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ARTISTIC INTERACTIONS: THE REALMS OF
ARCHITECTURE, DANCE AND PHTOJOURNALISM
The principal objective of this chapter is to explore the select realms of arts
such as Architecture, Dance and Photo-Journalism where the French
influence is seen at its maximum level.Since these genres are ostensibly the
major beneficiary of Guj-Franco cultural rapport, they have been explored
here. Gujarats architectural tryst with France commenced way back in early
twentieth century when the erstwhile royalties invited French architects and
town planners. Thus were executed the cities like Dhoraji and the palaces
like Rajmahel of Wadhwan city. This architectural rapport continued well
into the mid- twentieth century when the rich textile tycoons of the city of
Ahmedabad, invited the internationally acclaimed French architect Le
Corbusier to design several buildings in Ahmedabad. He gifted four
architectural gems, namely Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners Association,
Sanskara Kendra, Shodhan Villa and Sarabhai Villa. His invaluable
contribution along with that of Shri B.V. Doshi has been explored here.
In addition to the contribution made by the above mentioned architects, an
effort has also been made to evaluate the endeavours made by renowed
architects like Bernard Kohn, and Pierre Cadot Sarah-Keller towards the
restoration and the conservation of the Pols and Havelies in the walled city
of Ahmedabad. The substantial contribution towards the Guj-Franco
cultural linkages made by the internationally acclaimed classical danseuse
from Gujarat Mrinalini Sarabhai and her equally illustrious daughter,
Mallika Sarabhai, has also been explored here. A very non-conventional
type of art genre, i.e.PhotoJournalism, which was introduced in Gujarat by
the legendary photographer Parmanand Dalwadi has also been studied and
4.1 Architecture: Mixture of Medievalism with Modernity
Architecture is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and
constructing buildings and other physicsl structures. Architectural works, in
the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and
as works of art.
Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving
architectural achievements. (Wikipedia)
French architecture, consisting of Roman, Pre- Romanesque, Romanesque,
Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism and Modernist,
ranks high among that countrys many accomplishments.
As noted earlier the French art and aesthetics significantly influenced some
of the architectural styles, especially town planning and the building of
castles and palaces in colonial India. It is imperative to understand the
French colonial context in order to understand the architectural influences
during the eighteenth century onwards. The French who had arrived in India
in seventeenth century and had established their first trading center at Surat
were immediately out played by the powerful English in the colonial game
of supremacy. The ousted French were compelled to drift towards the
southern part of the country where they eventually established their business
centers. Thus was developed Pondicherry which, with its strategic location,
became the cultural citadel for the French.
The town of Pondicherry has been witness to the rise and fall of French
power in India. Though the French developed few other trading centers, this
city emerged as the major center of French art, culture and architecture. It
wouldnt be in excess to state that the story of Pondicherry is the story of
French in India. This city was often built and re-built by the French as it had
been subjected to various territorial conflicts. It today boasts of possessing
massive colonial buildings and statues, systematic town planning and
zoning. French styled the town as per their own expectations and aesthetics.
It must be said that various architects and town planners from France
continued to impress the various architectural conceptions of the country.
These influences appear direct when the executioners are the French but they
become implicit when they influence the indigenous architects who create a
sort of fusion. These influences are also perceptible in the inclusion of
various French symbols and motifs with the local patterns. It must be
remembered that in those days majority of royals had a direct rapport with
the English and therefore, only those royals turned to France who were
connoisseurs of French art and aesthetics. The state of Gujarat, one of the
earliest hosts to the French at Surat in the colonial days, always maintained
a special rapport with France, which exerted a considerable influence on the
Gujarati art and aesthetics. Some of the early French influences on the
architecture of Gujarat are found in the built up form, especially in the small
principalities of Saurashtra. The French architects and town planners were
specially invited by some rulers of the state. Sometimes select French
structural concepts were incorporated into the main design which was based
either on the Oriental styles such as Indo-Persian or the Occidental styles
such as Gothic, Baroque and Rococo.Some kings on the other hand turned
to the French for some kind of sophistication and architectural exclusivity.
This aspect has been explored in the ensuing pages.
The Town of Dhoraji
As noted earlier, the grand and gorgeous French architecture has
considerably influenced the planning and execution of palaces, castles and
some elite residencies of Gujarat. It is to be mentioned here that some of the
early French influences on the architecture of Gujarat are found in the cities
and palaces of the small principalities of Saurashtra. Thus, Dhoraji, a small
town on the banks of a rivulet Suffora, a branch of the river Bhadar, came
into existence. The fort and the general town planning of this eighteenth
century Saurastra illustrates a considerable French influence. It is to be noted
that the French influence in the overall structural conception, the
architectural motifs, symbols and execution of the town earned for it an
enviable and coveted sobriquet the Paris of the state.
This town has been part of the eastwhile Gondal State which had acquired it
from the State of Junagadh. Sir Bhagwatsinhji, the progressive ruler of
Gondal State, who had established a town planning department and had
introduced town planning principals to regularize and monitor the growth of
the fortified town of Gondal, Dhoaji and Patanvav, was born at Dhoraji
Darbargadh. The fort and the general town paining of this eighteenth century
city of Kathiawad illustrate a considerable French influence. The massive
fort wall has several bastions, four main gates along with the three smaller
gates known as Boris. The multi-storeyed Dabargadh of the town is located
at the highest point. The faade is ornamented with sculptures of musicians,
complex geometric pattern, images of lions in different postures on long
cause, profusely cared pillars, horizontal friezes, decorative kangaroos and
windows framing the skyline.
It is designed like a jewel box-in the same architectural style of
Navaho places at Gondal. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
The town underwent transformation in the twentieth century as its ruler
Bhawgatsinhji sought to bring about a Parisian character to his town. This
was carried out under the influence of the town planning of Paris by Baron
Haussman. Dhoraji thus can be considered one of the greatest architectural
linkages of GujFranco relationship.
The Raj Mahal Palace of Wadhavan City
The French influence on the built form in Gujarat can also be traced back
to the unique conception and execution of the Rajmahal in the city of
Wadhavan. This unique palace, a French symbol where the architecture
borrows heavily from the French Baroque and Rococo styles, was built by
H.H. BalSinhji Jhala in nineteenth century after his return from France. It
was exclusively executed by artisans from France. Built in the rococo style
of architecture, this structure has a lot of decoration, especially in the shape
of curls. Since it illustrates a very strong French architectural influence, it
has been recognized as a major symbol of Guj-Franco cultural interactions.
This royal residence, also known as Balvilas Palace is located in a sprawling
space of 13-14 acres. It accommodates a park like ground with tennis courts,
lily ponds, fountains, out houses and cricket pitches.
The centerpiece is a beautiful pillared courtyard with marble statues.
There is a marvelously appointed Darbarhall with painted ceilings,
kingsized portraits and a throne. There are beautifully restored
vintage cars and a library of automobile books.
Interestingly, the palace was built by the king after his return from France.
He appointed a French architect and nearly fifty French artisans, as a result
The palace bears the rational control and pro