Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Great Eastern Hotel (1840), first Indian hotel with electricity!!

Calcutta Great Eastern Hotel Luggage Label.www.habflyhotel.biz
Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta .en.wikipedia.org
When Calcutta was the seat of British power under the East India company, the  British crown considered India  as an important and most valuable possession. There were frequent interactions between Britain and colonial India. Consequently more and more British people and officials moved over to Calcutta, the main center of  mercantile and other government activities, followed by other Europeans. With their large presence in Calcutta, demand arose for the construction of a decent hotel where the foreigners  could dine and wine. It was British who brought first modern hotels to India. The Oldest was John Spence's Hotel. Spence's, the first ever hotel in Asia,  was opened to the public in 1830. Later it went out of business.

Great_Eastern_Hotel, Calcutta. wiki.fibis.org.
David Wilson, a British confectioner in Calcutta, opened the Great Eastern Hotel  in 1840/ 1841 in the place where he ran a bakery. Initially called  the Auckland Hotel, named after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, then  Governor General of India, the hotel had 100 rooms and a department store on the ground floor. Perhaps, this hotel took the honor of being the  first major hotel in Calcutta.  After 1860 with additions,  the manging company  D. Wilson and Co changed its name  to  Great Eastern Hotel Wine and General Purveying Co. Another first is that it was the first hotel in India that introduced electricity in the hotel in 1883. Yet another break from the convention was, this hotel had the first Indian in 1859 on the Board of Directors. Only in 1915 the name was finally changed to the Great Eastern Hotel.

Rudyard Kipling liked the hotel very much and in his  short story 'City of Dreadful Night'  made a mention of this grand hotel. Referred to as "Jewel of the East" and the "Savoy of the East'', it was said of the hotel in 1883 that a man could walk into it, buy anything of his choice, have a meal,  a burra peg (double) and if the  seditious barmaid was agreeable, walk out at the other end engaged to be married. It was a perfect place to go shopping to one's satisfaction.
Artist's impression.Calcutta Great Eastern Hotel.www.rediff.com

Well-known personalities who  graced  the hotel included  Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin of Russia, Elizabeth II, Mark Twain, American writer Dave Brubeck, American jazz pianist and composer and possibly Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam.  Unfortunately the hotel that saw its  hey days during the colonial period and later after Independence in August, 1947 began to feel the pinch with the arrival of the Naxalites , a violent communist group in the early 1970s. The West Bengal government, after a brief take over, sold it to a private company in 2005.  The hotel is credited with having operated continuously for the longest period in Asia till its closure and restoration in 2005.
 

The new hotel called the Lalit Great Eastern Hotel began operating on the 19th November,2013 onward. The building is registered as a heritage structure. So, old charm,  old structures and other features need to  be retained with a fresh look without damaging the heritage value.
Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Eastern_Hotel_%28Kolkata%29