City Monument - Raisina Hill, Central Delhi

City Monument – Raisina Hill, Central Delhi

The Power and the Glory

We, the People.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The architectural showcase of India’s ruling elite, Raisina Hill is an empire fashioned out of sandstone. In the early 20th century, a village of this name was relocated by the British to build Viceroy House, which was renamed Rashtrapati Bhawan upon becoming the official residence of the Indian president. The exterior of the complex is a must-see.

The best way to approach Raisina Hill is to start your walk, or car ride, from India Gate, the 138 foot-high memorial arch, India’s ‘Arc de Triomphe’, designed by Edwin Landseer Lutyens in 1931.

With the names of 13,516 soldiers, who died fighting at the Third Anglo-Afghan war in 1919, etched on its arch, India Gate looks best in the dawn light.

The memorial is connected to Rashtrapati Bhawan by the 2.4 km-long Rajpath, the principal route of the annual parade on Republic Day parade.

As you walk up the Raisina Hill, the approaching Rashtrapati Bhawan begins to disappear from view. By the time you reach the vast square of Vijay Chowk, you only see the dome.

On the left of Rajpath is the South Block, the office of the external affairs and defence ministries; on the right is the North Block, which houses the ministries of finance and home. Despite the Orwellian-sounding names, these are scenic buildings with pillars and domes. They were designed not by Lutyens, but by Herbet Baker, who worked with him.

The most arresting sight, however, is the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The closest point you can reach is the ornate gate. Spread over 20,000 sq m, the President’s House has 340 rooms, 37 reception rooms, 74 lobbies and galleries and 18 staircases. In the backdrop of the sinking sun, the giant columns of this massive edifice turn into papery silhouettes. Entry is opened once a year in spring, at the famous Mughal Gardens.

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