The residence of the Indian president or the erstwhile residence of the British viceroy is an epitome of Indian strength and secularism.
A close-up of the monument underneath the night sky
But how did it come into existence?
The residence of the president of the world’s largest democracy didn’t come into existence overnight. It took lots of planning and decision-making to design the same. Presently, it is the world’s largest residence of the head of a state and is maintained using the tax paid by the citizens.
Do you know the story behind the making of the Bhavan?
- The mansion was established to validate the permanence of British rule in India.
- The decision to construct the mansion was taken in the Delhi durbar of 1911 which also decided to shift the capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
- The mansion was the erstwhile residence of British viceroys and promoted the idea of an imperial regime or to be more specific, a perpetual darbar.
- It was on 26th January 1950 that the palace was renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan during the term of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. The Bhavan has traversed a long journey from being a symbol of domination to that of a large democracy.
The making of breathtaking architecture!
The fashioning of the Bhavan was best described by Shri R Venkataraman. He called it a collaboration of nature, man, rock, and architecture – all tuned to a fine purpose! The Bhavan has a plethora of distinguishing architectural features. It was scheduled to be completed in four years but surprisingly it took seventeen years and by the time it got completed,i.e in the eighteenth year, India gained independence.
Do you know who designed the palace?
- The palace was designed by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens. He was the main architect while several Indian contractors were involved in the process.
- Initially, 400,000 pounds were earmarked for the construction but it reached around 12.8 million rupees! ( Mughal garden and staff quarters included). The Bhavan covers an area of five hectares on a 330-acre estate. It is an H- shaped building with four floors and 340 rooms.
It is said that around seven million bricks were used up in the construction process. Not a single steel has been used in the construction of the Bhavan!
The distinguishing architectural elements!
- The eye-catching dome is a prominent feature of the palace. It is superimposed on the structure and is therefore visible from a distance. It is believed that the dome is structured in the pattern of the stupa at Sanchi and is encircled by Indian architectural elements.
A close-up of the dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan
Stone slabs are fixed underneath the roof to prevent the sun rays from falling on the windows and protect the walls from the rains. These slabs are known as chhajis. The rooftop is adorned by chhatris.
- Stone slabs with perforations, known as jaalis, also decorate the Bhavan with dedicated florals and geometric patterns. There is a blend of Indian and European styles in the jaalis at a few places.
Close-up of a jaali present at the Rashtrapati Bhavan
- Indian temple bells are used in the pillars hence representing the synthesis of the Hellenic style of architecture and the Indian style. The idea of using bells in the pillars was adopted from a Jain temple at Moodabidri in Karnataka.
Close-up of a pillar at the Bhavan
Garden view at the palace
The gardens stretch over an area of fifteen acres and feature roses, tulips, Asiatic lilies, daffodils, hyacinth, and other seasonal flowers. Rose is a key feature of the garden with 150 varieties being adorned every year in February and March. The garden boasts of the roses named after the people of national and international fame. More than seventy varieties of seasonal flowers along with the exotic bulbous and winter flowering plants are included in the collection.
Flower beds decorated with pansies and tulips in the garden
Flower beds are decorated with alyssum, daisies, and pansies. The doob grass covers the garden. It was brought from Calcutta when the garden was being planted. The Molusiri tree, the golden rain tree, and the flower-bearing torch tree also adorn the garden. There are around fifty varieties of trees, shrubs, and vines in the garden which is maintained by three hundred permanent and casual employees.
But how are the vast grounds utilized?
- Apart from leisure and recreation, the occupants of the Bhavan have utilized the vast expanse of open space efficiently.
- the very first resident of the Bhavan was C.Rajagopalachari who addressed the problem of food shortage in the country by giving out a portion of the estate for wheat cultivation
- Likewise, the herbal garden was an idea of president Kalam. He further contributed with the tactile gardens for the visually handicapped, the musical gardens, nutrition gardens, etc.
Close-up of the colorful fountains at the musical gardens
- Project Roshni was initiated by president Pratibha Patil which aimed at transforming the residence into an environment-friendly habitat. Bonsai gardens and the nature trails of the garden landscapes were carved out during her tenure.
- President K.R Narayanan brought the garden to scientific use by allowing for rainwater harvesting techniques in the estate in collaboration with the center for science and the environment.
The pristine Mughal gardens are laid out in successive geometrical patterns beginning from a rectangular panel to a long passage that leads to a circular layout. The garden has been designed in the form of successive terraces which can be appreciated from the first storey of the building itself! The gardens have been opened up for the public thereby creating a remarkable expression of Indian democracy.
The premier rooms:
Apart from the splendid architecture and beautiful gardens, the Bhavan is adorned by large halls like the durbar hall, the marble hall, the Ashokan hall, the banquet hall, and the yellow drawing room which serve as premier rooms. The tour of the Bhavan is broadly divided into three circuits – the first one being the main building, central lawns, and premier rooms, the second covering the museum complex, and the third giving a pristine view of the gardens. All in all a visit to the mansion is worth all the hype!