Thursday, July 20, 2017

Recognising the Lakshanas of Indian Design
(Text of the Talk delivered on 18.07.2017at the 
India Habitat Centre as part of the Architecture and Society Series)

Good Evening.
My talk, as its title states, seeks to recognise the lakshanas of Indian design. But before I try to do that, I need to clarify what I imply when I say ‘Indian’ and ‘design’ – both words are open to diverse interpretation. And why I speak of ‘lakshanas’.

We’ll start with some pictures, all drawings of buildings, rather beautiful drawings. The question I have for all of you, is which of these seem ‘Indian’ to you? All? Any in particular that doesn’t?

Speaking for myself, I recognise some of these as Indian, because they are either famous buildings, or famous types of buildings – such as temples or palaces. Another reason, which makes them typically Indian, is the people and the landscape around. But, the question I ask myself is, that if I didn’t know these buildings, would I be able to point out anything else that makes them Indian - apart from the fact that they are located in the present political boundaries of India?

These drawings are by a gentleman called David Gentleman. They feature in a book entitled David Gentleman’s India. They offer an outsider’s view of what constitutes India, and obviously it’s also a very personal view. In his introduction, DG writes that the challenge for him was to ‘identify…the many features that are found nowhere else, things that, wherever you are, give the unmistakable character and flavour of Indian life, the clear and vivid certainty of being in India’.[1] It is interesting that he chooses to sketch very few modern buildings in his book to convey this ‘character’. Also, if you remove the people and the landscape from the scene of these buildings, there is no ‘vivid and clear certainty’ that you are in India! In the case of the drawings of historic architecture, they are certainly more individual, and more beautiful. But, the same question arises – is there anything they share which makes them recognisably Indian? This is what I’ll try to examine today - to the extent possible in the time we have.

We started with an outsider’s view, and it is important in showing us how Indian architecture and India are perceived by people from non-Indian cultures. However, ultimately this is an outsider’s view, no matter how empathetic the outsider might be. To get a more balanced and a better understanding of what India and Indian design mean, it’s important to reverse the gaze and see these from the inside, from the Indian perspective.
So, what is the Indian perspective? Is there anything different about such a perspective that results in uniquely Indian design?

In today’s time of course, there seems to be little perceptible difference between the non-Indian and the conventional and influential Indian perspective – shaped as they are by an overwhelming preoccupation with the industrial market and with money, For instance, the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia page of the Association of Indian Design Industry contains this sentence: ‘The design profession has formally existed in India since 1962’.[2] To me, this statement seems surprising, even outrageous, given that the extraordinary variety and level of designs that have been generated in India through centuries, could only have been the outcome of a formal and a highly evolved system of design. Again, if you look up the meaning of design noted in dictionaries and explained in most books on design, whether written in India or elsewhere, they almost exclusively limit designing to the act of drawing or planning; and make a separation between planning something, and actually creating it. However, this is not a universal method of design, either in terms of time or space. It is not the way in which design was practised historically anywhere in the world, and certainly not in India. This separation is an outcome of a fairly recent occurrence in terms of world history, commonly termed the Industrial Revolution, which took place about 250 years ago - not in India - but in the western world. Yet, our understanding of the origin of Indian design, as in many other things, mimics a western cultural stand-point, especially a stand point of an industrialized society.

Thus, to get a less imitative or a more truly Indian viewpoint, we need to expand our view to examine India and Indian-ness as conceived by Indians, and not limited to merely the present times. Here we come to the word ‘lakshana’, the noun derived from ‘laksh’. The root word means ‘to perceive, to observe’, and lakshana/m implies the signs/marks which help to make such perception/ observation manifest.[3] As Chaturvedi Badrinath notes in a discussion[4] on the Mahabharata: ‘One characteristic of Indian thought has been that in the place of definitions of things, it asks for their attributes or lakshanas. That is because all definitions are arbitrary, whereas the lakshanas are what show a thing, through which a thing becomes manifest. Thus, not the ‘definition’ of truth, or of love, but the attributes of truth and love by which they are known is what is central.’

