State Bank of Madras

State Bank of Madras building (postcard, Tuck & Sons). Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, 1897, with later work by Henry Irwin. The Bank of Madras merged with the Banks of Bombay and Bengal to form the Imperial Bank of India in 1921, and this was renamed the State Bank of India in 1955. As a result, this Raj-era building now houses offices of the State Bank of India. Rajaji Salai, Chennai.

With its red sandstone detailed in white, its assorted towers, minarets and covered verandahs, the building looks more like a Rajasthani palace than a bank's headquarters. In his chapter on "Saracenic Dreams," Philip Davies reflects,

To the European purist it would be easy to dismiss these extraordinary designs as ostentatious expressions of a decadent ruling class, unrestrained by any semblance of architectural propriety, but by Indian standards they were merely the latest manifestations of a constant process of cultural miscegenation, whereby India acknowledges, adapts and then assimilates the cultural attributes of it latest rulers: in this case, the British. [201-02]

To Davies, Jacob was the "most accomplished of all the exponents of the Indo-Saracenic style .... a leading exponent of hybridisation" (203).

Image scan, caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print document.

Related Material


Davies, Philip. Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India 1660-1947. London: Penguin, 1987.

"Evolution of SBI." State Bank of India website. Web. 19 April 2019.

"First 5-Year Plan." State Bank of India website. Web. 19 April 2019.

"Madras, Bank of Madras." Tuck & Sons (postcard). Internet Archive. Contributed by the Newberry Library. Web. 19 April 2019.

Created 19 April 2019