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Rashtrapati Bhavan and Rajpath


After George V, king of England and emperor of British India, decreed in 1911 that Delhi should replace Calcutta as the capital of India, the English architect Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new governmental centre. Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the president of India, is one of the largest and most grandiose of the Raj constructions, built by Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker between 1921 and 1929. Despite its classical columns, Mughal-style domes and chhatris and Indian filigree work, the whole building is unmistakably British in character. Its majestic proportions are best appreciated from India Gate to the east – though with increasing pollution, the view is often clouded by a smoggy haze. The apartments inside are strictly private, but the gardens at the west side are open to the public for two weeks each February (free). Modelled on Mughal pleasure parks, with a typically ordered square pattern of quadrants dissected by waterways and refreshed by fountains, Lutyens’ gardens extend beyond the normal confines to include tennis courts, butterfly enclosures, vegetable and fruit patches and a swimming pool.

Vijay Chowk, immediately in front of Rashtrapati Bhavan, leads into the wide, straight Rajpath, flanked with gardens and fountains that are floodlit at night, and the scene of annual Republic Day celebrations (Jan 26). Rajpath runs east to India Gate. Designed by Lutyens in 1921, the high arch, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, commemorates ninety thousand Indian soldiers killed fighting for the British in World War I, and bears the names of more than three thousand British and Indian soldiers who died on the Northwest frontier and in the Afghan War of 1919. The extra memorial beneath the arch honours the lives lost in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

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