The Lakshana of being Indian
So, what are the attributes, the lakshanas of being Indian, and of Indian design – and how do we arrive at them.[5]
Well, by a rather long route, by going back to our most ancient works on philosophy, such as the Upanishads. Philosophy is termed ‘darshan’ in India, and it literally means ‘to see’. How we see ourselves, forms our first and primary identity, and affects whatever else we do. In the Indian system, historically, the ideal individual sees herself or himself as an extension of the clan, the community, the country and even the cosmos, all of which are connected, and are part of the same aatman or ‘spirit’. All the Upanishads essentially approach the universal spirit and its infinite expression in space and time, while highlighting its inseparable connection with all human beings. This was not just an abstract principle that scholars studied. It was explained and handed down in stories and tales, and enacted in folk-drama and dance. For example, in the Mahabharata, one of the reasons for the Great War, is believed to be King Dhritarashtra’s inability to see and accept this interconnectedness, despite the advice of his minister, Vidura.[6]
This basis of Indian culture, which inter-linked the individual to a very wide context, led to some of its overriding and distinct lakshanas, which I’ve summarized below.

1.               The first of these lakshanas is collective responsibility and self-reliance. As the poet Rabindranath Tagore explains, ‘...unlike in Europe, the State has never been in India a central thing in the life of the nation. While European civilization assigned a central position to the State, Indian civilization from ancient times put in that place society guided by dharma as it was conceived by the people.’[7] The root of the word dharma, means to sustain or to uphold, and historically in India, individuals as well as the community of which they were a vital part, worked responsibly together to sustain cultivable land, forests, rivers, wells, water-tanks, schools, temples, mosques, market-places, etc.[8] This lakshana of Indian society survived even till the 18th century, until the British changed this system, as the research of the Gandhian historian, Dharampal, shows. He examined a host of documents that the British made for circulation amongst themselves after they moved into India, and found in them, records of Indians all over the subcontinent, in accordance with ancient custom, retaining independent control over a certain ratio of the land of a village and its yield which was used collectively by the people. This sense of collective responsibility is very different from the mechanistic and individualist philosophy characteristic of western society, that became particularly pronounced after the influence of the 17th century French philosopher, Rene Descartes, who is dubbed as the father of modern western philosphy.
2.     The second lakshana is ‘Respect for people with divergent views and sub-identities, and simultaneous existence of such identities.’ The world-view of the Upanishads developed into the many schools of philosophy historically seen in India, which stressed an interdependence between people, objects and their contexts. Unlike many other cultures, especially western cultures, where one dominant philosophy successively supplants another, historically in India, even if many of these schools of philosophy were not followed by the majority, and despite wide differences between some of them, all of them generally found space to exist simultaneously.
3.     The third Lakshana is: Cyclical Ideas of Space and Time: In Indian tradition, space and time are believed to exist in endless cosmic cycles. Each cycle is actually a process of regression or falling, according to which we live in Kalyuga, the last and the worst in a cycle of four yugas. Since ancient times, this cyclical connection has been bound to the idea of human existence recurring over many life-times, and to the sacred geography of India, and its local and larger histories. As Tagore puts it: ‘the geographical entity that is India appears from the earliest times to have roused in its people the desire to realise the unity comprised within its natural boundaries…the process of capturing  complete picture within the net of a common devotion’. Despite the influence of modern western education, this lakshana of space and time persists to some degree in the Indian imagination—witnessed as much in the propensity of Indians still journeying to sites across the sub-continent on well-traversed routes, as in our daily conversation, films, songs, and proverbs such as ‘Yeh Kalyuga hai’ to explain away present day problems. This is completely different from dominant Western thought, which sees time as linear, along which, according to the Darwinian concept of the survival and progress of the ‘fittest’, humans march on, to claim and exploit the resources of the Earth, and now even of Mars and the Moon![9]

So, how do these lakshana of Indian-ness manifest or reflect in Design?

The word lakshana itself crops in all sort of contexts and places in the tradition of Indian design, either specifically stated or implied. In temple architecture for instance, as enumerated in the Silparatnakosa, a 17th century text on Orissan temple architecture, the lakshanas of individual parts of the temple are listed. Indeed, the text itself begins with a description of silpa or architecture as ‘silpam hi param pujyam sarva darshanlakshanam’ translated as: ‘Silpa is the most venerated. It is the visual testimony of all the darsanas, or contains the characteristics of all the darsanas.[10] In the context of painting, as BN Goswamy, the art historian, explains in his book, The Spirit of Indian Painting, ‘In early India, the emphasis was on capturing the lakshanas of an individual, his characteristic or cognitive attributes’[11]… through which persons and their essence, could be recognised…The intention was to achieve clarity. Observation was subordinated not to rules…but to situations. …what prevailed as an idea, was idealised or conceptual portraiture’.[12] 

