Thursday, 28 February 2013

Heritage in Harmony, The Raj Bhavan





This is the entrance gate. Its well-designed sandstone pillars and iron bars have remained ever imposing. They are witness to the history of Meghalaya and of the North-East.


The Heritage building with its six symmetrical spires

Amidst its picturesque lawns and pines, the Raj Bhavan at Shillong, Meghalaya, nostalgically brings to mind  the image of a Scottish manor. Its majestic grandeur and retinue of attendants are reminiscent of the times of the Raj.
Since 1874, Shillong has been the administrative headquarters of the North-East. After the creation of Meghalaya in 1972, Shillong was named its capital. Before Independence, the Raj Bhavan was known as Government House. This Government House was renamed as "Raj Bhavan" with effect from December 6th, 1951. It has undergone many significant changes over the years.


A view from the Upper Lawns


My first visit to this grand edifice of the Raj was in the year 1975, when I was a little girl. In my impressionable mind the magnificence and aesthetics of the building and its surroundings created a lasting impact. At that time, my father was posted to Shillong as the Chief Judicial Magistrate. Little did I know then that in the years to come, my own brother-in-law, His Excellency Mr Ranjit S Mooshahary would become the Governor of Meghalaya and the Raj Bhavan would be like a second home to me. Enchanted by the beauty of this bungalow and the rolling greens, I sought permission from my brother-in-law to document the Raj Bhavan and share with others.

The front view

Saturday, 12th June 1897, was a clear sunny day. The beautiful hill-station was preparing for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and everyone was looking forward to the festivities. People had gone outdoors for recreation and leisure when the earthquake struck at 5.15 pm. The impact was so immense that virtually every other masonry building in Shillong was laid flat instantly. Sir Henry Cotton, the then Chief Commissioner and Lady Cotton had a narrow escape on that fateful day. They were in the porch just boarding the open single horse carriage for their evening drive as the house collapsed. The pony bolted, with them, towards the main gate, while the house crumbled in heaps behind them.


The building was reconstructed and occupied in 1903-04 after the destruction of the Chief Commissioner's Residency in the earthquake. The entire structure is designed to resist the frequent tremors that Shillong is prone to and also reduce damage in case of a collapse. The roofing materials are teak shingles and the walls are mix of teak-wood and ekra reeds covered by cement plaster; the ceilings are teak-ply supported by sturdy beams from below. It is more than a century old and one of the most well-maintained heritage buildings left in the state now. 


The drive way to the Raj Bhavan goes past the old Jet Fighter-Gnat IE1210-gifted by the Indian Air Force. On the right are the tennis courts and the upper lawns and the Governor's Secretariat.


One of the four fountains that intersperse the lawns

A view of the rolling greens 

On the left of the drive, to the House are the well-manicured sprawling lawns sloping down the wall that separates the grounds from Bivar and Camel Back Roads.

The swans seem to be alarmed by the commotion.

Proceeding along the driveway, one can truly appreciate nature's beauty. A creative touch of the human mind enhances the landscape. There are also birds, fishes and fowls besides the flowers, trees and vegetables of manifold varieties abounding the sprawling space.


The landscape visible from the driveway


The walk-way behind the main building


A side view


The porch (front view from the lawns)


The first six steps from the porch lead you inside. One can see the shining brass cannons on left and right mounted on the veranda. The cannon on the right has "9th Feb 1803" and the one on the left "28th February 1815" inscribed on their barrels.


One of the brass cannons


The Lobby.

Then you step into the lobby. There too is a sleek brass cannon with something in Persian written on it. Then there are scores of other brass vessels with indoor plants, paintings and photographs on the walls around. At the centre of the lobby stands a traditional Indian brass lamp stand as seen here.
The office of Aide de Camp opens on the left. On the wooden beam over the main entrance are the words of the great Ahom Commander, Lachit Barphukan: "My uncle is not greater than my country".


Then you step into the corridors (of power?). Panelled with wood, both sides of this long corridor are embellished with a number of photographs, paintings and curios.


The brass Buddha encircled by a pair of curved ivory

The most striking feature is of course the brass Buddha mounted on a raised wooden box encircled by two curved ivory. Above this is the framed sketch of Buddha with his message: "Whatsoever you find to be conducive to the common good, benefit and welfare of all beings, take it as guide." In fact, this photograph is also seen in all the guest rooms.
From there, the access to the whole building is open. On the left is the office of the Governor, the private dining room, guest rooms, Durbar hall, and Billiard room; the multipurpose hall gymnasium and the memorabilia hall are outside in a separate building. In the front are the banquet hall, library and main lounge. The private quarters are beyond these rooms to the east.


