The Northbrook Gate, Guwahati - a colonial legacy in Assam

Northbrook Gate,Guwahati, Assam. Twitter

Above image: Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook, GCSI, PC, FRS (22 January 1826 – 15 November 1904) was a British Liberal statesman. Gladstone appointed him Viceroy of India 1872-1876.............

The Northbrook Gate in Guwahati, built on the banks of the Brahmaputra, is a historical gate dating back to late 19th century. The gate was constructed near  near Sukreswar Ghat where the then Viceroy of India Thomas George Baring, better known as Lord Northbrook, got off the ship  on 27 August 1874  from Calcutta. The gate assumed importance as it marked the arrival of the first ever visit of a Viceroy to this part of NE India. The Viceroy took the waterway all the way from Calcutta In 1874, when the then Governor General, Lord Northbrook  made a decision to visit Assam, the local administration planned to give the highest British official a grand welcome worth his name and the exalted position he held. It was decided to have an arch built at the point of his embarkation in Guwahati to welcome the Governor General that would be named the 'Gate of Honour. The place adjacent to the Sukreswar Devalaya, was chosen for this purpose. Within the specified time the gate was built and upon his arrival here, the Governor General Northbrook. after the protocol  gun salute, etc., entered Guwahati, through the newly constructed Northbrook Gate. It is quite natural since Governor General, Lord Northbrook's historical visit to this place, the gate had become  the landmark of Guwahati.

As for the design of the new gate, the British government was particular about designing the gate on the model of the well-known King's College Chapel arches of England. This rectangular  simple structure  with no decorations and carvings made of brick and white limestone, has 12 arches, exhibiting a blend of Indo - Gothic style. This style is confirmed by Gothic-styled arches and the spires on the gate  that are similar to Indian temples.

Like many historical monuments in India both colonial and otherwise, this one was  very poorly maintained and negligence was  writ on the structure. At last the state government stepped  in and got involved in the restoration work. 

Restoration work was done about 50 years ago by a private company hired by Assam's Governor's office. The work was not up to the mark. Further, the near by the river water was a thereat to the  front of the old structure. Earlier, as part of beautification, near the gate a pond was built that  had caused more harm to the foundation than before. Subsequently some new techniques were tried to strenghthen the structure.  In 2014, Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC), that controls the land on which the gate stands, in association with  with the Assam Archaeology Department, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) had begun the restoration on  the gate under the supervision of  INTACH with funds provided by ATDC. A sum of 28 lakhs was allocated for carrying out  repairs, etc. 

01. When Viceroy Lord Curzon (January 1859 – 20 March 1925), the man who in the later period in 1903 arranged for a grand Durbar in Delhi that was held to celebrate the succession of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark as Emperor and Empress of India, visited here, he and lady Curzon entered Guwahati through the same gate in 1900. They were given grand welcome.  

02. It was adjacent to this gate the urn containing the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi was kept  before its immersion in the Brahmaputra. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 in Delhi. 
Assam’s first Chief Minister, Gopinath Bordoloi, took a ferry from that gate — on the Sukreshwar Ghat — to immerse Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes in the Brahmaputra. He chose this spot as this was the gateway to Assam.

03. In this part of Assam, it is the  only surviving edifice of Colonial legacy and since its inception, this gate would have witnessed great colonial events as well as memorable  events after India's freedom in August 1947.