Over the years, many luminaries have described the Vidhana Soudha in different ways. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called it a “temple dedicated to the nation“, former chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah declared it a “people's palace“ while poet laureate Kuvempu regarded it as “poetry in stone“. The imposing granite structure -inaugurated on October 10, 1956 -turns 61 this year. Karnataka's seat of power has not only retained much of its original grandeur but has inspired similar structures elsewhere.
Apparently , nationalist sentiments were so intense that Hanumanthaiah intentionally built the Vidhana Soudha right opposite the Attara Kacheri at a slight elevation. Civil engineer BR Manickam was the the chief architect and Hanumanthia Rao Naidu (a graduate of London's Architectural Association) was his assistant.
While the core architectural structure was neo-Dravidian, it had influences of classical European and Indo-Saracenic styles. The four-storeyed building's central dome rose 55 metres above ground level. The house of the legislature and secretariat was spread across 5,50,505 sqft and was built at a cost of Rs 1.84 crore.
In his book `Concise History of Modern Architecture in India', author Jon Lang describes the Vidhana Soudha as “the exemplar of a revivalist building of the era“.He wrote that even though the decorative chajjas, columns, capitals and brackets are drawn from temple architecture, the design was carefully orchestrated and not just a copy of the past.
“Masons capable of working the stone in traditional Dravidian manner had to be recruited from as far afield as Karaikal (Puducherry) and Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu).They completed a building which would be almost impossible to replicate nowadays,“ Lang wrote. Most labourers who worked on the structure were brought from Central Jail between 1953 and 1956. They were monitored by ten jail wardens and a chief warden. A total of 5,000 labourers and 1,500 sculptors worked on the structure.
Satyaprakash Varanasi, architect and former convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Bengaluru, said the Vidhana Soudha is a heritage structure from a democratic but not an architectural standpoint. “The building was designed to create a sense of awe-inspiring monumentality. Though it had few parallels in India, the style upscaled historical elements and borrowed from the past. This is unlike, for instance, Chandigarh whose buildings (built around the same time) sported contemporary Indian architecture.“