The brass bell on the corridor



This is the door to the office of His Excellency, the Governor. The wood panelled room inside is decorated with paintings, photographs of all the Presidents of India and the present Prime Minister.


The list of Chief Commissioners, Lt. Governors and Governors


One of the first rooms to the east of the corridor is the Library. It has collection of some extremely rare books. The kind of books and journals on official and administrative matters, flora and fauna available here are not easily found elsewhere.


The Grand Piano at the Raj Bhawan is as old as the building itself. Yet it is in excellent functional condition. It is being used occasionally. My fondest memory of this treasured antique is of my daughter reigning in the new year celebrations, playing mesmerizing numbers on it.


This is part of the main living room that can seat up to 40 people.


The other part of the sitting room

This is a fine room with large French windows that open into the courtyard full of flowering shrubs and trees. This room is mainly used for formal occasions. The wood panelled upper walls and elegantly worked wooden high ceiling add to the beauty of this room.


The part of the Banquet Hall where 30 people can dine together. This hall is one of the finest rooms in the House. A wide variety of silver crockery, wine glasses and goblets add to the elegance and charm of this historical house. This dining hall is used for all formal occasions such as State Dinners. The teak table and period chairs add an antique feel. In the days gone by this hall was used as Ball Room and another room was added adjacent to it as the Council Hall before the Assembly building was constructed.


A partial view of the pantry. Equipped with all modern facilities, it serves as the holding space during big gets-together. The two kitchens, one for the family and the other down the stairs, for special occasions, are behind this. Kitchens and pantry have been remodelled providing sky-lights, elegant flooring and cupboards.



The private dining space for eight people. It is entirely a wooden structure with vintage gloss, surrounded by decorative silver wares and curios.


This is one of the guest rooms I love to stay in during my visits to the Raj Bhavan. Apart from the Governor's private apartments, there are seven guest rooms in the house. The best one is the Presidential Suite for visiting Heads of States and Governments. All the interiors have been redone aesthetically keeping in view the ethnic heritage and modern needs.


This is a partial view of the Durbar Hall where important functions like swearing-in ceremonies of the Governors and Ministers are held. It has been completely renovated. A congregation of 300 people can be seated here comfortably. It has a balcony each on the left side and behind.


A part of the Durbar Hall, this is Band Gallery upstairs at one end of the hall. Adjacent to that space there is also a room where attendants accompanying important guests can stay.


The Billiard Room


This is gymnasium and memorabilia hall. It has number of mementos and gift articles which the present Governor has received during the course of his public engagements. This badminton and table-tennis hall at times are used for cultural and social occasions as well. Here I am getting all fit on an exercycle.


The illuminated main building


Front view

On Republic Day and Independence Day the Raj Bhavan and the lawns are illuminated for two days. The present Governor has allowed public visit on those days. Hundreds of people come and enjoy the sparkling splendour on these evenings without any restrictions at all. 


The old Jet Fighter Gnat IE1210 on the left and one of the fountains on the right can be seen here


The main entrance


The Governor, Ranjit S Mooshahary and the Lady Governor Rema Mooshahary, (in bright pink shawl behind) are seen greeting guests during one of the At Homes.


One of the important functions held in the lawns of the Raj Bhavan is the Governor's At Home. Held twice a year on the occasions of Republic Day and Independence Day, a large number of senior officials and important public personalities are invited for this occasion. Unlike in other Raj Bhavans where At Home is held in the afternoons, at Shillong it is at 1100 hrs to 1230 hrs in the warm sun.



This is one of the most beautiful Raj Bhavans in the country. (Even the swans are so exhilarated  here.) The present residents have done their bit to preserve and enrich this heritage site. A beautiful marble plaque embedded on the wall of the Lobby, titled "Heritage In Harmony" is placed below that succinctly speaks of the grandeur of this magnificent property.


64 comments:

  1. Awe !
    You are a very good photographer too !!

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    1. :)) Hey thanks. Coming from a wonderful photographer, I'm honoured to accept this as a compliment dritzdcool.

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  2. I loved each and every photograph and the explanations, Ruprekha! It is so beautiful. You are lucky to be inside such beautiful building!

    Let many more people view these pictures. I am sharing in Facebook.

    Take care.

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    1. Thank you so much Sandhya. So glad you like it. Yes, please share, appreciate that.

