Who Is An Indian Cultural Studies Essay

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What is India. Who is an Indian. And what does being an Indian mean. These questions have formed the basis of a continuous debate on Indian identity ever since this country was brought forth into the world. The absence of a coherent Indian Identity is visible in our country's society and the resultant lack of unity has constantly undermined growth and progress within the country.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that India lives in her villages. India today lives in its cities. Cities today form the largest percentage of the habitat for human beings all over the world. More than half the world's population lives in cities. [CITATION UN12 \l 1033] They have been around for more than 5000 years and have been the vehicles for social, political and economic change ever since and continue to be so, their identities ever evolving and changing. Cities have always been considered to be the physical representatives of a society. [CITATION UN12 \l 1033] 

Given the ever growing urban population in India, ever present is the need for a larger city, a new city, a better city. Huge new urban mega cities are turning up in places like Delhi, and other cities are experiencing a massive growth in size also. [CITATION AGK \l 1033] In today's time, when cities in India are the physical representatives of Indian Society, can our cities help unravel the great identity crisis in India?

Is there a distinct Indian identity to be found in the built form of Indian cities?

Need Identification :

A search for identity in Indian Cities is a long and complicated search. The factors which affect the growth of a city are also very numerous and diverse in the country. The basic premise for the writing of the paper is that a city forms an identity of its own over time and that this identity is a representation of its society.

A national identity is required for the people in a country to feel united and be able to relate to their fellow men. In India's case, this identity is very hard to find because of the extremely diverse culture of the land. Everyone in the country has a localized attribute which they relate to over and above the sense of being Indian.

But the fates of all these different communities, that speak different languages, have different customs, are linked together by virtue of being politically united. So the search for something that defines Indianness is essential to the better functioning of the country as a whole.

This dissertation aims at searching the built fabric of the city for a distinct Indian Identity.

It will also help to identify parameters that must be kept in mind while designing and planning urban environments within the country.


The dissertation aims at examining the built, tangible and quantifiable attributes which give a city its distinct identity. The study aims at examining solely the built factors in consideration and will not take into account the social or the cultural attributes of a place, despite there being important in creating the identity of a space. [CITATION UN12 \l 1033] The study will be based on the following key aspects :

To develop an understanding of urban growth and the factors affecting it over the past 200 years - the major factor to have changed the way we live being the industrial revolution and its effects on the built form. This also includes a study of the major movements to have influenced the architecture of cities in this time period - with ideas like the modern movement.

Developing an understanding of the terms "Identity of a City" and "Image of a city" and defining them in relevance to the research question

Understanding the role of the built fabric in creating a distinct identity for a place.

Examining the present urban scenario in our country and understanding its causes and development.


The research does not aim at finding a definite answer to the question of identity. The basic premise for the study is that a city develops an identity of its own and the question to be addressed then is whether there is an element in the built fabric of our cities that gives it a uniquely Indian characteristic.

A lack of research done on the subject in an Indian context. Most of published case studies deal with identity and image of western cities. They can only be relied upon to get an understanding of the factors that influence image and a complete study will have to be done first hand in an Indian setting, which in turn limits site options.

A complete study in this context would include analysis of several cities within India, whereas the scale and time constraints placed on this dissertation limit it to only 2 cities.

Time constraints also prevent the exact and quantifiable method of space syntax to be used for detailed analysis, and the conventional methods of urbanism applied for the study, being qualitative, are subjective in nature.

Method of Study

First an extensive literature survey was done to develop an understanding of what affects urban design and consequently the first step is a study of the history of the design of cities and the major events and movements and ideas that shape them today.

Next is a thorough analysis and description of the terms "Identity" and "Image" based on the reading of different theories and ideas.

A detailed literature survey was also completed on the different theories which describe urban identity in terms of the built form of a city.

Once a base of knowledge has been developed, a case study can be made on an Indian city and its people. A comparison will be made between 2 different urban scenarios in reference to the question of whether their urban fabric has a distinguishing characteristic.


The Identity Question

The word "Identity" is derived from the Latin word "identitas", and refers to the relation each thing bears just to itself(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006). A sense of identity may be rooted in any of several attributes. It may be







Identity may be most easily defined as the capacity to distinguish an object as being distinct from other objects (Lynch, 1990). Identity has to do with identification - the distinction from other things can give it recognition as a separate entity. Place identity refers to the meaning and significance of places for their inhabitants and users.

In our case, the identity of a city means the capacity to distinguish it being different from other cities.

2.1 The Need for a National Identity

National Identity is a set of beliefs, traditions and practices shared by a collectivity called nation, and differentiated from others groups. They are "Imagined Communities" (Anderson, 1983) due to the fact that the citizens of even the smallest of nations will never know most of their fellow countrymen, they will never even hear of them, and yet, the idea or ideal of national togetherness lives in the mind of each member of a nation. This may, however, apply to many groups like political parties, football fan clubs besides a nation. One can ask where and what in fact is the group, the nation or the state. The group, the nation and the state have their existence only in the minds of the individuals forming the group, the nation or the state. (Anderson, 1983).

