Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Old British building that housed Dalhousie Institute, Kolkata

Kolkata, now the capital of West Bengal state, was once the capital  under the East India company rule, and later under the British Raj  till 1911. The capital was shifted to Delhi during the period of Lord Curzon  (1859 – 1925; as Viceroy of India, he earned the ire of Bengalies  for the creation of Eastern Bengal and Assam) for the main reason that there was growing disenchantment among the natives in Bengal about the British  Government and their oppressive rule, and  the other hitch was, geographically, Calcutta was no longer at an advantageous position. So, the choice fell on Delhi. The only disadvantage  Delhi had was  being in the center of the main land and  there was no harbor. Nor was there any navigable river near by. Calcutta had a Riverine port and still it has. Under the English company and late under the Raj Calcutta developed rapidly and numerous buildings, churches, educational institutions, etc  came up. At many pats of this city one can the beautiful buildings built by the British during their heydays. They are the frozen records of  the British presence in India. Among the British monuments in Kolkata, the one on the Hare Street, where Dalhousie institute functioned, is one of the earliest buildings built soon after the power transferred to the British Crown from the East India company. Until independence, Kolkata remained a major center of freedom movements and many stalwarts scarified their lives for getting the Indian subcontinent off the British yoke.

Dalhousie institute, Calcutta (kolkata) puronokolkata.com
The Dalhousie Institute, located  on the south side of Dalhousie Square, Kolkata was built during the rule by the East  India company at the cost of Rs. 25,000.00. Designed by Mr. C.Q. Wray, architect, the foundation stone of the institute was laid on March 4, 1865 by the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Cecil Beadon. Originally  planned to be built adjacent to the government house, part of the cost of construction was met by public subscription and part from funds allocated to honor the heroes of 1857 Sepoy mutiny. The building was proposed to use it as a Hall of monuments, displaying the statues and busts of men of repute associated with British India History and to conduct social meetings for people of all walks of life. The social gathering would promote social integration, friendship and understanding among the people, an opportunity to keep abreast of various activities of the ruling government. It was not a social club in its early formative ere the years and no drinks were served. Nor were the ladies admitted as members till 1887. Such social gathering was also an opportunity  for the English company to get to know the people's grievances, so that they could be rectified.

The building was named  after Lord Dalhousie who was appointed Governor-General in 1847.  Dalhousie square was the main administrative area of Calcutta. The famous Writer’s Building functioned as the   headquarters of the East India Company. The building, built as Corinthian pro - style temple, Octastylos,  has lecture rooms, large library and a huge hall  which could accommodate 1000 people, meant for concert and public meeting. The large hall has vaulted ceiling and  single Corinthian columns.
Dalhousie institute, Calcutta (kolkata), another view (1870s picture). photographer believed to be Samuel Bourne.  .puronokolkata.com
When World War II was on,  the US government needed the building to station its troops in 1948, soon after India's independence.  The institute was shifted from Dalhousie Square to its present location  on  Jhowtalla Street.  So was the  original marble plaque, commemorating the event and one will find it in the entrance hall of the new building that was  designed by Walter Granville.