The unique characteristics of Indian design arise from an idealised or conceptual image of everything being interlinked, and there being no barriers in the cosmos. Thus, there is no strict division between the arts and sciences; craft is held to be a science, vijnana, and the knower of crafts, called vijnanika or scientist, is given an important status.[13] Neither is there any separation between architecture, craft and art. For example, the Silparatnakosa, starts with a prayer to Visvakarma, the divine architect in Indian tradition,[14] who is also the God of the arts and crafts,[15] and whose five sons are held to be the ancestors of the important groups of craftsmen. And finally, there is no separation between theoreticians and practitioners; between planning a design and making it. The Mayamata, a Sanskrit text on architecture from South India, whose written form is dated from the 9th to the 12th centuries, specifies that the architect must not only know mathematics, sciences, and how to draw, but also how to build on the ground. The text discusses design in the widest sense - from the level of a built settlement (urban and rural) to that of a seat or a chair, using an interlinked system of aesthetics, proportions, measurements and construction techniques. Practical applications of such unity are seen in the detailing of space and form in indigenous design. 

For instance, there is no strict boundary between internal and external elements of architecture. Pavilions and courtyards, colonnades and walled gardens, seem to flow from one into the other. And in theatre, unlike the ‘framed’ proscenium stage of western origin, which presents only a front view to the audience, indigenous performance spaces offer multiple view-points, in both actual and imaginative terms. The actors perform on a circular or semicircular platform, around which the audience sits. Instead of elaborate physical sets, the audience themselves visualise changes in locale or characters, as explained by a sutradhar, who literally carries forward the ‘thread’ of the narrative.

I have looked at some examples of Indian design across some of its fields, to see what are the lakshanas generated from this design philosophy, which can be said to render them Indian. The first of these, in my view is:
1.  The Lakshana of Flexibility and Versatility. In Indian architecture, this is most evident in the way in which built and open space combined together in flexible ways - for multiple purposes, users and occasions. This is visible from the time of the oldest urban architecture in India, such as in the remains of the cities along the banks of the Saraswati and the Indus. Probably the most evolved instance of such multi-functional architecture is the magnificent seventeenth century palace-fortress built in Delhi for the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.[16] Most of the buildings in this Fort were designed as single-storeyed pavilions linked by colonnades and courtyards, as can be seen in this map; instead of one fixed purpose, they were formed and located such that they could be used for different functions at different times. For example, the Emperor’s own pavilions were not just used for sleeping and living, but also for administrative meetings and for receiving visiting ambassadors; or for celebration of festivals such as Holi. In Indian attire, this lakshana can be best seen in the tendency to use unstitched, woven garments—despite the technology and the knowledge of stitching from very ancient times.[17] The most famous of such unstitched garments is the sari. Since it is not tailored and sewn to fit one individual, it can be handed down to several generations, to suit multiple users for multiple years. These are some saris that have come to me from my mother and grandmother-in law, which like the saris of most women from their generations and before, are stunning and individual pieces of design. The counterpart to this in men’s wear, is the multi-purpose dhoti, mundu, or lungi, which depending on the fabric, the weave and the drape, may be used for celebratory occasions such as pujas and weddings, or for informal occasions such as simply lounging around at home. Even traditional stitched garments in India, such as the ghagra and the lehnga, though with a naturally diminished scope in comparison to unstitched clothes, also have the flexibility of multiple use, and are handed down as family heirlooms.

