''Rajaji Hall'' of Chennai first public colonial structure, once a ''trash dump'' prior to 2012 - to be renovated soon

The Rajaji hall, Chennai. in.worldorgs.com

Above image: The main hall is to be accessed through  a tall and wide flight of steps and  many Kollywood (made in Chennai Kodambakkam) films were shot on the steps and in the fa├žade of the building. The mortal remains of many well-known political leaders customarily lay in state in the veranda for public view........ 

The awareness to restore and conserve historical heritage monuments in India has been  gaining currency only in the last several years. The conservationists, in particular, at INTACH impressed on the state governments across the country to safeguard and preserve them  for the posterity and by doing so our connectivity with the past won't get lost. Yet another advantage is according to the INTACH engineers such restored government owned building can be put to reuse. The dual advantage is  the monuments will be saved and such buildings can be reused for public purpose. This way the government can save money instead of opting for a new building. The latter choice is expensive and time consuming. The good news is the state government is embarking on a mammoth project - restoration of several heritage structures in Tamil Nadu. The PWD has already identified many such structures. The Rajaji Hall,  first ever public venue in the early colonial time is slated for restoration soon. 

The structure built in the form of a Greek temple with rows of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns  came up between
1800 and 1802  under the direction of John Goldingham, an astronomer and civil engineer with the British East India Company.  Edward Clive  (
son of Robert Clive of Plassey fame), the then Governor of Madras between 1798 and 1803 was responsible for this grand structure  to be an extension of the Government House. The hall came up for two reasons - to  be used  for social functions and weekly ball and  the other reason being to commemorate the company's take over of Mysore  kingdom after the fall of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at Srirangapatna (1799). Till 1947, it  had served as a venue for mostly government events. 

The Rajaji hall (formerly Banqueting Hall) hehindu.com

John Goldingham in 1802 carefully designed the Banqueting Hall for the use of official functions adjacent  to the remodeled Governor's mansion. He gave it  the appearance of a neo-classical temple with an exterior of a sixteenth-century manor, possessing Tuscan-Doric columns. The building which  is 120 feet long, 65 feet wide and 40 feet high  is enclosed by a gallery. It had  portraits of popular Anglo-Indian leaders  and administrators including Edward Clive, Richard Wellesley ( who took part in the final Angelo Mysore war), Sir Eyre Coote, Sir Thomas Munro (who introduced the concept of district administration, etc.,), Lord Hobart and Lord Harris and British monarchs George III and Queen Charlotte (who was presented with famous Arcot diamond pair by the Nawab of Arcot in 1777), 
It also had a number of military decorations celebrating British victories at Plassey, now in West Bengal and Seringapatam now in Karnataka. 

The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai,in.worldorgs.com

Presently the building is  under the jurisdiction of Public Works Department (PWD) and is part of  the Omandurar Government Estate.  Prior to 2012, what was once called  Banqueting Hall, a landmark heritage building in Chennai because of official apathy  became an eye-sore -  garbage dump mainly to discard  piles of paper and pieces of unwanted pieces of furniture by the TNPSC department (a govt. department).   

The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai,in.worldorgs.com

Now 223 years old,  then the famous classified  colonial monument   caught between  lethargic attitude of the officials of TNPSC  and  beaurocratic  red tape, was abused  for about 3 years long years with impunity leading to the loss of its splendor, majesty and its prestigious  status.  The condition of a part of the building was quite appealing  and it made the heritage lovers furious.  Heaps of waste littered across the terraces that are enclosed by rows of beautiful arches held together by columns and low walls; With the presence of trash  no periodic cleaning was done to keep the structure in good shape. 
Rajaji, 1st gov. gen. of india and CM Madras presidency. en.wikipedia.org


Lord Erward Clive, Gov. of Madraswikiwand.com/

The PWD was in a fix as to what to  how to clear all the garbage to save the building from damages as it was the duty of TNPSC to dispose of the trash.  The erstwhile Raj and  EIC considered the banqueting hall  a British legacy but when the political scenarios  had changed after India's freedom, the stately building  became a victim of insensibility of Indian successors and their total lack  of interest to save  it for the posterity. 

The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai,in.worldorgs.com

Again more than a decade ago  heritage lovers and conservationists were confronted with other problem -  about the foundation of the Rajaji Hall  when a new  Assembly-Secretariat complex came up through the efforts of late CM Kalingar  Karunanidhi. The engineers were cautious  when the work was in progress.   

 The good news is  Public Works Department (PWD) recently in September 2022 sanctioned ₹103.74 crore for conservation and restoration of 16 heritage buildings in Tamil Nadu and Rs.17 crore had been allocated for the Rajaji hall. It is nice the Rajaji hall will be restored back to its old splendor and stately look. 

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/103-crore-sanctioned-to-restore-17-heritage-buildings-in-tn/article65923767.ece

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajaji_Hall

https://in.worldorgs.com/catalog/chennai/event-venue/rajaji-hall-chennai

http://www.navrangindia.in/2017/01/the-banqueting-rajaji-hall-chennai.html