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Perfect, balanced blend of East and West

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 13:32 IST
Sidhartha Roy

The initial inspiration for the layout of New Delhi, it is believed, came from Washington DC and that of the Government House from Capitol Hill of the same city. However, by the time the Viceroy’s House came up, it showcased a unique confluence of western and Indian styles.

The chief architect of the British Indian Capital, Edwin Lutyens, detested all things Indian. His lieutenant, Herbert Baker, was an even supporter of building a city that would mirror British imperial power. It was Viceroy Hardinge who insisted that the new city and its structures should be imbued with Indian designs and motifs.

Leaving his distaste aside, Lutyens started studying Indian architectural styles and travelled extensively to gather the colours of India from its buildings, fabrics and furniture. The result was the extensive use of Indian designs and motifs like domes, Chajjas, Chhatris and Jaalis.

The most imposing part of the Government House, its dome, is clearly influenced by the stupa at Sanchi. In fact, the style in which the dome was raised, too, was Indian. The Red Fort and other Mughal buildings lent marble mosaics that influenced patterned floors and stone jaalis that allowed ventilation.

Indian flora and fauna too were a big influence on Lutyens, who extensively used lotus and pine cone forms in the buildings and animal statues of intricately carved and decorated elephants, lions and snakes.

Apart from the use of domes, other traditional Indian architectural styles incorporated in the building includes chhatris, chajjas, cupolas, courtyards and verandas. Bamboo chiks were used to keep the scorching Indian summer at bay and cane chairs provided cool and airy seating.

It is perhaps the contribution of Lutyens in synthesising western and eastern styles in his building that his bust can still be found inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan, even when statues and busts of the British monarchy and other officials were removed after independence in 1947.