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Princely Architectural Cosmopolitanism and Urbanity in Rampur

Princely Architectural Cosmopolitanism and Urbanity in Rampur
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  Princely Architectural Cosmopolitanism and Urbanity in Rampur Posted on 3. August 2017 By Razak Khan, Georg-August-Universität GöttingenThe colonial state in India o ! en justi " ed the continuation of princely states as a policy for the preservation of “traditional patterns” in the cultural sphere. While the “traditional” was seemingly preserved, it was alsoincreasingly transformed in princely states under colonial paramountcy. Princely states were not isolated entitieswith unchanging structures but need to be re-located within the British Empire’s changing discourses andpractices to understand the nexus between princely sovereignty and modernity. This post studies the illustrativeexample of urban development and architecture in the Rampur princely state. Rampur survived as the onlyMuslim-ruled princely state in the colonial United Provinces in the post-1857-revolt context. While the city of Rampur and its culture display many characteristics of what may be termed as that of an “Islamic city,” itnonetheless developed as a cosmopolitan city with Indo-Islamic, colonial modern, and diverse other culturalin # uences. This entangled history gave Rampur a distinctly local and yet global cosmopolitan culture, which ismost evident in its architecture and urbanism among other cultural artefacts. (c) British Library Board. The Durbar Hall, Hamid Manzil – Fort [Rampur] Date: c. 1911; Shelfmark: Photo36/(5). Local cosmopolitan urbanism was particularly developed under the ruler Nawab Hamid Ali Khan (r.1889-1930).While the Nawab had travelled widely across the globe, he was not an Anglicized prince groomed by colonialtutelage. His account of his travels in various countries provides insights into his crucial, formative years. HamidAli Khan showed great interest not just in the modern West, but also in what he saw in other Asian countries,especially Japan. He had a keen eye for aesthetic and cultural production in various countries, especially forarchitecture, that ranged from old mosques in Cairo to modern architectural creations like the Ei $  el Tower inParis. He was particularly impressed with the preservation of literature and wrote about his fascination with andjoy a ! er seeing the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the printing press, and the publication of books. The library, as aplace for preservation and dissemination of knowledge, was successfully monumentalized in the form of theRampur public library.Hamid Ali Khan’s patronage of the arts, particularly architecture and urbanism helped making Rampur a newcenter ( markaz) of Indo-Muslim and global cosmopolitan culture. This cultural project elaborated on the conceptof the “moral city” and ethical governance while furthering the colonial discourse of a “progressive” princely cityand polity. Hamid Ali Khan’s historic role lies in transforming localism into (what may be termed) princelycosmopolitanism that # ourished under the aegis of his patronage. The princely urban culture that developedunder the rulers of Rampur was characterized by the preservation and transformation of the Mughal and Awadhcultural tradition of urban patronage that was meshed with a colonial modern discourse and practice of governance. This created a new cultural discourse marked by hybridity and the incorporation of diverse actors,discourses, and practices that emerged from the global cultural sphere. In this project of cultural and politicaltranslation, “Mughal tradition” and “colonial modern” should not be seen as " xed poles of a binary but should be Global Urban History  regarded as reference points which made sense when read together to script a new cultural discourse.In his two-volume history of Rampur,  A !" b #  r u $ - $ an #  d %  d (Accounts of Heroes), published in 1919, Najmul GhaniKhan highlighted Hamid Ali Khan’s reign and referred to him as the Shah Jahan (who built Taj Mahal) of Rampurfor his architectural creations and urban developments in transforming Rampur into a distinctly beautiful city.Based on the Mughal sovereign city model, the fort-palace complex ( Qil‘a-e &  -mu‘alla ) was built as the core of thisurban renewal model and included open spaces and gardens. The princely household occupied the MachhiBhawan building, styled like the Awadh palaces with their traditional cultural symbol of the " sh. Adjacent to itwas the Rang Mahal, a building meant for poetical and musical gatherings. A beautiful im !  mb !"!   building wasconstructed near the Rang Mahal that testi " es to the Shia in # uence in the Awadh region, particularly in theperformance of religious and cultural ceremonies. The center of the complex was a splendid palace called HamidManzil, built in the Indo-Saracenic architecture style and decorated with Italian sculptures, chandeliers,glasswork, and other imported European products, where the Nawab held the traditional court rituals (see pictureabove). The treasury building and the library were other monuments within the fort complex. The large fort-palace complex was the center of the city and was connected to it through various gates like the Hamid andWright Gates, named and still remembered a ! er their creators (see picture below). (c) British Library Board, Photograph of the Wright Gate at the Fort at Rampur, Date: c. 1911; Shelfmark: Photo 36/(23). Apart from keeping with Mughal and Awadh architectural styles, there was an increased construction of “modernbuildings” like a railway station, a hospital, courts, public gates, and the canal system which symbolized progressin the so-called “backward” princely state. These e $  orts were publicized and showcased as signs of culturalpreservation and progress to visiting colonial o % cials and served, quite literally and symbolically, as “structuresof legitimacy” for princely creative authority and power. (c) British Library Board. Photograph from the Curzon Collection: ‘Rampur Album’ of the European Guest House at Rampur, Date:c.1905; Shelfmark: Photo 430/42(47). Viceroy Lord Curzon’s visit to Rampur in 1905 was a much publicized political event with detailed preparationfor ceremonies planned in the city. The Nawab was particularly keen on showing the various monuments he hadconstructed in Rampur. He commissioned a “Rampur Album” with 55 images of Rampur city photographed byAlbert Edward Jenkins and other photographers that was given as a gi !  