Figure 2.1 The basis of the battle between the Congress and the BJP has been the lack of a coherent identity (src : www.thehindu.com)

This existence within the mind is important as it helps create a sense of unity and togetherness in otherwise disconnected people. The present political situation of our country is a great example of where lack of national identity can create discord and the resultant lack of political will hinder the growth of a country.

Figure 2.2 The Fuhrer addresses his people (src: www.thesavoisien.com)

A highly controversial example, though to my mind a valid one, of the importance and potential of a national identity is the coming to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany and the subsequent growth of the German Nation (Domarus, 2004). In his speeches and proclamations, he speaks continuously of a German nation and instills a very definite sense of identity into his people. This was mainly responsible for the growth that Germany experienced over the 1930s (Dickson, 2000).

2.2 The "Indian" Question

All civilizations evolve unique features of their own which, in their interaction with each other, make it unique and different from other civilizations. The notion of "India" is essentially a foreign notion. Historically, before the British colonial period, only a few empires have for very short periods maintained rule over the subcontinent as a whole.

The socio cultural differences within the country are vast, from the northeast to Gujarat, and from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, "India" has always been characterized by different identities. However, in respect of its continuity and heterogeneity, the accommodating ethos and composite character of Indian civilization distinguish it from other civilizations of the world.

Since the middle of the second millennium BC, Indian civilization has played host to several streams of migrant groups and communities from different parts of the world. The advent of the Aryans, the Tibeto-Burman speaking Mongoloid groups, the Kushans, the Sakas, the Greeks, the Huns, the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks and the Mongols at different points of time testifies to the pervasiveness of the migration process during the successive periods of Indian history.

The migrant groups and communities brought their respective traditions and behavior patterns from their native lands. In the course of time they lost contact with their places of origin and underwent an extensive process of indigenization. The process of adaptation and interaction among the various groups brought about, on the one hand, India's characteristic diversity and, on the other, a composite cultural tradition. This fact is borne out by historical sources and contemporary surveys as well as researches in folklore. The most common distinguishing factor for "India" seems to be the presence of an absorptive mix of multiple religions and ethnicities (Sen, 1997) (Smith, 1957). [CITATION UN12 \l 1033] 

Prof. AR Momin [CITATION UN12 \l 1033] believes that while the unity of India is often assumed and taken for granted; it is seldom subjected to a critical examination in a diachronic framework. This is so because the sense of unity which pervades the fabric of Indian society is rather elusive, nebulous and enigmatic. Nevertheless, he says, at the pan-Indian level, five interrelated sources of integration and unity may be delineated:

Sanskritic Hinduism at the ideational and institutional levels and through a network of centers of pilgrimage

A composite cultural tradition born out of the protracted interaction and exchange between Hindus and Muslims through the length and breadth of the country, which is best exemplified in the Sufi and Bhakti Movements (Roy, 1983)

Patriotism and nascent nationalism, which emerged during the War of 1857 and culminated in the freedom struggle (Chandra, 1989)

The secular-democratic ethos of modern India which is enshrined in the Constitution of the country, and

The country-wide process of modernization which was set into motion during the British period and which got accelerated in the post-Independence period

The other view of Indian Identity, as propagated by the RSS is the Hindutva View, where they say that all India is a country of Hindus and is "Hindustan." The issue of national unity and integration is closely intertwined with cultural policy. A policy of integration, which discounts cultural pluralism and the composite character of Indian society and seeks to impose uniformity, homogenization and regimentation on the country's heterogeneous population like Hindutva, will ultimately prove to be self-defeating.

However, irrelevant of the history of the subcontinent, India is now a geographically and politically united entity. It is one country and the destinies of the people within the country, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Bengali, Punjabi, Kashmiri or whatever, are inseparable from the country they are a part of. The progress of each of these communities cannot happen in isolation from the progress of the collective. Therefore, Indian Identity must include all regions, cultures and peoples which are part of the country and involved in a sharing of the country's resources. This single inclusive identity must be established, and this dissertation examines the role of the built form within cities in India in establishing this identity.

2.3 Endnotes

The City

Any city is a collection of living organisms and objects coming together over a period of time, creating a rich tapestry of meaning and possibilities. The design in a city is perceived by an individual as the interaction between themselves and a number of frameworks that constitute the urban context. Some of these frameworks may be identified as









It is this last factor, the morphological factor, that this dissertation seeks to analyze in detail.

