I-Day special: Photo feature – History in the making

Several buildings that stood out as symbols of British imperialism in pre-independence India have today become centres of peace and progress. We recount their monumental shift with pictures

I-Day special: Photo feature – History in the making
We recount their monumental shift with pictures

Compiled by Shubhangi Shah

* Mumbai’s Gateway of India is a 20th-century colonial monument that was built to commemorate the landing of Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder when they visited India in 1911. The foundation stone was laid in March of that year and the monument was completed by 1924. It continued to be used as a ceremonial entrance for viceroys and governors of Bombay (now Mumbai) to India until independence. Although a colonial landmark, this structure overlooking the Arabian Sea is Mumbai’s top tourist attraction now

* After the British empire shifted its capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911, the Old Secretariat building was constructed in a few months. Built in 1912, it was designed by E Montague Thomas. The major government offices functioned there before the new capital was opened in 1931. This Old Secretariat building now serves as the seat of the Delhi government as it houses the Delhi Legislative Assembly

* Although the British built several jails, the harshest stood in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Named Cellular Jail, also referred to as Kala Pani (black waters), the toughest punishments were meted out to Indian freedom fighters and revolutionaries at the jail. After independence, two parts of it were demolished, triggering protests over erasing major evidence of history. However, in 1963, a 500-bed Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital was opened within its premises to serve the local population. In 1979, then PM Morarji Desai declared it a National Memorial

* The centuries-old building in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, which now houses the oldest branch of State Bank of India (SBI), has been witness to much history unfolding before and within it. Built by Begum Samru in 1806, it was acquired by Bank of Delhi in 1847. During the revolt of 1857, bank manager George Beresford, his wife, and five daughters were killed here by revolutionaries. Later, the Imperial Bank of India, which formed in 1921 after amalgamating the three presidency banks of colonial India, acquired it. Post-independence, the bank was renamed State Bank of India, which continues to function from there till now

* Kolkata’s Writers’ Buildings is a British-era building that once served as the principal administrative office for writers, or junior clerks, of the British East India Company. The building was designed in 1777. The building saw major upheaval on December 8, 1930, when then Inspector General of Police ColonelNS Simpson, who was infamous for his brutal oppression of Indian political prisoners, was assassinated. After 1947, the building was converted into the West Bengal’s CM’s office, along with offices of cabinet ministers and other senior officials. This continued till October 2013 when several government departments were moved out to Nabanna in Howrah temporarily

* Ahmednagar Fort in Maharashtra passed through several rulers since it was built in the 15th-16th century. It came under British occupation in 1803 and served as a jail and was used to detain several freedom fighters, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Patel, etc, during the Quit India Movement. It was here that Nehru wrote his magnum opus, The Discovery of India

* This byzantine-style structure at Hijli in West Bengal’s Medinipur district was one of the two detention camps built by the British to detain Indian freedom fighters. It was also witness to several atrocities committed against revolutionaries. After independence, when the government decided to set up higher technical institutions in India, the detention camp at Hijli was proposed as a fitting tribute to the freedom fighters. And so, the journey began at IIT-Kharagpur, India’s first Indian Institute of Technology, from the camp in 1950. The campus has been developed since then and the camp has been turned into the Hijli Shaheed Bhawan. The building also houses the Nehru Museum of Science and Technology

* Strengthening its grip over India, the British East India Company built Fort St George in the 17th century in Madras, now Chennai. After being briefly possessed by the French from 1746 to 1749, it went back to the British under a treaty which ended the War of the Austrian Succession. A former symbol of British imperialism, it now serves as the seat of the Tamil Nadu government, housing the state legislative assembly and other official buildings

* Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace opened in 1903 when the freedom struggle was picking up pace. Commissioned by Jamshedji Tata, it has witnessed much history. Apart from housing many Indian freedom fighters, it was requisitioned by the Indian Army, then called the British Indian Army, in 1916 as a military hospital. And during World War II, it was used for housing army personnel. It also hosted some high-profile figures, including Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary in 1909, and Edward, the Prince of Wales, in 1921. It was here that Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, gave his farewell speech two days after independence. The hotel continues to be one of the most iconic hotels in India and attracts a large number of tourists

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