Raj Bhavan (West Bengal)

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Raj Bhavan
Raj Bhaban 1.jpg
Raj Bhavan from North Gate
General information
Construction started 1799
Completed 1803
Cost 63,291 pounds
Owner Government of West Bengal
Technical details
Floor area 84,000 sq. ft
Design and construction
Architect Charles Wyatt
Other information
Number of rooms 60

Raj Bhavan (Bengali: রাজ ভবন) is the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal, located in the state' capital city Kolkata. Built in 1803, it was known as the Government House in the pre-independence days.

Later after the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown in 1858 it became the official residence of the Viceroy of India, shifting here from the Belvedere Estate. With the shifting of capital to Delhi in 1911 it became the official residence of Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Since independence in 1947 it serves as the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal and came to be known as the Raj Bhavan, a name it shares with the official residences of other states' governors.

History[edit]

Government House, South Front, by Samuel Bourne

In the early nineteenth century Calcutta (Kolkata) was at the height of its golden age. Known as the City of palaces or St. Petersburg of the east, Calcutta was the richest, largest and the most elegant colonial cities of India.[1] It was during this time one of Calcutta's finest colonial structure the Government House (later Raj Bhavan) was constructed.

Before 1799 the Governor General resided in a rented house, called Bukimham House, located in the same location. The land belonged to Mohammad Reza Khan, a Nawab of Chitpur.[2] It was in 1799 the then Governor General of India, Lord Wellesley, took the initiative of building a palace, because he believed that India should be ruled form a palace and not from a country house. Wellesley wanted to make a statement to the imperial authority and power and so the building was done on a grand scale.

After 4 years construction was complete at a colossal cost of 63,291 pounds (about 3.8 million pounds in today’s estimate).[3] Wellesley was charged for misusing of East India Company’s fund and was finally recalled back to England in 1805. Although Wellesley lost his job, he does have the credit of giving Kolkata one of its finest colonial mansions.

Architecture[edit]

Designed by Capt. Charles Wyatt and on the lines of the Curzon’s family mansion of the Kedleston Hall of Derbyshire,[4] the Raj Bhavan follows a Neoclassical style with distinct Baroque overtones. In a strange coincidence, a 100 years after its construction started, the most illustrious son of the Curzon family, George Nathaniel Curzon came to occupy the Raj Bhavan as the Viceroy of India. Lord Curzon described the Government House as “without doubt the finest Government House occupied by the representative of any Sovereign or Government in the world.”[5]

Since the days of Lord Wellesley the Raj Bhavan had undergone several changes. In 1860s the Viceroy Lord Elgin added the metallic Dome. Lord Curzon brought electricity and lift (popularly known as the ‘Bird Cage Lift”[5]) to Raj Bhavan. The tiny ornamentally designed “Bird Cage Lift” operates to this day.

Arched Gate of the Raj Bhavan

The plan comprises a central core with four radiating wings. The state rooms located in the central core are accessed from the outside by a flight of grand steps on the north. On the south is another portico surmounted by a colonnaded verandah with a dome above. The four wings accommodate the various offices and residential quarters along with four sets of staircases. The plan of the wings allows for a great deal of natural ventilation in the spaces while also permitting views across the gardens. The entire compound is surrounded by a balustrated wall with a grand arched gateways.

The Raj Bhavan covers an area of 84,000 sq. ft. and is surrounded by a compound covering an area of 27 acres.[6] The Raj Bhavan has 6 gate ways one each on North & South and 2 each on East & West. The 4 gates on the East & West have a grand arch ways topped with a lion. The minor archways on the side are topped with Sphinx. Sadly these 4 colossal gates hardly provide a good view of the Raj Bhavan.

Chinese cannon, Raj Bhavan

The best view of the Raj Bhavan is obtained from the North Gate, which also serves as the main gate. A long walk past a decorated Chinese cannon leads to a flight of stairs to the portico crowned with the triangular pediment supported by six ionic pillars.

The Chinese cannon, mounted on a dragon and flanked with minor cannons, was brought from Nanking in 1842. An inscription on a marble plaque reads “The peace dictated to the Emperor of China under the walls of Nanking by the military force of England and of India.[5]

The South gate also provides a grand view, with the tree lined drive leading on to the lofty ionic pillars supporting the huge metallic dome. Entry inside the complex is strictly prohibited but photography is allowed from outside the gates with permission of the officer in charge at the gate.

Features[edit]

The plan comprises a central core with four radiating wings. The state rooms located in the central core are accessed from the outside by a flight of grand steps on the north. On the south is another portico surmounted by a colonnaded verandah with a dome above. The four wings accommodate the various offices and residential quarters along with four sets of staircases. The plan of the wings allows for a great deal of natural ventilation in the spaces while also permitting views across the gardens. The entire compound is surrounded by a balustrated wall with a grand arched gateway at each of the four cardinal points.

The plan of the building is very typical, a little like a man standing on his feet and holding two boxes in his two hands. The front of the palace faces north-east.

Interior[edit]

The three storied Raj Bhavan building with a huge central area consisting of large halls has curved corridors on all four sides radiating to detached wings, each constituting a house in itself. There are about 60[5] rooms in Raj Bhavan, beside public halls, verandahs, porticos, banquets & halls and the sumptuous Throne room.

Residential Suites[edit]

The residential portion is divided into four suites. The Prince of Wales Suite in the north-west wing of the first floor is where the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister of India and head of state of other nations reside when visiting the state of West Bengal. The Wellesley Suite is located on the second floor in the north-eastern wing, the Dufferin Suite is on the second floor of north-west wing, and the fourth suite is the Anderson Suite.

Drawing and dining rooms[edit]

Yellow Drawing Room: Located on the first floor of the Raj Bhavan, the beautiful drawing room has some wonderful paintings.

Blue Drawing Room: An elegantly furnished room used by the governor to meet guest.

Brown Dining Room: Adjacent to the Blue Dining room, it is used for small conferences and meetings.[6]

Halls and banquet rooms[edit]

Throne Room: The Throne Room, as the name suggests, contains the throne of Wellesley. Next to it is the throne of Tipu Sultan. The room contains oil paintings of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr B C Roy. it also contains an Urn used to carry the Mahatma Gandhi's ashes.[6]

Council Chamber:The Governor General used the Council Chamber to preside over the executive and later the Legislative Council. Now it is used by the governor to hold large meetings. A small dining room known as the Bharat Ratna Room and a billiard room is located just outside the Council Chamber.

The Marble Hall:Located on the ground floor of the Raj Bhavan, this is used for state and private meetings.

The Banquet Hall:The Banquet Hall with rows of Doric pillars on each side, flowering chandeliers and black Mahogany tables has entertained eminent guests like Queen Elizabeth.

Picture Gallery (Old Photos)[edit]

Picture Gallery (Present Photos)[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ William, Dalrymple (2002). "White Mughals". Penguin Books. p. pp407. 
  2. ^ Das Gupta, Prosenjit (2000). "10 Walks in Calcutta". Harper Collins. p. pp5. 
  3. ^ William, Dalrymple (2002). "White Mughals". Penguin Books. p. pp346. 
  4. ^ Roy, Nishitranjan,Swasato Kolkata Ingrej Amaler Sthapathya, (Bengali), pp. 48, 1st edition, 1988, Prtikhan Press Pvt. Ltd.
  5. ^ a b c d Desmond, Doig. "An Artist's Impression". The Statesman. 
  6. ^ a b c "Raj Bhawan, Kolkata on Wheels". Retrieved January 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°34′02″N 88°20′51″E / 22.567261°N 88.347520°E / 22.567261; 88.347520