3.1 The Morphology of the City

The form of a city can be expressed in a number of ways, but there are a few forms which can be considered as commonalities in perception - responsible for creating the 'identity' of a place. It is these representations that must be understood to study what creates the identity of a city as a whole. According to Kevin Lynch, in his seminal book "Image of the City", these are






The processes that generate the urban structure can be summarized in terms of three principles.

Nodes The urban Structure is anchored at nodes or points of concentrations of human activity. The interconnections between the nodes make up the urban structure. These nodes are of distinct types: home, park, work, store, restaurant, church etc. Broadly - residential, institutional, commercial, recreational etc. Human activity is and connective paths are reinforced by natural and architectural elements.

Connections Anything that connects one node to another is a connection. These may be notional or physical - roads, pedestrian pathways, bridges, rails, plazas etc.

Hierarchy  When allowed to do so, the urban web self-organizes by creating an ordered hierarchy of connections on several different levels of scale. It becomes multiply connected but not chaotic. The organization process follow a strict order: starting from the smallest scales (footpaths), and progressing up to the higher scales (roads of increasing capacity). A hierarchy can rarely be established all at once - it is developed in a city over time.

3.1.1 Grids

Based on the above principles, urban morphology arises in a form of a grid. This grid has two constituent elements :

A lattice of Streets

A series of blocks formed by buildings


Figure 3.1 An urban block on a regular grid (src: Author) The most obvious grid is that where blocks are regular and rectangular. The streets form a tight network but while the grid may be regular, the buildings and plots may differ to a degree within the rigid layout.


Figure 3.2 An Organic Grid in an Urban village (src: Author)Settlements that are less rigorously planned, such as villages and small towns, have a more irregular and haphazard grid. The layout is irregular and evolves over many years. The streets join up and create a network based on needs and conditions as they evolve and the pattern evolves with them. There are streets and blocks of different hierarchies but on observation it is evident that there is a degree of uniformity in the nature of the buildings.


Figure 3.3 A distorted grid (src: www.helmofthepublicrealm.com)

Regular grids may sometimes felt to be boring, and organic grids are difficult to plan. A compromise is frequently arrived at by using a distorted grid which creates more interesting streets but mostly in regular blocks.


Figure 3.4 - Movement within different Urban Grids (src: Author)

The main function of the grid is as a space of movement. The roads provide access to the buildings that fill the blocks. The actual arrangement of the network of streets will affect the manner in which people move around the system. Consider the three examples in the figures. The first represents a regular grid, the second a grid with much larger blocks and the third a more organic layout which could be thought of as an organic grid.

In the first instance there is a wide variety of choices when making either of the journeys. In the second and third examples the choices are fewer and people are forced to use particular roads more than others.

"A city is a network of paths, which are topologically deformable. According to this observation, the city is viewed as a continuous, heterogeneous and indivisible system whose identity emerges constantly from the rearrangement of interrelations between discernible singularities." (Laskari, 2007)

Now we understand that the identity of a city is derived from the perception of these paths and the experience of movement along these paths. Now we seek to develop an understanding of how these paths are perceived.

3.2 Perception

Perceptions tend to focus on experiences that are distinct from one another, rather than those of a similar nature. Most of the paths that we experience in the city are in the form of streets. These streetscapes are a mixture of the old and the new. This offers a group of both familiar and unfamiliar images, whose complementary character is studied in observation theory.

3.2.1 Information Theory

The information theory arose from a study of electronic communication in the late 1950s in order to find out the mechanisms of information transfer. The following is a great example of information theory in everyday life:

While reading a message, an individual tries to predict what comes in the next part of the message on the basis of past experience. What can't be predicted in the latter part is called information. The predictable part is called redundancy. As any message proceeds, the information decreases and the redundancy increases.

Information theory can be applied to all situations. While driving in familiar territory, the streets are familiar (redundant), but the position and the speed of cars is new to us(Information). This is why driving in a new city becomes difficult, as our attention gets divided between the built environment and the traffic. One of the advantages of redundancy in perception is it allows us to concentrate on the available information. (Moles, 1971)

Gestalt states in a set of laws on form perception that "repetition is immediately recognized, which are then predicted to continue as they started and are organized in the largest units possible. Tendency to optimize redundancy shows the efficiency of perception, for the information contained in the pattern of the visual stimuli stands out that way." (Koffka, 1935)

Knowledge proceeds from the known to the unknown. Predictability in an urban landscape depends on the amount of prerequisite knowledge supplied to permit the viewer to make an educated guess. Highly redundant urban vocabularies can be boring and very complex urban patterns for which we lack prerequisite urban knowledge are of little interest.

Figure 3.5 53rd Avenue in Manhattan - Distinctive Buildings Blend Together (src: www.flickr.com; Joseph Maria Torra)

An example of high redundancy can be observed on 53rd avenue in Manhattan where the profusion of skyscrapers with their similar facades make the observer relate to them as a whole, instead of individual buildings. Architecturally distinctive buildings like Seagram's, Lever House and CBS headquarters tend to get lost in the milieu of skyscrapers. A similar situation may be seen in the galis of Old Delhi, where the number of layers and styles are not distinctive and blend into each other.

