Rashtrapati Bhavan is open to public

New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) Rashtrapati Bhavan, the imposing presidential palace spread over 130 hectares in the heart of this capital city, has become a more accessible place for tourists and common people of India. Pranab Mukherjee, who became the 13th President of India on July 25 last year, said his mission was to make the place as "open as possible to people, including children."

All one needs to do is to log on to the internet and make an advance booking for any of the three days it is open to the public every weekend.

Previously, one had to physically go to Rashtrapati Bhavan to make a booking. The new system has seen footfalls spiral from 500 over three days on an average last year to nearly 1,600 over the same period, with a cap of 700 visitors per day, an official said..

A media tour through Rashtrapati Bhavan threw up interesting sights of groups of foreign tourists being escorted by young scholar-guides through the Durbar Hall, the Marble Hall, the south and north drawing rooms, the museum, library and banquet hall.

Explaining the growing popularity of the president's abode on the capital's sight-seeing map, the official said: "We have been receiving online reservations from around the world. We have thrown open new galleries and the front entrance of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The sale of souvenirs at the memento shop has increased, along with brisk sale of tea at a kiosk we have set up on the premises to cater to the visitors."

For the media on Tuesday, it was a landmark tour. "For the first time, the media has been allowed inside Rashtrapati Bhavan other than the designated areas," the official said. Visitors have a choice of two guided tours around the premises.

The interiors were a revelation. The grand British-style decor and the furniture have been spruced up in a mega restoration drive to bring Rashtrapati Bhavan back to its original glory. The main library is the focus of the restoration drive. Nearly 24,000 books and manuscripts are in queue for digitisation - 4,000 having been archived during the tenure of president A.P.J Abdul Kalam.

President Mukherjee is taking personal interest in bringing a semblance of order to the library. "Dr Kalam had initiated many good projects and created infrastructure. I am ensuring that they are utilised. The Rashtrapati Bhavan auditorium which he inaugurated in 2007 is being used regularly," Mukherjee said while interacting with the media.

The decision to build the 340-room mansion - the erstwhile residence of the British viceroy - was taken in 1911 when the British decided to shift their capital from Kolkata to New Delhi. Designed by Edward Landseer Lutyens, it took 17 years to build the abode at a cost then of Rs. 1.28 crore (nearly 13 million rupees).

The most distinguishing aspect of Rashtrapati Bhavan is its dome, which is superimposed on its structure. It is visible as the most eye-catching round roof with a circular base in the heart of Delhi.

The presidential art collection that begins at the Durbar Hall - the public assembly space - with a 5th century statue of Lord Buddha and an Ashokan edict is being catalogued and dusted. The private collection comprising art by masters like Jamini Roy and Jogen Chowdhury has been mounted in a dedicated art gallery that will open for viewing soon, an official said.

The collection that adorns the walls of the presidential abode is a veritable treasure chest with commissioned portraits of all the Indian presidents and East India Company paintings of India in the 19th century.

The artworks complement the art deco furniture of the British Raj - in gilded golden metal, ornate hard wood, rich upholstery and soft carpets.

The south and the north drawing rooms - where the dignitaries call on the president - shine like jewels out of time with ornamental chairs, richly inlaid tables, colourful portraits and expensive panelling.

Two of the most exciting features of the president's house are the kitchen museum and the Marble Hall that draw steady streams of visitors.

Set up by Kalam when he was president, the kitchen museum is a virtual walk through the pantry and culinary traditions of Rashtrapati Bhavan with laid-out tables, British-era cutlery and pots and pans used by the crew.

The Marble Hall is a gallery of marble who's who from modern Indian history - including two single marble sculptures of King George V and Queen Mary - the founding forces behind Lutyen's Delhi as the country's political capital.

The Mughal Garden modelled on the Persian style 'char bagh' is yet to burst into its riot of colourful blooms. But a fleet of gardeners is hard at work to ready it for a spring gala. A single black rose on a freshly pruned black pearl rose bush against the pink backdrop of the presidential home serves as a reminder of the mystique that hangs like an aura around the country's domed echelon.

Last year, nearly 700,000 people visited the Mughal Garden alone when it opened for viewing in February, the official said.

-- Indo-Asian News Service

mch/vm/tb

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have been able to purchase batting replacements for the loss of Michael Hussey and spin reinforcements in the form of Samuel Badree. They appear… More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »