Vidhana Soudha was designed to showcase indigenous architecture and usher in the new age of democracy.
Take one good look at the Vidhana Soudha and you may find it hard to resist asking, “Wow! How did they build it?” An answer to such curiosity calls for a timemachine to take you to the early 1950s when construction began on Bangalore’s most imposing building to date. The driving force behind the Vidhana Soudha was the then chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah.
He had explained that Vidhana Soudha’s architecture was a response to a Russian delegation’s repeated questions on what essentially was the Indian element in Bangalore’s structures.
Said Hanumanthaiah: “The Russian cultural delegation was visiting Bangalore and I took them around to show the city. Every now and then they queried: Have you no architecture of your own? They are all European buildings.”
The ’Vidhana Soudha‘ project underwent a course correction in 1952, when Hanumanthaiah took over as the CM, though the foundation stone was laid on July 13, 1951.
Hanumanthaiah’s motive, as described by former IAS officer T P Issar in his book The City Beautiful, was to have a “building that would not only be functional as a secretariat and a model of spaciousness, but which should become the prime edifice of the city – a “people’s palace” symbolising in its very appearance the seat of government”. Keeping in mind the power dynamics of the time, Hanumanthaiah wanted the building to reflect the shift of sovereignty from the palace of the Wodeyar dynasty to the legislature and depict the dignity of the people. The mission was accomplished in 1956 by a team of engineers and architects led by B R Manickam, the then chief engineer of the state public works department. Issar terms the building as “the largest legislature-cum-secretariat building in the country”.
The stone structure, which reflects the ’Neo-Dravidian’ style of architecture, was built with ’Bangalore-granite’ that was excavated from Mallasandra and Hesaraghatta. The building has three main floors, with the ground floor and first floor measuring 1,32,400 sq ft. The top floor measures 1,01,165 sq ft. Its total floor area adds up to 5,50,505 sq ft. While the building’s length is 700 ft and width 350 ft, its height from the floor level to the top of the central dome is 150 feet. Enhancing the visual appeal of the central dome are the twelve 40-foot columns above the grand steps. The central dome is 60 ft in diameter and rests on an octagonal drum with the national emblem atop it.
The Vidhana Soudha’s striking features include the banquet hall, the legislative assembly chamber and the cabinet hall. The elaboratelycarved wooden architrave and all-sandalwood shutters at the entrance of the cabinet hall are a visual treat. The assembly hall was chosen as the venue for the 1986 SAARC Summit.
Vidhana Soudha and its adjoining buildings occupy an area spanning 60 acres. So far, over a dozen politicians have occupied the coveted CM’s chair on the third floor. Though the government banned the entry of tourists into the building citing a security risk, Vidhana Soudha still remains one of the most important tourist attractions in Bangalore. Till the advent of digital cameras and camera-fitted mobile phones, Vidhana Soudha was the bread and butter for more than a hundred freelance photographers who would capture images of tourists with the massive building as the backdrop. The profile of the frontal portion of Vidhana Soudha will witness a temporary transformation with underground work on the Metro project all set to commence. However, the mammoth structure with the catch line “Government’s work is God’s work” will continue to wow many and make them wonder how it was built.
You Must Know !
* The Vidhana Soudha was constructed at a cost of Rs 1.84 crore during 1952-56
* Initially, some felt it was a ’white elephant’. Today, it is a politician’s dream to run his office from here
* Apart from around 1,500 chisellers and wood carvers, about 5,000 labourers worked on the colossal project
* A majority of the unskilled labourers involved in construction work were reportedly prisoners. They walked free on completion of the project.
* The legislative assembly chamber was the venue of the 1986 SAARC Summit.