We can understand here that there are 2 limiting conditions that can be understood from the above study of perception. As information processing organisms, human beings must be able to perceive a difference as a difference to recognise change. Therefore redundancy is necessary for perception. Perceptions without redundancy don't make an impact, as do highly redundant perceptions failing to make an impact. (Moles, 1971)

3.3 Attributes of Perception

3.3.1 Functional Alignment

Streets and paths in cities can be broadly classified under two categories based on the implicit nature of their function (McCluskey, 1992):

Pedestrian Alignment

Flowing Alignment

Pedestrian alignment is an alignment found in areas where the streets cater to pedestrian needs and vehicles are constrained to travel at low speeds. It creates an environment that is sufficiently integrated varied and interesting for pedestrians and also permits vehicles to circulate at a pace that does not disturb the environment.

Flowing alignment is designed to accommodate vehicles moving at high speeds. With long three dimensional curves created from a combination of planar lines and those hugging contours. It responds to the dynamic demands of a vehicle in motion.

The streets in any city are found to contain a mixture of the two above characteristics. The ratio of the two may vary temporally or spatially (Tunnard & Pushkaref, 1963).

3.3.2 Geometrical Alignment

Streets as routes may be classified into 2 types of geometrical alignments:

Straight Alignment

Curved Alignment

Strait Alignment streets have a long tradition in their usage in urban areas, especially in the age of automobiles. But these spaces are uninteresting for the pedestrian, as their length and one point perspective often intimidate and bore the pedestrian. In some conditions, straight alignments make it easier for people to orient themselves and impart coherence to an urban fabric.

3.3.3 Visual Mechanics

The optical mechanics of streetscape perception operate in a sequential manner where images are revealed in a continual unfolding of images. The human mind reacts to the differences between the images it views. The contrast that is felt as a result of the juxtaposition of the images provides a deeper sense to the meaning of the city. Perception of movement happens in the form of noticeable differences and can be described in terms of transitions, emergence, sequences and transformations. (Gibson, 1950)

The view along a street can be split into two elements: existing views and emerging views. (Cullen, 1961) The existing view is responsible for the intensity and quality of the impact of the streetscape while the emerging view is responsible in providing temporal directing and orientation.

Figure 3.6 Dynamics of movement near the Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi (src:www.liveindia.com) An example may be found in how the approach from the central vista to the Rashtrapati Bhavan creates a unique sense of arrival and the gradually emerging view of the palace is essential to the identity of the area.

3.3.4 Enclosure

Enclosures and boundaries may be defined by very subtle means or very obvious ones. Linear demarcation between two entities may occur in several ways like boundary walls or trees or changes in topography. Strong enclosures are created where views into the space and out of the space are closed. A view through a space does not create the need to pause, where as a closed view implies a point to stop, turn and start again.

Curved alignments and angled alignments also generate enclosures by closing the view by hiding part of the view. The success of such alignments depends upon the functional alignment as well, whether the alignment is flowing or pedestrian.

3.3.5 Insecurity

Insecurity has penetrated all facets of modern life and this is reflected in the cities of today. Paranoia has attained the state of an urban design principle in certain cases. The insecurity in the inhabitants of a city manifests itself in their architecture.

Figure 3.7 - The idea of Security - Locked Gates (src: www.wilkinsonworld.com)

3.3.6 Activity

Human activity can be classified as a landmark in the street. Landmarks provide systems for orientation, some using them as for layout guidance while others use them for their associational value. (Lynch, 1990) Clear signs of human activity like a street market become important cues and congruent with other indicators or in their absence greatly help orientation.

3.3.7 Detail

Attention to detail makes the man made world grow in interest and seem to develop a life of their own. Detailing is especially important in the modern time where the speed of travel along a path can range from pedestrian to very high speed in a car.

Figure 3.8 The level of detail changes with the speed of the viewer (src:www.cambridgeincolour.com; Author)

3.3.8 Complexity

Architects design buildings where they try to create a variety of forms using different materials, dimensions etc. to create complexity. The effect of great complexity is that the overall perception of the forms is reduced to a disjointed collection of simpler parts. A certain measure of complexity is necessary for the environment to be stimulating.

3.3.9 Greenery

Breaks in the urban fabric are one source of variety in cities dominated by the built. Small parks and open spaces provide landmarks for orientation and make a noticeable difference.

3.3.10 Publicity

Advertising is an important part of our lives now and the vigor and vitality of advertising add much to the quality of life. Signs can enliven visually dill settings. A great example of the effect signs and advertising have may be found on Times Square in New York.

