The Rashtrapati Bhavan is an eminent monument of the British Empire which is said to be the palace of the Viceroy of India. The Rashtrapati Bhavan of Dilli is considered to be the best known monument of India next to the glorious Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar. Rashtrapati Bhavan is the house of the President of India. It is a real masterpiece that was built in the British period and is the focal point of New Dilli and is situated on the Raisina Hills. The total cost of constructing the Rashtrapati Bhavan crossed £12,53,000 in British India.
The splendor of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is multi-dimensional. It is a vast mansion and its architecture 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.
The present day Rashtrapati Bhavan was the erstwhile residence of the British Viceroy. Its architect was Edwin Landseer Lutyens. The decision to build a residence in New Dilli for the British Viceroy was taken after it was decided in the Dilli Durbar of 1911 that the capital of India would be shifted from Calcutta to Dilli in the same year. It was constructed to affirm the permanence of British rule in India. This building gave the impression, in the words of a critique, the setting of a perpetual Durbar. The building and its surroundings were supposed to be ‘an empire in stone’, ‘exercising imperial sway’ and containing in it, “the abode of a disinterested élite whose rule was imposed from above”. That ’empire in stone’ and the perpetual Durbar was transformed to be the permanent institution of democracy on 26th January 1950 when Dr. Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India and occupied this building to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of India. It was from that day that this building was renamed as Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s House.
Apart from Edwin Lutyens, the Chief architect and Chief Engineer Hugh Keeling there were many Indian contractors who were involved in the construction of this building. While a Muslim contractor Haroun-al-Rashid did most of the work of the main building the forecourt was built by Sujan Singh and his son Sobha Singh. Surprisingly the names of these Indians did not find a place in the official biography of Lutyens.
It is interesting to note that the building which was scheduled to be completed in four years took seventeen years and on the eighteenth year of its completion India became independent. This vast mansion has four floors and 340 rooms. With a floor area of 200, 000 square feet it is built by using 700 million bricks and three million cubic feet of stone. Hardly any steel has gone into the construction of the building.
The most prominent and distinguishing aspect of Rashtrapati Bhavan is its dome which is superimposed on its structure. It is visible from a distance and the most eye-catching round roof with a circular base in the heart of Delhi. While Lutyens ostensibly acknowledged the design of the dome to the pantheon of the Rome, it is very strongly believed by informed analysts that the dome was structured in the pattern of the great Stupa at Sanchi. The pre-dominance of Indian architecture in the dome is evident from the fact that it is encircled by railings of Sanchi origin. In fact the whole of Rashtrapati Bhavan embodies in it Indian architectural patterns such as Buddhist railings, chhajjas, chhatris and jaalis.
The might and authority of the people of India, which pervades this Republic is represented by the President of the country, whose official residence is the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the architecture of which fascinates as much the ardent architects as the common people across the globe.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan comprises of the following:
• The State Drawing Room
• The State Ballroom
• The State Library
• The State Dining Room
• The Private Apartments
To the west of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, there is a wonderful Mughal garden which is open to the public every spring.
The parliament street next to the Dilli Rashtrapati Bhavan prohibits the bus service but you can reach the Rashtrapati Bhavan by hired taxi or auto rickshaws. General public cannot enter the Delhi Rashtrapati Bhavan. Official permits are required to visit the Bhavan. Such permits are issued from the reception office at the Raisina Road in New Delhi.