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Bihar Assembly building at 100: Iconic landmark was designed by A M Millwood

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Patna: The Bihar Legislative Assembly building — originally called the Council Chamber — which recently completed its centenary, was designed by A M Millwood in a “free Renaissance style” in keeping with the architectural grandeur of the iconic Patna Secretariat, according to old records. Though the handsome double-storied edifice was ready by the end of 1920, the inaugural session of the Bihar and Orissa Provincial Legislative Council in the new building, was held on February 7, 1921 after it was formally opened by the then state Governor Lord S P Sinha on the same day.

During the centennial function hosted in the Central Hall of the new annexe building of the old Bihar legislative complex on the very same date — February 7 — Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had highlighted the glorious past of the Bihar Legislative Assembly.

The province of Bihar and Orissa came into being on March 22, 1912 after the 1911 Delhi Durbar announcement by British monarch King George V.

Soon after the Bihar and Orissa Provincial Legislative Council was set up and its first meeting was held in the Seminar Hall of the historic Patna College on January 20, 1913.

The Bihar government had celebrated its centenary too by holding a day-long special session in the very same building of the Patna College on January 20, 2013.

Prior to that a year-long celebration was held in Patna from 2011-2012 to commemorate the centenary of the provincial legislative council.

As the new capital of Patna was laid starting 1912, architect J F Munnings, designed the Government House (now Raj Bhawan), the Secretariat, Patna High Court and numerous other buildings, which are iconic heritage of the city today.

The building of the Council Chamber completed in 1920, lies to the east of the Secretariat.

It was designed by A M Millwood in a free Renaissance style in keeping with the Secretariat’s design, according to 1924 edition of the Bihar and Orissa District Gazetteers – Patna, authored by LSS O’Malley.

The Secretariat, topped with a towering clock tower was completed in 1917 along with the Government House.

The High Court, opened by the then Viceroy Lord Hardinge on February 3, 1916, was designed by Munnings, who was assisted by Millwood.

According to ‘Patna: A Monumental History’, a Bihar government publication of 2008, originally, only the building due east of the Patna Secretariat clocktower was built in 1920, which housed the Council and the Council Secretariat.

This building, today houses the Bihar Legislative Assembly or the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, and is being celebrated by the state government.

The north and south wings were added in later years, the north wing currently houses the Bihar Legislative Council, while the south wing houses other offices.

Orissa separated from the province on April 1, 1936, and since then the two Houses are called the Bihar Legislative Council, and the Bihar Legislative Assembly, created after the bicameral legislature system came in place following the Government of India Act, 1935.

On the upper back side of the north and south wings facing the rear side of the Secretariat, ‘A.D.’ and ‘1937’ are embossed on separate masonry plates with ornamental decoration around.

The first joint session of the two houses took place on July 22, 1937, just five days after an express train had derailed at Bihta, killing many passengers.

Ram Dayalu Singh was elected as the Speaker of the Bihar Legislative Assembly.

In November 2016, the annexe building of the state legislature was opened by the chief minister, which comprises Assembly and Council and council secretariat.

It was built in the green space and gardens that existed between the legislature and the state secretariat buildings, triggering concerns from heritage lovers over the architectural integrity of the old government complex.

The Central Hall of the annex building is topped with a massive dome that rises above the roof level facing the Patna Secretariat edifice.

Bihar native, Satyam Verma (20), a student of architecture in Pune, said, “The old Assembly building is one of the most iconic and unique buildings in Patna and whole of Bihar.”

“They first built the structure and topped it with a dome that rises above the roof level of the Secretariat, which totally spoils the architectural beauty and view of both the old Secretariat and the old Assembly building. We should respect the heritage, it is not feasible to make such iconic structures now, and society should treat them as jewels,” he said.

US-based biotech scientist, Jaya Ghosh, who grew up in Patna, recalls going to the Assembly building with her parents in 1957, when it was in session.

“The building was so beautiful and the campus too. Amaltas trees lined up the street on both sides, overlooking the building, and lawns were all manicured with seasonal flowers in full bloom. It was a majestic view,” she reminisced.

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