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India’s cultural landmarks come alive in a new book

THE WORDS — chaos, raunaq (Hindi for ‘an atmosphere of excitement’), bazaar, congested, dirty, etc. — are often associated with the traditional Indian city,” suggests the mythologist and author Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, in a Foreword to the book Celebrating Public Spaces of India. The average Indian city, he says, unites multiple layers of “activities, rituals and multivalent functions which coexist in harmony despite the apparent chaos”. Compiled by the architects Archana Gupta and Anshuman Gupta, the new release by Mapin Publishing focuses on ideas of the “public space” and “evolving modes of urbanism” in India. In chapters covering public buildings and monument plazas, city squares and cultural spaces, city-level urban parks, bazaar streets and market places, waterfront and religious spaces, and heritage monuments, the authors document India’s cultural landmarks.

The attempt was to highlight spaces that are “naturally activated and happening as a city-level public space (despite any/all odds),” offers another essay. “These spaces may not conform to urban planning, but within their own frameworks are essential landmarks.”
Patnaik elaborates on his concept of cities as “a combination of organic (slums) and inorganic (planned)”. These forces need to be appreciated in an integrated manner, he says. The first step to that end would be to leaf through this book, to gain a broader understanding of India’s cultural histories.

Celebrating Public Spaces of India, Mapin Publishing, Rs 1,800. Details: mapinpub.in

—Team Indulge

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