Great houses of Delhi : Their Antecedents , Precedents and Portents
Raisina Hill, often used as a metonym for the seat of the Government of India, is an area of Lutyens; Delhi, New Delhi, housing India;s most important government buildings, including Rashtrapati Bhavan the official residence of the President of India and the Secretariat building housing the Prime Minister;s Office and several other important ministries. It is surrounded by other important buildings and structures, including the Parliament of India, Rajpath and India Gate. The term Raisina Hill; was coined following acquisition of land from 300 families from local villages. Land was acquired under the;1894 Land Acquisition Act; to begin the construction of the Viceroy’s house
In 1911 to transfer the capital of British India from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Delhi, a planning committee was formed, and a site 3 miles (5 km) south of the existing city of Delhi, around Raisina Hill, was chosen for the new administrative centre. A well-drained, healthy area between the Delhi Ridge and the Yamuna River, it provided ample room for expansion.
Raisina i.e. Rao Simha (Rao = Aristocrat, Simha = Lion/brave) was the title of jagirdar/estate ruler Kalda Rao (descendent of Maharaja Karna Singh of Alwar) consisting of Delhi city and its surrounding areas in late 1600 to mid 1700 Delhi city was called Raisina during this period. Only Raisina Hill, Raisina road, etc. remain today. The descendents of Rao Simha saheb carry the surname Vaisoha.
The plan for New Delhi, as it gradually evolved, adjusting to the ground realities and needs, did not emphasise the creation of a ‘city’ but rather, the superimposition on a stark, uninhabited and sprawling landscape of an imperial borough, designed to house the ruling, alien power and accommodate its administration. Workplaces, government offices, commercial establishments and recreation spaces were segregated from the residential areas that were further separated by position, status and office. The demarcated land was mandated to accommodate the offices and residences of only those who served the Crown, shielding, by that single decision, the area from the ordinary, professional citizens of Dilli, compelling it to be cold, sterile and secluded from the exuberant and spirited soul of India, far removed from the real pulse of the people. True blue Dilli-wallahs quietly watched the skyline change as the centre of power began to prepare for the shift from Civil lines to Raisina Hill.
Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the lead architects, both believed that early British architecture in India had left much to be desired. They did not like the combination of neo- gothic and Mughal styles in Simla, Calcutta and Bombay. Baker was firm in his opinion that an ‘imperial’ scheme of architecture was the only suitable one. Meanwhile, Lutyens observed Indian architecture and penned his opinions to his wife regularly. Lutyens incorporated various elements and motifs he became familiar with while travelling through the country, viewing the many historic sites.
Though scheduled to be constructed in four years, it took 17 years to build this vastmansion of 340 rooms, spread over four floors. Built in two shades of sandstone, this building reflects a blend of Mughal and classical European styles of architecture. The most prominent and distinguishing aspect of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is its huge dome resembling the Great Stupa at Sanchi. The dome is visible from a distance and surmounts a long colonnade, which adds to its magnificence. Just below the dome is the circular Durbar Hall. It serves as the venue for all important Indian state and ceremonial occasions.
On either side of Rajpath, adjacent to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, you’ll find two Secreteriat Buildings that count among the most impressive State Office Buildings in the world. Completed in 1929, these 'two-tone' buildings are said to be designed similar to the Union buildings in Pretoria, South Africa. The designer was Sir Herbert Baker. Together, the two blocks have about a thousand rooms. Each block has four floors and is crowned by an imposing central Baroque dome. The North Block houses the ministries of Finance and Home Affairs of the Central Government while the South Block is home to the Defence and External Affairs ministries and the Prime Minister’s office.
The Parliament House holds a very significant place in the history of democratic India. It was in the central hall of this building that the transfer of power took place at midnight of 14th August 1947. India became a democratic country that day. The Constitution of India was also drafted here in the early days of Independence.
India gate Designed by Edwin Landseer Lutyens in 1931, this 42-metre-high monument was erected as a memorial in honour of the Indian and British soldiers martyred during World War I and the Third Afghan War, 1919. The names of the 13,516 martyrs are inscribed on this imposing monument. Under the arch of India Gate is the Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Warrior. This eternal flame pays homage to the soldiers killed during the Indo-Pak War in 1971. The black marble cenotaph has a rifle placed on its barrel, crested by a soldier's helmet and guarded by the flags of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. Alongside the monument is a beautiful canopy or domed kiosk with a roof of red sandstone. It was under this canopy that the marble statue of George V, which was later shifted to Coronation Durbar Site, once stood. Visitors can stand on the other side of the canopy and view the Rajpath Avenue, the ceremonial venue of India, in its entirety. The sprawling lush green lawns of India Gate are perfect for tourists and locals to laze around. Hungry souls have many items to gorge on — Fruit Chaat, Bhel Puri, Chana Jor Garam, Dal ka Pakodas, potato chips, ice cream, candy floss and aerated drinks. Children can blow soap bubbles, play cricket and enjoy camel or pony rides.
Hyderabad House : Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Last Nizam of Hyderabad, after most important princely rulers in British India were inducted into Chamber of Princes in 1919, and were to attend the Chambers meetings in Delhi. It is situated next to the Baroda House, the erstwhile royal residence of the Maharaja of Baroda and currently the zonal headquarters Office of Northern Railways. After Indian independence in 1947, the palace was taken over by the Indian Government from the Nizam. It is currently used by the Government of India for banquets and meetings for visiting foreign dignitaries It has also been a venue for joint press conferences and major government events.
Patiala House It was designed by Sir Edwin LutyensThe building has a central dome with a "butterfly" layout, similar to other Lutyen's buildings Unlike some of the princely residences in Delhi, the Patiala House is not clad in sandstone but painted white. When prime minister Indira Gandhi abolished the privy purses of the royals in the 1970s, the royal family sold it to the Indian government. It has been used by District Courts of India as one of its five courts in Delhi and is known as the Patiala House Courts Complex, which has seen numerous extensions and changes that have altered the original appearance of the palace.
Bikaner House is a princely house located in New Delhi . It is a sprawling building now belonging to the Rajasthan government within walking distance of India Gate. It is spread over an 8 acre plot in Lutyens' Delhi. Among all the princely residences, Bikaner House was the least grand in design, as it was more like a bungalow than a palace.
Jaipur House is the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur in Delhi. It situated at the end of Rajpath, facing the India Gate. It was designed by Sir Arthur Bloomfield, after the construction of Lutyens' Delhi, in 1936 The structure has a butterfly layout and a central dome. The structure is clad in red and yellow sandstone. To the back of the palace is a large garden, which can be entered through the main ballroom on the ground floor. The ballroom is panelled in dark wood. Inside is the main hall underneath the central dome, with a large spiral staircase leading to the upper floor. Today it houses the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), India's premier art gallery which was established here by Ministry of Culture in 1954
Highlights : Change of Guard ceremony at President’s House every Saturday ( subject to change )