Figure 3.9 Signs and Advertisements light up Times Square and constitute the Identity of the place (src:www.earthcam.com)

Case Studies

Criteria for Selection

Two cities need to be selected as being representations of different identities within the modern context.

A comparison needs to be made between two cities, one which is traditionally identified as Indian and the other identified as influenced by the west.

Furthermore the selected cities should have been allowed to have a reasonably free growth, and not have had strict planning norms and restrictions placed upon them.

They must be sufficiently similar in their function and the demographic range of the people living in them.

4.1 Gurgaon

Although historically, there has always been a settlement at Gurgaon, the modern city first started developing only as early as the 1970s. (Gurgaon, 2011) At the time the district was formed, Faridabad was the economic centre for Haryana in this region, with strong access to the capital and an existing industrial base. Gurgaon was believed to be "an economic wasteland." The major players in the building of Gurgaon were private real estate developers and because of the huge demand for cheap housing outside Delhi, the growth of a city began. (Yardley, 2011)

After slow initial growth, a major boom was seen when General Electric became the first major international corporation located their outsourcing offices in a corporate park in Gurgaon. As a result of the growth that followed, Gurgaon has 30 million square feet of commercial space today, even more than that in Delhi.

Figure 4.1.1 View of the Delhi Gurgaon Highway, With the city in the distance (src:www.panoramio.com)

The major force behind this development has been commercial activity involving interaction with western ideas and principles. The resulting urban fabric, in which stand out malls and huge corporate and housing towers, is one which creates an identity not perceived as Indian in nature. It has been therefore assumed at the beginning to be a western influenced city in the Indian context.

4.1.1 Site Selection

Figure 4.1.2 - Selected areas for study in Gurgaon (Src:www.google.com; Author)The old city of Gurgaon - The areas settled in the beginning of the growth of the city.

Udyog Vihar - Industrial and Commercial area in Gurgaon

Cyber City - Commercial area

Sikanderabad - Urban Village

MG road - Commercial Area

Group Housing and Plotted Development Colonies in Gurgaon

4.1.2 Old City - Gurgaon

Figure 4.1.3 Satellite Image of the old city and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


The old City is essentially on a rectangular grid, with organic sides and edges.


The buildings along the side of the streets are mostly low rise, of a multitude of designs and a great variety. There is a high redundancy in overall form but also high levels of information in the details of the structures. The edges are also highly trafficked and the traffic is not fast due to a lot of congestion.


The whole image is like that of "any other neighborhood." The residents are mostly middle income and lower income group people and a continuously commercial edge exists along most major roads.


Very few trees are there in the old city, and hardly any parks or lawns are present. There is a general lack of open space.


The rectilinear nature of the streets should impart a strong flowing alignment, but the congestion caused due to the large volume of traffic restricts the both vehicular and pedestrian movement.


The layout is simple and the varied edges create a sense of variety. While the monotony makes the entire area confusing, it is not very complex.


There is a very high level of human activity throughout the area.


A strong sense of enclosure is created due to the densely packed streets, but is very static.


There are a few landmarks that help a person to orient themselves like a Mosque and a few temples.

Figure 4.1.4 Mosque in the Old City (src: Author)

Udyog Vihar

Figure 4.1.5 Satellite Image of Udyog Vihar and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


The Udyog Vihar is essentially on a rectangular grid, with regular sides and edges. The plant for Maruti Udyog Limited dominates the grid, disproportionately larger than the rest of the buildings.


Buildings are mostly commercial or Industrial. The edges are highly redundant, as the buildings are similar in both detail and overall form.


The image is that of an expensive area due to the presence of large glass and steel buildings.


The area has a large open space in the Maruti plant but does not otherwise have a dedicated green space. There are some pockets of open spaces around the edges.


The rectilinear nature of the streets imparts a strong flowing alignment to the streets.


This is a fairly simple area to understand because of the high redundancy in the built form.


Human activity along the streets is low, restricted to people commuting from one place to another. Bbut the traffic movement is quite intense.


A strong sense of enclosure is created due to the densely packed streets, but is very static.


The plant for Maruti Udyog ltd is the only major landmark as most other buildings are similar.

Figure 4.1.6 Maruti Udyog Ltd Factory (src: www.panoramio.com)

Cyber City

Figure 4.1.7 Satellite Image of Cyber City and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


Cyber City is built on an irregular grid but the grid is not organic as it has not evolved over a period of time.


The buildings are commercial and there is a high level of information as the area is small, distinctive, and all the buildings offer something new in terms of scale and detail.


The image is that of an expensive area due to the presence of large glass and steel buildings. The buildings are intimidating and immediately make an impression upon the observer.


There is limited greenery but a large amount of unused open space around the buiuldings.


The rectilinear nature of the streets imparts a strong flowing alignment to the streets.


