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ANCIENT INDIAN ARCHITECTURE-FROM BLOSSOM TO BLOOM-BOOK REVIEW
ANCIENT INDIAN ARCHITECTURE-( FROM BLOSSOM TO BLOOM)
ANCIENT INDIAN ARCHITECTURE- (FROM BL0SSOM TO BLOOM)-by SANJEEV MAHESHWARI & RAJEEV GARG- Publishers CBS New Delhi pp 237 Priced Rs 275/-
REVIEWED BY- SANJOG MAHESHWARI
Maheshwari and Garg’s book, Ancient Indian Architecture- From Blossom to Bloom, is already into its hard cover edition after being warmly received by the students and academics alike for the scholarly enterprise with which it weaves information and research into a seamless tapestry embellished with visuals and photographs that records in chronological order Vedic, Buddhist, Hindu and Jaina Architecture. The most interesting section of the title, however, remains the complex web of the Western theory of the Aryan invasion of India covered under the chapter Vedic Architecture. After placing on record the incontrovertible evidence of Vaastu-based architecture of Indus valley civilization in support of Aryan nativity of India, the authors preferred to take a clinical view by concluding “ Could be the Aryans came and settled in the sub-continent a few millennium earlier than it is now presumed.” Could be the compulsions of being teachers in a Central University weighed on them to compromise with the established Western theory of invasion albeit contrary to their own convictions and research based on Architectural findings after wading through an ocean of research material. Though the authors may have some reasons for it, it is disappointing as we expected more from the authors on the subject.
According to Prof C.K. Prahlad noted teacher at the University of Michigan, a teacher must do research to provide an edge to his students. Not so in India. Paradoxical though it may appear, the fact remains that in our blessed country teaching and research are the two mutually exclusive pursuits. Not very infrequently, a teacher applying his mind to research and authoring a text book at the same time, ends up hitting the dirt about himself and his research. Research as we know, do not guarantee conformity with the entrenched beliefs. In fact, most of the time, it disturbs them and the teacher-author finds it difficult cope with the disturbance that his research generates. While there are hardly any university in India where professional scholars of competence are encouraged to do significant research, a few in the teaching community who venture to do it of their own find themselves treading the treacherous terrain when their painstakingly done research work throws up the material and evidence which do not conform to the official version on the subject they are supposed to shove down the throats of the students whose immediate concern remains to get degrees to get into some lucrative jobs. Who will purchase the title that contains plethora of researched material not consistent with the official version which the students are expected to spill on their answer books? The authors of the book who teach architecture at the Aligarh Muslim University, who could not be the exception seem to have valid excuse for not doing what as a research scholar they were expected to do: that is to controvert the Western theory of Aryan invasion of India on the basis of the solid architectural evidence they had dug out in support of the theory. However, it would be in the fitness of things, if this meadow-dew refreshing, revisionist view of history is seen as an appeal to the intelligentsia of the day to agitate the brooding spirit of history.
The decades of unbridled politicization and bureaucratization of universities and academic institutions have chased out the spirit of research and enquiry fro the campuses. What is left is the debris of mediocre presentations shoved down the throats of the bored students year after year. Most of the writings on, and teaching of , Indian architecture continues to recycle the hackneyed theories of the Western scholars in particular and their Indian minions in general.
The building and town planning principles as enunciated in the “Vaastushastra” were developed, propounded, known and practiced by the Vedic Aryans only. Years of research had gone into developing them. All buildings and structures etc. excavated from these and various other sites conform to the building and town planning principles enshrined in the “Vaastushastra”- an ancient Vedic science of planning cities and building structures that only vedic Aryans knew, propounded and practiced. Since the vedic Aryans were not idol-worshippers no temple like structure could be found anywhere in as many as 500 sites excavated at the Sindhu-Saraswati system. Interestingly no war weapons of any description has been found. Can anybody think of a weapon-less invasion? These and many other evidences obliquely cited by the authors conclusively establishes that the Harappan civilization- the gift of two rivers Indus and Saraswati- is an urban version of predominantly pastoral Vedic civilization evolved to cater to the security and safety requirements of the neo-rich and prosperous of the day and the Vedic Aryans, the original inhabitants of the subcontinent India were in fact the architects of the Mohanjodaro-Lothal-Harappa-Dholavira civilizations. The authors adroitly manipulated the drift to make all this incidental to the subject matter. What else could be the better way to drive home the point they are making? And that too without argument. Did Namier not exhort : “Do not argue with History”?
In the chapters following the one on Vedic Architecture, a thorough in-depth study of the architecture under the various important ruling dynasties of ancient India such as Maurya, Shung-Saatvahans, Gupta, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Pallava, Chola, Chandela, Ganga and many other regional dynasties such as Pratihara, Solanki, Parmara, Chera and so forth has been made in chronological order under dynaty-wise titled chapters. Replete with visuals ( graphics and pictorial depiction of the related structures ) at appropriate place alongside the relevant text, the title is a unique work of outstanding quality for which the authors deserve accolades. Points to ponder have been arranged at the end of each chapter. In an impressive Glossary 285 Sanskrit terms used in the text have been explained with consummate skill and clarity which alongwith an exhaustive Bibliography cunningly entices a serious student of Vaastu based Architecture to embark upon a course of unfolding further vistas in the region. However, the personal computer which the authors lovingly call “Pushyamitra” have had some tricks up its silly system otherwise there would not have been too many typographical errors. Given a little diligence they could have been avoided in the hard cover edition at least.
Despite the limitations, the book is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the library of Indian architecture and history. If the excellent get up of the title with so many illustrations is any indication, the publishers have proved that the publishing has come off age in India. Reasonably priced the book does not make a dent in the pocket