2. The lakshana of Individuality and improvisation—Improvisation is an intrinsic Indian design-strength. Consider, for instance, the stonework of the famed Taj Mahal, or the sculptured bases of many ancient temples all over India. Despite an impression of symmetry and order, motifs are never repeated in exactly the same way. Or think of the pavilions and courtyards of traditional palaces. The sizes, details and proportions of such formal architecture are never replicas or duplicates. Plan of Rf. Instead of centralised control, where everything down to the smallest dimension is ‘frozen’, even the canonical Indian approach to design followed a strongly structured and yet decentralised process of design, that fostered improvisation at every level. In fact, Bruno Dagens, prefaces his translation of the Mayamata with these words: ‘in spite of the constraints by which the treatise seems to limit the architecture, it is also true that the architect has considerable latitude at his disposal, as much in the domain of choice of architectural parts as that in the appearance that the constructions may have...this treatise and others of the same group, leave to architects the right to originality in the exercise of their art; in other words, the tradition is a guide more than it is a restraint.’[18]This aspect of Indian tradition ‘being a guide more than a restraint’ can be seen even today in the classical and folk forms of Indian music, which give great opportunity for personal individual expression. Each raga is structured for specific different moods or times of the day, and yet allows the ultimate freedom to each singer or musician in rendering the raga.

Such an approach was very different from other cultures, and therefore difficult for their people to understand. So, for instance, a Professor C H Reilly, who was sent to India in 1928 by a firm of publishers to write the architectural part of a book on New Delhi, arrived in company with Edwin Lutyens at Delhi, and later wrote this in the November 1934 London issue of the Architectural Design and Construction: ‘Everything of Lutyens is detailed with extraordinary care, and at Delhi some of his working drawings are dimensioned to three decimals of an inch. To Indian builders and craftsmen accustomed to their slipshod “kutcha” methods, such accuracy was a revelation and a very valuable one.’

Perhaps the most widespread living example of the lakshana of improvisation is the sari. Though the overall dimensions are more or less fixed, there are many variations of the sari. Even saris from the same region are never identical, though they may have characteristic motifs special to that region. Not just that - even when based on a similar overall design or created by the same weaver, no two hand-woven saris are ever exactly the same. Nor does the individual uniqueness of a sari, end in its making. Though urban Indians generally know of only one way to drape it, a sari can be reputedly draped in 108 recorded ways, and can be pleated and tied to individual preference and skill. This is one way of tying the sari that I learnt from my daughter’s Odissi Guru, Pratibha Jena Singh, where the sari is transformed into an elegant and comfortable dancing costume merely by draping and tying it differently. This improvisation is visible in other forms of design practice, particularly in classical Indian theatre, music and dance. Habib Tanvir, the famous theatre actor and director, created a distinctive style of modern Indian drama based on the “imaginative use of space with regard to make-believe, and the manner in which they deal with time”. He repeatedly voiced his strong belief, that “in Indian art it’s important to …improvise,”[19]  and used the method of improvisation in the construction and the casting of his plays.

3. The Lakshana of ‘Utilitarian as Decorative’: The latitude to improvise within a context, not only gives a huge creative opportunity, but also elevates the everyday activity or artefact to something special. This contributes to another lakshana of Indian design, where objects of use - from saris to cities to kitchen-ware - are simultaneously useful and beautiful. This was true for the majority of designs in the Indian tradition, and points to a lakshana of rigorous design-thinking based on frugality despite an outward semblance of opulence. Looking at traditional designs, one finds that each object of use was also a work of art; and each beautiful object also had a use. The presence of this lakshana even till about a hundred years ago, is recorded in an observation by George Birdwood, meant to form part of a popular handbook on the industrial arts of India, in connection with the reopening of the India Museum in London: ‘In India everything is hand wrought, and everything, down to the cheapest toy or earthen vessel, is therefore more or less a work of art’.[20] These are some images of toys, kitchen ware and other household objects from across the country, that are such hand-crafted ‘works of art’.

4. The lakshana of sustainablity: Since nothing was designed as simply utilitarian or purely decorative, most objects had a continuing use, and were thought of, in their entirety, to form a way of life that was a celebration of all the senses. The ultimate idea of luxury even today, is that of 'bespoke design’, which is sold with a tagline of ‘…not just ownership or consumption of an expensive object, but an enriching, individualizing, personal experience…which stays with the user for posterity’[21]. As for instance, these beautiful saris. This is unlike the western ‘modernist’ way of design based on making huge numbers of standardised, machine-made and repetitive products. To make this method of production work, products are designed with a shortened life-cycle, in a design-method especially promoted by Western designers after the World Wars. The name they coined for it was ‘planned and perceived obsolescence’. Superficial changes are applied cosmetically to make these products look ‘different’; and aggressively marketed as new and novel, to instil ‘in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary’.[22]

