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Located at the prime junction of Marx Engels Beethi Road in Governors Camp, BBD Bagh, Kolkata – 700062, is the grandest of all landmarks and palaces in the capital of West Bengal. We are referring to Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the West Bengal governor, which was built in 1803. Prior to India attaining independence, it was called ‘Government House’. After the transfer of power to the British Crown from the East India Company (EIC) in 1858, it became the official residence of the viceroy of India who shifted here from the majestic Belvedere Estate nearby.
Raj Bhavan in Kolkata, West Bengal
With the capital shifting in 1911 to Delhi, it became the official residence for the lieutenant-governor of Bengal. After India’s Independence in 1947, it became the official residence of the West Bengal governor. Since then, it has been called as Raj Bhavan, the same name for all other governors’ residences throughout India. Raj Bhavan occupies 27 acres in all, with a floor space of 84,000 sq ft, with its residential suites positioned in the four corners of the second floor and the main suite (the Prince of Wales suite, which is used by dignitaries and visitors) is to the north-west side of the first floor. In the ground floor of the central zone, you will find the Marble Hall. The central area has the Throne Room, Blue Drawing, Banquet Hall and Brown Dining Rooms. The Council Chamber is housed in the north-east corner of the first floor, where several key government decisions were taken during the British reign. The second floor houses the Ballroom and apartments of the governor.
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Raj Bhavan Kolkata’s valuation
Government House retained its spellbinding aura even after the last British official in the position, Sir Frederick Burrows, departed from his chair and Shri C Rajagopalachari assumed office as India’s first governor in 1947. Prime commercial property in the area, usually goes between Rs 15,000 per sq ft and Rs 17,000 per sq ft. Assuming the highest value for this historical landmark, it would be valued at approximately Rs 1,999,40,40,000 or one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine crores, forty lakhs and forty thousand, for its 11,76,120 sq feet of grounds and imposing edifices. In fact, the value would possibly go higher than Rs 2,000 crores, considering the historical, socio-political and cultural significance of Raj Bhavan.
Aerial view of Raj Bhavan Kolkata
Raj Bhavan Kolkata: History and construction
The three-storied Raj Bhavan has an imposing central zone with big halls, curved corridors on all four sides and detached wings, each one becoming an entire house by itself. Raj Bhavan was built between 1799 and 1803 and was occupied in 1803 by governor-general Lord Wellesley. The majestic structure was finished on January18, 1803. Twenty-three governor-generals and subsequently viceroys resided in this landmark, till the capital shifted to Delhi in 1912. In sync with the vision of Lord Metcalfe, this meticulously detailed landmark was built away from the bustling metropolis, proportioned beautifully amidst several acres of formally maintained gardens. There are intricately detailed, tall and patterned wrought iron gates with huge lions placed above.
Kolkata Raj Bhavan garden
Prior to 1799, the governor-general stayed in a rented home known as Buckingham House in the same area. This belonged to Mohammad Reza Khan, a Nawab from Chitpur. In 1799, the 1st Marquess Wellesley, the governor-general of India, took the initiative to build a palace here. After being constructed, it was finished at a massive cost of roughly 63,291 pounds which translates to a whopping 3.8 million pounds today. The Raj Bhavan was designed by Captain Charles Wyatt and was modeled on the Curzon family mansion located at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire. The neo-classical architectural style was followed with signature baroque touches. A 100 years after its construction, George Nathaniel Curzon, one of the most illustrious members of the Curzon family, occupied Raj Bhavan as the Indian viceroy. He talked of this as the ‘finest government house occupied by the representative of any sovereign or government in the world’ at that time.
In the 1860s, Lord Elgin, the viceroy, added the famous metallic dome while Lord Curzon ushered in electricity and the lift popularly called the ‘bird cage lift’ to the building. The tiny lift is functional till date!
Elevator in Kolkata Raj Bhavan
There is a central core for the building with four wings radiating around the same. The state rooms in the central core may be accessed externally by a grand flight of steps going northwards. To the south, there is a portico with a colonnaded verandah and overhead dome. The four wings have offices and residential wings along with four staircase sets. There is ample natural ventilation and stunning views. The compound is surrounded by a balustrade and arched gateways.
Raj Bhavan Kolkata: Interesting facts
Here are some interesting facts about Raj Bhavan:
- There are six gateways and the four gates to the west and east have archways with depictions of lions while the minor archways have sphinxes positioned atop them.
- The best view of the structure is from its north gate which is also the main gate.
- There is a long walk to be taken past the Chinese cannon, leading to a flight of stairs till the portico where you will find the triangular pediment backed by six pillars.
- The Chinese cannon, mounted on a dragon and surrounded by many other cannons, was brought in 1842 from Nanking. An inscription states ‘The peace dictated to the Emperor of China under the walls of Nanking by the military force of England and of India’.
- Raj Bhavan has around 60 rooms along with public halls, banquets and halls, porticos, verandahs and the majestic Throne Room.
- The residential area has the Prince of Wales Suite, reserved for the president, vice-president, prime minister and other visiting heads of state. There is the Wellesley Suite along with the Dufferin and Anderson Suites. The names have now been changed to Rabindranath Tagore, Sagar, Kanchenjunga and Vivekananda Kaksh, respectively.
- There are lovely paintings in the first floor’s Yellow Drawing Room.
- The Raj Bhavan also has the Blue Drawing Room, Brown Dining Room, Throne Room (throne of Wellesley, throne of Tipu Sultan, oil paintings of famous figures and the urn used for carrying the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi), Council Chamber, Marble Hall and Banquet Hall.
The Throne Room in Raj Bhavan, Kolkata
- Lord Wellesley was charged with misusing public money for building the Raj Bhavan and recalled in 1805 to England.
- The Otis Elevator Company installed India’s first elevator at Raj Bhavan in 1892.
Where is the Raj Bhavan located?
The Raj Bhavan is located at Marx Engels Beethi Road, Governors Camp, B.B.D. Bagh in Kolkata.
When was the Raj Bhavan finished?
Construction of Raj Bhavan was finished in 1803.
What was the earlier name of Raj Bhavan?
Raj Bhavan was previously known as Government House.
Images courtesy official website of Raj Bhavan Kolkata.