A Journey from Kothi Hayat Baksh to Raj Bhavan
The Raj Bhavan of Lucknow, in the capital of Uttar Pradesh is an ancient and historical building, which is over 200 years old. This building was initially called Kothi Hayat Baksh and Major General Claude Martin drew the layout of this building. In the history of Avadh, Major General Claude Martin is revered as a renowned personality. The birth of Claude Martin took place in a city named Lyons in France on 4th January 1735. Claude Martin came to India in the year 1785 as a bodyguard of Count Dilaly. After staying for some time in southern and eastern parts of India, he later came to Lucknow. He was so fascinated by its beauty, rich culture and mannerisms of the inhabitants of Lucknow that he chose Lucknow to be his permanent place of residence. Undoubtedly Claude Martin was extremely talented and a man of many capabilities and qualities. Making plans for Lucknow, supervision of construction and maintenance of beautiful & magnificent structures were Martin’s favorite hobbies. It was this talent that helped him to become the chief in Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulla’s darbar.
In the year 1798 after Nawab Asaf-ud-daula, East India Company’s government made Saadat Ali Khan, originally hailing from Durga Kund Banaras, the new ruler. The new ruler took a liking for the buildings constructed in European style by Martin. Hence, as per the wishes of Saadat Ali Khan, Martin undertook the contract for construction of buildings for the Nawab. The Kothi Hayat Baksh is one such work of art created in partnership by both of them.
This two-storied palatial building was constructed in the eastern side of the city surrounded by lush greenery. The term, “Hayat Baksh”, means “life giving”. Such buildings constructed under the influence of the Company’s government used to be different than the traditional Indian style of architecture and these buildings were called Kothis. In Indian style of architecture, a courtyard was an essential part of the house, but in these Kothis, no provision had been made for a courtyard. Kothis normally were two-storied, having plain walls without any design. The artistic designs of Gothic style were present only to beautify the doors and windows.
Kothi Hayat Baksh is an airy and palatial building surrounded by high roofed verandahs. Only the Rajdarbar inside the Kothi is made as per Indian architecture, whereas remaining portion of the Bhavan is completely influenced by the western style. The arches of the Dewankhana are decorated with floral motifs and are beautifully painted in golden color.
As is evident from an ancient photograph displayed in the verandah of Rajbhavan, at one point of time sheds surrounded this ancient building. This building could only get itself named by the Nawab, but it was never used either by the Nawab or by any member of his family. The main reason behind this was that perhaps this place was distant from the areas of Chhatter Manzil, Kothi Daulat Sarai Sultani and Rajdarbar.
Major General Claude Martin made this building his residence and it also had all the arrangements for his security guards and his armory.
In the year 1830, during Badshah Nasrudeen Haider’s rule, Colonel Roberts resided in this Kothi.
During the freedom movement in the year 1857 the role of the Resident of Lucknow, Sir Henry Lawrence, had been very important. He was a frequent visitor of this Kothi. Later on, when Colonel English became the commander of forces, he resided here and hence this became a part of the cantonment area. When Major Johnshore Bank became the Chief Commissioner of Avadh, he also stayed in this Kothi. Subsequently, this Kothi was named as ‘Bank Kothi’ and the road leading from western gate of the Kothi to Kaisarbagh was named as ‘Bank Road’. On 21st July 1857 Major Bank expired due to an injury caused by the bullet fired by one of the freedom fighters. He was buried in the Residency. After getting injured in historical Begum Kothi situated in the middle of Hazratganj (presently Janpath Market), Major Hudson breathed his last in Kothi Hayat Baksh. After this the British army changed their strategy and Caleen Campbell reached Lucknow from Kanpur to provide assistance. At that time Kothi Hayat Baksh became the headquarters for the British army under the leadership of Brigadier Russell. On 18th March 1857 the freedom fighters again attacked this Kothi, but under the leadership of Sir Edward Laggard it was rescued from the freedom fighters.
After acquiring full control over Avadh, the British rulers made a scheme for the expansion of Kothi Hayat Baksh. In the year 1873 under the direction of Sir George Cooper beautiful lawns, fountains and drawing rooms were annexed. Along the roadside, where the Rajbhavan post office is established today, there used to be a commercial organization by the name of M/s Park Allen and Co. Also in this area there was a Baradari, which got demolished after getting surrounded by the houses. The Shahi Masjid was also build nearby.
The families of the British officials, after coming to Lucknow, started staying in this historical building by the end of 19th century. There was a huge Charagah (pasture) for animals close to the Astabal (stable) for royal horses on the northwest side of Rajbhavan. A small group of people was also staying here for taking care of these animals. These people were called the Naldar's and it was their duty to keep horses of the royal British forces fit and ready. For these people there was a Masjid that was called as "Naldar's Masjid", this can be even seen today in the back of Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha.
In the year 1907, a portion of this Kothi was demolished for building a bathroom, a beautiful dancing room was also added that was very famous for its dance floor and was well known for the “Dancing Festival” celebrated by the European couples. This dancing room was made by costly wood is presently called “Annapurna” (previously Banquet Hall) and is currently used as the dining hall.
Even before the Indian independence, Kothi Hayat Baksh was declared as the official residence for the Governor of United Province Agra and Avadh. During that time the Raj Bhavan was given its final present shape. Before the independence, British Governor's resided here and afterwards it became the official residence of the Indian Governors.
This building came to be known as "Raj Bhavan" after the Independence. The first governor of UP Smt. Sarojini Naidu expired following a heart attack in Raj Bhavan on April 1948. The whole of city came down to Raj Bhawan to pay their tributes. Pt. Nehru also came to Raj Bhavan to console her family members.
Lots of changes were made in Raj Bhavan during the tenure of office of Governor Kanhaiya Lal Manik Lal Munshi. The “Gupta Kaksh” built during his tenure is a classical example of his belief Indian culture. During his tenure of office, Diwali was celebrated with full festivity.
When the British army finally captured the notorious "Sultana Daku" from the foothills of UP after great struggle, his arsenal of weapons were also seized in a large quantity and are on display even today in the Raj Bhavan, Nainital. One of the spears from the arsenals is on display in Lucknow Raj Bhavan.
Even today, with its everlasting splendor, beautifully designed curly railings, lush greenery, tall trees, beautiful gardens, fountains and lighting, Raj Bhavan Lucknow has not lost its charm. A lot of changes have been made for the upkeep and facelift of Raj Bhavan. Now, inside the campus residential colonies have been made.
At the main entrance of Raj Bhavan, a fountain depicting the State Government seal is constructed. There are statues of the holy rivers of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati as well as a pair of leaping fish. A marble umbrella adds up to the beauty of the garden. The magnificent Raj Bhawan of Uttar Pradesh holds countless historical memories deep in its heart.
The past Governor Shri Vishnu Kant Shashtri gave beautiful Hindi names to different rooms of Raj Bhavan. Pink Room, the waiting room for guests is now Shatdal, Blue Room, The V.I.P. waiting room has been named as Neelkusum, Gupta room as Kalakaksh, Banquet Hall as Annapurna, Mini Banquet Hall as Tripti, Conference Room as Pragyakaksh, H.E's Office as Parimal and Principal Secretary's Office as Amaltaas besides other names of guests rooms as Kadam, Kishunk, Kachnar etc.