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Parliament House: 144 pillars of pride

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 13:34 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times
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When you think of the Parliament House, the seat of Indian democracy, the first image that comes to the mind is that of a majestic circular building with its landmark colonnaded verandah. Hard to imagine, then, that the building was originally planned to be a triangular structure.

Commissioned much later after the layout of New Delhi was planned, the Parliament House (then called Council House) got a secondary location compared to the Government House and Secretariat. However, with increasing Indian participation in government, a bigger accommodation was required for the Council Chamber.

The original three-pronged building would have housed the Council of State (now Rajya Sabha), the Legislative Assembly (Lok Sabha) and the Chamber of Princes (later Library hall). Edwin Lutyens, however, imagined a Coliseum like structure and finally, it a circular building was finalised.

The foundation stone was laid on February 12, 1921 by The Duke of Connaught and the building was unveiled on January 18, 1927 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Irwin. The Parliament House covers nearly six acres and has a massive diameter of 560 feet.

The centre of the building is the Central Hall and radiating from this centre were placed the three semi-circular Chambers, surrounded by garden courts. The three Chambers are connected by a four-storeyed circular structure with a colonnaded verandah on the outside, with 144 pillars, each 27 feet high.

The dome of the central chamber, however, is too small when compared to those of the Rashtrapati Bhavan or even the Secretariat. This was a result of cost cutting and the building of an extra floor on the circumference made the dome even less visible.

Though less pampered than the Government House and Secretariat, it was the Council House (Parliament House) that would become the most important building of independent India.

It was the Central Chamber of the Council House where the official transfer of power took place in 1947 and Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous ‘tryst with destiny’ speech. The Central Chamber still holds the joint sessions of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The Chamber of Princes also housed the Supreme Court of India for a decade after independence.