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  3. Hi, I am Bumoni (Bani Baideo's daughter). I stumbled across your blog via Facebook a little while ago and have read through many of your entries. Love them. You are a very good writer. The cooking entries are great too, as are the photographs.

    Vandana Goswami

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    1. Hello Bumoni baidew, what a pleasant surprise! I'm so glad you found my blog and love it. Your lovely words of appreciation has made my day. Thank you so much. Do keep dropping by my site whenever you find the time.

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  4. Very beautifully done Rupa, makes me proud
    Love
    Bajwi

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  5. Hi Aunty,

    I'm awed by the beauty of this place. It reminds me of the Governor's House in Nainital which I visited many a times as a kid.

    A very well written and picturesque post!

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    1. Thanks a lot Aayushi. Yes, knew you would love it.

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  6. Ruprekha baideu, Sandhya's words above sum up my feelings too. No wonder you were frequenting Facebook less recently. You must've been working hard to create this wonderful piece. Thanks a lot.

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    1. Thank you Shiva.
      Glad you like it. Oh, so my absence in Facebook is noticed :))

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  7. Awesome place. What should we do to become the governor of Meghalaya? :P :)

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Yes, it is indeed awesome.
      Well, I'm afraid am not competent to write a post on that :))

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  8. Awesome place, awesome pics. I wish I could own a place like this one day.

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    1. Thank you so much. Well, who knows you may, one day.

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  9. How lovely! I wouldn't mind owning such a magnificent property. Lol.

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    1. Thank you gigi. Yes, first thing that comes to mind seeing the beauty of this entire building is to wanting to own one :))

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  10. Simply enchanting.I have no words to express my appreciation.It is different from the concrete structures that one is accustomed to.Thank you for sharing the pics with readers.

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    1. So glad you like it, pleasure is all mine. Yes, it is different and the best part is, it is very well maintained, unlike some other heritage buildings.

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  11. I loved every piece of your writings. It is really a wonderful complex in the traditional style. Hope to visit it once at least. during those open days.

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    1. Thank you so much. Oh yes, you would love visiting this heritage building.

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  12. Dear Rupa, I was over whelmed with the lucid description and aewsome pictures of the Shillong Governor's House. When ever I had been to Shillong, I use to wonder what is there inside the House. So long I was going through the description and pictures, it was like a movie to me.Best part of the House is that every thing is in Tip-top condition which uncommon in Indian conditions. Let the HERITAGE IN HARMONY remain for years to come. You are so lucky to be there. I express my appreciation for the Blog.

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    1. Thank you very much Goutam. Oh I'm so glad you like it. Your lovely words of appreciation means a lot....
      Yes you are right, it is absolutely in perfect condition and well looked after/well maintained.The present Governor and his wife(my brother-in-law and sister-in-law)take keen interest in looking after every detail of the matters of this house and the gardens.
      Thanks once again.

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  13. Ba, Awesome post, Thanks a lot for sharing wondeful photos.Thanks.
    ~Have a nice weeked~

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    1. Thanks rupam. Glad my effort showed some results :) as I have no much of knowledge in photography.Your appreciation matters a lot in this field.
      A nice weekend to you too...

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  14. Beautiful place indeed. and the British had a knack of doing such mansions , especially in hill stations.

    Loved the pics and the commentary. The wood panel walls look lustrous and the lawn outside too .

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    1. Yes you are right, but most of these heritage buildings are in real bad shape now. I had the opportunity to live in three different heritage buildings at different times of my childhood and later life. One of which was damaged in a fire recently. I had written a post here in my space, following is the link : http://rupascloset.blogspot.in/2012/06/memories-dear-and-close.html

      Thank you so much for your lovely words.

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  15. A big thanks for bringing the opulence of the Raj Bhavan to the forefront for lesser previleged like us who just managed a peek at this edifice during a visit to Shillong, Rupreka! Please do keep these briilliant posts coming for feasting our eyes to the grandeur!

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    1. Thank you so much Rahulji. I'm so glad you like it.

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  16. WOW is the word! What a beautiful place!! Thanks for giving us a virtual tour of the Raj Bhawan! :)

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  17. Magnificent! Beautifully documented!!

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  18. You have captured the beauty of Raj Bhawan so well. Terrific.

