Parliament down the ages

Our Parliament, often in the news these days for pepper spray and pandemonium, has seen better, much better days. Like when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave his historic “Tryst with destiny” speech. The nation remained awake at midnight to listen to the peerless orator. Or when the unassuming Babu Rajendra Prasad often arrived in a majestic horse carriage for the sessions! The nation was free, the dreams were all ours. Not all of them have fructified though, as evidenced by the great popularity of Arvind Kejriwal and his promise of sweeping changes. The jhadoo may or may not be the panacea for the ills afflicting our political system but, our Parliament, right from the days of inception after the Capital of India was shifted to New Delhi in 1911 to now, has rarely known peaceful days, replete with camaraderie.

Initially, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the men tasked with building New Delhi were reluctant to adopt Indian techniques of architecture. Gradually, though they adapted the age-old techniques of chajjas, chhatris and jaali. For Parliament five acres were allotted and Baker first designed a structure with a high central dome with three wings. Lutyens though thought little of it, dismissing it as something of which “neither God nor Michaelangelo” could make sense of. Instead a circular building was designed with three chambers linked to a hall in the centre. The dispute did not end there with Baker dubbing it a “merry-go-round”. Even as the critics called the place Baker-loo – drawing inspiration from Napoleon and his Waterloo – over a period time, the difference of opinion was sorted out and the Parliament House came up with a red sandstone foundation storey, followed by a buff-coloured middle storey with 144 pillars and an attic storey that was added a couple of years after the 1927 inauguration. In many ways it was impressive; in symbolism the building scored for an emerging nation.

UPA-NDA, Telangana-Seemandhra, Lutyens-Baker, our Parliament has withstood them all.