India's Power Pinnacle
When the Britishers decided to shift their capital to Delhi from Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1911, Sir Edwin Lutyens was given the task of designing a lavish mansion to be used as the Viceroy’s House. Lutyens stated that the dome of the new palace was...
When the Britishers decided to shift their capital to Delhi from Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1911, Sir Edwin Lutyens was given the task of designing a lavish mansion to be used as the Viceroy’s House. Lutyens stated that the dome of the new palace was inspired by the Pantheon of Rome and has Mughal and European colonial architectural elements. C. Rajagopalachari became the first Indian resident to occupy the building as the first Governor-General of India. On January 26, 1950, when Dr Rajendra Prasad became the first Indian President and occupied this building, it was renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan. Spread over 320 acre, the sprawling estate has about 340 rooms which include the official residence, guests rooms, ceremonial halls and presidential gardens, known as the Mughal Gardens. Situated at the back of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Mughal Gardens incorporate both Mughal and English landscaping styles and feature a wide variety of flowers.
A few years ago, the President’s House had an addition – Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum. Inaugurated by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, this museum has storytelling audio-visual narratives from the birth of Delhi as the British capital until recent times. The museum gives visitors an insight of Rashtrapati Bhavan, its art and architecture as well as educates them on the lives of past Indian presidents.
The world class museum traces history in a high-tech story-telling format, with contextual stories woven around original collections. Its uniqueness lies in its concept of an event-based history museum in contrast with traditional object-based museums. The story of Rashtrapati Bhavan is told through virtual and augmented reality, interactive digital cascading table, video wall, three-dimension stereoscopic projection, holographic projection and sound-light-video synchronised stage settings. Digital story-telling ensures compatibility to otherwise abled visitors as well.
The museum features a range of artifacts, including a beautiful jar of blue cut glass with an etched portrait of Dr Rajendra Prasad and furniture designed by Edwin Lutyens. Simulated battlefields representing the Anglo-Sikh and Anglo-Afghan wars are also on display, among many other items. A number of drawings by Lutyens, when the master architect was giving imaginative shape to what the British viceroy’s grand residence should look like, are also on display. Lutyens was partial to the circular shape of his spectacles and often used it while designing decorative elements and furniture for Rashtrapati Bhavan. Each of the cubicles exhibit priceless artefacts received by the past presidents. These include gold wreath with ivy leaves presented to Pratibha Patil by Prime Minister of Greece Kostas Karamanlis, a carved elephant tusk depicting the story of Lord Krishna on one side and the story of Lord Rama on the other, and a model of Golden Temple presented to Dr Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy by the then Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal in 1978.
The museum showcases simulated scenes of events like Delhi Durbar of 1911, Gandhi-Irwin pact of 1931, Jawaharlal Nehru’s oath-taking as the first Indian prime minister and swearing-in of Dr Rajendra Prasad. Latest technological innovations have been introduced in this museum including digital surfaces and interactive media to make it easier for the visitors to know more about Indian history. The tableau section has a computerised digital sensor, helping visitors know the story behind these exhibits with a finger touch on the screen opening up a page of information. One of the rooms has fibre figurines of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Sardar Patel and others sitting around a table on June 2, 1947 when the fate of the subcontinent with the Partition of India was decided. This is the same table used on the historic occasion.
And interesting showcase is the Mercedes Benz – 500 SEL bearing Regn. No. DDB – 3817, that has served five Presidencies since 1990 to 2012, as the main and spare car of the President’s Carcade.