Dome Over India by Aman Nath

Imperial Delhi by Andreas Volwahsen

On our trip to New Delhi four years ago with the Trust, we were all awed by the quality, scale of individual buildings and the immense amount of work undertaken by Sir Edwin. Although most of us had seen the black and white photographs in the Memorial volumes, the reality far outweighed any images we had seen. At that time the only other book that covered the making and development of New Delhi up until Independence was the superb Indian Summer by Robert Grant Irving which although full of information had comparatively few photographs and was published by Yale in 1981. When we arrived in New Delhi we found that, some years earlier, the Government Press had published a slim volume on the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Sir Edwin’s Viceroy’s House, but this was very difficult to obtain and was dated. Then suddenly, just as the Trust is about to make another visit to New Delhi, two comprehensive lavishly illustrated books on the subject appear.

The first, Dome over India by Aman Nath, published by India Book House Pty Ltd. again concentrates solely on the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But there is a world of difference between this and the former Government book. With two hundred specially commissioned photographs of exteriors and interiors, it creates a wonderful room by room guide. The scale and carefully scaled beauty of the building is well represented by the photographs that often cover two pages and sometimes are pull outs of three pages. The text gives a succinct account of the background to the creation of the building, with a new if sometimes controversial interpretation of various events, and traces some of the design elements back to the Indian buildings that inspired them with appropriate illustrations. It also follows the history of the building through Independence right up to the present day filling in its use since the Viceroys departed.

The second, Imperial Delhi by Andreas Volwahsen published by Prestel, covers a far wider area, talking about the designing of the whole of New Delhi with sections on individual buildings within the timeframe of the Raj. It puts New Delhi into the world context of the town planning of Paris, London, Canberra and Washington, plus its obvious links with the Garden City movement, finally comparing it with Albert Speer’s designs for Berlin. It is also lavishly illustrated with 170 black and white images and 140 colour ones. I have read that several people found the Volwahsen book derivative of other sources and lacking in original material. If this is so, I felt it was a very useful compilation which was greatly assisted by the helpful selection of illustrations. Certainly this book uses more archival material than the Nath book but it covers a far wider field.

I thoroughly enjoyed both books and although I have been researching the forthcoming New Delhi trip for over a year, I found new information, different viewpoints and unknown images in both books. They have been an invaluable help in planning the trip and I heartily recommend both of them as good additions to a Lutyens library.

Paul Waite