Publication Date



Siry, Joseph


Art History




The Viceroy's House, the culminating architectural monument to the highly planned city of New Delhi, was erected as a full expression of British Imperial power in India. As an expression of empire, New Delhi gave physical form to the ideology of the British Raj. Its synthesis of indian stylistic motifs onto a frame mostly classical reflects in architectural form the self-identity of late British imperial rule. As a functioning monument, the Viceroy's House remained during the late Raj a clear a symbol of ultimate British authority. And yet the building was functionally and symbolically transformed to Rashtrapati Bhavan, or the President's House, with the creation of the Republic of India on January 26th, 1950. As an architectural symbol, it was reconfigured through strategic alterations of ceremonial behavior and the placement of objects to function as the architectural head of the Indian nation. Largely a ceremonial monument, this transformation of the building from the seat of Viceregal authority to housing the head of state of India was driven by a synthesis of nationalist ideologies developed in the struggle for independence. Rashtrapati Bhavan, like any postcolonial monument, bears a mixed legacy. Faltering and discontinuous, the transformations of the building through objects, behaviors, and interpretive histories have solidifed it as a proud monument to India appropriate to house the head of state. As a living monument, the postcolonial identity of India is consolidated in Rashtrapati Bhavan. A dichotomous symbol of freedom and oppression, the symbolic structure of the building and greater New Delhi interacts with Indian nationalism today in a somewhat contradictory way. As a flashpoint of critique and national pride Rashtrapati Bhavan reflects India's identity, defining a nation through its multiplicitous and contradictory legacies.

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