The area is very simple to understand because of its small size.


There is a lot of human activity around as this is one of the primary commercial spaces within the city.


The very large buildings create a sense of enclosure, as does the presence of the highway on one of the edges of the area.


The DLF building is the largest and most distinctive building of all the buildings present in the area. However, the area itself is so distinctive that it serves as a landmark for the rest of the city, at an urban level.

Figure 4.1.8 DLF Building (src: Author)


Figure 4.1.9 Satellite Image of Sikanderpur and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


Sikanderpur, being an urban village, is based on a completely organic grid. there is no definite pattern to the buildings and the streets are not at all regular.


There is a high level of information because of the low predictability and inherent disorder in the space. The buildings are haphazard, sometimes 2 floors in height, sometimes 4, with varying levels of detail.


The image of a settlement with low - medium income people, with a lack of order and much like a slum, only properly built and slightly larger in scale.


There is limited greenery and almost no open spaces. Intersections of streets form small chowk like spaces, the rest is completely built.


The alignment is strongly pedestrian as there is no room for vehicular maneuvering on the streets and they are very irregular, constantly twisting and turning.


The settlement is complex and difficult to understand as has very high levels of information for the person moving through the streets.


There is a lot of human activity as there is a very high level of integration within the urban structure.


The dense built form creates a strong feeling of enclosure as the open spaces are very limited.


Commercial edges and internal points of community gathering like temples are the landmarks within this area.

Figure 4.1.10 Commercial Edges of the Urban Village (src: Author)

M G Road Commercial Area

Figure 4.1.11 Satellite Image of MG Road and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


The MG road and surrounding commercial areas form an irregular grid but the grid is not organic, more of a distorted nature.


The buildings are commercial and there is a high level of information at the level of each individual building, but there is an overall redundancy on the large scale due to the similar scale of the buildings and the materials used on the facades.


The image is that of an intensely commercial space. On the main road are high end stores but in the interiors there are also commercial spaces which serve a lower end market.


There is limited greenery for public use but each of the several group housing projects have their own dedicated open spaces. The main commercial areas are densely built.


The rectilinear nature of the main MG road imparts a strong flowing alignment to it. The interior streets have varying mixes of pedestrian and flowing characters.


The area is very simple to understand because of regularity within the streets. A redundancy at the large scale, though, may create boredom or confusion.


There is a lot of human activity around as this is one of the primary commercial spaces within the city.


The densely packed buildings on either side of the streets create a strong sense of enclosure, as does the presence of an overhead metro line.


Metro stations form the main landmarks along the main road, as do several notable buildings, in terms of their scale.

Figure 4.1.12 Metro Stations and Distinctive Buildings (src: Author)

Group Housing and Plotted Development Colonies

Figure 4.1.13 Satellite Image of Group Housings and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)

Figure 4.1.14 Satellite Image of Plotted Development and present State (src:www.google.com; Author)


The group housing projects are mostly on sites formed by irregular grids, while the plotted housing units are on sites formed by regular grids within irregular boundaries.


There is a mixture of information and redundancy along the edges of most streets in varying levels on different scales.


The image is that of a primarily residential area. The high rise towers and luxury gated colonies with neat, ordered rows of houses impart a sense of grandeur.


There is a lot of greenery - well laid out and designed parks are present in the gated colonies and also within the housing complexes.


The rectilinear nature of the main roads imparts a strong flowing alignment to them. The interior streets have varying mixes of pedestrian and flowing characters, but are mostly designed for a pedestrian alignment.


The area is very simple to understand because of regularity within the streets.


Human activity on the main public streets is limited to people commuting and is not very prevalent within the gated communities either.


The streets on either side in case of gated colonies are lined by parks and rows of trees, creating a pleasant but still an enclosed environment. The scale of the housing blocks also makes them dominate over the visual frame.


It is not easy to identify landmarks in these areas. Mostly the landmarks are the local markets within areas that they cater to. Certain high rise housing towers are also distinctive.

4.2 Jaipur

4.2.1 History

Reasons for creation of the city :

Sawai Raja Jai Singh had a vision of the new capital as a strong political statement comparable with Mughal cities and as a thriving trade and commerce hub for the region

Need for a new capital as the existing town of Amber was getting congested and its rocky terrain restricted expansion

The city would be more secure from delhi due to the presence of the Aravali range.

4.2.2 Planning Principles:

Figure 4.2.1 The Idea of Jaipur src: www.archinomy.comThe city was built in accordance with traditional Vaastu principles and the designer was a Bengali named Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya and the vision was for a new city comparable to the standards of the time then - mughal cities. The city was the first planned city in India and it being planned in India using Indian principles, but not having a principally religious function, makes it one of the benchmarks for judgment as a modern Indian city.

