The Evolution of Railing and Grate Designs

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The Evolution of Railing and Grate Designs

May 24, 2022, 10:45 a.m.

Last modification: May 24, 2022, 11:11 a.m.

From stone posts to iron bars

We contacted architect Abu Sayeed M Chowdhury, a specialist in historic preservation, to find out more about the evolution of railings and railings in the Indian subcontinent.

He explained that during the Buddhist period (6th to 3rd century BC), the Stupa or Bihars had stone balustrades around it, which were called Sochi and Thaba.

“Beautifully carved stones were inserted into another stone, and this is how the whole balustrade was made. From the Buddhist period, this technique continued until the period of the Mughal dynasty”, a- he declared.

On the British Library website there is a photograph of the ancient balustrade around the Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, and the pillars of the great Buddhist stupa at Amaravati.

Modern architects work with various materials like glass, stainless steel, wood, etc. for the guards. Photo: Asif Salman

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Modern architects work with various materials like glass, stainless steel, wood, etc.  for the guards.  Photo: Asif Salman

Modern architects work with various materials like glass, stainless steel, wood, etc. for the guards. Photo: Asif Salman

Made of limestone, these pillars feature carved panels and medallions with animal and lotus motifs, as well as yakshis (folk goddess), loving couples, winged horses and centaurs.

The pillars of the Amaravati balustrade are carved from limestone with lotus medallions and narrative reliefs. The outer face is lost, but the inner face depicts a half-lotus and a narrative in the central lotus roundel; probably the child Siddhartha (symbolically represented) nursed by the old man Asita. The fluted lower part represents the visit of Asita and her nephew Naradatta.

Stone was a favored material even during the Islamic period. There were railings or vertical posts made of stones. Initially, stones and later clay bricks were used to create a boundary balustrade, which can be seen on the Qutub Minar.

Laha Bari

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Laha Bari

Laha Bari

Architect Abu Sayeed talked about another technique, called dowelling technique, where the stones are bent in such a way that they interlock with each other without any kind of adhesive. This technique has been used in our country for hundreds of years.

For example, we can look at the Kusumba Mosque in Naogaon, which was built in 1558. Two of the doors of this mosque are closed by geometrically patterned stone guards.

During the colonial period, the material, technique and patterns changed. From bricks and stones, we adapted to metal or cast iron.

“Since the early 1700s, cast iron grates have become popular. They are sturdy, repairable and reusable. This has made them a popular choice,” Abu Sayeed said.

In his article published in The Hindu, Sebanti Sarkar wrote beautifully about how colonial Kolkata started cast iron ornamentation.

She wrote: “Between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, Kolkata saw an increase in building activity. The British began to replicate the famous buildings they knew, sometimes experimenting through styles, for an “exotic Asian” feel.”

“The High Court in Calcutta, built in 1862, is a replica of the Stadt-Hausin Ypres, and the Government House (now the Raj Bhavan) built in 1803, was modeled on Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire,” he said. she adds.

Mahera Jamidar Bari

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Mahera Jamidar Bari

Mahera Jamidar Bari

Inspired by the elaborate ornamentation of the Gothic, Baroque and Rococo periods, the British colonists included metal ornamentation in their architecture, and under this influence the Zamindars of colonial India adorned their verandas, palaces and residences with metal .

The homes of aristocratic families were filled with geometric Greek patterns, European lilies, Tudor roses, daisies, hymns and palm leaves, which can still be found in Zamindari relics in different corners of Bangladesh. They stay forever – because cast iron is hard and weatherproof.

Architect Abu Sayeed informed us that after independence in 1947, modern architects were against floral designs because creating a replica of a human or any other creature is forbidden in Islam. This is why the ornamentation of the Islamic period became more abstract and geometric.

Classic floral patterns were ignored by modern or postmodern architects, and that’s when simple and straightforward designs came along.

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