Raj Bhavan

Raj Bhavan (Governor's House)

Raj Bhavan (Governor’s House) at Kolkata. Courtesy: Wikipedia

Raj Bhavan is the official abode of the Governor of West Bengal. Modeled by Charles Wyatt on Keddleston Hall of Derbyshire, the construction of Government House was initiated under Lord Wellesley. The building process was started in 1799 and it was finished in 1803 at a cost of Rs. 13 lakhs. Raj Bhavan spans a total area of around 27 acres. The imposing structure of Raj Bhavan boasts a floor space of about 84,000 square feet. The first social engagement here was a breakfast for 700 guests held in May 1802, to mark the third anniversary of the Battle of Seringapatam where Tipu Sultan was killed.

Raj Bhavan hosts a number of residential suites, which nestles in the four corners of the second floor. The most important Prince of Wales suite is located on the first floor, North West. The Prince of Wales suite is the VVIP suite, which is used for the accommodation of President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister and visiting Heads of States. The exquisite Marble Hall is in the ground floor of Raj Bhavan has been designed meticulously by Capt. Charles Wyatt in a Neoclassical style.

Location of Raj Bhavan at Kolkata

Raj Bhavan is located in the central part of Kolkata, close to Dalhousie.

History of Raj Bhavan at Kolkata

Raj Bhavan is the officially recognized residence of the Governor of West Bengal. Built in the year 1803, Raj Bhavan before independence was called the Government House. Later, in the year 1858, when power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown, it became the official dwelling of the Viceroy of India. However, in 1911, when the capital was shifted to Delhi, it turned to be the official abode of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Post independence, it is serving as the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal and its name was also changed into Raj Bhavan.

During the early phase of the nineteenth century, Kolkata under the British Rule, was at the acme of its golden age. Popularly called St. Petersburg of the East and the City of Palaces, Kolkata was the largest, richest and the most powerful colonial cities across India. During this period, the most elegant colonial structure of Kolkata – the Government House was built. Prior to 1799, the Governor General used to reside in a rented house, called Bukimham House. In the year 1799, the then Governor General of India, Lord Wellesley took major initiative of constructing a palace, as according to him, “India should be ruled from a majestic palace and not from any country house.” He wanted to build an imposing structure and after 4 years of construction, the Government House was built at a whopping cost of 63,291 pounds.

Raj Bhavan was designed by Capt. Charles Wyatt and it has a striking resemblance with Kedleston Hall in England, the family mansion of Curzon. The design of Raj Bhavan is dominated by neoclassical style with Baroque overtones. Lord Curzon described Raj Bhavan or the then Government House as “without doubt the finest Government House occupied by the representative of any Sovereign or Government in the world.”

From the time of Lord Wellesley, the Raj Bhavan had undergone a number of changes. During the 1860s, Viceroy Elgin added the metallic dome to the building. Lord Curzon introduced electricity and lift, which is famously known as the “Bird Cage Lift”. The small wonderfully designed lift still operates to this day.

The plan of Raj Bhavan comprises a central core along with four radiating wings. The staterooms found in the central core can be accessed from outside by a flight of grand staircase towards the north. Towards the south, there lies another portico with a colonnaded verandah with a dome above. The four wings house a number of offices and residential quarters. Also to the south are a portico and colonnade; and verandahs that ensured that the building was adequately ventilated.

The Rah Bhavan spans an area of around 84,000 sq. ft. Again, it is surrounded by a compound spanning an area of 27 acres. The Raj Bhavan features six gateways, one each on North and South and two each on East and West. The four gates on the East and West features a grand arch with a lion on its top. The North Gate offers a grand view of the Raj Bhavan. There is a beautifully decorated Chinese cannon, brought from Nanking in 1842. A superb view of Raj Bhavan is also obtained from the South Gate. Photography of Raj Bhavan is allowed from outside the gate.

Raj Bhavan houses some grand residential suites. The Prince of Wales Suite is located in the north-west wing of the first floor. The grand Wellesley Suite nestles on the second floor in the northeast wing. The Dufferin Suite and the Anderson Suite are wonderfully furnished. Beside these suites, Raj Bhavan is also adorned with several drawing and dining rooms. The Yellow Drawing Room on the first floor of the building has some great paintings. The wonderfully furnished Blue Drawing Room hosts the guests of the present Governor. Close to the Blue Dining room, lies the Brown Dining Room, which holds meetings and conferences. The Throne Room houses the throne of Wellesley. Next to it stands the throne of Tipu Sultan. The room is admired with beautiful oil paintings of Subhas Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr BC Roy and Jawaharlal Nehru. The Ball Room on the second floor was gilded in the mid 19th century, and hung with enormous chandeliers, most of which were moved to Delhi when the capital was shifted in 1911.

Government House is a chronicle of British Presence in India – each ruler who lived here added something to it. ‘Lord Hastings imported the finest gravel from Bayswater for the paths. Lord Ellenborough bequeathed a Chinese cannon. Lord Elgin introduced gas…and by the time dear Lady Dufferin arrived, there wasn’t much left for her to do except to suggest a tennis court’ (Moorhouse).

The Council Chamber is used by the Governor General to preside over the executive and later the Legislative Council. Now, it also hosts large meetings. Bharat Ratna Room, a small dining room and a billiard room nestles just outside the Council Chamber. The Marble Hall is found on the ground floor of the Raj Bhavan. It is used for holding state and private meetings.


Trivia of Raj Bhavan at Kolkata

  • Raj Bhavan spans an area of around 84,000 sq. ft. and it is surrounded by a compound covering an area of 27 acres.
  • The Raj Bhavan has 6 gateways. The best view of Raj Bhavan is obtained from the North Gate.
  • The plan of the Raj Bhavan is a bit typical. It has a striking similarity with a man standing on his feet and holding two boxes in his two hands.
  • Raj Bhavan houses about 60 rooms, beside public halls, porticos, verandahs, halls and banquets and the grand Throne room.
  • The Prince of Wales Suite located in the north-western wing of the first floor hosts the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister of India.
  • The Banquet Hall is admired with series of Doric pillars on each side, flowering chandeliers and black Mahogany tables. It has entertained a number of special guests like Queen Elizabeth.