Secretariat Building, New Delhi

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Coordinates: 28°36′54″N 77°12′21″E / 28.61500°N 77.20583°E / 28.61500; 77.20583

The North Block houses key government offices

The Secretariat Building or Central Secretariat is where the Cabinet Secretariat is housed, which administers the Government of India. Built in the 1910s, it is home to some of the most important ministries of the Cabinet of India. Situated on Raisina Hill, New Delhi, the Secretariat buildings are two blocks of symmetrical buildings (North Block and South Block) on opposite sides of the great axis of Rajpath, and flanking the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's House).

History[edit]

The 1931 series celebrated the inauguration of New Delhi as the seat of government. The one rupee stamp shows George V with the "asking Alexandria" and Dominion Columns.
The North Block, as viewed from South Block
The South Block, which houses the Prime Minister's Office, also showing the "Dominion Column".

The planning of New Delhi began in earnest after Delhi was made capital of India in 1911. Lutyens was assigned responsibility for town planning and the construction of Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan); Herbert Baker, who had practised in South Africa for two decades, 1892–1912, joined in as the second in command. Baker took on the design of the next important building, the Secretariat, which was the only building other than the Viceroy's house to stand on Raisina Hill. As the work progressed relations between Lutyens and Baker deteriorated; the hill placed by Baker in front of Viceroy's House largely obscured Viceroy's House from view on the Rajpath from India Gate, in breach of Lutyens' intentions; instead, only the top of the dome of Viceroy's House is visible from far away. To avoid this, Lutyens wanted the Secretariat to be of lower height than Viceroy House, but Baker wanted it of the same height, and in the end it was Baker's intentions that were fulfilled.[1]

After the capital of India moved to Delhi, a temporary secretariat building was constructed in a few months in 1912 in North Delhi. Most of the government offices of the new capital moved here from the 'Old secretariat' in Old Delhi, a decade before the new capital was inaugurated in 1931. Many employees were brought into the new capital from distant parts of India, including the Bengal Presidency and Madras Presidency. Subsequently housing for them was developed around Gole Market area.[2]

The Old Secretariat building now houses the Delhi Legislative Assembly.[3] The nearby Parliament House was built much later, and hence was not constructed around the axis of Rajpath. Construction of Parliament House was begun in 1921, and the building was inaugurated in 1927.

Today, the area is served by the Central Secretariat station of the Delhi Metro.

Architecture[edit]

Elevation of Secretariat Building, showing the four chhatris around the central dome.
The ancillary dome-like structure on top of the building is known as a Chuttri, an integral part of Indian architectural design. Back courtyard of Secretariat building

The Secretariat Building was designed by the prominent British architect Herbert Baker in Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. Both the identical building have four levels, each with about 1,000 rooms, in the inner courtyards to make space for future expansions. In continuation with the Viceroy's House, these buildings also used cream and red Dholpur sandstone from Rajasthan, with the red sandstone forming the base. Together the buildings were designed to form two squares. They have broad corridors between different wings and wide stairways to the four floors and each building is topped by a giant dome, while each wings end with colonnaded balcony.

Much of the building is in classical architectural style, yet it incorporated from Mughal and Rajasthani architecture style and motifs in its architecture. These are visible in the use of Jali, perforated screens, to protect from scorching sun and monsoon rains of India. Another feature of the building is a dome-like structure known as the Chatri, a design unique to India, used in ancient times to give relief to travelers by providing shade from the hot Indian sun.

The style of architecture used in Secretariat Building is unique to Raisina Hill. In front of the main gates on buildings are the four "dominion columns", given by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. At the time of their unveiling in 1930, India also supposed to become a British dominion soon, however India became independent within the next 17 years and the Secretariat became the seat of power of a sovereign India. In the years to follow the building ran out of accommodation.[1]

Similarities with Union Buildings, Pretoria[edit]

Union Buildings Pretoria and Secretariat Building, New Delhi, both designed by Herbert Baker
RSA Pretoria 12.jpgIndiagovtdelhi.JPG
The Bell tower and colonnaded balcony, Union BuildingsThe Bell tower and colonnaded balcony, Secretariat Building

Prior to coming to India, Baker had an established practice in South Africa over twenty years and designed various prominent buildings there, especially the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, built from 1910 to 1913, though designed in 1908. It is the official seat of the South African government, house the offices of the President of South Africa, and most interestingly like the Secretariat Building, it also sits atop a hill, known as the Meintjieskop.

But the similarities between the two building show a clear influence of the former, especially in the basic structure of two wings and colonnaded balconies at the end with almost identical symmetrical bell towers. Both buildings have a similar symmetrical design in case of the Union Building the two wings are joined by a semi-circular colonnade, while with Secretariat building, the North and South Blocks are separated and face each other. The colour scheme is reversed while the roof of Union Building is covered with red tiles, in secretariat red sandstone is used in the ground floor walls only, the rest is the same pale sandstone.[1]

Ministries and offices in the Secretariat Building[edit]

Central dome of Secretariat Building, New Delhi.
Colonnaded balconies and the tower with Indian flag
Secretariat Building illuminated on Republic Day, 2010 Eve

The Secretariat Building houses the following ministries:

Housing of the Secretariat Building:
Ministry/Department SerialName of Ministry/DepartmentMinistry/Department abbreviated asBlock
Ministry number 1Ministry of Defence(MoD)South
Ministry number 2Ministry of Finance(MoF)North
Ministry number 3Ministry of External Affairs(MEA)South
Ministry number 4Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA)North
OfficeCBDT Chairman(CBDT)North
OfficeSecretary, DOP&T(Department of Personnel & Training)North
OfficePrime Minister Office(PMO)South
OfficeNational Security AdvisorNSASouth
OfficeIndian Foreign SecretarySouth
OfficeCabinet SecretarySouth

The Secretariat Building consists of two buildings: the North Block and the South Block. Both the buildings flank the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The terms 'North Block' and 'South Block' are often used to refer to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of External Affairs respectively.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The building Blocks of British empire". Hindustan Times. June 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Capital story: Managing a New Delhi". Hindustan Times. September 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Architectural marvels for the new capital". Hindustan Times. July 20, 2011. 

External links[edit]