Eight months ago, the Telangana government was one of many groups and factions, firmly advocating for the Central Vista to be named after Dr. BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution.
While the Central Government has made no official announcement on this matter yet, on Sunday, April 30th, the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) inaugurated the newly constructed state secretariat in Hyderabad.
Not only is it architecturally excellent, but it is also the first state secretariat in India to be dedicated to any iconic figure. Indeed, the Telangana Secretariat has been named and dedicated to Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
The inauguration of the new secretariat building was originally scheduled for February 17, which was postponed due to the MLC election code, and finally inaugurated on Sunday. The 600-crore secretariat building, sprawling in 28 acres, alongside lake Hussian Sagar, has been built in record 26 months, in the Indo-Saracenic style, which adds to its unique architectural attraction.
It is not just a seat of power, but also a magnificent sight to behold, alongside the historic Charminar and Golconda fort. The building has been designed by Chennai-based architects Ponni Concessao and Oscar Concessao. The building combines Indo-Islamic architectural features with the use of domes.
The Uniqueness of Design
Designing the new secretariat was not an easy task. The designers had to work with Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao in a one-on-one design workshop to plan and design the various spatial components and facades of the secretariat.
According to officials, a total of 15 designs were presented by the architect. The Chief Minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao, personally reviewed all of them and selected the final design that was eventually used for the construction. This indicates that the Chief Minister took an active interest in the design and architecture of the new Secretariat and personally oversaw its implementation.
The new secretariat includes zoning for ancillary buildings for visitors, police personnel, fire department, crèche, utility building, temple, mosque, and church. Ample space has been reserved for landscaping, hardscaping with stone pavements, and softscaping consisting of lawns, native trees, fountains, and parking for VVIPs, staff, and others.
A replica of Asoka’s Four-Lion Capital has also been installed on the main dome, giving the building an authoritative look.
Demolition of the old building
The old Secretariat was a historic site with its G-block that was built 132-years ago by the Nizams. The old complex was rendered inconvenient as its 10 blocks were scattered across 25 acres, lacked fire fighting system and was against vastu principles that the Chief Minister believes in. Stalwart Chief Ministers like Boorgula Ramakrishna Rao, NT Rama Rao, and Marri Channa Reddy had functioned in the past, but current CM KCR had only used it for a few days before beginning to function from Pragathi Bhavan.
According to officials, the older Secretariat had blocks that were up to 70 years old, some 40 years old, and others that were built 20 years ago but appeared old and disorganised. This arrangement made the work of ministers, secretaries, and officials a lengthy and challenging affair, leading to delays in file processing.
Consequently, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao decided to build a new Secretariat that would bring all the key officials together in one block, thus streamlining the work processes and potentially expediting decision-making. This makes the new Secretariat unique in the country and emphasises the importance of modern infrastructure to facilitate a smooth administrative system.
On July 7, 2020, several blocks the old Secretariat building were demolished to replace it with a modern structure. The High Court had given permission for the demolition on June 29, 2020. The demolition was carried out by the Roads and Buildings Department and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, and began with a homam near the Nalla Pochamma temple.
Criticised for high budget, Islamic features
The design of the new secretariat named after B R Ambedkar has received praise for its aesthetics, but it has also been the subject of political controversies.
The opposition raised concerns over the cost and questioned the need for such an extravagant expenditure.
State BJP chief Bandi Sanjay made a controversial statement on February 10, stating that if his party comes to power in the next election, they will demolish the domes of the building. Sanjay said the domes of the new Secretariat reflect the culture of Nizam and do not align with the cultural identity of the state.
Two days ago, the Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) repeated its earlier claim that the new state secretariat, resembles a mosque and fails to reflect the emotions of 85% of the Hindus in the state. The state BJP alleged that the inclusion of "Islamic" features was done to appease the political ally of the ruling TRS (now BRS), the MIM party. However, it is worth noting that the design could also be representative of the cosmopolitan culture of the Deccan.
Architectural history of India indicates that the dome, a crucial element of Islamic architecture, first arrived in India during the Turkish invasions in the 12th century. The tradition of having a double dome began with the construction of Humayun's Tomb by Akbar in Delhi in the 16th century.
In contrast, the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan during the first half of the 17th century, uses multiple domes. The Mughal architecture style is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architectural traditions, thus representing an Indo-Islamic style. The multiple domes and arches in the new Secretariat building align perfectly with this style, representing the syncretic and liberal Deccani style.
Key Features of Dr B.R Ambedkar Telangana State Secretariat
The total area of the new secretariat is 28 acres, which is longer than any state secretariat in the country.
The new secretariat is built on a total of two and a half acres.
This is one of the largest secretariats in the country.
The main building of the secretariat has six floors. It will be an 11-story structure with five levels at the main entrance.
The beauty of the city can be seen from all angles through the 360-degree Sky Lounge on the building.
Solar panels have been installed for the electricity used in the secretariat.
The construction of the secretariat was completed in a record 26 months, while it usually takes 5 years to build one.
Entry to the Secretariat will be issued with a smart card.
There will be monitoring with 300 CCTVs and 300 policemen.
Galvanized Reinforced Concrete (GRC) technology is used for the construction of domes and spires.
The six-story secretariat has 635 rooms. Separate plants have been installed for AC, and 24 lifts have been installed.
A water storage capacity of 5.60 lakh liters has been provided for all kinds of needs.
The decision has been made to install solar panels to save electricity.
The arrangements for 30 conference halls have been made. It is possible to have video conferences with officers at the field level from the conference hall.
In front of the secretariat, there are two banks, a post office, an ATM center, a railway counter, a bus counter, and a canteen.
Zonings for offices of the employee union, indoor games, and the Housing Society.
Along with the secretariat, a temple, mosque, and church has been built.
Rooms for the media beside the welcome room, NRI Center, and publicity wing.
Two floors covering 4,500 square feet built between the domes on the top of the sixth floor.
Royal dining halls are established in the Persian model.
Arrangements to rotate fire tenders around the building in case of fire accidents.
The Ashoka Emblem placed on the main domes is 265 feet above the ground level.
Sufficient parking arrangements have been made in 6 acres of land.
For the security personnel, there are a fire station, creche, dispensary, employee union hall, and assistant buildings.
For the visitors, there is parking in the southeast direction for 160 cars and 300 bikes.
The secretariat has a total of 635 rooms, 30 conference halls, and 34 domes
There are a total of 24 lifts in the building, with 8 lifts on both sides to reach the Sky Lounge.
Dr B R Ambedkar's 125-ft tall statue that was inaugurated on April 14, is situated next to the State Secretariat, in front of the Buddha statue beside the Telangana Martyrs memorial. It is India's tallest statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.