Authored by Suyash Sherekar
Architect, urbanist, and historical researcher based out of Nagpur
Volume II, Issue 2 | November 29, 2021
Cities, the world over, have shaped civilisations over millennia. It is in urban agglomerations where ideas are born and identities are preserved. The sacred geography of India’s civilisation too is woven with perennial rivers and perpetually burgeoning cities. This paper assesses urban development in 18th century India, marked by the political rise of indigenous empires, largely the Marathas, Jats, and Sikhs. With the decline of the political importance of Delhi, especially as a capital, the history of the subcontinent took a multi-dimensional turn with the mushrooming of new urban centres such as Pune, Nagpur, Jaipur, and Indore, to name a few. We assess this development by taking two city-level case studies: Pune (the seat of the Peshwa, which served as the de-facto capital of the country) and Jaipur (founded in 1727 by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II, built along the lines of the Vāstu Śāstra). The latter half of the century was dominated by the religious revivalism of Ahilyabai Holkar, who patronized construction activities that spanned across the country. We also learn that age-old cities such as Varanasi, although not under direct Indian rule, witnessed incremental urban development courtesy the Marathas and Rajputs after Aurangzeb’s onslaught, which ravaged the city. Since the Indian experience in developing cities is at least seven millennia old, it is imperative that one looks at the evolution of our urban landscape through a historical perspective. The paper thus examines, through a socio-political lens, the urban developments in the 18th century and how dynasties have negotiated change while contributing to the greater goal of developing Bharat in their individual capabilities.
Keywords: Sacred Geography, Civilisation, Urban Development, Services
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