5. The Lakshana of Optimum efficiency: In contrast, indigenous Indian design-education and practice, stressed an optimal use of resources. Preliminary drawings and models were used very rarely and only in important or unusual building-projects. Thus, the huge urban-design project of the Red Fort of Delhi and its city of Shahjahanabad, took less than 10 years to build, and did not require voluminous drawings or models. The court-histories of Shah Jahan record only one instance of an architectural model being made for the Red Fort, that of the Chatta Chowk, a type of covered market-way made for the first time in the Mughal empire. Though much reduced because of colonial interventions, some vestiges of this way of designing continued even till the 20th century. In a Report on Types of Modern Indian Buildings prepared in 1915, to survey and record how Indian designers built in the indigenous way, Gordon Sanderson, an architect with the ASI, noted that ‘excellent specimens of modern architecture’[23] were constructed in the traditional method of Indian design using practically no drawings, all over the sub-continent -ranging from the huge Tajul-Masajid in Bhopal, established by the Begum of Bhopal, to individual houses, dharamsalas, temples, etc.

These designs were also highly efficient in that they integrated structure, decoration and form; it is difficult to separate a building element into just structure or just decoration. This spirit of optimum efficiency, where no element is superfluous, is a well recognized quality of good design. Similarly, if we look at most traditional saris, we find that the design effort integrates decoration, form, and structure; it is part of spinning the material, composing the patterns and directly weaving them on the fabric. And rarely is it made through elaborate drawings. This is true not just for saris. Sanderson, in his Report, wrote that even in complex work, such as carved jaalis or Agra pietra dura, the masons or inlayers, when they needed to, drew the patterns themselves on the stone, without any help from a draftsman. Even today, for example, in the highly complex patterns made in Sanjhi work, the craftsperson skilfully cuts out patterns in paper, often without making any drawing before-hand. The tool remains subservient to the human being.

6. The Lakshana of Egalitarianism. All this was possible because, instead of the idea of centralised control, the Indian approach to design was decentralised. Design was seen as a collaborative process. The Mayamata states that all the four categories of building technicians must always be honoured. The hierarchy and division of responsibilities amongst these four categories—the sthapati, the architect; the sutragrahin, who measures length, height and proportions; the taksaka, who cuts/carves stone, wood and bricks, and the vardaka, who assembles and erects the building, is clearly stated; as is the fact that, depending on occasion and ability, the sutragrahin, taksaka etc. can take on the duties and even the title of the sthapati.

The celebrated city of Shahjahanabad, established in the 17th century—considered ‘modern’ and termed ‘New Delhi’ by British visitors till the early 20th century—was built by master-builders and guild-heads collaborating in such a system, not through a top-down centralised diktat of one ‘star’ architect. Thus, there was no rigid compartmentalisation. A sculptor could also be an architect; a painter could also be a mason, and so on. This is the main gateway to the 17th century Guru Ram Rai Durbar in Dehradun, also called the Jhanda Durbar. Tulsi Ram, one of the artists who made many of the beautiful murals here, has painted himself on a side-panel of the main door; he names himself as mistri, tasveerwala (mason, painter). As The ASI Report of 1915, notes, till the beginning of the 20th century, this was the method of Indian design.

Since knowledge about aesthetics was shared by the makers, the users and the patrons, design choices across different economic classes were similar. In the sites of the Harappan cities, as Neil Macgregor, Director of The British Museum, notes, ‘there seems to be little difference between the homes of the rich and the poor’.[24] And a Persian text from the 1820s, documenting eleven trade-crafts and their practitioners in Bareilly, describes their clothes as being ‘just like other inhabitants of the country’ or ‘like upper-class people’,[25] while a British officer in the Nizam’s court at Hyderabad, writes that he could not distinguish much difference between the poor and the rich.[26]

Design today                                             
To sum up: two main categories contribute to making something Indian, whether in society or in design. The first is a political process which allows individual expression and fosters individual responsibility – whether at the level of decision-making, control of resources, ways of production, or at the level of consumption and use. The second category is the presence of a linked system of aesthetics guided by ethics - a product of this political process, whose design expression in India evolved through diverse design-practitioners.

