The Rashtrapati Bhavan (Sanskrit for Presidential House) or The Official Residence of the Head of the State is the official residence of the President of India, located at Raisina Hill in New Delhi, India. Until 1950 it was known as "Viceroy's House" and served as the residence of the Viceroy and Governor-General of India. It is amidst an area known as Lutyens' Delhi.
At present, it is the largest residence of any Head of the State in the world. The construction of the building was planned for 4 years, but World War I intervened and construction required 19 years to complete. Its first occupant, Lord Irwin, moved into the premises on January 23, 1931.
Wide-angle front view. During the Delhi Durbar year of 1911, it was decided that the capital of India would be relocated from Calcutta to Delhi. This was announced on December 12 by King George V. 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.
Cannon outside the entrance to Rashtrapati Bhawan
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 to . 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.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan is a large and vast mansion with four floors and has 360 rooms. It is built on a floor area of . Situated to the west of India Gate, the building faces east.
Rashtrapati Bhawan central dome Jaipur Column, Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariats]], designed by Baker, which are not part of Rashtrapati Bhavan.) Elephant statues on the outer wall 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 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 m ). The structure includes 700 million bricks and 3.5 million cubic feet (85,000 m ) of stone, with only minimal usage of steel.
Rashtrapati Bhavan illuminated for Indian Republic Day 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.
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.
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.
In popular culture
- The song Des Rangila from Fanaa was shot at Rashtrapati Bhavan including its rehearsal scenes.
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.
- Davies, P. (1985). Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660 to 1947, John Murray Ltd, London.
- Gradidge, R. (1981). Edwin Lutyens, Architect Laureate, George Allen & Unwin, London.
- Irving, R. (1981). Indian Summer: Lutyens, Baker, and Imperial Delhi, Yale University Press, New Haven.
- Nath, A. (2002). Dome over India: Rashtrapati Bhevan, India Book House Pvt Ltd, New Delhi.
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