Peep into the past

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Aug 17 2014, 07:02am hrs

Overlooking the Mughal Gardens, Rashtrapati Bhavan is one of the best-known monuments of the British Raj and still remains the best creation of British architect Edwin Lutyens. The Ashoka Hall, commissioned by Lady Wellingdon, depicts a royal expedition. Alongside this is the Marble Hall, filled with distinctive artwork, including statues of King George V and Queen Mary.

Parliament House, also known as Sansad Bhavan, is a legislative building that was added to Lutyens layout at a later stage following reforms, which were presented to create a large legislative assembly. The heritage hotels in New Delhi have a traditional setting, decor and style of hospitality, which have been kept the same as in the olden times. Some of these properties are the Oberoi Maidens, next to the banks of Yamuna and overlooking the Red Fort and Jama Masjid; Vivanta by TajAmbassador, constructed in 1945 by architect Walter George; the Imperial Hotel at Janpath, which opened in 1936; and Claridges Hotel, which is in existence since the 1950s.


Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, was declared the summer capital of British India in 1864. The destination still has some of the most impressive landmarks of those times, such as Lord Elgins Memorial and Viceregal Lodge. Many of the buildings are fine examples of Tudor revival and neo-Gothic architecture. The most recognisable edifice in the city is Christ Church, which is the second-oldest church in north India.

Notable among other heritage properties are the former Viceregal Lodge (now the Indian Institute of Advanced Study), Gaiety Theatre and the former imperial Civil Secretariat (now the Accountant Generals Office), Barnes Court (now the Raj Bhawan) and Vidhan Sabha.


The advent of colonial architecture in the region can be traced back to the later part of the 19th century. Its earliest examples were the residential quarters of European visitors at Sheikh Bagh and some institutional buildings like Amar Singh College and Silk Factory in Srinagar. Some of the best examples, however, can be found in the 20th-century suburbs of the capital city. Though isolated bungalows can still be found in older sections of the city, one can see continuous residential stretches dotted with many European-looking chalets, cottages and country houses in areas such as Samander Bagh, Barzulla, Wazir Bagh, among others.


With a long legacy of Portuguese colonisation, Goa has a lot to its credit when it comes to places of worship or Unesco World Heritage sites. The Bom Jesus Basilica houses the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, regarded by many Catholics as the patron saint of god. There is also the statue of the bleeding Jesus on the Crucifix at Santa Monica Convent in Velha Goa. There are a number of churches like the Baroque-styled Nixkollounk Gorb-Sombhov Saibinnich Igorz in Panjim and the Gothic-styled Mater Dei church in Saligaoeach of them has its own style and heritage. The Velhas Conquistas regions are also known for their Goa-Portuguese-style architecture.


Kerala, known for its rich history and culture, has massive forts, palaces and religious sites that stand testimony to its past glory. In 1517, the Portuguese built St Thomas Fort in Kollam, which was destroyed with subsequent wars with the Dutch. Some of the colonial heritage places in Kochi, another scene of European settlement, are the Aspinwal building, David Hall, Bastian Bungalow, Vasco Homestay, Old Harbour Hotel, J Thomas & Co Bungalow (near St Francis Church), Koder House (built in the colonial style by Jews) and Fort Heritage Hotel, among others.


Panchmarhi, a hill station in Madhya Pradesh, has been an archeological treasure house for a long time. As per Mamta Pandey, senior liaison and marketing officer, Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Pachmarhi is beautiful due to its natural habitat and this is one of the main reasons why Priyadarshini Point was discovered by Captain Forsyth in 1857, naming it the Forsyth Point. This eventually led to the whole area being developed with colonial architecture.

The Bison Lodge, one of the oldest houses constructed in Panchmarhi, also by Captain Forsyth in 1862, is now a local museum. Christ Church, built by the British in 1875, is considered one of the most quaint and beautiful churches of Madhya Pradesh.


Mumbai has the most fascinating colonial architecture, which has always been a tourism highlight of the city. Topping the list is Unesco World Heritage Site of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station. The Flora Fountain stands on the site of the old church gate of the Bombay Fort, now a major crossroad named Hutatma Chowk. The India Government Mint is one of the four mints in India and is located opposite the Reserve Bank of India in Fort area. The Royal Bombay Yacht Club is the oldest Yacht Club in Asia and was founded in 1846 as the Bombay Yacht Club.