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  19. No doubt about it - I go with everyone above - Splendor par excellence - This first hand peek into the Grandeur of this Majestic Palace - is a testament of your photography skills & writing flair....Rupa B.. Maam, you should try compiling it into a coffee book .. Most pictures can be turned into memento postcards for people who visit Meghalaya

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    1. Oh thank you so much Sankhaneel. Love your encouraging words. But coffee book, well, ... may be...do not see anywhere in the near future though :)
      But yes, can see possibility in postcards.
      Thanks for your support always.

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  20. Replies
    1. Dreams do come true you know .....

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  21. Dear Rupaji, I am Usha (Kasthuri Rengan's wife). We saw this blog post now. You have virtually transported us from Chennai to Shillong. So beautifully documented. Picturesque and panoramic view are enthralling. It is really a treat to the eyes. I've seen you earlier blog posts and sony programme.All are quite interesting. I came to know of you benevolent nature through RKR.We are looking forward to meet you during our NE tour next year.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation Ushaji. I'm so glad you have read most of my posts and watched Sony Tv program.
      Oh meeting you and RKR will be great! Look forward to meeting you. Do let me know your schedule of NE trip.

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  22. Beautiful post Ruprekha. The lush green gardens, the old type of building structures, brought back so many forgotten memories of Shillong and Assam in general. I am sure the floors inside too are wooden.
    The architecture surely reminds me of some of the hertage building in and around London. No wonder the British have left their mark in a place that is so similar to their own country.
    Though I love Raj Bhavan, I don't think I would like to live there or own such a huge house.
    The pictures look really very good.
    Can you please remove word verification, you can still moniter the comments?

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    1. Yes Rama, the entire flooring is wooden except for that of the kitchen and the pantry.
      Thank you so much for your lovely words of appreciation.

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  23. beautiful collection of rajbhavan photos

    i liked the green field of raj bhavan

    thanks

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    1. Thank you so much Krishna. Yes, the rolling greens are too beautiful to describe ....

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  24. Great captures.... especially the green lawns and night shots...

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  25. Wow. I am speechless. What a magnificent bungalow surrounded by sprawling green lawns & trees.Truly a historical relic to be carefully preserved for the sake of posterity.
    Welcome back after a long gap.And Happy Women's Day.

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    1. Oh thank you so much Ramakrishnanji.
      Yes, can not stay away from blogging for too long. Miss blogging a lot as workload leaves me with no time to devote to writing. Any way, trying my best. Thanks again for your warm welcome.






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  26. Don't know what to say. The architecture is out of the world, the upkeep impeccable, the surroundings wow! Lucky you I must say. I have seen similar buildings at Ooty which have been converted as hotels now. But yeah living in it is a dream

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    1. Glad you like the place. Thanks for visiting Insignia.

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  27. Beautiful photos and nice description, it is indeed a heritage in 'harmony' :) Happy to visit your blog :)

    Cheers :)

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  28. Thanks Sai Charan
    You have a lovely blog too, just visited.
    Cheers :)

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  29. Amazing place..great pictures <3

    love
    http://www.meghasarin.com

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  30. Wow . wonderful walk thru.. But sample of our "democracy" . Now I can understand what happens to the poor man's hard earned money snatched away by the govt in the form of TAX. Do we really need such a system.. when hundreds & thousands can not afford a square meal..?What is the need of such pomp & luxury..?

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  31. Ruprekha spellbound by ur classical captivating clicks.. u r a talented photographer with an artistic perception to stir the mind.Happy to c ur blog.Smiles:)GOD<3U

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    1. Adhi Das
      Thanks a lot, so nice of you. Do visit again ...

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  32. Good morning Ruprekha
    I came upon your blog through Shona Patel's Tea Buddy blog.
    I was pleased to see the photos of Raj Bhavan in Shillong, as I have two lady friends here in the UK whose grandfather was Sir Robert Reid, the last British Governor of Assam, and they will know of this building. I also communicate with a gentleman in Australia, whose father was the DC for the Mikir Hills district, based in Haflong. I am the son of a British tea planter, who had been in Cachar district for 30 years, now retired to the UK. I also worked in Assam, as an engineer covering the districts from Sadiya to Nowgong - a rather long time ago now.
    My wife is originally from Digboi and we married in Margherita. We still maintain communications with many 'memsahibs' who are living on various tea estates in Assam.
    You may like to log onto the retired tea planters of Assam and Dooars website www.koi-hai.com and see the many stories that are placed there.
    With best regards
    Alan Lane - Great Yarmouth, UK

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  33. WOW !! So Awesome Post and great shared to Entrance gate. Thanks author your Nice tropic and Excellent Content. Really I Love it and got lots of Valuable information here. Iron Entry Gates

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