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Building Archival Riches in Print


Pran Nevile

THE RAJ, LAHORE & BHAI RAM SINGH
By Pervaiz Vandal and Sajida Vandal
National College of Arts, Lahore, 2006, pp. 268, Rs. 1500.00

HARVEST FROM THE DESERT: THE LIFE AND WORK OF SIR GANGA RAM
By B.P.L. Bedi
National College of Arts, Lahore, 2003, pp. 305, Rs. 375.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 8 August 2007

It is indeed heartening to find the erstwhile Mayo School of Arts now National College of Arts, Lahore has set up a Research and Publication Centre which has brought out something of immense historic value—The Raj, Lahore & Bhai Ram Singh. The authors with their rich academic background in their introduction have significantly highlighted the social and cultural scene in the Punjab of the Raj days. It is pointed out how the British were unwilling to accept Indians as equals in the field of art and creativity despite their remarkable achievements and long tradition through the ages. Also, there was a chain of different ideas and concepts, which influenced the search for an architecture of the Empire. The chronicling of the life and times of Bhai Ram Singh and his noteworthy professional achievements are supplemented with relevant information about the impact of various external influences on the country’s art and culture.   Lahore, the historic city of the subcontinent defies definition since in common parlance the accepted verdict is that ‘Lahore Lahore hai’. At times it is even hailed as the soul of the three Punjabs—Indian, Pakistani and Punjabi diaspora. No wonder the chapter on Lahore carries a lively account of the city’s history before and after the establishment of the British administration. The authors have acknowledged the colonial rulers’ contribution in the building of Lahore city. There is a good description of the town planning and structural designing of different areas of the city and the cantonment. There is an interesting account of the edifices of the Raj in some of the leading cities of the subcontinent. But again the most absorbing part pertains to Lahore and its development during the Raj with magnificent buildings like the Montgomery Hall, the High Court, the General Post Office, the Punjab University and the Town Hall, which continued to be the historic landmarks of the city. I am delighted to find the photograph of the recently restored Tollinton Market included in the book. To digress a little, I would like to mention that the ‘Lahore Conservation Society’ had included my appeal to the authorities to save this heritage when there was a move to demolish it a few years ago and put up a commercial structure there. It is gratifying to note that Model Town of Lahore, a unique experiment in elegant living based on the western concept of the ...


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