Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi

12 Jul

 

RashtrapatiBhavan (Hindi: भारतीय राष्ट्रपति भवन; Hindi for Presidential House) is the official home of the President of India. As the plan for New Delhi was developed, the Governor-General’s residence was given an enormous scale and prominent position. The British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens, a major member of the city-planning process, was given the primary architectural responsibility. The palace developed very similarly to the original sketches which Lutyens sent Herbert Baker from Simla on June 14, 1912. Lutyens’ design is grandly classical overall, with colours and details inspired by Indian architecture.

Meanwhile, between 1911 and 1916, 300 families were evicted under the “1894 Land Acquisition Act” from Raisina and Malcha villages, thus clearing about 4,000 acres to begin the construction the Viceroy’s House. Lutyens and Baker, who had been assigned to work on the Viceroy’s House and the Secretariats, began on friendly terms. Baker had been assigned to work on the two secretariat buildings which were in front of Viceroy’s House. The original plan was to have Viceroy’s House on the top of Raisina Hill, with the secretariats lower down. It was later decided to build 400 yards back, and put both buildings on top of the plateau. While Lutyens wanted the Viceroy’s house to be higher, he was forced to move it back from the intended position, which resulted in a dispute with Baker. After completion, Lutyens argued with Baker, because the view of the front of the building was obscured by the high angle of the road.

Lutyens campaigned for its fixing, but was not able to get it to be changed. Lutyens wanted to make a long inclined grade all the way to Viceroy’s house with retaining walls on either side. While this would give a view of the house from further back, it would also cut through the square between the secretariat buildings. The committee with Lutyens and Baker established in January 1914 said the grade was to be no steeper than 1 in 25, though it eventually was changed to 1 in 22, a steeper gradient which made it more difficult to see the Viceroy’s palace. While Lutyens knew about the gradient, and the possibility that the Viceroy’s palace would be obscured by the road, it is thought that Lutyens did not fully realise how little the front of the house would be visible. In 1916 the Imperial Delhi committee dismissed Lutyens’s proposal to alter the gradient. Lutyens thought Baker was more concerned with making money and pleasing the government, rather than making a good architectural design.

Lutyens travelled between India and England almost every year for twenty years, to work on the building of the Viceroy’s house in both countries. Lutyens had to reduce the building size from 13,000,000 cubic feet (370,000 m3) to 8,500,000 cubic feet (240,000 m3). because of the budget restrictions of Lord Hardinge. While he had demanded that costs be reduced, he nevertheless wanted the house to retain a certain amount of ceremonial grandeur.

Architecture Designs

Site

The one two three is a large and vast mansion with four floors and has 360 rooms. It is built on a floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2). Situated to the west of India Gate, the building faces east.

Design

Various Indian designs were added to the building. These included several circular stone basins on top of the building, as water features are an important part of Indian architecture. There was also a traditional Indian chujja or chhajja, which occupied the place of a frieze in classical architecture; it was a sharp, thin, protruding element which extended 8 feet (2.4 m) from the building, and created deep shadows. It blocks harsh sunlight from the windows and also shields the windows from heavy rain during the monsoon season. On the roofline were several chuttris, which helped to break up the flatness of the roofline not covered by the dome. Lutyens appropriated some Indian designs, but used them sparingly and effectively throughout the building. There were also statues of elephants and fountain sculptures of cobras in the gar of the retaining walls, as well as the bas-reliefs around the base of the Jaipur Column, made by British sculptor, Charles Sargeant Jagger. The column has a “distinctly peculiar crown on top, a glass star springing out of bronze lotus blossom”,

There were grilles made from red sandstone, called jalis or jaalis. These jalis were inspired by Rajasthani design. The front of the palace, on the east side, has twelve unevenly spaced columns with the Delhi order capitals. These capitals have a fusion of acanthus leaves with the four pendant Indian bells. The bells are similar in style to Indian Hindu and Buddhist temples, the idea being inspired from a Jain temple at Moodabidri in Karnataka. One bell is on each corner at the top of the column. It was said that as the bells were silent British rule in India would not end. The front of the building does not have windows, except in the wings at the sides. Lutyens established ateliers in Delhi and Lahore to employ local craftsmen, The chief engineer of the project was Sir Teja Singh Malik, and four main contractors included Sir Sobha Singh.

Lutyens added several small personal elements to the house, such as an area in the garden walls and two ventilator windows on the stateroom to look like the glasses which he wore. The Viceregal Lodge was completed largely by 1929, and (along with the rest of New Delhi) inaugurated officially in 1931. Interestingly, the building took seventeen years to complete and eighteen years later India became independent. After Indian independence in 1947, the now ceremonial governor-general continued to live there, being succeeded by the president in 1950 when India became a republic and the house was renamed “Rashtrapati Bhavan”.

Lutyens stated that the dome is inspired by the Pantheon of Rome. There is also the presence of Mughal and European colonial architectural elements. Overall the structure is distinctly different from other contemporary British Colonial symbols. It has 355 decorated rooms and a floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m²). The structure includes 700 million bricks and 3.5 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) of stone, with only minimal usage of steel.

