Within architectural history the study of colonial rule in India has focused primarily on the major centers of colonial power: Madras (Chennai), Calcutta (Kolkata), Bombay (Mumbai), and New Delhi.1 The historical narrative has thus explored both large-scale commissions such as the Government House in Calcutta (1799?1803) and, more recently, domestic architecture in both the British sectors of these cities and in the so-called "Black Towns" of major colonial sites.2 These architectural studies track the maneu vers of the merchant-governors of the East India Company as their position in India shifted to post-1858 imperial power,3 while explorations of domestic and smaller-scale works allow us to investigate the day-to-day negotiations of colonial power inside these major cities.4 For these cities, then, colonial monumental and domestic architecture, alongside colonial urban space, form the foundation for colonial architectural histories.The present study adds two new dimensions to this scholarly literature: first, it examines a location outside of the major colonial sites: the provincial center of Paṭnā, in Bihār; second, it centers on a monument of civic architecture: a granary.
Paṭnā is connected to Calcutta by the Ganges and its trib utaries but is nonetheless provincial.5 The granary at Paṭnā, called the Golghar, serves an important role in a region that was not otherwise marked by colonial architectural monuments in the late eighteenth century. This paper traces the narratives about the Golghar from its construction in 1786 through nineteenth-century commentaries upon it. These narratives, alongside the structure itself, demonstrate that the Golghar illustrates the power of the British in the late eighteenth century, a time when they sorely needed to consolidate that power. As it aged, narratives about the structure demonstrate the flexibility of colonial discourse as it reframed earlier statements about the Golghar into a narrative that made sense in a changed colonial context. The Golghar's continued importance for Paṭnā moves its story into the contemporary, post-Independence context, and situates it as both a marker of Paṭnā's colonial history and center for Paṭnā's current community. In the end, this piece of civic architecture in a provincial town illustrates the malleability of colonial discourse, and the ability of the British to maintain their power not through building effec tive civic monuments but through reinvigorating the narratives surrounding those monuments-working them into the changing discourses of colonialism.
- 1. As this paper discusses these cities in their colonial context, I use their colonial names throughout.
- 2. P. J. Marshall, "The White Town of Calcutta Under the Rule of the East India Company," Modern Asian Studies, vol. 34, no. 2 (2000), pp. 307-31. For a discussion of the Black Town/White Town relation ship, see Rebecca M. Brown, "The Cemeteries and the Suburbs: Patna's Challenges to the Colonial City in South Asia," The Journal of Urban History, vol. 29, no. 2 (January 2003), pp. 151-73.
- 3. Thomas Metcalf, An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain's Raj (Berkeley: Univ. of California Pr., 1988).
- 4. See Swati Chattopadhyay's work on British neighborhoods in southern Calcutta and the ways in which the Indian servant quarters undermined British colonial spaces (Swati Chattopadhyay, "Blurring Boundaries: The Limits of 'White Town'in Colonial Calcutta," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 59, no. 2 [June 2000], pp. 154-79). On northern Calcutta, see Monolina Bhattacharyya, "Locating Identities: Residential Architecture of the Bengali Elite in Calcutta, mid-18th to mid-19th Centuries" (PhD diss., Univ. of Minnesota, 2002). See also W John Archer's study of the suburbs of Calcutta and Madras, "Colonial Suburbs in South Asia, 1700-1850, and the Spaces of Modernity," in Visions of Suburbia, ed. Roger Silverstone (London: Routledge, 1997).
- 5. Patna's relationship to Calcutta changed with the arrival of the rail road in the mid-nineteenth century (see Anand Yang, Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Bihar [Berkeley: Univ. of California Pr., 1998], pp. 83-84).