Sunday, 25 December 2016

James Fergusson who exposed the ancient Indian architecture to the west!!

James Fergusson, FRS (22 January 1808 – 9 January 1886), the son of an army surgeon (Doctor)  was a Scottish architectural historian, well-known  for his keen interest and contributions to historical Indian structures and architecture of great antiquity that had remained unexplored and unknown to the western world for centuries. He was instrumental  in throwing light on ancient India's archeology  that was rich in artistic excellence and beauty.  Born at Ayr, in Scotland on 22 January 1808 he had his education in first at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and afterwards at a private school at Hounslow.  James sailed to India to join  the firm of Fairlie, Fergusson  and Co (a mercantile house), Calcutta whose partner was  his brother William. As a sort of vocation, on the side line, he developed interest in historical Indian architecture, hitherto unknown or poorly understood in the western world. He also studied the architecture of some of the European buildings, while living in London in the later part of his life.
James Fergusson (architect) en. Wikipedia. org
Since Indigo business was a lucrative one, he and his brother William started a new business venture and with sheer business acumen, they turned it into a fairly successful business. Later, he had some setback in his business, however, it did not dampen his enthusiasm in Indian archeology. 
a sketch of Jaismund Lake in Rajasthan by James Fergussion. The Victorian Web
His inquisitive mind, innate ability to gain  fresh knowledge in areas unknown before and obsession led him to get involved in scholarly studies on his own without proper training in architecture. A good example is  his work on the Deltaic Changes of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which he subsequently published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geographical Society (August 1863).
mount abu dahwarra jain temple by Fergussion . www.columbia.edu

In the course of his studies, though he was neither a trained architect nor a scientist, he realized there was a vast scope for studies related to ancient  Indian structures. The study had not been taken before by any body. Hence, he embarked on a long tour of the Indian subcontinent between 1835 and 1845, visiting very bit of land in all directions. He undertook this journey through the tough  tropical terrain,  unmindful of various hardship and difficulties, particularly, when visiting remote places and spending time and gathering information from  the natives.  During this period, he painfully took  detailed notes of each of the monument he visited and came up with  more or less accurate reproduction  by way of sketches and field notes. His  knowledge of draftsmanship with  Camera Lucid was quite handy to him. Fergusson's approach was  not only objective, but also subjective and interpretive. Later he settled in London, and from his house at 20 Langham Place, W he spent rest of his life on building designs.
Rock-cut temple of India 1845. UCSB Library
He deplored the fact that the English in India did not pay attention to the treasure trove of ancient India and approached the Directors of the East India Company to undertake a detailed study of Indians building of great antiquity by competent scientists. Based on the
on typological analysis of the structures and fixing up the chronology on the basis of the dated ones, he listed the old structures like temples, monuments, etc. In 1840 he was elected a member of the Royal Asiatic Society. His book on The Rock-cut Temples of India (1845) included various aspects including the relevance of historical and aesthetic aspects. Unsatisfied with his work, with more energy, he approached studies of ancient Indian designs in a different perspectives. The Handbook of Architecture, a work first appeared in 1855 covered the whole gamut of comparative approach to ancient architecture. In 1856 Fergusson was elected by the committee a member of the Athenaeum Club. Subsequently he changed the title to The History of Architecture, that was edited by George Kriehn in 1910.

Other works:
01. A paper on  "The Ancient Buddhist Architecture of India" to the Royal Institute of British Architects, the first of a number of  technical papers of great value and merit  published (1848) in the Transactions of that body, 02. In 1849 "The History of the Pointed Arch", 03. In 1851 on "The Architectural Splendour of the City of Bijapur," and "The Great Dome of Muhammad's Tomb, Bijapur",  04. A History of the Architecture of All Countries. Lithograph (fourth volume) photographed by JB, courtesy of the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi  and 05. In 1855. The Illustrated Handbook of Architecture, being a Concise and Popular Account of the Different Styles of Architecture prevailing in all Ages and Countries, 2 vols. It was followed in 1862 by one entitled A History of the Modern Styles of Architecture, being a sequel to the Handbook, 06. In 1876 Fourth volume on The History of Indian and Eastern Architectu

The  Royal Institute of British Architects in 1871 awarded him a gold medal for his work. In 1856 Fergusson was elected by the committee a member of the Athenaeum Club, and in 1871 the Institute of British Architects awarded him the royal gold medal for architecture. Worthy of mention are his  sessional papers of the Institute of British Architects - The History of the Pointed Arch, Architecture of Southern India, a study of Indian Mythology and Art in the early centuries of the Christian era, Architecture of southern India and medieval Muslim monuments of Bijapur, Architectural Splendour of the City of Beejapore, etc. Tree and Serpent Worship (1868), Buddhist remains at Sanchi and Amaravati.  Rude Stone Monuments of Many Lands (1872), he stated that the megalithic monuments of India are 'historic' rather than 'prehistoric'. It was also under Fergusson's supervision that the various works of Indian art were exhibited at the Indian Court of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham and the Exposition International at Paris in 186. In 1867 The collection of photographs and casts for exhibition in the Indian Court of the International Exhibition held that year in Paris,


Fergusson's  vast and comprehensive contributions to Indian studies supported by his personal field studies were on par with  the pioneering and scholarly works of Alexander Cunningham, his contemporary and associate. His untiring interest in architecture  never diminished and continued till his death.  He breathed his last  in London on 9 January 1886 and was buried at Highgate cemetery.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Fergusson_(architect)

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