Nehru wrote that "New Delhi is the visible symbol of British power, with all its ostentation and wasteful extravagance," but no one with any design interest fails to be impressed by the sheer scale and beauty of these buildings and the subtle blending of Indian influence on an otherwise stripped-down Western classicism -- a far cry from the ornate Indo-Saracenic style so deplored by chief architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens, known for his racist views, in fact despised all Indian architecture (he conveniently convinced himself that the Taj was actually the work of an Italian designer), but he was forced to include some "native" elements in his designs. Clearly, at first glance the Lutyens buildings of Central Delhi are symbols of imperial power intended to utterly dwarf and humble the individual, yet the Indian influences, such as the neo-Buddhist dome, tiny helmetlike chattris (cenotaphs), and filigree stonework, add a great deal to their stately beauty. Once the home of the viceroy of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is today the official residence of the president of India and is closed to the public (though the Mughal Gardens, spread over 5.2 magnificent hectares [13 acres] and among the best in India, are open to the public Feb 14-Mar 14). It's worth noting that this is the largest residence of any president on earth, with over 350 rooms (the White House has a mere 132). Do take note of the slender 145 foot Jaipur Column near the entrance gates; donated by the Maharaja of Jaipur, it is topped by a bronze lotus and six-pointed glass star. The two Secretariat buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, show a similar subtle blend of colonial and Mughal influences and today house the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Home and Finance ministries. Northeast, at the end of Sansad Marg, is Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House), also designed by Baker, from where the country is managed (or not, as Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy argues so succinctly in The Algebra of Injustice -- a recommended but somewhat depressing read). Take a drive around the roads that lie just south of here (Krishna Menon Marg, for instance) to view the lovely bungalows, also designed by Lutyens, that line the tree-lined avenues.
- © Frommer's 2013
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