So, how many of these lakshana survive today in a time when the political system is manifestly different from the Indian tradition; when we have adopted the western way of the State being paramount and have displaced individual or societal codes of conduct. In such a political environment, can we have an Indian way of design? Well, if we agree that the Indian way of design stems from an indigenous system of aesthetics and ethics, that system is largely lost today. Ideas of society and design are modelled on imitations from the western world, and naturally most Indian designs are stereotypes of European or North-American cultures. We therefore only find isolated lakshanas of ‘Indian-ness’ in society, and in the practice of design - for example in the widespread ability of Indians to still improvise; to be self-reliant rather than follow centralised decision-making - but without a unifying vision.

So, can we restore that sense of aesthetics and ethics? Should we restore it? And can we get inspired from other cultures and still retain an Indian quality to our work? I am going to approach this a little tangentially. First, through coming back to the work of Habib Tanveer, who created a distinctive brand of modern Indian drama, recognized and feted throughout the country and abroad. He did this by using attributes of Indian folk and classical traditions in scripting and directing his plays, so that in his own words, he “came right back to ‘Indianness’…to our Sanskrit tradition and folk traditions. Blending folk with the classical, realising there are no barriers.”[27] The actors in the plays Tanvir directed, themselves created memorable actions and dialogues ‘as equal partners’, making them ‘a collective collaborative endeavour’. However, Tanvir did not just confine himself to Sanskrit classics, traditional themes or stories; he adapted Shakespeare, Moliere, Brecht. In all these he tackled many contemporary issues of modern society, but with local idioms and language – whether it was his native Chattisgarhi in Mitti ki Gadi based on Sudrakas Mricchakatikam, or the street-dialects of Agra Bazaar based on the life of the poet Nazir Akbarabadi, and he used the principles of imaginative space and time found in the classical and folk tradition of India.

My second example is through Indian film music. I would like you to listen to a short audio clip. Colonel Bogie and yeh dil na hota bechara. The basic tune is the same, but the second piece is recognisably Indian. Here there is a music director, SD Burman; there is an arranger, there are singers and musicians performing according to pre-determined tunes and arrangements in the Western tradition of music set to specifications. Despite this, and despite a western tune being used, there is a distinctive Indian quality. Though this exercise is not as spontaneously collaborative as Habib Tanvir’s way of theatre, to me there seem to be some commonalities that render them Indian because of.
1. Language singing/acting,
2. Intonation of the words,
3. Imagery/idioms evoked/used.
4. Individual space given to the singer/actor/performer,
5. Rhythmic structure of the music/the play.

One could perhaps make a similar checklist for architecture, which could render it recognisably Indian. Some aspects that come to my mind are:
1.     Materials of construction
2.     Language of architecture or elements used – chajjas, courtyards, pavilions, colonnades
3.     The manner in which these elements combine, are rendered;
4.     Method of construction: how much scope for individuality – not just of the main architect, but the entire team.
5.     Rhythm of space and time expressed in architecture – how spaces unfold, how you approach a building, move through it. 

I would like to end with a few instances of architecture from the 20th and 21st century. These do not carry the outward trappings commonly associated with being Indian, and are also quite different from each other. In fact, some of these designers have been trained in the modernist way and do use modern materials, some of them are not born in India, and some are not even trained in the formal institutional way. Nevertheless, they seem to me, to contain some of the lakshanas that I associate with Indian design: of flexibility and frugality, of dissolving barriers between internal and external space, and of a humane concern for the context, of a feel for the craft of building. These, of course, may be considered desirable qualities of good design universally. But most design today, in a mimicry of western trends, seeks to replace human beings with machines and robots; or reduce the role of human beings to repetitive robotic work in assembly line firms under a big boss or two. Naturally, such architecture has a shrunken quality and cannot be representative of any human quality, let alone any recognisably Indian quality. This is clear today even to many of those brought up on the cult of the master-architect. Meejin Yoon, Head Of Department of Architecture in MIT, identifies one of the great challenges facing the architecture profession today, especially in the more industrialised part of the world, as ‘…the contraction of the architect’s ability to intervene in that built environment’. She adds: ‘The construction industry is no longer as integrated with architecture as it was historically when we had a relationship with craftspeople, because construction is now its own kind of industry.’[28] 

It may be worthwhile to remember that if as a society, we decide to put ourselves completely in thrall of the market, we may all end up like Charlie Chaplin in the movie Modern Times. And in the cyclical manner of the Indian view, I would like to come back to the empathetic outsider, David Gentleman, that: ‘Market forces had nothing to do with the creation of any of the things one goes to India to see’.