Plan

The plan of the building is designed around a massive square with multiple courtyards and open inner areas within. The plan called for two wings; one for the Viceroy and residents and another for guests. The residence wing is a separate four-storey house in itself, with its own court areas within. This wing was so large that the first Indian governor-general, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, opted to live the smaller guest wing, a tradition that has since been followed by subsequent presidents. The original residence wing is now used primarily for state receptions and as a guest wing for visiting heads of state.

The centre of the main wing of the building, underneath the main dome, is the Durbar Hall, which was known as the Throne Room during British rule when it had thrones for the Viceroy and Vicereine (his wife). The interior of this room and almost all the rooms of the palace are bare, relying on stonework and shapes to show austerity rather than intricate decoration. In the hall, the columns are made in Delhi order which combines vertical lines with the motif of a bell. The vertical lines from the column were also used in the frieze around the room, which could not have been done with one of the traditional Greek orders of columns. The hall has a 2-ton chandelier which hangs from a 33-metre height. The two state drawing rooms, the state supper room and the state library are each on the four corners of the hall. There are also other rooms such as many loggias (galleries with open air on one side) which face out into the courtyards, a large dining hall with an extremely long table, sitting rooms, billiards rooms, and a large ball room, and staircases. Water features are also through the palace, such as near the Viceroy’s stairs, which has eight marble lion statues spilling water into six basins. These lions were symbolic of the heraldry of Great Britain. There is also an open area in one room to the sky, which lets in much of the natural light.

Dome

The dome in the middle involved a mixture of Indian and British styles. In the centre was a tall copper dome surmounted on top of a drum, which stands out from the rest of the building, due to its height. The dome is exactly in the middle of the diagonals between the four corners of the building. The dome is more than twice the height of the rest of the building.

The height of the dome was increased by Lord Hardinge in the plan of the building in 1913. The dome combines classical and Indian styles. Lutyens said the design evolved from that of the Pantheon in Rome, while it is also possible that it was modeled partly after the great Stupa at Sanchi. The dome is supported by evenly spaced columns which form a porch with open area between the columns. In the New Delhi summer heat haze this gives an impression of the dome being afloat. The reinforced concrete shell of the outer dome began to be formed at the beginning of 1929. The last stone of the dome was laid on April 6, 1929.

Location

Main article: Prakash Vir Shastri Avenue

The main entrance to Rashtrapati Bhavan is known as Gate 35, and is located on Prakash Vir Shastri Avenue, renamed from North Avenue in November 2002, as a memorial to the politician Prakash Vir Shastri (1923–1977), who served here during his tenure as a Member of Parliament for the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Mughal Gardens

The Mughal Gardens situated at the back of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, incorporates both Mughal and English landscaping styles and feature a vast variety of flowers. The Rashtrapati Bhavan gardens are open to public in February every year.

Main garden-Two channels running North to South and two running East to West divide this garden into a grid of squares. There are six lotus shaped fountains at the crossings of these channels. Wheresas the energetic fountains rising up to a height of 12 feet create soothing murmur that enthralls the visitor, the channels are so tranquil in their movement that they seem frozen. In the channels at appropriate times of day can be seen reflections of the imposing building and the proud flowers. There are wooden trays placed on stands in the centre of the channels where grain is put for the birds to feed upon.

Terrace garden-There are two longitudinal strips of garden at a higher level on either side of the Main Garden forming the Northern and Southern boundary. The plants grown are the same as in the Main Garden. At the centre of both the strips is a fountain which falls inwards forming a well. On the Western tips are located two gazebos and on the Eastern tips two ornately designed sentry posts.

Long Garden or the ‘Purdha Garden’-This is located to the West of the Main Garden, and runs along on either side of the central pavement which goes to the circular garden. Enclosed in walls about 12 feet high this is predominantly a rose garden. It has 16 square rose beds encased in low hedges. There is a red sandstone pergola in the centre over the cental pavement which is covered with Rose creepers, Petrea, Bougainvillea and Grape Vines. The walls are covered with creepers like Jasmine, Rhyncospermum, Tecoma Grandiflora, Bignonia Vanista, Adenoclyma, Echitice, Parana Paniculata. Along the walls are planted the China Orange trees.

Around the circular garden there are rooms for Office of the horticulturist, a green house, stores, nursery etc. Here is housed the collection of Bonsais, one of the best in the country.

All the Presidents who have stayed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan have taken keen interest in the maintenance and upkeep of the Mughal Gardens. All have contributed in their own way. The underlying themes however have remained unaltered.

In popular culture

The Song DES RANGILA from FANAA was shot at Rashtrapati Bhavan including its rehearsal scenes.

Restoration

First restoration project at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was performed in 1985 and ended in 1989, during which the Ashoka Hall was stripped of its latter additions and restored to its original state by the work done by architectural restorer, Sunita Kohli. The second restoration project, begun in 2010, involved Charles Correa and Sunita Kohli.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: