The Parliament House, which will be relegated to the annals of history when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the new complex on Sunday, stands in the centre of the bustling city of New Delhi as a magnificent circular structure that embodies the essence of Indian democracy. This architectural marvel served as the centre of the nation’s political activities for nearly a century and held great significance in the nation’s history.
For decades, India’s Parliament building, known in Hindi as Sansad Bhavan, has been a symbol of the nation’s unity, authority, and collective will.
The existing Parliament building was constructed in the early 20th century and was designed by renowned British architects Sir Herbert Becker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. Its foundation stone was set in 1921 by Britain’s Duke of Connaught, after whom Delhi’s first and largest shopping mall is named. The structure took six years to construct and was inaugurated in 1927, signifying a significant step in India’s journey towards independence.
The Parliament House exemplifies India’s democratic ideals through a synthesis of Indian and Western architectural styles. Its expansive circular structure features a collonaded exterior with 144 imposing columns. The central dome is adorned with the national emblem of India, which consists of four Asiatic lions, each facing a cardinal direction and representing strength, fortitude, and power.
Inside the edifice are the Lok Sabha (House of the People or Lower House) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of the States or Upper House), where elected representatives from all over India convened to discuss, debate, and pass legislation. The larger chamber was occupied by the Lok Sabha, which represented the expression of the people, while the smaller chamber was occupied by the Rajya Sabha, which represented the states and union territories.
There were over 550 seats for Members of Parliament (MPs) in the vibrant green upholstery of the Lok Sabha. In the front of the chamber stood the Speaker’s throne, which was emblazoned with the national emblem and from which the Speaker presided over the proceedings. In contrast, the Rajya Sabha chamber featured crimson hues and 250 seats for Rajya Sabha members. In the chamber’s centre, a circular table known as the “Well” served as the discussion’s focal point.
In addition to its architectural splendour, the significance of India’s Parliament building extended far beyond its physical appearance. It exemplified the nation’s democratic principles, in which the people elected their representatives to influence the nation’s future. In its hallowed chambers, history was forged and laws enacted, influencing the lives of millions.
The adoption of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950, which marked India’s transition from a monarchy to a republic, was one of several defining occasions that occurred in the Parliament House. It was the site of heated debates on important issues, the drafting of laws, and the exchange of ideas that propelled India’s development.
The building echoed with the passionate speeches of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose words moulded the nation’s course.
On the brink of independence, the Constituent Assembly convened at eleven o’clock at night, with President Rajendra Prasad presiding. Sucheta Kriplani, a representative from Uttar Pradesh, sang the initial verse of Vande Mataram to inaugurate the special session. The famous “Tryst with destiny” speech by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was followed by a vow by members of the Constituent Assembly to dedicate themselves to the service of the nation.
The demise of Mahatma Gandhi was announced by Lok Sabha Speaker G V Mavlankar on February 2, 1948.
In 1965, as India struggled with food shortages and fought a war with Pakistan, its prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, appealed to the nation to forego one supper per week.
On July 22, 1974, the then-prime minister Indira Gandhi made a comprehensive statement in Parliament regarding the “peaceful nuclear experiment” at Pokhran and the reactions of other nations. After scientists conducted five underground nuclear tests between May 11 and May 13 of 1998, India’s then-prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee declared India a nuclear weapons state in 1998, nearly 24 years later.
The Parliament building was a living testament to the force of dialogue and negotiation, where the ideas and concerns of all segments of society were articulated. The Parliament edifice of India embodied democracy, unity, and progress. It stood erect as a symbol of the nation’s collective aspirations and as the seat of government authority.
The building’s significance endures, inspiring generations to uphold the democratic ideals it represented as the sun sets over its majestic dome and casts a golden radiance.
(With input from PTI)