Arts and Culture
Since the mid-19th century, with the beginning of systematic research on Indian art/architecture, scholars have tended to concentrate on Hindu temples built in the pre-modern era. Thus, despite a lot of excellent research on Indian architecture and the Hindu temple, little is known about modern Hindu temple architecture. Without an adequate analysis of this vast field we undervalue modern Hindu temple architecture and its meaning in shaping present-day India’s physical, socio-economic, political and cultural landscape, ultimately leading to an incomplete understanding of the country’s modern history. The paper means to remedy this gap by analyzing the development and role of the Hindu temple and its architecture in pre-independent Delhi.
Delhi has played a rather insignificant role in South Asia’s (Hindu) sacred geography. Though dotted with Hindu temples today, at the beginning of the 20th century there were only around hundred temples in the city, none of them particularly outstanding with regard to architecture—Delhi was visually dominated by Muslim and British architecture. For the majority population of the Hindus, it became critical to remedy this situation by committing to the construction of a grand Hindu temple. Taking up the example of the Lakshminarayan/Birla Mandir built by the Birla family at the cusp of Independence/Partition on the outskirts of imperial New Delhi, the paper looks at the ways style, location and construction procedures have been used sending a particular message to the wider city, the nation and the world.