IN two previous works I have endeavoured to lay down a sound critical basis for the study of Indian sculpture and painting: the present one deals with Indian architecture on the same lines. The history of architecture is not, as Fergusson thought, the classification of buildings in archæological water-tight compartments according to arbitrary academic ideas of style, but a history of national life and thought. The first duty of an historian of Indian architecture is to realise for himself the distinctive qualities which constitute its Indianness, or its value in the synthesis of Indian life. Fergusson only read into Indian architecture the values he attached to it from his knowledge of Western archaeology, and consequently the only result of his magnificent pioneer work has been to give the subject an honourable place in the Western architect's library among the books which are never read. At the same time Fergusson's authority among archaeologists has been so great that, except on minor points of classification, his views of Indian history have never been seriously disputed; and the ever-increasing quantity of most valuable material collected by the Archæological Survey of India year by year is still religiously docketed and labelled according to the scheme laid down by him forty years ago.
Indian architecture covers a field as wide as the whole architecture of Europe, and therefore in this first attempt to turn the study of it off the side-track in which Fergusson left it. I have limited myself to those chapters of it which have most practical interest for the modern architect. And as historical studies miss their aim unless they can make clear the bearing of the experience of the past upon the actualities of the present day, I have planned this work so as to make evident to expert and layman alike the relation between Indian architectural history and a great problem which is exercising the public mind at the present moment the building of the new Delhi and a question of much more vital importance the preservation of Indian handicraft.
For fifty years Indian departmentalism has followed a system of building, demoralising alike to the architect and the craftsman, which has been as injurious to the true interests of the British Raj as it has been fatal to the development of art and craft in India. Great Britain, like every other European country, has slowly come to realise how prodigal she has been in the last two centuries with her own handicrafts and all other forms of artistic wealth which belong to national well-being and are the true expression of it. What finer opportunity can there be than the building of the new Delhi for inaugurating a new architectural and educational policy which will remove the incubus now pressing so hardly upon Indian craft and industry, and at the same time give a great impulse to the new movement for the revival of architecture in this country?
The ethics of the present departmental system will not be raised to a higher plane by removing the official architect's office from Simla to London; the fineness of the architectural effect of the New Delhi, academically considered, will not justify methods which are ruinous to Indian handicraft. We shall be more British by giving Indian craftsmen their due.
When all sincere architects in Europe are doing their best to revive the principle of collaboration between architect and craftsman which has been and will be the foundation of the true art of building in all ages, it would be a calamity both for India and for this country if the only result of the building of the new Delhi is the establishment of another departmental school for teaching Indians modern pseudo-scientific methods by which architecture, so far as concerns themselves, ceases to be an art.
In working out the principal historical sequences I have relied chiefly upon the documents which the buildings themselves provide: they are by far the most reliable, and the deductions I have drawn from them can be easily checked by the architectural student. Those who wish to enter into further detail can follow up the various clues I have given, either by investigations on the spot or by consulting the finely illustrated works published by the Archæological Survey of India; especially the reports of the Survey of Western India by Dr. Burgess and Mr. Cousens, Mr. Edmund Smith's four volumes on Fatehpur-Sîkrî, and the more recent reports presented by Mr. Marshall.
Fergusson and Dr. Burgess are my chief authorities for chronological facts and measurements of buildings. I am greatly indebted to the Secretary of State for India for permission to use material from various reports of the Archæological Survey, and also to Mr. Murray for the use of some blocks from Fergusson's “History.” Mr. J. H. Marshall, C.I.E., Director-General of the Archæological Survey of India, has given me invaluable help with the illustrations. Dr. F. W. Thomas, Librarian, and Mr. A. G. Ellis, Assistant Librarian, India Office, have given me much assistance in etymological questions. I have also to thank Professor Rhys Davids and Mr. Abanindro Nath Tagore for the information they have very kindly furnished. For the loan of photographs I am much indebted to Dr. A. K. Coomaraswamy, Colonel T. H. Hendley, C.I.E., Mr. E. V. Lanchester, F.R.I.B.A., and Mr. W. Rothenstein. Similar assistance in the illustrations has been very kindly given me by Sir David Prain, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Melchior, and by Mrs. Villiers Stuart. Messrs. Bourne & Shepherd; Messrs. Johnston & Hoffmann, Calcutta; and Messrs. R. C. Mazumdar, Benares, have kindly allowed me to reproduce some of their copyright photographs.