Royal Holloway University of London Department of History
and The University of Leeds School of History
Event Date: 9 and 10 September 2010
Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1
Paul McGarr – The Viceroys are disappearing from the roundabouts in Delhi”: Art, Architecture and Imperial Iconoclasm in Post-colonial India
Over the past sixty years, Indian responses to the colonial dimension of the nation’s cultural history have been complex, fluid and highly contested. At various points since 1947, central and state governments, political parties, the media and the wider Indian public, have debated the merits of embracing, or rejecting, aspects of the cultural imprint that British colonialism left on the subcontinent. This paper begins by tracing the evolution of official and unofficial Indian attitudes to British colonial iconography between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. More precisely, it examines the domestic context in which the Government of India attempted to implement a national strategy designed to preserve a highly visible and potent symbol of the country’s colonial past; the effigies of British monarchs and officials that once dominated the public spaces in India’s cities and towns. It argues that the national government’s approach was misguided and ineffective. The paper then moves on to examine in more detail the state governments’ policy toward to colonial iconography in Uttar Pradesh, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the uprising of 1857. Here, emphasis is placed on debates over the contemporary political significance taken on by British colonial statuary; over the problems associated with its replacement with symbols of Indian nationalism; and over the broader impact that imperial iconoclasm had on Indo-British relations.