Kolkata in West Bengal, India, is home to many interesting colonial structures. This major metropolis is a traveler’s haven. One of the most significant and attractive buildings is called the Writers’ Building, a magnificent red-brick, palatial building that was built by the British. It is also referred to as “Mahakaran”. Today, it serves as the secretariat building of the State Government of West Bengal.
Kolkata (old name: Calcutta) is West Bengal’s state capital. It is the largest and most important city in the area including Bangladesh. The city is considered East India’s principal center for commerce, culture, education and tourism. Leading tourist attractions in the city include the Victoria Memorial, Marble Palace, Fort William, and other must-see colonial buildings, including Writer’s Building.
Designed by Thomas Lyon, this building was originally constructed to house the writers and clerks of the British East Company, therefore its name, which has stuck through the years. Before its construction, junior writers and clerks used to work and stay in mud hovels. In 1695, a storm destroyed the hovels and it became necessary to build a concrete building for the faithful writers. The first writer’s building was built shortly thereafter, and then in 1706, construction began for the second writer’s building; the one that now stands majestically in the city.
Upon completion in 1777, it was Calcutta’s first and only three-storey building. In 1780, it was leased by Richard Barwell, then a member of the Council, for private use. The building was said to look like a “shabby hospital or poor-house”. In 1800, Fort William College opened its school for Oriental Languages and later moved in the building until 1830.
In 1836, Lord Bentinck prohibited the use of the building for private purposes of British officials, and from between 1877-1882, Lt. Governor Ashley Eden made use of it as an office for the government. The Lt. Governor added three blocks of space to accommodate the offices.
Although the name has not changed, the building has had several extensions. In 1821, a veranda was added to both the first and second floors with 32-foot high columns. It is this part of the building that makes it look majestic and stately.
In 1883, a parapet was installed, as well as sculptures that were made by William Fredric Woodington. There are four clusters of statues of Greek deities and that are pertained to as Justice, Commerce, Science and Agriculture.
Also, later on, two new blocks were added as well as new iron staircases that are still in use today. It was around this time that the building got its Greco-Roman look, including the portico in the central bay and red bricks. In all, this historic building is made up of 13 four-storey buildings that were completed in 1970, and now standing on 10 acres of land. The main building, the rotunda and five other main blocks are considered as heritage structures.
Today, the Writers’ Building hosts over 6,000 employees for the government. This beautiful landmark is well-maintained and is not under any threat of demolition. The surrounding areas, however, are in chaos.