The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residenceof the President of India located at the Western end of Rajpath in New Delhi, India. Rashtrapati Bhavan may refer to only the 340-room main building that has the president’s official residence, including reception halls, guest rooms and offices, also called the mansion; it may also refer to the entire 130-hectare (320 acre) Presidential Estate that additionally includes huge presidential gardens (Mughal Gardens), large open spaces, residences of bodyguards and staff, stables, other offices and utilities within its perimeter walls. In terms of area, it is the largest residence of any head of state in the world.
The Governor-General of Fort William resided in Belvedere House, Calcutta, until the early nineteenth century, when Government House, Calcutta (now Raj Bhavan, Kolkata) was constructed. Lord Wellesley, who is reputed to have said that ‘India should be governed from a palace, not from a country house’, ordered the construction of a grand mansion between 1799 and 1803 and in 1854, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal took up residence there. The decision to build a residence in New Delhi for the British Viceroy was taken after it was decided during the Delhi Durbar in December 1911 that the capital of India would be relocated from Calcutta to Delhi. When the plan for a new city, New Delhi, adjacent to end south of Old Delhi, was developed after the Delhi Durbar, the new palace for the Viceroy of India was given an enormous size and prominent position. About 4,000 acres of land was acquired to begin the construction of Viceroy’s House, as it was originally called, and adjacent Secretariat Building between 1911 and 1916 by relocating Raisina and Malcha villages that existed there and their 300 families under the Land & Acquisition Act
The British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens, a major member of the city-planning process, was given the primary architectural responsibility. The completed Governor-General’s palace turned out very similar to the original sketches which Lutyens sent Herbert Baker, from Simla, on 14 June 1912. Lutyens’ design is grandly classical overall, with colors and details inspired by Indian architecture. Lutyens and Baker, who had been assigned to work on Viceroy’s House and the Secretariats, began on friendly terms. Baker had been assigned to work on the two secretariat buildings which were in front of Viceroy’s House. The original plan was to have Viceroy’s House on the top of Raisina Hill, with the secretariats lower down. It was later decided to build it 400 yards back and put both buildings on top of the plateau. While Lutyens wanted Viceroy’s House to be higher, he was forced to move it back from the intended position, which resulted in a dispute with Baker. After completion, Lutyens argued with Baker, because the view of the front of the building was obscured by the high angle of the road.
Lutyens campaigned for its fixing, but was not able to get it to be changed. Lutyens wanted to make a long inclined grade all the way to Viceroy’s House with retaining walls on either side. While this would give a view of the house from further back, it would also cut through the square between the secretariat buildings. The committee with Lutyens and Baker established in January 1914 said the grade was to be no steeper than 1 in 25, though it eventually was changed to 1 in 22, a steeper gradient which made it more difficult to see the Viceroy’s palace. While Lutyens knew about the gradient, and the possibility that the Viceroy’s palace would be obscured by the road, it is thought that Lutyens did not fully realize how little the front of the house would be visible. In 1916 the Imperial Delhi committee dismissed Lutyens’s proposal to alter the gradient. Lutyens thought Baker was more concerned with making money and pleasing the government, rather than making a good architectural design.
Lutyens traveled between India and England almost every year for twenty years and worked on the construction of Viceroy’s House in both countries. Lutyens reduced the building from 13,000,000 cubic feet (370,000 m3) to 8,500,000 cubic feet (240,000 m3) because of the budget restrictions of Lord Hardinge. While Hardinge demanded that costs be reduced, he nevertheless wanted the house to retain a certain amount of ceremonial grandeur.
When Chakravarti Rajagopalachari assumed the office as the first Indian-born Governor General of India and became the occupant of this building he preferred to stay in a few rooms which is now the family wing of the President and converted the then Viceroy’s apartments into the Guest Wing where visiting heads of state stay while in India.
On 26 January 1950, when Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India and occupied this building, it was renamed as Rashtrapati Bhavan – the President’s House.