Saturday, 12 October 2019

Begum sambru's kothi (State bank of India building), Chandini Chowk, Delhi - a unique heritage site

SBI bldg. Chandini Chowk,Delhi. asianage.com
The majestic  simple looking but impressive four-story building in Chandini Chowk, New Delhi  has certain interesting episodes of Indian history frozen in it  such as the fall of Mogul rule, rise of imperial power and the 1857 war of independence and at last the freedom of India from the British yoke. In  this respect it is historically an important structure and ignoring its heritage value is a foolish thing. This 80-foot tall colonial building built in 1806 houses the oldest branch of the State Bank of India - SBI, one of the largest in the country even today. Also you will find here in the reception area is the mini-museum, highlighting unknown valuable information. Once it was part of Begum Samru's estate, often referred to as Samru's kothi.
State bank of India bldg. once begum Samru's kothi. Delhi asianage.com
State bank of India bldg. once begum Samru's kothi. Delhi.Flicker.com
Architecturally, one of the most valuable 19th century buildings in Chandni Chowk it was in 2002, it was declared as a heritage building and its past link with Indian history is a forgotten foot note.  What is special about this old structure? This imposing Palladian structure carries a typical European style  with  Corinthian columns, balustrade terrace, arched doorways, spiral iron staircase, old English lifts, and tinted glass windows  and   Corinthian columns.

The Bank of Delhi in 1847 bought the building in which tragedy struck the English manager during the 1857 Indian Rebellion.  The rampaging freedom fighters - mostly soldiers entered the building and killed  the  bank manager George Beresford, his wife, and five daughters  during the siege of Delhi. At this tumultuous point 
of time, the bank was owned by a Brit, Dyce Sombre, and other stakeholders including native businessmen.   According to historians, “Some of the Britons, found hiding in the city, were 
held captive within the palace and were killed on May 16, 1857................... On May 16, about noon, the then Bank of Delhi was attacked and plundered. All its chief servants, after resistance, were massacred. Mr Beresford, the manager of the Delhi Bank, took refuge with his wife and family on the roof of one of the outbuilding...................... But despite fierce resistance from Beresford and his wife, they were both killed along with five others. They are buried in the St James Church and a plaque has been put up in their memory.
SBI bldg. Chandini Chowk,Delhi.thecitizen.in
 The Imperial Bank of India, the predecessor of SBI, later bought this imposing building and later the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) operated from here too. During the Delhi siege, the soiled and mutilated notes  were burned in the incinerator  and one can see the marks visible in the courtyard.

After the bank was declared a heritage building in 2002 soon  in order to preserve the legacy and heritage value of this oldest structure in Delhi, restoration work had begun in earnest - sandstone steps were replaced with cement; the original iron railings with new ones.  To preserve the classical elements in this structure, finally lime plaster was done on the wall interior, in the facade and upper veranda. Wrought iron railings replaced the existing railings and wooden windows replaced the concrete screens. The banking hall was repaired and  restored without compromising on its  historical character. https://www.asianage.com/metros/delhi/100717/heritage-sbi-chandni-chowk-building-stands-tall-in-changing-times.html
https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-incredible-story-of-begum-samru