South Asian Heritage Month

08 August 2022

What is South Asian Heritage Month?

South Asian Heritage Month provides us all with an opportunity to celebrate the rich history and culture that has come from this amazing part of the world. 2022’s theme is ‘Journeys of Empire’, starting from the history of empires that governed South Asia, to the families that migrated to the West following WWII.

When is South Asian Heritage Month celebrated?

It is celebrated between the 18th of July to the 17th of August, in line with when the Indian Independence Act received royal assent from King George VI on the 18th of July 1947, and when the Radcliffe Line, which divides India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, was published on the 17th of August.

What does it mean to people of South Asian Heritage?

100 words from our South Asian Representatives.

Holly Khatri, IT Project Manager

South Asian Heritage Month is allowing me to think more deeply about the other half of my identity that I had often hidden, especially when I was younger. The idea of not fully belonging to either culture is something that is shared amongst children of immigrants from South Asian descent.

As I am getting older, I feel more connected with my Indian identity, and more confident to share my dual culture with friends and colleagues. South Asian Heritage Month is allowing us to reclaim all parts of who we are, as well as sharing all voices of the past and celebrating the positive impact we have had.

Syed Shah, Project Manager

Being raised in the UK since the age of 4, with a Pakistani Father and Russian Mother resulted in the adoption of a tripartite agreement of identities. South Asian Heritage Month for me, catalyses the appreciation for culture, traditions and history. It reinforces the idea that being or doing things ‘different’ cannot only be fun and exciting, but it adds value to the many wonderful avenues of life. Over the years, I have become increasingly pleased to have food, clothing and most of all a story that is distinctive from the rest.

Kavita Perry, Architectural Assistant

South Asian heritage month has provided the opportunity to both highlight what it means to be South Asian in the 21st Century and look to the past to see how Britain became the diverse country it is today. It has been great to chat with colleagues, share experiences and learn about one another. By celebrating South Asian Heritage month, we highlight the positive impact we have had and continue to have in society.

Celebrating South Asian Architecture

Sri Lanka’s earliest licenced female Architect, Minnette de Silva, conceived architecture as an agent for change, to validate historical traditions and cultures within a new modern society.

Bangladeshi Architect Muzharual Islam highlighted that “independence brings in the greatest opportunity for a nation to express its thoughts, talent and energy… architects can construct the right and distinct kind of architecture for an independent people”. This approach has been shared amongst the subcontinent, with architects embracing modernism to enact social progress, vocalise their national identities and reclaim their autonomy.

Balkrishna V. Doshi is the first Indian to be awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2018. Doshi and his practice have a portfolio of over 70 years’ worth of work. After graduating in Mumbai, Doshi began his architectural career in Europe, at Le Corbusier’s Paris office, supporting projects in Chandigarh. His projects included:

Ahmedabad School of Architecture using simple brick and concrete, reflecting the traditional Indian townscape, to create a collaborative space; he actively involved his students to design new additions to the campus (below).

Amdavad Ni Gufa, an art Gallery inspired by tortoise shells and soap bubbles

A piece of history

2022 marks two significant anniversaries – the 75th anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Uganda’s Asian minority in 1972.

Britain first came to India in the form of traders, bringing back new foods and spices. Due to the popularity and profit that came from the region, Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter in 1600, allowing the East India Trading Company to trade with the Mughal Emperor. As their trading profits grew, and they recognised weaknesses in the Mughal Empire, the East India Trading Company began taking over territories in India, which set the foundations of British Rule in India.

The Indian National Congress was established in 1885 to give official political representation to Indians and it passed moderate reform measures. However, the sentiments across India were that Congress prioritised the rights of Hindus over other religions. India is made up of a number of different religious groups – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians – so this caused tensions. In 1906, Muslim leaders formed the All India Muslim League to focus on advancing the civil rights of Muslims.

Both these groups desired Independence from British Rule and after WWII, Indians expected Independence to be granted in return for their contribution to the war effort. After mounting pressure, the British concluded that Independence would be given, and to appease both the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League, India would have to be partitioned.

Below you can see the Radcliffe Line that split India into 3, creating West Pakistan + East Pakistan. Those highlighted in grey are contested regions; the region of Kashmir remains contested to this day.

Lord Mountbatten confirmed the date for independence as 15th August 1947. Unfortunately, millions of people found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the Radcliffe Line, which resulted in the biggest displacement of people in history. Around 10 million people became refugees – Muslims travelled to West or East Pakistan, Sikhs and Hindus travelled to India. During this movement, violence erupted between communities, and it is estimated that around 1 million refugees were massacred. The worst violence took place in the Punjab region, half sitting in Pakistan, the other sitting in India.

Our South Asian Heritage Month Reading List

Podcast & TV Recommendations

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