Writers’ Building


Writers’ Building at Kolkata (Mahakaran). Courtesy: Wikipedia

The northern part of BBD Bagh is taken over by Writer’s Building, Kolkata’s first three storied building. The process of construction of Writers building was initiated as early as in 1690. The name of the building was adopted from the fact that it was the residence of the junior writers of the East India Company. The original structure of the Writers’ Building of Kolkata was quite simple. It was on the same site, where another Writers Building was erected later on. The building was renovated during Sir Ashley Eden’s tenure as Lieutenant – Governor of West Bengal (1877-1882), who gave it a new Corinthian facade and Baroque statuary, representing figures such as Justice and Science. Presently, the Writers’ Building of Kolkata serves as the Secretariat of West Bengal Government. The colossal building is also known as ‘Mahakaran’, where all vital documents and other records of the West Bengal Government are preserved.

Location of Writers’ Building at Kolkata

Kolkata Writers’ Building is located at the northern end of BBD Bagh.

History of Writers’ Building at Kolkata

Originally, the Writers’ Building was built to serve as the office of the writers of the British East India Company. However, now it serves as the Secretariat Building of the State Government of West Bengal in India. Presently, it is also has the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal. The building was designed by Thomas Lyon in 1777. However, Writers’ Building has undergone a number of extensions over the years.

In the year 1821, a 128 ft-long verandah admired with Ionic style columns, each of 32-ft height was added on the first and second floor of the building. Between 1889 and 1906, two new blocks were built. Iron staircases lead to this newly added blocks. The Greco-Roman look of the building featuring red surface of exposed bricks makes it appear interesting. The parapet was put in the perfect place. Statues crafted by William Fredric Woodington were installed on the terrace.

The giant pediment built at the heart of the building houses the statue of Minerva. The terrace also houses a number of other statues, the most notable being four clusters of statues, ‘Commerce’, ‘Justice’, ‘Agriculture’ and ‘Science’ with the Greek Gods and Goddesses. A more recent sculpture of the revolutionaries Benoy, Badal and Dinesh stands carved in black near its entrance.

Writers’ Building stretching for around 150-meters spans the whole of the northern extension of the water body, famously called Lal Dighi in B.B.D. Bagh area. Several departments belonging to the State Government of West Bengal are located in this building.

Writers’ Building has a rich history. In the year 1776, Thomas Lyon was granted the site of the demolished St Anne’s church along with the adjoining area to erect buildings for providing accommodations to the junior writers of the East India Company. Lyon was assigned on behalf of Richard Barwell, member of the Council, when Warren Hastings was Governor. Writers’ Building is reckoned as the first three-storied building of Calcutta. However, at that time Writers’ appeared like a “shabby hospital or poorhouse”. Barwell leased out this range of buildings to the Company to provide accommodation to the writers.

In 1800, Fort William College was shifted to this building. In the next 20 years, a number of structural changes were made. A hostel to accommodate 32 students and an exam hall was built, which still exist. A lecture hall and four libraries were also constructed. However, in 1830, the college was shifted from the Writers’ and private individuals took control of the building, who transformed the place into living quarters, godowns and shops.

Lieutenant Governor-General, George Campbell first felt the emergency of a secretariat for swift disposal of work. Ashley Eden, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal was instructed to shift the prime offices of Chowringhee and Sudder Street to Writers’. Since the East India Company was already occupying major portion of the Writers’, two new blocks were built to cope up with the space problem. The statue of Minerva was installed atop the central portico. Initially, Writer’ had a huge courtyard with seven blocks. By 1970, all 13 blocks were built. The main block, which includes the rotunda and five prime blocks are heritage structures.

In 1883, the building’s Rotunda portion was completed and the Bengal Legislative Council moved here, where it remained until 1910.

Trivia of Writers’ Building at Kolkata

  • Writers’ Building is considered the first three-storied building in kolkata.
  • Writers’ building serves as the Secretariat Building of the State Government of West Bengal.
  • Writers’ Building also houses the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
  • Fort William College, which trained the junior writers in Oriental language was once shifted to the Writers’ Building.
  • The statue of Minerva was built atop the central portico of the Writers’ Building.
  • On December 8, 1930, three famous freedom fighters – Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta clad in European clothes entered Writers’ Building. They shot the infamous Inspector General of Police Colonel N.S. Simpson, who brutally tortured the prisoners in the jail. They killed Simpson and unwilling to surrender, Badal took potassium Cyanide and died, whereas Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves. Benoy passed away after surviving for five days in the hospital and Dinesh survived only to be hanged in July 7, 1931.