The architecture and culture of Northern India is one of constant assimilation, adaptation, and syncretism or synergy. But architecture doesn’t live apart from a wider culture. Architecture, like art, philosophy or any study of the human condition is intimately connected with what’s going on around it.
There are many reasons for the ‘Indian way of doing things’. Invasion and dominance aren’t known for creating things of beauty – they rarely inspire. It’s more about the guiding spirit being collaborative and one of people meeting as equals. And trade does that.
India has always been a trading culture. Through trade Indian culture, mathematics and philosophy has spread to other parts of the world and also assimilated ideas from elsewhere. This two-way cultural ‘trade’ goes hand in hand with the trade in goods and services.
India has the oldest surviving culture in the world, an unbroken cultural tradition going back to at least 5000 BC and possibly earlier. Continuity doesn’t spring from a lack of flexibility, rather it’s a story about assimilation, collaboration and experimentation. The inability of some invaders to understand that is why their Imperial ambitions failed – there are few examples of inspiring or breathtaking architecture from the British period for example. Some point to New Delhi, but the buildings there, while monumental, are strangely soulless and without grace; more an imposition on the landscape than a seamless embrace.
I’ll add more images to this post soon. They will be a treat.