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Our Architechtural Heritage

Kapila Vatsyayan

By Satish Grover
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, Rs. 125.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

Although Cunningham, Fergusson and Marshall had drawn the world's attention to the tradition of' great architecture in the Indian subcontinent, it was left to Havell to identify the concepts which con­stituted the basis of the architectural plans. Perry Brown made the first systematic studies and despite the fact that much of what he said has been considered inaccurate, the work is fundamental. Dr. Stella Kramrisch’s two volumes on the Hindu temple were a landmark; for the first time a critical appraisal was made of' the metaphysical background, the texts of architecture (Vastusastras) and two main architectural schools of medieval India, the Eastern and Central. These pioneering studies have been followed by others which focus attention on particular regional schools and, textual material on Indian architecture which is constantly coming to light. Amongst the recent studies is the valuable critical work of Debala Mitra, M.A. Dhaky, Krishna Deva, Michel Meister are Sarkar and Banerjee. All these scholars and trained archaeologists and Sanskritists. Naturally their primary concern has been the analy­sis of the particular monument or group of monuments in relation to the history and textual literature of the area. Satish Grover approaches the subject with a totally different background and perspective. He is an architect and mathematician and not an archaeologist and Sanskritist: His concern understand­ably is with architectural form and struc­ture and the techniques of constru­ction. He studies these monuments against the background of the political and social history of India, the geophysical conditions, the environmental factors conditioning building and also takes into account some geomantic theor­ies of the texts of architecture. Through twenty-two chapters pithily presented in a racy lucid style a panorama of Indian architecture, from the Indus valley civili­zation to the Nayaka builders, Madurai and Rameswaram, is presented Since the book aims at reaching the laymen and tourists and the professional contemporary architect there are neither foot-notes nor references to primary texts of Indian architecture in Pali, Sanskrit, etc. In doing so, he does achieve his objective of arous­ing enough curiosity and inquisitiveness regarding the country's architectural heri­tage. If in the process he slurs over chrono­logy and draws heavily upon the work of scholars mentioned above, without acknowledgment, it is understandable, al­though somewhat disconcerting. Neither the preface nor the bibliography acknow­ledges its debt to the scholars and arch­aeologists whose work in a ...

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