Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi
Known during the British Raj as the Viceroy’s House, Rashtrapati Bhavan is known as the seat and residence of the President of India. The structure is built in a vast area that encompasses 320 acres of land, in a marvelous style that incorporates styles from Indian and European architecture.
This decision to build a residence in New Delhi for the British Viceroy was taken after it was decided during the Delhi Durbar in December 1911 that the capital of India would be relocated from Calcutta to Delhi. When the plan for a new city, New Delhi, adjacent to and south of Old Delhi, was developed after the Delhi Durbar, the new palace for the Viceroy of India was given an enormous size and prominent position. About 4,000 acres of land was acquired to begin the construction of Viceroy’s House, as it was officially called, and adjacent Secretariat Building between 1911 and 1916 by relocating Raisina and Malcha villages that existed there and their 300 families under the Land & Acquisition Act.
The British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens, a major member of the city-planning process, was given the primary architectural responsibility. The completed Governor-General’s palace turned out very similar to the original sketches which Lutyens sent Herbert Baker, from Simla, on 14 June 1912. Lutyens’ design is grandly classical overall, with colours and details inspired by Indian architecture. Lutyens and Baker who had been assigned to work on 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 it 400 yards back, and put both buildings on top of the plateau. While Lutyens wanted 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.
The sloping approach from the east, which hides the lower part of the building, as Lutyens feared
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.
Cannon outside the entrance to Rashtrapati Bhawan
Lutyens travelled between India and England almost every year for twenty years, to work on construction of Viceroy’s House in both countries. Lutyens reduced the building 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 Hardinge demanded that costs be reduced, he nevertheless wanted the house to retain a certain amount of ceremonial grandeur.
When Chakravarti Rajagopalachari assumed the office as the first Indian-born Governor General of India and became the occupant of this building he preferred to stay in a few rooms which is now the family wing of the President and converted the then Viceroy’s apartments into the Guest Wing where visiting heads of state stay while in India.
On 26 January 1950, when Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India and occupied this building, it was renamed as Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s House.
Close up from the gates
Indian President`s Bodyguard marching at Rashtrapati Bhavan
Main gate of Rashtrapati Bhawan with Jaipur Column in background.
Elephant statues on the outer wall
Consisting of four floors and 340 rooms, with a floor area of 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2), it was built using 700 million bricks and 3,000,000 cu ft (85,000 m3) of stone with little steel.
The design of the building fell into the time period of the Edwardian Baroque, a time at which emphasis was placed on the use of heavy classical motifs in order to emphasise power and imperial authority. The design process of the mansion was long, complicated and politically charged. Lutyens’ early designs were all starkly classical and entirely European in style. His disrespect for the local building tradition he dismissed as primitive, is evident in his numerous sketches with appended scrawls such as ‘Moghul tosh’ and his short remark that ‘they want me to do Hindu – Hindon’t I say!’ In the post-Mutiny era, however, it was decided that sensitivity must be shown to the local surroundings in order to better integrate the building within its political context, and after much political debate Lutyens conceded to incorporating local indo-Saracenic motifs, albeit in a rather superficial decorational form on the skin of the building. 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”.
Rashtrapati Bhawan central dome
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 massive 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.
The splendour of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is multi-dimensional. It is a vast mansion and its archit picture is breathtaking. More than these, it has a hallowed existence in the annals of democracy for being the residence of the President of the largest democracy in the world. Few official residential premises of the Head of the State in the world will match the Rashtrapati Bhavan in terms of its size, vastness and its magnificence.
Rashtrapati Bhavan, home to the President of the world’s largest democracy, is emblematic of Indian democracy and its secular, plural and inclusive traditions. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker and stands on a 330 acre estate. It took seventeen years to build this presidential palace which was completed in the year 1929. Almost seven hundred million bricks and three million cubic feet of stone were used in building this architectural marvel that has 2.5 kilometers of corridors and 190 acres of garden area. The main building covers an area of 5 acres and has 340 rooms spread over four floors. The famous Mughal Gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan cover an area of 15 acres and have 159 celebrated varieties of roses, 60 varieties of bougainvillea and many other verities of flowers. The Estate also has a state-of-the-art Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex (RBMC) comprising the Clock Tower, the Stables and the Garages showcasing past as well as current presidencies, the regal ceremonies, and the rich flora and fauna of Rashtrapati Bhavan, amongst other things. The RBMC was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on 25th July, 2016.
For the convenience of the general public, Delhi Tourism has extended the facility of Ho-Ho Buses to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“For tourist desirous of visiting Rashtrapati Bhavan, prior online booking may be made.”
For more details please visit http://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour
The Mughal dynasty practically came to an end when in 1803, the native rulers defeated by General Lake of East India Company near Patparganj. The East India appointed first resident of Delhi as the ‘Protector’ of battered Mughal crown. In the early years the British and their troops settled within the walled city around the Red Fort and Kashmere Gate. The city underwent drastic transformations after the war of 1857. One third of the city was razed to rubble in 1858 and the East India Company transferred the rule to the British Crown.
On 12th December, 1911, at the historic Delhi Durbar, the George V, the Emperor of the British Empire proclaimed the shifting of the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi. After announcement of Delhi as the Capital of India, the preparation for the building a new city started with majesty, pomp and show. Thus came up a vary special city, New Delhi, the dream of Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, city planners and architects. Built on the area in and around Raisina Hills, the new city housed among the landmarks, the Rastrapathi Bhawan, (Viceroy’s House), the North and South Blocks of the Secretariat, and a Council Chamber which now houses India’s Parliament, the 42 meters high memorial arch India Gate, Cannought Place and numerous roads, parks and other structures.
On the site where Delhi stands today, several cities have risen and decayed in the past. Their relics illustrate important phases in the architectural history of the country and are visible symbols of Delhi’s glorious past. New Delhi, the capital of India’s British rulers, was the eight in the series of city built one after another by successive lines of rulers. The national government, which took over on the attainment of independence in August, 1947, has not built another city. New Delhi, has, however, expanded manifold and is rapidly undergoing transformation. It is from New Delhi that most visitors form their first impression of the city. Much of the New Delhi was built between 1920-1930.
After independence, Delhi became the capital of new nation. With the advent of independence, its importance has increased manifold and Delhi has now became the political, economic and culture capital of country. The built – up heritage of Delhi are to be found in groups in the successive cities. Those which should not be missed by a visitors are the Qutub Minar and its adjuncts; Tughlagabad, Humayun’s Tomb and shrine of Nizam-ud-Din; Sher Shah’s fortS (Purna Qila), Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. To these might be added Kotla Feroz Shah, Safdarjung Tomb, Hauz-Khas, and the Lodi Tombs.