The Bidhan Sabha Bhawan, located at 3 Esplanade Row, Calcutta is the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, where the legislation for the state of West Bengal are pronounced.
The history of the West Bengal Legislature dates back from 1862, when under the Indian Councils Act of 1861, a Legislative Council for Bengal was established by the Governor-General of India on18 January1862 with the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and some nominated members. The first meeting of the Council was held under the presidency of Sir John Peter Grant, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal on the 1st day of February 1862. From its inception, the Council used to hold its sittings at Belvedere, the residential palace of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, which continued until 1920. The usual time of meeting of the Council was at 11 am on each Saturday.
Subsequently, the Bengal Legislative Council constituted under the Act of 1919 was formally inaugurated on the 1st day of February 1921 by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Nawab Sir Samsul Huda was appointed its first non-official President. Immediately after that, the timing of the meetings of the Council was changed from 11 am to 3 pm, on 7 February 1921, by a resolution moved in the House by R. M. Watson Smyth, a member of the Council representing the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. Apart from that, the venue of the meetings was also shifted from Belvedere to the Town Hall. However, the venue for the sitting of the Council was finally changed from the Town Hall to the newly built Legislative Building on 9 February 1931, when the building was officially opened on the same date by the then Governor of Bengal Presidency, Sir Francis Stanley Jackson. Following the independence of India in 1947, the Legislative Building was renamed the Bidhan Sabha Bhawan.
The construction of the building for the Legislative Council of undivided Bengal started on a plot of land measuring approximately 33 bighas. The chief architect of the project was J Greaves and the responsibility of the construction work was entrusted to Martin & Co. After the foundation stone of the structure was laid by Sir Francis Stanley Jackson on 9 July 1928, the construction completed within a short period of two years and six months at a cost of Rs.2134, 000, which was a hefty price in the standard of those days.
The architectural style of the building is a mixture of oriental and occidental influence. An aerial view of the building resembles the English letter 'H'. Decorated with 18 Gothic columns on each of its East and West face, the structure is massive in size and takes a long time to circumnavigate on foot. It is considered by many that, the copper-plated dome at the centre of the building is more like the Shah Najaf Imambara in Lucknow.
The main chamber of the building, where the actual sitting of the house takes place is a 19 m high, 91 m wide and 4300 square feet round shaped hall with an accommodation of 300 members. The roof of the vestibule is supported by eight tall marble pillars and a sea green chandelier, complete with concealed electric lights, hangs from the dome above. Apart from a separate enclosure for the speaker, there are separate galleries to accommodate the officials and the visitors. All the furniture is built-in and teak-made. There is a long passage encircling the Chamber, which leads to the various office chambers and a lobby where the members relax when the legislature is not in session. The lobby is aesthetically decorated with numbers of oil paintings and portraits of the eminent national leaders, freedom fighters, former Chief Ministers and the Speakers. The building also includes separate chambers for the Speaker, Chief Minister, other Ministers, Leader of the Opposition and two Committee Rooms.
Three administrative buildings viz. North Annex Building, South Annex Building and the Golden Jubilee Building are located inside the compound of the Bidhan Sabha Bhawan. The Legislative Library, containing around 200,000 books on a wide array of subjects, is shifted from the Legislative building to the Golden Jubilee building. Apart from that, the foundation stone of another building, named the Millennium Building, was laid by Jyoti Basu, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, inside the compound in 2001.
Apart from the buildings, there is a neglected and obscured Neo-Gothic memorial monument located inside the complex of the Bidhan Sabha Bhawan, which was once a spectacular drinking fountain, dedicated to the memory of William Fraser McDonnell.
To know more about the McDonnell Memorial Fountain, interested persons may visit - Mcdonnell Memorial Fountain - Calcutta