehrangarh Fort located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is one of the
largest forts in India.RaoJodha (1438–1488), one of Ranmal's 24
sons became the fifteenth [rathore ]ruler. One year after his
accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the
safer location of Jodhpur as the one thousand years
old Mandore fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient
security. The foundation of the fort was laid on May 12, 1459by
Jodha on a rocky hill.
Amer Fort is located in Jaipur, Rajasthan state, India. It is one of
the principal tourist attractions in the Jaipur area, located high on a
hill.Amer Fort was built by Raja Man Singh I in 1592. Amer Fort
is known for its artistic style of Hindu elements.
Mughal architecture is the architectural style developed by
the Mughals in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries throughout the
extent of their empire in the Indian subcontinent.The Mughal
dynasty was established after the victory of Babur at Panipat in
1526. During his five-year reign, Babur took considerable interest
in erecting buildings, though few have survived. His
grandson Akbar built widely, and the style developed vigorously
during his reign. Among his accomplishments were a tomb for his
father Humayun, the Agra Fort, and the fort-city of FatehpurSikri.
Akbar's son Jahangir commissioned theShalimar
Gardens in Kashmir.
Six Mughal buildings have been declared World Heritage Sites.
They are Humayun's tomb, Agra Fort, Lahore Fort, the Lahore
Shalimar Gardens,FatehpurSikri, Red Fort and the TajMahal.
Mughal gardens are a group of gardens built by the Mughals in
the Islamic style of architecture. This style was influenced by
Persian gardens and Timurid gardens. Some of the typical features
include pools, fountains and canals inside the gardens. The famous
gardens are the Char Bagh gardens at TajMahal, Shalimar
Gardens of Lahore, Delhi and Kashmir as well as PinjoreGarden
TajMahal at Agra, the epitome of
Leaving out the several European invasions upon India,men who had left
their impact in the country through lofty architectures,it was undoubtedly
the British and Mughals who left a lasting impact on the Indian architecture.
The British viewed themselves as the successors to Mughals and used
architectural style as a symbol of power. The colonialists had followed
various architectural styles within India.when the British came to India, they
soon realized that to be seen as powerful rulers by the common public, they
would have to adopt an architectural vocabulary in their public buildings
that the commoners were already used to respecting. This was the start of
'Indo-saracenic' architecture. This style incorporated a certain power
symbolism that was unique to it.
So, from the above discussion we can finally conclude that
Architecture is intricately tied to social , economic & political power.This is
not to say that people simply look around for the most impressive
architecture to identify powerful people.Rather, a ruler’s status is indicated
by the his control over others, the way that others defer to him, his
capacity for leadership, his wealth, and the other ways he is set apart from
the populace. Architecture demonstrates all of these, which makes it a
highly important indicator of status and power.
Colonial Architectural Style in India, British Indian
Dissertation: Symbolism of power in
Mehrangarh Fort, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehrangarh_Fort .
TajMahal ,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal .
Cntributed by: Tousif Raja