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Historians, heritage enthusiasts elated over decision to open Raj Bhavan to public

However, they are wary of public nuisance at monuments

Bishwabijoy Mitra | Published 12.04.23, 07:58 PM
Raj Bhavan

Raj Bhavan

File photograph

For the first time since its inception, Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, is likely to open its doors to the aam aadmi on Poila Baishakh, following President Droupadi Murmu’s suggestion. Historians and heritage enthusiasts have welcomed the gesture.


End of a colonial rule

GM Kapur, member governing council and state convenor, INTACH, Kolkata, described the opportunity to visit the architectural marvel for several reasons. “I have visited Raj Bhavan on several occasions and am aware of the treasure trove within the monument. Now, it will be open to the public. This is a landmark decision that ends century-old meaningless colonial rule,” he added.

Samrat Chowdhury, a heritage enthusiast, can't wait to go on a tour of the historic building. “Even thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Every brick of that structure talks about the past and finally, we would be able to witness it,” said Chowdhury, adding that it should have been opened earlier.

Built between 1799-1803 when Marquis Wellesley was the Governor General, this historic and magnificent building was designed on the lines of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, the ancestral house of Lord Curzon who later lived here as the Viceroy and the Governor General exactly 100 years after Wellesley.

This three-storied building with a magnificent central area consisting of large halls has curved corridors on all four sides radiating to detached wings, each constituting a house in itself. Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, was built between 1799 and 1803.

Things to look for

According to Kapur and Chowdhury, there are a number of artefacts, photographs and statues one should look for. “Kolkata’s first lift was installed inside this building and it still exists. Besides, the throne room, ceremonial carriage, and the council chamber are equally magnificent and beautiful,” Kapur, who has done some restoration work at Raj Bhavan, added. Swarnali Chattopadhyay, the admin of Purono Kolkatar Golpo Society, is more interested in the library. “I sincerely hope that the library is open for researchers, if not for the public. It is a treasure trove and no one knows how much secret is stored in that room,” she said.

There are also a number of historic photographs, paintings, furniture and statues one should look for.

A part of the treasure trove

Facility to accommodate visiting dignitaries at the Kolkata Raj Bhavan was augmented in 2009 by converting a ground-floor wing into a Suite, thus increasing the number of Suites to 5.

Three oil paintings in Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, have been restored with assistance from Victoria Memorial Hall. The paintings include that of Rabindranath Tagore by Shri Atul Bose, which is displayed in the Governor's Study and the paintings of Marques of Hastings and Queen Alexandra in the Ballroom of Raj Bhavan, which were received back from the Victoria Memorial Hall on December 10, 2009.

In the Ball Room, exquisite specimens of Kantha stitch paintings, executed by rural women have been displayed. The Blue Drawing Room and some other suites have recently been equipped with specimens of docra art and silk weaving in the Baluchari style.

New portrait paintings were commissioned of Sri Aurobindo, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu and Satish Chandra Dasgupta by Professor Isha Mohammad. A new painting of Bahadur Shah Zafar by Wasim Kapoor has been installed.

A huge responsibility

Along with being happy, heritage enthusiasts are scared that opening this great structure to the public might harm the artwork and monument. According to them, all the big monuments and public art structures have scribbles on the walls by some mindless visitors. “I hope the same doesn’t happen with Raj Bhavan. Even though there’s a tight security cover around the monument, the tour will be conducted in a controlled manner, but people will have to be equally responsible. They must not damage the walls and litter the garden,” said Chattopadhyay.

Last updated on 12.04.23, 07:58 PM

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