About Rashtrapati Bhavan
Rashtrapati Bhavan is the house of the Indian President. Located in Delhi, India, access is via pre-booked guided tour only: you’ll need to bring your passport as ID to gain entrance.
History of Rashtrapati Bhavan
For the majority of the 18th and 19th centuries, British power in India centred around Calcutta. It was only after the Delhi Durbar of 1911, when it was decided the capital of India would be relocated to Delhi: as a result, a new palace for the Viceroy was included in plans for New Delhi. This palace was given an enormous amount of prominence in the plans, to the extent that 4000 acres were acquired prior to construction. Two villages and 300 families were forcibly relocated in the process.
Sir Edwin Lutyens was primarily responsible for the building’s construction and architecture – inspired by Indian architecture, it was mostly based on Classical architectural ideals. Lutyens ended up arguing with his partner, Herbert Baker over the precise location of the house and its gradient, believing Baker was much more concerned with making money and pleasing the government as opposed to producing the best possible architectural design.
The house took nearly 20 years to complete, with Lutyens travelling between India and England to work on the project, and it was finally finished in 1929. The first Indian born Governor of General of India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, introduced the concept of a ‘family wing’ of the 340 room building: the apartments originally reserved for the Viceroy were converted into a guest wing. When Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India in 1950, he renamed it from the Viceroy’s House to Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s House. The gardens were originally laid out in Mughal style designs, but have undergone multiple changes following Indian Independence in 1947.
Rashtrapati Bhavan today
Visitors have the option of taking 3 circuits – one of the main house, one of the gardens and one of the museum complex. The interior of the main house remains very traditional: look out for the Ashok Hall and Banqueting Hall, both of which could be taken straight from the interior of an upmarket London gentlemen’s’ club.
Concessions to Indian identity are relatively few and far between – spy the statue of Mahatma Gandhi (the only representation of him in the building) on Lutyens’ Grand Stairs.
The museum is housed in the clock tower, stables and garage outside of the main building: much of the display comprises of gifts given to the Viceroys and Presidents of India from other nations during their time in office.
Getting to Rashtrapati Bhavan
Rashtrapati Bhavan is directly west of the India Gate: the nearest metro station is Central Secretariat, which is on both the Yellow and Violet lines. As with everywhere in Delhi, tuk tuks and taxis should be able to get you where you want to go for very little cost.
With a history dating back to the 10th century, and the 3rd largest city in the world today, Delhi remains a popular starting or finishing point for travellers exploring Northern India. Beyond the chaos and the smog, Delhi is crammed with rich and varied historic sites which help tell the story of this remarkable city.