Parliament House being spruced up to receive Obama


New Delhi : The central dome is getting a fresh coat of blue paint, the ancient pedestal fans too are getting repainted, and new light fixtures are being put up – the eight decades old majestic Indian parliament building is being done up ahead of US President Barack Obama’s Nov 8 address.

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Obama is to address Indian MPs in parliament’s Central Hall.

The doors of the Central Hall are being kept shut for the facelift, a parliament official said.

“The doors of the Central Hall are closed. An overall clean-up is being done. I’m not sure about Obama’s speech,” a parliament official said.

The Parliament House was designed by architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker when the British rulers moved the imperial capital from Calcutta to newly built New Delhi.

Painters from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are touching up the numerous portraits hanging from the walls of the circular Central Hall.

“The clean-up and repainting are done before every session,” the official said, unwilling to reveal much, but added that it is part of “general maintenance”.

But he did reveal that ASI painters were at work, “giving final touches to the paintings on the walls”.

One of the main attractions of the Central Hall are the unusual pedestal fans mounted on MPs’ tables, instead of hanging fro the ceiling.

“The Central Hall’s dome, which is blue coloured, will get a new coat of paint, and will be tastefully illuminated,” a source said.

Apart from the coat of fresh paint, new light fittings are also being put up, he added.

The Central Hall is circular in shape. Its dome, which is 98 feet (29.87 metres) in diameter, is said to be one of the most magnificent in the world.

The Central Hall is a place of historical importance as the transfer of power on Aug 15, 1947, from British to Indian hands took place in this hall. “The Indian Constitution was also framed in the Central Hall,” according to parliament records.

The Duke of Connaught laid the foundation stone of Parliament House on Feb 12, 1921. The building was completed after six years at the cost of Rs.83 lakh.

Then Governor-General of India, Lord Irwin formally opened the building Jan 18, 1927.

In the centre of the Central Hall hangs a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, painted by Sir Oswald Birley.

Gilded panels on the walls and arches on either side of dais contain portraits of 23 national leaders – including Madan Mohan Malviya, Dadabhai Nauroji, Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Morarji Desai.