RSVP: The Rashtrapati Bhavan – A Mute Spectator of History

Rashtrapati Bhavan main gate

It’s the human nature that we relish only the past in our memories, but not the present…because the past is full of anxieties, curiosity, fears, apprehensions and confusions. Once the past is passed, and we come out of that state of hardship and enter into another phase of life, only then we realise what had been those pleasurable moments which we exhausted without really enjoying it, however wonderful that had been. Here, I am referring to the time I spent in Rashtrapati Bhavan by virtue of being posted there for a span of 5 years (2012-2017), co-terminus with the tenure of the then Rashtrapati Ji, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.

Rashtrapati Bhavan is a topmost seat of the democratic head of our country. And those five years flew away so instantly that one could not rejoice it because the enjoyment was at a second rung of the ladder at that time; first was to be working vigorously as a part of the team of President’s men, the leader of which, the then Secretary to the President, Smt. Omita Paul, who had vowed to rake up the loosened strings of a structure, rather than an institution, which was going to lose its sheen.

It is learnt that initially, the purpose of building this structure was to use it as Viceroy House. Whatever had been historically the idea and background of erecting such a mammoth structure of architecture which is second to none, now it is the time for our Presidents of Independent India to live in it and boast to be the Head of a State which is one of the biggest democratic nations, and also as the First Citizen of Indian Republic.

RB looking like a crown

If you glance the Rashtrapati Bhavan optically centring it from a scenic distance viewing together all of its adjacent buildings i.e. North and South Blocks at Raisina Hill, you will notice a marvellous scheme of architectural presentation of a crown-like structure. I sometimes wonder why someone ever would have chosen that place for a seat of domination during British time. I have heard that the idea of choosing that area of land must have been at that time that it should be visible from a distance and also should be at a height of a hill so that it should be safely away from the river of Delhi during its tide in monsoon.  

I am sure that Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, who conceptualised and built this splendid structure and started building such a magnum opus, would have ever imagined that they were going to build such a masterpiece which will be a unique example of architecture in the coming days of the history of India.

Rampurva Bull

A sculpture carves out the statue in his mind much before he starts engraving it on the stone. In my view, the sense behind the concept of building such an example of architecture should always be venerated by everyone.  Kudos to those team of creators who would have planned the magnificent outlay of this huge building.T hose architects are not present now but their solid dreams which became reality in the form of bricks and mortars, are just before us standing tall before us proudly.

Now, it becomes our duty to realise their work and respect it in the form of visiting this place and admire it. Isn’t it awkward that building such a masterpiece for a specific purpose and then leaving it to be used by the future owner whosever worthy of living in it? That spirit encouraged me to write with valour the greatness of this magnificent structure for everybody to know it.

Illuminated reflection

The glimpse of such a marvellous work was not allowed earlier to witness by the general public. But our revered Rashtrapati, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, immediately after occupying the high seat of President of India in June 2012, ordered to open the gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan for general masses.

Change of guard ceremony 1

One can plan to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan starting from the Change of Guard ceremony followed by a visit to the main area of Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is just at a stone’s throw walking distance from the venue of change of Guard.

How to reach

To reach there, please see: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Rashtrapati+Bhavan/@28.6143478,77.1972413,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x390ce2a99b6f9fa7:0x83a25e55f0af1c82!8m2!3d28.61436!4d77.199621?hl=en

Change of guard is the first and foremost event held every Saturday and Sunday in the morning. Since I have already witnessed it so many times, I recommend that every citizen of India should once come with their children and witness it.

Change of guard ceremony 2

It’s really a spellbound ceremony. I am sure your goosebumps will erect when our robust army men, studious horses mounted by PBG (President’s Body Guard) men, the synchronised symphony of army band in the backdrop of the sandstone coloured forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, are displaying their charisma just before your eyes. And you are confused what to capture in your mobile camera and what not. It is worth an event of visiting again.

To visit Change of Guard ceremony, you can click here: https://presidentofindia.gov.in/rbvisit/rbvisit_cog.aspx.

More information is available at https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/other-occasions/change-guard-ceremony.

Once you are finished with the witnessing of Change of Guard Ceremony, you can go further to your second destination—visit Rashtrapati Bhavan (Circuit 1). After crossing the sunken road leading to the forecourt area, you will be guided to approach the reception area of Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can register your request to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan by clicking on this link: https://presidentofindia.gov.in/rbvisit/visit_plan.aspx

If you are a registered visitor and you are carrying an identification document, you will be guided by the security to approach the Reception of Rashtrapati Bhavan. After proper security clearance and after paying a minimal entry fee and mandatory frisking, you will enter an area of the unimaginable wonder of historical knowledge. A professional guide will be assigned to lead your group explaining in detail the importance of every room, alley, venue, corridors and halls. Please note no mobiles phones and handbags are allowed inside and you will be allowed to keep your belongings in a locker available there. Instructions of the visit can be browsed at https://presidentofindia.nic.in/visit-to-rashtrapati-bhavan.htm. I would recommend for the visitors to go through a virtual tour before physically planning a visit, here: https://presidentofindia.nic.in/virtual-tour-of-rashtrapati-bhavan.htm.

