Wheeler Senate Hall of Patna University, a fine British heritage building

Wheeler Senate Hall Patna University, Patna

Wheeler Senate Hall Patna University, Patna

Patna University was established in October, 1917 after the creation of the separate Province of Bihar and Orissa. A positive step had been taken to give a fillip to higher education in Bihar.  In July 1919 Post-graduate classes in various arts subjects were  introduced  at Patna College. The Science College  became a separate  entity in 1927 for promotion of higher scientific teaching.
The Senate hall is an integral part of any university, besides fine library, sports facilities, exam centers, etc, The newly formed Patna university experienced tough time in the early stages of its inception owing to lack of a spacious Senate Building. 

Situated in the heart of Ashok Rajpath, Patna city,  Bihar
the Wheeler Senate Hall, a convention center of the Patna University played no less role than other buildings in the area of socio-economic well being of the people of Eastern India. For more than 75 years it shaped the best brains from this region.  It was built with a view to holding conventions, exams, university meetings and other important activities. The senate hall came up in 1925 and the entire cost of construction  - roughly Rs, 1.75 lakhs was borne by Raja Devaki Nandan Prasad Singh of Munger. In the following year the senate hall was declared open by none other than the then Governor of Bihar and Orissa province and Chancellor of the University Sir Henry Wheeler after whom the hall was named.
Before the construction of the Senate hall, the Patna university was handicapped by the lack of proper facilities to hold meeting, convocations, etc and consequently, the officials of the university had to use  different venues  in the city on different occasions to hold important meeting, etc, a cumbersome time-consuming job that needed lots of groundwork,  proper cooperation and coordination among the officials. 

Quite interesting to note in the early stages in the first 5 years - 1917 to 1922  of its existence,  Patna University was allowed to use  a wing of the Patna High Court as its temporary office. Faculty meetings  were held in the hall at the new college, now known as Patna College,  whereas  senate meetings were held in the conference room of the Patna Secretariat. Believe it or not can you imagine the Durbar hall of the Governor House, present day Raj Bhavan building was the venue of the University convocations? It may be hilarious, but it was a fact of the university's early growth   prior to the construction of the  wheeler Senate hall. The entire complex including Darbangha House (it is on a plot of 15 acres of land)  was handed over to PU by the Maharajah of Dharbanga in 1955 for a meager sum Rs. 7 Lakhs to promote modern education  and scientific advances  to face future challenges. 

Wheeler Hall is a magnificent  spacious structure  built for a specific purpose to meet the various needs of a new university. It is so big it can accommodate about 1000 people at a time  and has been renovated a few times in the past.   Considering soaring high temperatures in the summer, the building was   aesthetically designed  with high ceiling, huge tall pillars and adequate ventilation. The fine gallerias add additional attraction.  This senate hall is steeped in history and through the portals of this building  passed such eminent personalities  as 
Vallabhbhai Patel, C. D. Deshmukh, V. K. R. V. Rao, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Jayaprakash Narayan, Lord Mountbatten, Sarojini Naidu,  to address the  university convocations here.  The  spell-binding  address of scientists of great  repute  like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sir C. V. Raman, Meghnad Saha, Satyendra Nath Bose and Sisir Kumar Mitra before the  university students and faculty members reverberated the hallowed hall. It was  right here the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore was felicitated on 17 March 1936 soon after he won the most prestigious  Nobel prize. The hall has fine old wooden table and the old electric fans. In 2014 and earlier period, Wheeler hall was in a dilapidated condition and the beautiful gallery became a garbage dumb. Once a beautiful ceiling became leakey due to poor upkeep and sheer negligence. Equally disturbing was the storage of old exam papers. The storage spaces were poorly maintained and in disarray. Continuous appeal and media reports drew the attention of the state administration who immediately understood the gradual degradation of  a heritage structure of immense value for the posterity and soon made funds available to restore the structure back to old glory. The state administration also paid a serious attention to other old  crumbling structures in Bihar. 

Patna City map, Bihar. .mapsofindia.com

 The Bihar government and the ASI (Archeological Society of India) state wing declared  Senate Hall (Patna University), Patna College (it is a 155 year old institution)  and the Dharbanga House  as  heritage structures of immense value and had spent lots of money for their  upkeep and regular maintenance. This senate hall becomes a beehive of activities during exam times  because it  turns into an annual exam hall that will decide the fate of  anxiety-ridden students who will take the final examination with trepidation, notwithstanding their good preparation.