Tuesday, December 5, 2023

100 years since Duke of Connaught laid foundation stone of Parliament House


Share post:

New Delhi, Feb 12: One hundred years ago, when the nation was still in the making and Independence 26 years away, Britain’s Duke of Connaught laid the foundation stone of Parliament House and said it would stand “as the symbol of India’s rebirth to yet higher destinies”.
On Friday, a century from that February 12, 1921 day, as parliamentarians from various parties sat in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha for the budget session and work continued on a new parliament building close by, the milestone was a blip in history unnoticed by many.
The building, with a diameter of 560 ft and circumference of one-third of a mile, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, who along with Sir Edwin Lutyens was chosen to design the new imperial capital in Delhi on a site in the Raisina Hill area.
Placing the first building block of what would become the imposing circular, colonnaded structure that is the heartbeat of India’s parliamentary democracy, Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, had recalled the grandeur of the Acropolis in Athens.
He was an uncle of King George V, then reigning monarch of the British Empire, and laid a huge block of red sandstone bearing inscriptions in Hindi, English and Urdu in that order.
It carries his name and the historic date in Roman numbers — “XII February A.D. MCMXXI”.
Records show the grand ceremony took place with then Viceroy Lord Chelmsford – a recreational club named after him still stands a stone’s throw away — and a large number of ruling chiefs from princely states and other dignitaries in attendance.
A 1921 publication of the Superintendent Government Printing, Calcutta, on the Duke of Connaught’s visit has full texts of the speeches made on the occasion.
At the foundation laying ceremony, he said, “These buildings will not only be the home of new representative institutions which mark a vast stride forward in the political development of India and of the British Empire, but will, I trust, stand for future generations as the symbol of India’s rebirth to yet higher destinies.”
According to old archival images, an elegant pavilion was constructed on the site during the foundation stone ceremony. Later, a circular railway track was temporarily laid around the structure during construction to transport raw material. The architectural masterpiece, which was originally called Council House, was inaugurated six years later in 1927, 20 years before India attained its freedom on August 15, 1947, by then Viceroy Lord Irwin.
According to the plan, the building was to be constructed to house the imperial legislative chambers — the central legislative assembly (which took the form of the Lok Sabha), the Council of State (became Rajya Sabha) and the Chambers of Princes (now used for other purposes) — along with a Central Hall to house a library and a place to hold joint sessions. All within the aesthetic round structure.
The sprawling edifice covering an area of nearly six acres and its creamy sandstone colonnade of 144 pillars on the first floor is one of the most distinctive parliament buildings anywhere in the world.
Over the decades, as India evolved into the nation it is today, Parliament House has been witness to many a moment in history – from cerebral debates to high-decibel, raucous discussions and the passing of legislations, some landmark and others controversial.
Two days before the Duke of Connaught laid the foundation stone of Parliament House, he laid the foundation stone of the All India War Memorial, or India Gate in Delhi as it known today. In 1911, King George held a grand Durbar in Delhi where he also announced the shifting of the imperial capital from Calcutta to Delhi. Lutyens and Baker gave shape to the new imperial capital, with the Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) and the North Block and South Block as the centrepiece of ‘New Delhi’, as the city was officially named in 1926.
On February 12, 1931, Lord Irwin also dedicated the All India War Memorial to the nation in a solemn ceremony as part of the official inauguration ceremony of ‘New Delhi’ which started on February 10 and lasted about a week. (PTI)

Related articles

Meghalaya Speaker inspects new Assembly building at Mawdiangdiang

Shillong, Dec 5:  The Speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, Thomas A Sangma, conducted an inspection and chaired...

3rd Meghalaya Games will be confluence of modern, traditional games

Shillong, Dec 5: The third edition of the Meghalaya Games in Tura will be unlike the first two...

‘Recovering addicts require empathy to get out of the tunnel’

Shillong, Dec 5: "If Alexander the Great and Hitler could not achieve anything by brute force, how can...

Highest use of tobacco amongst school children in Meghalaya

  Shillong, Dec 5: The use of tobacco is highest at 96.4 percent among school children in Meghalaya, followed...