In its documented history of more than 4000 years, India has been the habitation for myriad cultures and civilizations. Today, though those civilizations are extinct but their touch could still be experienced in our food, language, lifestyle or architecture. Being a British colony for 200 years certainly devoured the resources of our country but there are some silver linings too and Rashtrapati Bhawan is certainly one of them.
The stupefying modern edifice is one of the largest presidential palaces around the world second only to the Presidential complex in Turkey which was inaugurated in 2104. Designed by the renowned architect of erstwhile British Empire, Sir Edwin Lutyens, the structure took 8 years, 14 million rupees and the labor of 29000 men to be finished.
The article is an endeavor to unearth some interesting facts about this Indian architectural marvel:
1) Rashtrapati Bhawan: The erstwhile Viceroy House
Britishers planned of building a residential complex for their top most leader, the Viceroy. Thus, erstwhile Rashtrapati Bhawan was known as the Viceroy House which was conceptualized to be a blend of Eastern and Western styles of architecture. When the building was inaugurated in 1929, Lord Irwin and Lady Irwin became the first residents.
2) The bitter dispute between rivals
Sir Edwin Lutyens got involved in a bitter dispute with his peer Sir Herbert Baker over the positioning of the secretariat buildings adjacent to Rashtrapati Bhawan and outlined by the latter. The rise of the plateau near these buildings inhibits the view of this complex from distance.
3) Statistics of Rashtrapati Bhawan
The presidential complex was considered a fitting successor to the grand Raj Bhawan designed by Charles Wyatt in Kolkata. The structure was largest among its contemporaries with 600 feet length and 180 feet in height. The modern palace has 340 rooms and covers an astonishing 4.5 acres of land in built up area.
4) Vaastu certified structure and location
The location is impeccably suitable for a building of such stature. The front is on Raisina Hills while the back lies at the Purana Quila (One of the oldest forts in Delhi). Thus, the structure is auspicious and anatomically correct according to Vaastu.
Sir Herbert Baker revealed that the site was chosen after due diligence (without keeping Vaastu factor in consideration) and taking into account the road system.
5) The Red Sandstones and Creamstones
Sir Lutyens used Red Sandstone rocks for Rashtrapati Bhawan which was used in historical monuments at Fatehpur Sikri. These rocks were interspersed with cream stone imported from Dholpur and Agra. The pattern accentuates the beauty of the whole edifice.
The building has several minute stone works from Rajasthan also known as “Rajasthani Jaali”. Laborers have spent numerous hours to carve the walls with animal figures such as Elephant.
6) Beautiful and serene garden inspired from Mughals
Inspired by the breathtakingly beautiful gardens of Jammu and Kashmir and the gardens around Taj Mahal, Sir Edwin Lutyens designed a garden contiguous to the complex. Today, we know it as Mughal garden with an area of around 15 acres. The garden boasts to have some endangered species of flora planted there.
Occasionally, the garden is used for hosting parties. Mughal garden is kept open for public February-March every year.
7) Central Dome
The foremost feature of this structure is the copper-clad central dome. Inspired by an Indian source, the stupas at Sanchi, this hemispherical dome is capped on Octagonal turrets. The dome accords a distinguished look to this princely building.
Many believed that the dome had byzantine origins but it is widely accepted that Lutyens was influenced by Stupas as they were being restored during the same period.
8) Astonishing halls
The heavily ornamented Ashoka Hall is rectangular in shape with 32×20 measures. Primarily built as a State Ballroom, the wooden floored hall has dance space in center and three vestibules. The ceiling of the hall is painted with Persian art.
The complex has a marvelous dining hall also known as Banquet Hall. With a seating capacity of 104 persons, it usually serves the purpose of hosting small parties by the President. The walls are embellished with the portraits of all former Indian presidents.
Durbars used to be of supreme importance in any Indian kingdom. Thus, the hall is used to host state functions like Padma award ceremony etc. Just like a Durbar, the hall used to have thrones for Viceroy and Vicereine, during the British rule.
The hall is located under the main dome and a 2-ton chandelier hangs from it austerely beautiful and royal. A statue of Gautam Buddha, an antique from 5th century, benedicts the hall from behind.
The hall has enough history to send you down the memory lane. It includes statues of King George and Queen Mary along with life size portraits of former Governors and Viceroys. The Silver chair of Queen and replica of British crown are a treat for the eyes of every visitor.
9) Mesmerizing corridors
Rashtrapati Bhawan has some amazing corridors. The beauty is captivating and visitors take their time to admire the wall decorations or the fascinating marble patterns on the floor.
10) Museums and Galleries
The museum exhibits crockeries from the period of 1911 when Indian capital was relocated from erstwhile Calcutta to Delhi. The utensils include Copper Ladles, Slicers, Star of India crockery and glazing Silver cutlery.
The museum houses all the precious and invaluable gifts received by the former Indian presidents. The throne of King George, an intrinsic part of Durbar Hall, is now kept here on display. The gifts also include some original paintings by Thomas Daniell & Samuel Havett.
Presidential house has a special gallery for children where the gifts given by children to the president are put on display. The gallery also features items which would intrigue children like Musical instruments, Planetary system or devices for optical illusion etc.