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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: New Delhi: Photo 14

world pictures Northern India: New Delhi

Now that we're sufficiently elevated, we may proceed to the Viceroy's Palace, now Rashtrapati Bhavan (Government House). Sorry: this is as close as we'll get. Take my word for it:-at 630 feet, its facade is exactly as long as Buckingham Palace's.

In 1922 the Prince of Wales saw a model of the palace and exclaimed, "Good God!" A commander-in-chief of the Indian army, appalled by the expense, said that he was "tempted to curse and swear" whenever he passed it. Gandhi merely dismissed the pile as a White Elephant.

The building, designed by Edwin Lutyens, is laid out on an H-plan. The copper-covered dome rises above the rotunda of the Durbar Hall, the audience room that once housed the viceroy's throne. Behind the dome lies a Moghul Garden; behind the garden, eight tennis courts; behind the courts, another garden. (During the British period, the staff of 2,000 included 418 gardeners.) Behind the camera is Rajpath, the former Kingsway, so the viceroy might look from his throne down a processional avenue and, symbolically, at the Indian Empire. The echoes of Versailles and the United States capitol are strong: the grand vista even terminates in a memorial arch akin to the Arc de Triomphe and the Washington Monument. Today the building is the lonely residence of the President of India.

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