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Building National Identity in Postcolonial India

Ravi Kalia

A concluding examination of postcolonial nation building in Indian capital cities

The culmination of Ravi Kalia's trilogy on the formation of capital cities in postcolonial India, Gandhinagar joins the historian's other two volumes, on Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, in tracing India's efforts to establish its twentieth–century architectural identity. In following the development of these cities, Kalia recounts India's progression through precolonial, British, modern, and postmodern theory and practice, particularly the architectural ideology propagated by Western architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.

Kalia explains that Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat in western India, became a battleground for the competing ideals that had surfaced during the building of Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar. The mill owners of the neighboring city of Ahmedabad, backed by Indian architect and planner Balkrishna Doshi, wanted the American Louis Kahn to build Gandhinagar as a worthy rival to Le Corbusier's Chandigarh. There was, however, tremendous political pressure to make Gandhinagar a purely Indian enterprise, partly because the state of Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. Kalia illumines Kahn's early influence in the city and his replacement by Doshi and then by American-trained H. K. Mewada, who had apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Chandigarh. Kalia shows that, unlike the other two cities, Gandhinagar would become emblematic of Gandhian ideals of swadeshi (indigenous) goods and swaraj (self-rule).

Exploring the impact of modernist architecture on India as a whole, Kalia suggests that the style gained acceptance because its parsimonious designs and unadorned spaces never represented a threat to a religiously pluralist country anxious to create a secular identity. He explains how two competing versions of Indian history and ideology—Ganhdi's and Jawaharlal Nehru's—employed modernism's ideals for their own separate ends. Serving two masters, as Kalia illustrates, created constrictions and tensions evident in the building of Gandhinagar and in the careers of many Indian architects, including Doshi, Charles Correa, and Achyut Kanvinde.

Ravi Kalia is a professor of history at the City College of the City University of New York (CUNY). He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from Hindu College, Delhi University, and Ph.D. and M.B.A. degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Kalia is the author of Chandigarh: The Making of an Indian City and Bhubaneswar: From a Temple Town to a Capital City. His extensive publishing career includes articles in such journals as Technology and Science Journal, the Journal of Urban History, and Habitat International. Kalia lives in the Bronx.

"Three hundred million Indians now live in towns, many of which were founded after 1947. With the publication of Gandhinagar: Building National Identity in Postcolonial India, Ravi Kalia has produced a trio of highly relevant studies of the politics and ideology that shaped these novel urban environments."—Sumit Guha, Department of History, Rutgers University, and author of Health and Population in South Asia: From Earliest Times to the Present

"Ravi Kalia's new study of Gandhinagar completes his series of studies of India's new capitals. Like his earlier studies of Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, this book is thoroughly researched and clearly written. It will be an invaluable resource for students of modern Indian architecture and offers fresh insights into the troubled recent history of Gujarat."—Thomas R. Metcalf, professor emeritus, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley, and author of An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain's Raj



book jacket for Gandhinagar


6 x 9
192 pages
192 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-544-9
cloth, $39.95s


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