[1] P.7
[2]  Accessed on 14.07.2017
[3] The Concise Sanskrit Dictionary, Sanskrit-Hindi-English, Meharchan Lachhmandas Publications, New Delhi, Complied by Dr Ram Sagar Tripathi, p. 148
[4]              Seminar, April 2010 Issue: The Enduring Epic, ‘Living with the Mahabharata’, p. 69.
[5]              A thought-provoking exploration of ‘Is there an Indian Way of Thinking’, can be found in pp.34-51, The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan, edited by Vinay Dharwadker; See also ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala’, Dharampal
[6]              Mahabharata, Udyog Parva, ViduraNiti; see Bharat Gupt, India: A Cultural Decline or Revival, Preface, p. xiv, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd, New Delhi, 2008; Chaturvedi Badrinath, Mahabharata, An Enquiry into the Human Condition, p. 91;
[7]              The Mahatma and The Poet, Ed. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, p. 25, Introduction.
[8] For instance, in a survey of ‘over 2000 villages in South India in the Chengalpattu district during the mid-18th Century. This survey also recorded the total land belonging to each village, the utilization of this land for various purposes, the net cultivated land, the details of land assigned to various village institutions and functions, p. 19, Dharampal, Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom

[10] Pp.31-, 333, Silparatnakosa
[11] P.36
[12] Pp. 39-41
[13] Silpa in Indian Tradition, Concept and Instrumentalities, R.N.Misra, p. 13
[14] Silparatnakosa of Sthapaka Niranjan Mahapatra, Edited and Translated by Bettina Baumer and Rajendra Prasad Das, IGNCA and Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt ltd. First published 1994
[15] The Indian Craftsman, ‘Religious Ideas in Craftsmanship’, A.K. Coomaraswamy, p. 46
[16] For a detailed analysis of the design of this fort, see The Red Fort of Shahjahanabad, Anisha Shekhar Mukherji, OUP 2003.
[17] Evidenced by the archaeological finds of needles in sites of the Harappan civilization - in Lothal, Rakhigarhi and Banawali. See S.R. Rao, Lothal, p. 54-5, Archaeological Survey of India, 1985, Reprint 2009. Silk and wheel-spun cotton have also been found in two new sites, Michel Danino, The Lost River, p.112, Penguin 2010. And seen in the representation of both draped and stitched clothes in sculptures. Anamika Pathak, p. 13, Indian Costumes
[18]            Bruno Dagens, Mayamata, Introduction, p.xlv-xlvi

[19]               ‘My Milestones in Theatre, Habib Tanvir in Conversation’, p. 23, Charandas Chor; his daughter, Nageen, in an interview,  
[20] The Arts of India, 1880, G.C.M. Birdwood, Reprint 1971, The British Book Company, p.131.
[21]             Living, Issue 7, The Park Magazine, ‘Made to Measure’, p.03,
[22]  The practice of artificially shortening product lifecycle in order to influence the buying patterns of consumers, popularised in the last century by Clifford Brooks Stevens, an influential American industrial designer., accessed 24.04.1014. See also:
[23] Ibid. pp.11-17
[24] Neil Macgregor, p.81, Indus Seal, A History of the World in 100 Objects
[25] Ghulam Yahya, Crafting Traditions, Documenting Trades and Crafts in Early 19th Century North India, Trans. Mehr Afshan Faroouqui
[26]Dharampal, Essays in Tradition, Recovery and Freedom, Collected Works Vol.V, 2001, pp. 17-8
[27]            ‘My Milestones in Theatre, Habib Tanvir in Conversation’, Charandas Chor, p. 23.
[28] Interview on News Digest of the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, PLAN 88.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Talk on The Sari at KRVIA, Mumbai

Why we should explore the 'Design of The Sari' by Anisha Shekhar Mukherji and 'Unplanning the City' by Snehanshu Mukherjee at The Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA):

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Our car will soon be 15 years old. It is excellently maintained; car mechanics at the service centre have repeatedly commented on how much better the engine is than even the newer model. But soon, we may have to send this perfectly serviceable car to be scrapped!
Because the National Green Tribunal has moved a ban on petrol cars older than 15 years.
If the NGT is serious about reducing pollution, they should address the root problem of reducing the number of cars on the road, and ensuring that these cars are fit to run.

Read More on: