Mohit Manohar: Making and Remaking the Tomb of Sher Shah Suri in British India

What was the colonial understanding of “architectural restoration” and how have these shaped extant pre-colonial monuments in South Asia? Can South Asian buildings, drastically altered by the British, also be thought of as British heritage? Manohar’s paper wrestles with these questions by focusing on the 1882–83 “restoration” of the tomb of Sher Shah Suri in Sasaram (built 1545 CE). The tomb initially had a chhatri (domed pavilion) crowning its main dome, but H. H. Cole, then Curator of Ancient Monuments in India, complained that it did not resemble other “Pathan tombs,” most of which were crowned by a finial. He was convinced that the chhatri was not original to the tomb and demanded it be replaced by a finial. His “renovation” thus drastically altered the building’s form, making an unusual tomb profile—there are very few extant tombs with a crowning chhatri—appear usual. Manohar takes a critical look at this “restoration.” He rehabilitates the chhatri to the main dome of Sher Shah Suri’s tomb and analyzes how its placement complicates the building’s program. Manohar further theorizes why the chhatri was removed from the tomb by contextualizing its role in Indo-Saracenic buildings that were contemporary to this “restoration.”

Mohit Manohar is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art at Yale University. He is writing his dissertation on the Deccani city of Daulatabad, focusing on its architectural and urban history in the fourteenth century. Other areas of interest include Mughal and Deccani painting, colonial Indian architecture, and the historiography of South Asian Islamic art. Recent publications include a catalog entry on the influence of John Ruskin’s political-economic theory on Gandhi. Manohar also writes fiction and his short stories have appeared in American literary journals. He received a BA in art history and creative writing from Princeton University.


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