4.2.3 Site Selection

Within the city of Jaipur - 4 regions have been selected for detailed study. The regions have been selected so that a holistic and complete image of the city can be obtained.

Figure 4.2.2 - Sites within Jaipur City (src:www.google.com; Author)The Old City of Jaipur


Jawahar Marg

Residential areas within new city

4.2.4 Purani Basti

Figure 4.2.3 Satellite Image of Purani Basti and present State (src:www.google.com; www.panoramio.com)


The Purani Basti is made on a regular grid following the overall layout of the old city at a large scale, but the interior streets make up a distorted grid, with an organic character to it.


There is a high level of information because of the various different buildings along the edges built in different styles and at different scales, with a varied range of details. The interiors are mostly old courtyard houses and all streets have a vernacular character in the buildings along the edges.


The image is that of a traditional settlement. It is not easy to judge what kind of people live within the area. The lasting impression is that of a composite residential and commercial area, because of the commercial edges along the main street.


There are a lot of trees and large open public spaces within the old city of Jaipur. These include temple grounds, the royal palace, a stadium and chowks at street intersection.


The alignment of the main streets is vehicular and all are capable of carrying vehicular traffic. The edges, being the commercial centre of the city, have always had strong pedestrian interactions. The interior streets maintain a strongly pedestrian alignment.


A large volume of information in terms of detail on buildings creates a lot of complexity in the environment. The sameness of the facades due to the added pink color add to the confusing character of the urban form.


Because the street edges are all commercial there is a very high level of human integration and activity that can be seen from the paths.


The dense urban fabric creates a strong sense of enclosure all around through the old city.


Squares, the Palace, The Stadium, Jantar Mantar, Govind Temple form important and distinct landmarks.

4.2.5 C-Scheme

Figure 4.2.4 Satellite Image of C-Scheme and present State (src:www.google.com; www.panoramio.com)


C-scheme is the area which was built after immediate expansion out of the old city, and is over a 100 years old. The area is built on a irregular grid, a mixture of a rectangular, circular and angled grids.


The area is not very densely built and hence there are various different edges to the streets, boundary walls in some places, commercial buildings in some, lines of trees in others. The common characteristic is that the spaces are not dense and crowded in any area.


The large green space other than private parks and gardens is the parks around the statue circle.


The alignment of the main streets is vehicular and all are capable of carrying vehicular traffic. The low density and low traffic volumes make the streets comfortable for both vehicles and pedestrians.


The main activity along the streets is of people commuting.


There is no strong feeling of enclosure because the built volume is less and there are large open spaces in the surroundings.


The main landmark in the area is the statue circle. There are also a few other smaller circles in the area.

Figure 4.2.5 Statue Circle (src: www.Panoramio.com)

4.2.6 Jawahar Marg

Figure 4.2.6 Satellite Image of Jawahar Marg and present World Trade Park (src:www.google.com; www.panoramio.com)


The commercial spaces along the Jawahar Marg are formed along a straight line on one side of the road there is no grid in question here.


The edge on one side is lined by high rise structures like world trade park and the street on the other side has no structures lining it, just open space.


The large open space on one side of the road is extensively.


The street has a completely vehicular alignment and has minimum pedestrian alignment due to lack of human activity on the edges and the length of the road.


There is not much activity on the edges of the streets except for people interacting with the buildings. The buildings are of commercial use.


There is no strong feeling of enclosure because the built volume is only present on one side and the other side is completely open.

4.2.7 Gopalpura (Typical Residential Colony)

Figure 4.2.7 Satellite Image of Gopalpura and present State (src:www.google.com; www.panoramio.com)


The neighborhood is built on a distorted and non uniform grid. It may have some regularities within the interior but is always bound by irregular edges.


The buildings along the side of the streets are mostly low rise, of a multitude of designs and a great variety. There is a high redundancy in overall form but also high levels of information in the details of the structures.


There are a number of trees in the area but most are in isolation and no large public green space is created. There are a few marriage gardens and school grounds, but these are not open to everyone.


Streets are capable of pedestrian use but most have to bear heavy vehicular traffic.

Activity & Enclosure

There is a very high level of human activity throughout the area. A strong sense of enclosure is created due to the densely packed streets, and is very static.

4.3 Analysis

The case studies were done on 2 cities that have very different origins, and have evolved over the time differently to come to their present states. Both are modern cities, Jaipur being the a contextual modernism, rooted in Indian traditions, while Gurgaon, more the a-contextual one, heavily influenced by the west.

Within these cities we had identified discernible singularities - neighborhoods that could be considered representations of a type. These types were

Commercial Centres of Cities - Markets in the Pink City(Jaipur) and MG road (Gurgaon)

Centres of population for Different classes of people - Gopalpura, Pink City, C-Scheme(Jaipur) and Plotted developments, old city, Group Housings(Gurgaon)

Industrial Areas - Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon

Modern, Globalised Commercial areas - Cyber City(Gurgaon) and Jawahar Marg(Jaipur)

An analysis of these singularities was done on a basis of conventional methods of Urbanism and the relationship of the built form to the overall identity of these spaces was analysed.