At the end of finishing your trip, you are back to the reception area to collect your belongings from the locker. A curio shop is waiting for you at the end of the tour where you can buy essential items like water and light snacks. A number of mementoes and souvenirs are also available to be part of your as a gift for your nears and dears. https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/souvenir.

Now your guts will be tested and if you are curious enough to dig more into the history of Rashtrapati Bhavan, then go forward to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan museums (Circuit 2) which are little more inside of President’s Estate. The museums are in two parts, Stable Museum and Garage Museum. Since these are at a distance and inside the President’s Estate, you can ask for e-carts which are available on request. You will be taken along a route the ambience of which is totally different from the outside world.

While the Main Building and Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan are open for visits four days a week, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex is open on all days except Monday. The Mughal Garden and other Gardens of the Bhavan shall remain open from August to March on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Timings are from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. Details about the museums can be browsed at:

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/circuit-2/clock-tower

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/circuit-2/stables

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/circuit-2/garages

Mughal garden 1

Ever since our childhood, everyone must have been listening about the charms of Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan. I don’t believe if any citizen of Delhi would have ever missed it to visit. Your guide would briefly let you have a glimpse of the Mughal Gardens from the inside while you are taking a tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Mughal garden

But if you want to visit the Mughal Gardens in detail, you will have to wait till the arrival of the spring season in the month of February when the Garden is at its peak of charm with various varieties of flowers, including Tulips are at their full bloom. Know more in detail about visit the Garden at:

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/circuit-3/rectangular-garden

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/node/87/

https://rashtrapatisachivalaya.gov.in/rbtour/circuit-3/circular-garden

Less known area of Rashtrapati Bhavan: The President’s Estate

Peacock

Since it was the topmost priority for the President Pranab Mukherjee to demystify the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the eyes of common person, still there is very little to be known about the inside of the Estate of Rashtrapati Bhavan which is an area of 330 acres of land of dwelling for the staff of President Secretariat and is situated just outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan, yet behind the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is because that area is not open for the public except for the employees of Rashtrapati Bhavan and for those who visit them with permission. There I lived during my tenure of five years while serving in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Parrot eating fruit

This area is enveloped with countless number of various types of trees, full of monkeys who possesses natural acrobatic skills, herbal shrubs, bushes full of flowers being hovered by colourful butterflies,  one hundred and eleven species of birds (as beautifully illustrated and elaborately explained by Dr. Thomas Mathews in his book Winged Wonders of Rashtrapati Bhavan). Scream of invisible peacocks is echoed in the air, who sometimes fly away honking from one tree to another, sometimes dancing with their wings erected in full form, is just like “jungle me more nacha, kisne dekha…”

Naughty monkeys

Oreo (our Labra) grew up to his adulthood in this atmosphere being teased and chased away by naughty monkeys most of the time. He was sometimes getting scared…listening to the sound of guns giving the salute to the foreign dignitaries who were being welcomed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt…sometimes rattling sounds of Tejas and MIG-27 while practising over the sky passing by Rashtrapati Bhavan for the Republic Day parades.

School going girls

School going girls and boys used to give a satisfying look to the morning walkers while pedalling the bicycles paving their way to the Rajendra Prasad Sarvodaya School which is situated inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate, where Pranab Mukherjee used to take a class of students on every Teachers’Day.

Golf course

A sumptuous and plush green eighteen-hole Golf Course proudly sprawled in the mid of Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate is an eye catcher with its stoutly cut green grass and perfectly maintained.

A state of the art gymnasium and temperature controlled swimming pool, a tennis and a badminton court, a full-fledged Recreation Club with all facilities and capable of holding family functions, an ultra-modern health care centre AYUSH, a well-planned shopping centre with Banking and Post Office facilities…all are present there being a smart city startup.

How can an efficient transport system be not there for an otherwise environment-friendly township? Of course, it is there in the form of pay-and-use bicycle project with the point to point service.

A polo ground maintained by President’s Bodyguard is also situated in the vicinity of President’s Estate on the other side of Mother Teresa Crescent where exhibition polo matches are being organised every year in the presence of the Hon’ble President.

What else you need if you are being taken care of well by your employer, more so if he is none other than the President of India! All employees and their families living in the President Estate are covered under a medical umbrella of care of AYUSH (Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). This is an example to be a step forward towards being a smart township.

As I mentioned above, entry into the President’s Estate is restricted and one can only visit it with permission. But doors are open for the general public to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Museums on the scheduled days. I am sure, if you plan a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan after reading my article, certainly, you will not feel yourself out of place. Please do not hesitate to ask any query and to share your views before or after having been there.

The grilled gate of RB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *