Rashtrapati Bhavan guest house ready to host after 19 years
Believed to be last functional almost two decades ago, when former South African president Nelson Mandela stayed here, the 14-room guest wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been renovated and is all set to host Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Ashi Jetsun Pema, who will be staying there during their four-day visit from Monday.
"The primary purpose of this revival is to restore the beauty of the guest wing. It had been locked up with the furniture kept away since it was last used. This refurbishing is also the revival of an important tradition (of guests staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan)," said Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the president.
"The president (Pranab Mukherjee) has always wanted the Rashtrapati Bhavan to be used and be open to guests and public," he said.
It is last said to have hosted Mandela in 1995 and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984. Interestingly, the section which is spread across two floors, has been revamped using items from the Rashtrapati Bhavan's inventory itself.
"The brief I got mentioned that only the items kept in our own inventory is to be utilised. We brought out old pieces, restored them and put them back into use," joint secretary to the President, Gayatri Kumar said.
"The paintings are from our store, the artworks, carpets and showpieces are gifts to the president (Pranab Mukherjee) from various officials and dignitaries," she said.
The newly-decorated rooms are replete with beds, cupboards, study desks, carpets, chairs and tidied to a tee.
"The colour tones for the rooms too have been thought out. We have tried to match the colours on the carpet with room's furnishings," Kumar told IANS. The rooms, which are named after Indian mountains, rivers and regions have been renamed by the president himself.
"The original names were imperial. We wanted to give them a more contemporary and Indian sound to them. The president picked out the names himself," Kumar said, reflecting the interest the present president has taken in restoring the old architectural glory and splendour of the 340-room Rashtrapati Bhavan, the former viceregal mansion, and making it accessible to the public.
The names include Dwarka suite (King's room), Nalanda suite (Queen's room), Himalaya, Ganga, Jhelum, Nilgiri and Shivalik.
"The president had given us time till this winters (to open the guest wing), and we have fulfilled our promise," said president's secretary, Omita Paul.
(Posted on 05-01-2014)