In north-east India, the two most significant heritages from the colonial era are the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that runs between Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling and, of course, the tea estates of Darjeeling in West Bengal and Assam. There is also the cinchona plantations, almost a forgotten colonial heritage, as you do not use these plantations any more for malaria medicines. Also, the World War II has left a deep-rooted legacy in the north-east, says Raj Basu, founder, Help Tourism. As per Basu, tea tourism can be undertaken at places such as Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling.


The War Memorial, located at Goubert Avenue, is a renowned landmark of Puducherry. The memorial was constructed to commemorate the French fall in World War II. Another example of French influence is the statue of Joan of Arc, located in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Angles built in 1852. Also located on this avenue is The Mairie (town hall), called Hotel de Ville, a 19th-century municipality French building situated near Beach Road. The Palais Du Gouvernement, now known as Raj Nivas, is a fascinating instance of French town planning. The French Consulate General, the only diplomatic mission in town, is another colonial heritage of Puducherry.


The state of Punjab was one of Great Britains most important assets in colonial India. After the partition of Punjab in 1947, following independence, noted French architect Le Corbusier was commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru to build the new city of Chandigarh. Today, many of the buildings are recognised as modern masterpieces, though most are in a neglected state. The Clock Tower in Ludhiana, known as Ghanta Ghar, is more than 100 years old. Ambala Cantonment, now in the state of Haryana, has a lot of colonial bungalows and wide tree-lined roads typical of British cantonments.


Though Rajasthan is mainly associated with beautiful palaces and forts, it is also home to a considerable number of colonial structures. The Taragarh Fort, guarding the city of Ajmer, was initially the seat of the Chauhan rulers. When the fort fell into the hands of the British Raj, Lord William Bentinck ordered to dismantle it and it was subsequently converted into a sanatorium for the British troops stationed at Nasirabad. Founded by Lord Mayo, the viceroy of India in 1875, Mayo College was established to educate the children of Indian royals. The schools architecture is similar to royal Rajasthani architecture. Albert Hall Museum, also known as the Government Central Museum, is the oldest museum in the state and opened as a public museum in 1887.


Fort St George, built by the British East India Company in 1640, was constructed to establish a control centre. Fort Museum and Saint Marys Church, considered to be the most ancient Anglican church, are located within this fort. The High Court Building is among the three high courts in India, which were built at the Presidency Towns by patents granted by Queen Victoria in 1862. Senate House, one of the architectural wonders of Chennai, was built by Robert Fellowes Chisholm, a famed British architect in 1873. Another impressive British monument is Ripon Building, which presents a fine blend of Corinthian, Ionic and Gothic architectural styles.


Lucknow has some of the most iconic colonial heritage landmarks, including La Martiniere College, Council House, the stretch of Hazrat Ganj, Christ Church, Charbagh Railway Station, the Residency and General Post Office building. The highest number of foreign tourists visiting Lucknow are from the UK, as they have a natural interest and connect with the place, says Prateek Hira, president and CEO, Tornos Destinations.


Mussoorie was known as the pleasure capital of the Raj and was a popular retreat for the British. One of the high points of the cultural milieu of those times was to either stay or be seen at one of the society dos at The Savoy hotel, now an ITC Fortune property. Built in 1840, Ilbert Manor (formerly Bracely estate), located at a height of 7,000 ft above sea level in a forest of deodar and oak trees in Mussoorie, is another landmark. Ranikhet is the only cantonment town built by the British that has a heritage status. One of the most famous properties is the Windsor Lodge. Bobs Place in Nathuakhan, Nainital district, is a WelcomHeritage Nature Resort. Among the other well-known colonial architectures in Uttarakhand is the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun and St Marys, situated above Mall Road, Mussoorie.


Howrah Bridge, which was commissioned to be built as a pontoon bridge by Sir Bradford Leslie, is a classic example of British architecture. Built in the 1800s, Raj Bhavan, the erstwhile Government House, was home to the British governor general of India and now houses the office complex and residence of the governor of the state. The Ochterlony Monument was erected in 1828 in the memory of David Ochterlony, commander of the British East India Company. Based on European architecture, the Writers Building dates back to the 17th century and was the office for the clerical and administrative staff of the East India Company. Other famous British monuments in Kolkata include St Pauls Cathedral, which was constructed by Bishop Daniel Wilson in 1847; the National Library; Calcutta High Court; the Great Eastern Hotel, now the LaLiT Great Eastern Hotel; University of Calcutta; Bethune College; St Xaviers College; and Calcutta Girls High School.