State bank of India - brief note and restoration of SBI's heritage building in Madurai

State bank of India (SBI), India's largest bank with a long legacy of 200 years was founded in the first decade of the 19th century as -   first ‘Presidency’ bank’, the Bank of Calcutta, later renamed as the Bank of Bengal,  Established in 1806 in its long and arduous banking history the  bank has served both the commoners and the rich and famous. Linked to the growth of the East India company  to finance foreign trade and facilitate  remittances by British army personnel and civil servants  it led to the founding of   first Presidency bank, Bank of Bengal  followed by two others - the Bank of Bombay (1840) and the Bank of Madras (1843). All these banks were under the control of  the  English Royal Charters.


Surprisingly these banks catered to the needs of  Europeans and the commoners - natives   could not access the banks  for any banking services.  The wily British started the banks in India for their benefits and not for the Indians or Indian traders.  The first Indian-owned bank, Allahabad Bank, was set up in Allahabad in 1865, followed by a host of others after the Swadeshi movement of 1906,

Bank of bengal, Calcutta.

 Above image:  The Imperial Bank of India was formed by combining  three  Presidency banks of colonial India, namely Bank of Bengal, Bank of Bombay and Bank of Madras. Bank of Bengal started printing and circulating banknotes of India from 2nd June 1806, whereas Bank of Bombay started issuing Indian bank notes from 15th April 1840. And finally, Bank of Madras was set up which issued banknotes of India from 1st July 1843 The Imperial Bank acted as a commercial bank, issuing and circulating Indian bank notes all over the country and in certain cases also acted as the central bank until a central banking system was introduced in the year 1935.

 In 1921 the imperial bank came into being after the amalgamation of all these presidency banks.  Initially, the new bank played a triple role of  01. a commercial bank, 02. a banker’s bank and 03. a banker to the government.  Later  central bank - the Reserve Bank of India was formed to reduce the burden on SBI. SBI inherited the legacy of pre-independence Presidency banking operations and has the largest networks of branches across India. The State Bank of India  was started on 1 July 1955. It is among the world's 50 large banks. 

Thus the  state bank of India  hiving been founded more than 200 years ago,  has a long list of heritage buildings above 100 years old across the country.  The list includes roughly  150 heritage  structures  across  the country that need to be repaired and restored  for the posterity.  Among them, efforts are being made by the bank to  document and conserve  four valuable  buildings located at  Chennai, Madurai and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. 

Madurai, TN State bank of India under

The Chennai main branch building has  already been restored  and all heritage  structures  in Chennai, Nagapatnam  and  Madurai have similar  features like big verandah, colonial  fa├žade, etc. The Madurai branch of SBI located in the main part of the city has fine stone work imparting a unique look to the building.  Unfortunately, owing to the presence of lots of modern buildings,  residential quarters, etc.,  around this structure, the heritage structure is not easily visible.

The building needs   urgent  repair work as it has not been used for a long time;  earlier it used to serve as an officers'  club.  Because of safety consideration  the building is not accessible. It is a two-story structure  with a fine porch built for the bank official. Modest in size this kind of masonry stone work is rare in this part of Tamil Nadu.  

The striking features of this building are  ornate staircase in the central hall, spiral staircase and service balcony in the rear portion, large rooms and  deep verandah in the front part.  The building has Madras terrace with wooden rafters supporting the ceiling.  The flat terrace  of the building is accentuated by a battlement parapet featuring stone coping.  The advantage of coping on the exterior wall is it will divert the rain water away from the wall.  The ceiling in the interior parts  is tall  to reduce radiation during the hot day. The verandah  with wooden louvres not only will cut down the heat and radiation but also  will   allow free flow of air circulation in the interior parts. 

The proposed restoration will focus on  removal of growth of  vegetation and unnecessary  additions. Large rooms are bifurcated  with brick/plywood partitions. Particular care is taken to restore the spiral stairway.  matching the present structure with columns and walls   new light-weight concert block walls are added. The old  wooden doors and windows were retained  as much as possible