Former Military Secretariat building, Esplanade, Kolkata, a fine English colonial structure

Ex military secretariat, Esplanade, Kolkata.

Ex-military secretariat building, Kolkata.

Among the British administrators of the subcontinent in the colonial period in the late 19th and early  20th century under the Raj, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston , alias Lord Curzon (January 1859 – 20 March 1925) stands apart from others.  Though a British Conservative statesman who served as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905,  never had he failed to  place on record, the talents exhibited by Indian administrators in the princely states.  For example, he was quite furious over the absence of a memorial for Dewan K. Seshadri  Iyer  and advised the Mysore ruler to build a commemoration for him  who held the post for the longest period and whose contribution to Mysore kingdom was vast. Lord Curzon took special interest in preserving the native Indian monuments.  He was instrumental in repairing Taj that was damaged by the English soldiers during the 1857 Indian rebellion. Besides,  he had two  huge chandeliers - the second one is a brass lamp  made and gifted  them in 1909 and  they are hanging in the mausoleum. They bear testimony to his deep interest in monuments and their preservation for the next generation.  

Kolkata (Calcutta) city,

Unfortunately, Lord Curzon  became a controversial figure when he had effected the   partition of Bengal on communal line, a move that became  too serious a political issue during India's freedom  movements. He became a highly criticized administrator of the Raj  and he carried this stigma till  India's freedom from the British

Indian historians know very well  that many of the impressive colonial landmarks in Kolkata like the Victoria Hall,  etc.,  owe their origin to Curzon  and it shows his intention to modernize Calcutta (Kolkata) to show it as a symbol of  British power and superiority. One example may still be seen on Esplanade Row East. It is that of  the historical ex-Military Secretariat,  built in 1909

ex-Military Secretariat building. Kolkata

ex-Military Secretariat building. Kolkata

 designed by PWD  architect W Banks Gwyther. Many of the colonial structures, including the Military secretariat building  positively suggest that the Crown administrators and  architects wanted to make Calcutta the center of imperial power away from England  and preferred administrative quarters on the lines of  London.  Taking the hot tropical climatic condition into account, the designers built huge  Neo-Classical buildings, with high roof,  wide verandahs, recessed rooms and large central court yard   to avoid heat and radiation.   A few years later, though the capital was shifted  to Delhi after the great event - Delhi Durbar, this building like others is still occupied by the Ministry of Defense,  and currently houses, among others, the office of the Ordnance Factory Board, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the Controller of Accounts, Central Accounts Office, Ministry of Mines, Government of India, etc. Today the grand pediment of the impressive  building is adorned with Ashok Stambh, the State symbol of India.

 ex-Military Secretariat building. Kolkata

 Above image: View of Ordnance Building (now Military Accounts building), Esplanade Row East, Kolkata. Now the Foreign and Military Secretariat.  Built around the Dalhousie and Chowringee area with a wide verandah, recessed rooms and a large court yard  are improvised and tailor-made to give some protection from the heat and humidity. The building was overlooking the large Curzon park. This is one of the 178 images recently discovered in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in Edinburgh, which date back to around 1912, showing life on the subcontinent at the high point of the British Raj.- .................

Soldiers posted in the  building do not allow the public  to take pictures even from the distance. The building once overlooked the huge Curzon Park which has been converted into a bus depot. It is quite sad the open space in front of  the historical building is being used by various political parties to convene meeting. Obviously, the upkeep is poor and it is imperative the space around the monuments  need to   be barricaded and protected by the  govt. agency in charge of monuments to avoid damages to them. The same trend continues in some parts of Tamil Nadu. The monuments are historical old Hindu temples - more than 600 to 1000 years old. Their charm and heritage elements are marred by rows of shops let out by the HR and CE, an arm of the state govt. that control more than 36000 Hindu temples of various ages and sizes.  


A brief note on the ordinance factory in India.


Ordnance Factory Board , the world's largest government-operated production organization, has a huge workforce of about 80000 and is considered the 4th Arm of the defense of the govt. of India. The Indian ordinance factory  has been around before the introduction of the Indian Railways and Indian Army. The  very first factory came into being in 1712. The Dutch Ostend Company established a Gun Powder Factory in Ichhapur, later in 1787, another gunpowder factory was established  and the production  started in 1791. The same site started producing rifles in 1904 and the site was later used as a rifle factory, beginning in 1904. In 1801, Gun Carriage Agency (now known as Gun & Shell Factory, at Cossipore , a suburbb of Kolkata  began the production  on 18 March 1802.  The oldest factory in India still exists today........................ (