Monumental Matters

The Power, Subjectivity, and Space of India’s Mughal Architecture

Monumental Matters

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: September 2011

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Asian Studies > South Asia, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, India’s Mughal monuments—including majestic forts, mosques, palaces, and tombs, such as the Taj Mahal—are world renowned for their grandeur and association with the Mughals, the powerful Islamic empire that once ruled most of the subcontinent. In Monumental Matters, Santhi Kavuri-Bauer focuses on the prominent role of Mughal architecture in the construction and contestation of the Indian national landscape. She examines the representation and eventual preservation of the monuments, from their disrepair in the colonial past to their present status as protected heritage sites.

Drawing on theories of power, subjectivity, and space, Kavuri-Bauer’s interdisciplinary analysis encompasses Urdu poetry, British landscape painting, imperial archaeological surveys, Indian Muslim identity, and British tourism, as well as postcolonial nation building, World Heritage designations, and conservation mandates. Since Independence, the state has attempted to construct a narrative of Mughal monuments as symbols of a unified, secular nation. Yet modern-day sectarian violence at these sites continues to suggest that India’s Mughal monuments remain the transformative spaces—of social ordering, identity formation, and national reinvention—that they have been for centuries.


“Kavuri-Bauer’s study has implications for understanding public space and monuments generally—and the profound changes they may undergo. In this sense, her research has relevance beyond India. She raises broad interpretive issues, given an overall approach that implicitly queries notions of the invention of tradition through an analysis that privileges the accretion of change rather than any deliberate constructing of tradition.” — Jim Masselos, American Historical Review

"[A] novel addition in Indian historical discourse due to its interdisciplinary approach and fresh perspective." — Fouzia Farooq, Islamic Studies

"A distinctively postmodern reading to Mughal architecture that engages a new group of readers with the subject."  — Ebba Koch, Art Bulletin

"Monumental Matters successfully weaves diverse sources and personal voices into a rich study of the afterlives of India’s Mughal monuments. This important work illustrates why Mughal monuments matter... With its seamless incorporation of diverse methodologies and theories, this provocative, dense book will contribute to disciplines beyond art history, including history, urban planning, religious studies, anthropology, and more." — Melia Belli, CAA Reviews

"Rich and insightful ... Monumental Matters is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the 'afterlife' of objects and buildings and their entanglements with the discursive trajectories of nationalism and globalization." — Madhuri Desai, Journal of Asian Studies

Monumental Matters is a novel and incisive account of the ongoing reconceptualization of India’s Mughal monuments since the colonial era. Santhi Kavuri-Bauer reaches far beyond architectural and art historical scholarship to probe a range of larger political, ideological, and historical processes that have impinged on the modern life of India’s monumental spaces. She examines processes ranging from travel, landscape painting, and archaeological surveys in colonial India to state planning, tourism, and the cultural politics of a more recent era.” — Tapati Guha-Thakurta, author of Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India

“Santhi Kavuri-Bauer’s Monumental Matters is an original and innovative study that historians, students of architecture and nationalism, and scholars of place and space will seek out and profit from.” — Antoinette Burton, author of Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Santhi Kavuri-Bauer is Associate Professor of Art History at San Francisco State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Breathing New Life into Old Stones: The Poets and Artists of the Mughal Monument in the Eighteenth Century 19

2. From Cunningham to Curzon: Producing the Mughal Monument in the Era of High Imperialism 49

3. Between Fantasy and Phantasmagoria: The Mughal Monument and the Structure of Touristic Desire 76

4. Rebuilding Indian Muslim Space from the Ruins of the Mughal "Moral City" 95

5. Tryst with Destiny: Nehru's and Gandhi's Mighal Monuments 127

6. The Ethics of Monumentality in Postindependence India 145

Epilogue 170

Notes 179

Bibliography 197

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4922-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4899-3
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