to Lord Curzon. The elaborate blackleather album carries a personal dedication from the ruler to the viceroy. The photographs were not a historicalrecord of Curzon’s visit to Rampur, but carried architectural views of the fort and the Nawab’s traditional palaces,modern European Guest House (see picture above) and more crucially public buildings such as the library, therailway station, schools, the hospital and courts. The architecture of these buildings was Indo-Saracenic,incorporating “Islamic, Hindu, and Victorian Gothic” elements that allowed for a hybridity of “native traditions,”while also relating to “colonial modernity.” The Rampur Album is therefore a rich visual archive of a hybridprincely urban history and sovereignty. (c) British Library Board, Photograph from the Curzon Collection: ‘Rampur Album’ of Kosi Weir at Rampur, Date: c.1905; Shelfmark:Photo 430/42(54). Apart from the construction of the fort and palaces, the Public Works Department was reorganized and becameone of the most popular and active departments. The annual administrative reports of Rampur state also became  important documents for narrating princely urban progress. They included references to canal projects,communication and infrastructure developments, sanitation, electric lighting and water works (see pictureabove). Through new measures and judicious management, the municipality was developed on a sound " nancialbasis and became a self-supporting institution. These e $  orts had the desired impact and were recognized by thevisiting colonial o % cers. Lieutenant Governor Meston, who arrived in Rampur on 14 October 1912, was shown allthe important monuments and urban developments in the city and inaugurated the new grain market nameda ! er him: Meston Ganj. An impressed Meston declared Rampur to be a “model city.” (c) British Library Board, Photograph from the Curzon Collection: ‘Rampur Album’ of the Library within the Fort at Rampur, Date:c.1905; Shelfmark: Photo 430/42(8). The cultural hybridity of princely urbanism was most evident in the project of re-casting “oriental knowledge,”which was hitherto preserved in the private princely collection and now turned into a public library – the iconicsymbol of useful knowledge and progress under colonialism (see picture above). While preserving Indo-Muslimknowledge, the library also requisitioned new English and European books. The library collection stood atapproximately 18,218 rare manuscripts and books in this period. It was therefore an impressive and eclecticcollection worthy to be showcased as the embodiment of tradition as well as a re # ection of an engagement withmodern ideas. Hamid Ali Khan’s rule saw the fundamental transformation of the location with a separate newbuilding and the changing role of the library from a private collection to a princely public institution. The grandprincely interiors of Hamid Manzil with glass windows, gilded ceiling and pillars today house the RampurLibrary. This building stands not only as the epitome of Nawabi grandeur, knowledge preservation, and Indo-Saracenic architecture, but also an edi " ce of hybrid princely pasts.The patronage of architecture and promotion of urban renewal served as the site for the articulation of princelypower and the assertion of its legitimacy to the colonial state and wider public. Simultaneously, this a $  orded theopportunity to create a distinct princely city of grandeur that did not exclude concerns over public welfare.Princely Rampur urbanism integrated discourses and practices of an “Islamic moral city” with a “Colonialmodern city,” a project whose traces, albeit fading, remain evident in contemporary Rampur. In my largerresearch project on Rampur, I have explored the persistence and transformation of this rich urban history in thechanging vernacular memories of inhabitants around “Wright Gate” and “Meston Ganj.” However, these richcultural histories are ignored in contemporary politics of heritage preservation and urban renewal incontemporary Rampur. Such case studies of global urbanism, in which the global and local are in creativeentanglement, merit further scholarship for the rethinking of the " eld of global history and politics of urbanismfrom the perspective of seemingly peripheral localities.Razak Khan is a Research Fellow in the Modern India in German Archives project in the History Research Groupat the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) Göttingen University. This blog post draws from his doctoralthesis and other writings on princely Rampur. He has edited a special issue “The Social Production of Space andEmotions in South Asia,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (58:5, 2015) and has alsopublished blog posts and commentaries in the TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research and Economic &Political Weekly, as well as several book reviews. He is currently completing a book entitled  Minority Pasts: Locality,Histories, and Identities in Rampur for Oxford University Press. 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