We will now compare these results to the set of 5 parameters proposed by Prof. Momin. (see 2.2) A quick recap of these basic ideas that coming together, can attempt to define Indianness:

Sanskritic Hinduism at the ideational and institutional levels and through a network of centers of pilgrimage

A composite cultural tradition born out of the protracted interaction and exchange between Hindus and Muslims through the length and breadth of the country, which is best exemplified in the Sufi and Bhakti Movements (Roy, 1983)

Patriotism and nascent nationalism, which emerged during the War of 1857 and culminated in the freedom struggle (Chandra, 1989)

The secular-democratic ethos of modern India which is enshrined in the Constitution of the country, and

The country-wide process of modernization which was set into motion during the British period and which got accelerated in the post-Independence period

4.3.1 The Case of Jaipur

Point 1

Hinduism is present at the very base of the urban fabric of the city in its plan, which is derived from the mandala. Also the ruling families and the inhabitants being primarily Hindus- reflects within the details of the building.

Point 2

The presence of a composite cultural tradition can be seen as historically, the rulers of Jaipur had marital ties to the Mughals. The Muslims are assimilated to a high degree within the social setup of the city. The Muslim areas within the cities are not separate and are integrated with existing colonies like the Gopalpura area.

Point 3

The presence of the nationalist movement was always rather muted in Jaipur as it was a princely state, and hence not directly under British rule. However, the movement was represented in the city by the presence of the Arya Samaj, which were particularly active during this time, the city being one of the centres of Hindu Reform. (Stern, 1988) An urban setup adhering to a social structure which follows caste system is NOT seen in the city.

Point 4

The mix of religions in Jaipur is a healthy one, similar to the overall mix in the country, with 77% Hindus, 17% Muslims, 4% Jains, Christians .5% and Sikhs .5%. Also Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, a democratic state and is extremely stable with respect to some of the other states in India.

Point 5

The "country wide process of modernization" is also inherently visible in the city - with new globalized spaces like World Trade Park.

Here we can see that all of the points we have taken as a basis for defining Indianness are well and truly assimilated with each other, and represented in the built form of the city, both existing and evolving.

4.3.2 The Case of Gurgaon

Point 1

Hinduism is not the Ideational and Institutional basis of the city as there has not been a city historically. The growth of the city has mainly been due to economic reasons and the form of the city shows no religious allegiances.

Point 2

Muslims form a large part of the Gurgaon community and although there has never been any outright violence within the city, conflicts due to communal differences and due to land and property issues are high among the Muslim population. (Ministry of Minority Affairs, 2008)

Point 3

The city was not present during the Nationalist movement and hence there is little influence of it seen in the built mass of today.

Point 4

The mix of religions in Gurgaon is more diverse than that of Jaipur, 37% Muslims. Also Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, a democratic state and is extremely stable with respect to some of the other states in India.

Point 5

Gurgaon is probably one of the most globalized cities in India and in certain terms, extremely modern - particularly in terms of commercial and residential space. however, it lacks a great deal of basic infrastructure like proper roads, drainage, etc.

In the case of Gurgaon, we can see a city that is new, built on along western lines, with economics the primary moving force, and we find that it lacks some of the basic prerequisites we had in mind while describing an Indian Identity (points 1, 2, 3).

4.3.3 Comparison


The commercial centres in Jaipur and Gurgaon have a different character, but it should be noted that both are extremely efficient, suited to their own purpose and scale. It should also be noted that the new commercial areas in Jaipur bear a stark similarity to the ones in Gurgaon.


The population centres are very similar to each other in the two cities. Similar classes of people live in similar settings and conditions - people in Gopalpura are of a similar class to the people in Old Gurgaon. High end group housing schemes in C-Scheme offer similar quality of spaces as the ones in Gurgaon. Individual houses are built on a similar scale in new plotted colonies.


It has been noted in the analysis that according to a certain set of parameters, Indian Identity may be extremely well represented by the built form of cities. Common characteristics in the built form give rise to common feelings in people perceiving and inhabiting a space, and therefore the urban construct can be important tool in the creation of a National Identity.

Of course, the study here was limited to 2 cities, but when done over a larger scale will point out the features of the built city that are essential to the notion of Indianness. It should be noted that even though a city like Gurgaon, not having a very Indian Character, still has the potential to emphasize the attributes that generate and inspire Indianness, because it has a similar variety of spaces to that of a highly Indian city.

This study, can be made more exhaustive and quantitative by the use of "Space Syntax" and a resultant set of values can lead to actual parameters that might help us rethink Urban Design in our Cities.

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