I recently a forward from my friend Sri. Trisakthi Sunderraman on how Jawaharlal Nehru ridiculed South Indian temples. It is not surprising coming from Nehru. He ridiculed Indian traditions whenever he got an opportunity and he tried to portray himself as Secular to move with Foreigners especially with the British.His arrogance to everything Indian is monumental.To think I took part in Children’s day celebrations, celebrated on Nehru’s birthday, November 14,…..Am ashamed. Insidiously he promoted western concepts in India, through his book Discovery of India,the book he wrote as a series of letters to his daughter Indira Priyadarshini,aka Indira Gandhi in later years.This book was touted as The History of India and was included in school syllabus.Herebelow I am reproducing the relevant text of the speech he delivered in 1959, In Seminar on Architecture. Full text may be found at the link provided in the article. This observation by Nehru to my knowledge , is not from Discovery of India by Nehru.
Mr. Chairman and friends, I have come here for a brief while this morning just to wish those people attending this Seminar and specially our younger architects, success in their talks here, meaning thereby a new fermentation taking place in the minds of this generation leading to more suitable types of architecture which fit in with conditions today and yet are things of beauty.
Mr. Humayun Kabir referred to the great temples of the South and the Taj Mahal. Well, they are beautiful. Some of the temples of the South, however, repel me in spite of their beauty. I just can’t stand them. Why? I do not know. I cannot explain that, but they are oppressive, they suppress my spirit. They do not allow me to rise, they keep me down. The dark corridors—I like the sun and air and not dark corridors.
However, architecture today can hardly be thought of, well, broadly speaking, in terms of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is, of course, one of the most beautiful things anywhere and it is a delight to the eye and to the spirit to see it. It represented, as all architecture represents to a large extent, the age in which it grew. You cannot isolate architecture from the age, from the social conditions, from the thinking, from the objectives and ideals of that particular age. In an age which is rapidly changing, like our present age, in fact since the industrial revolution came, that necessarily has a powerful effect on architecture.
Mr. Kabir referred to the static condition in regard to architecture in India during the last two, three hundred years. That really was a reflex of the static condition of the Indian mind or Indian conditions. Everything was static, not a question of architecture alone being static. Of course, that does not mean a country can ever be completely static—there are bright individuals and bright movements but taken as a whole India was static. In fact, India was static before that. Without being very accurate or precise, architecturally, for the last few hundred years, India was static, and the great buildings really date back to a considerable time. Even before the British came, we had become static. The British came because we were static. A society which ceases to change, ceases to go ahead, necessarily becomes weak and it is an extraordinary thing how that weakness comes out in all forms of creative activity. You see that weakness in our literature during this period. That again does not mean that big books were not written. Certainly some very fine books were written, but generally the Sanskrit language began to seed; a magnificent language, gradually it has became more and more repetitive: long sentences, ornate, lifeless except tingling songs and rhymes and all that. Take the early period of Sanskrit. It is a thing which strikes you in the head with its vigour and strength, its brevity; and then it becomes long winded, sometimes sentences going over two pages.I think Milton once said that “Show me the language of a people and if I do not know anything about that people, I will tell you what they are, whether they are brave, or timid or adventurous, creative or not”. The language, of course, is the most subtle medium of a people’s thinking. So also architecture, and all the creative arts. They really are not something outside yourself, they something that is inside us. Either we have that in us or we have not. If we have not, well, you produce the copy of what other people have done. Architecture is influenced by a number of considerations but apart from those considerations, architecture like all creative arts is influenced, if I may use the word—it is often used and misused—by the life forces of a people. If they have that vitality in them it comes out in painting, in architecture, in poetry, in literature, in everything that they do, in life itself. If they have not got it then they are just pale copies of human beings, without the vitality of human beings and naturally their arts are pale copies too. And that is basic. You cannot produce by any school course or college course life forces in a people. That is there or it is not there or it may gradually grow. And quite apart from that basic consideration, architecture depends certainly on climate; it depends on functions: the functions the people living in those buildings or looking at them have to perform. It depends on the state of technological growth, that is to say on the material we use and obviously on the state of scientific and technological growth and on other factors too. Climate more or less is a permanent factor though even there to some extent, it can be overcome-not to a very large extent but internally, there has been always an attempt to overcome climate even in the olden days and those methods of overcoming it or, well, minimising the effect of climate have always been there. You may become more adept in doing it. The other factors, I said,—the function which a building is supposed to serve obviously has to govern it and the function a building serves depends to a large extent on the functions s that society is serving
Nehru, Jawaharlal Address by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister
In Seminar on Architecture, edited by Achyut Kanvinde, 5-9. New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1959