Harmony in architecture
Dunstan S. Morris
The Government Guest House in Kollam was once a seat of power as it was the residence of the British Resident.
MAJESTIC: The Government Guest House, once called the Residency, is remarkable for its symmetry.
What is now called the `Government Guest House' was once the British Residency, a proud colonial mansion with all the trappings of the Raj.
A splendid two-storeyed structure, the Residency stands in solitary majesty, about two kilometres north of Kollam town, facing the scenic Asthamudi Lake.
It was built between the years 1811 and 1819, during the reign of Gauri Parvathi Bai. Captain Arthur, Superintending Engineer of Public Works Department, was responsible for its construction. Colonel Munroe was the resident at that time.
The Residency is remarkable for its symmetry, and harmonious blending of variegated artistic features.
The architecture is a fusion of European, and local styles. The imposing columns resemble Tuscan architecture, a classical order of Roman origin, basically simplified Doric, having no decoration, other than mouldings.
The central edifice has a rounded front. Atop is a large gable with a finial, having a coat-of-arms depicting a lion with a cross on its forehead and a unicorn holding up a shield, atop which is a crown with a lion seated on it, with the words `Dieu et mon Droit' (God and my right) inscribed above.
An impressive feature of the Residency is the lofty ceilings of the rooms, which may explain why the building has a very steep roof.
The ceiling of the rooms are 15 feet high. The doors, measuring 10 feet, have glass panes and fanlights above with sunrise motifs.
The ornate conference hall has an antechamber. An adjustable partition-like door with a large fanlight arching over, divides the two rooms. The walls of the conference hall having cornices and dentils bordering the four sides have embossed designs of festoons, urns, and floral forms. A motif of a large arch with an ornamental keystone, resting on pillars is embossed over the main doorway. Antique prints in polished wooden frames adorn the walls. One that depicts the battle of Seringapatnam, dating from 1802, is particularly engrossing.
On either side of the main edifice, top and below, are suites of living rooms. The rear edifice of the building is largely identical to the front face, except that it has an additional row of columns of lesser height, beyond the round paved steps, which support a magnificently sweeping canopy. On the rear left of the building is another winding breezeway which leads to the kitchen.
Beyond the large oval garden in front with a derelict bird fountain, the land slopes downwards. A stone stairway leads downwards to an ornamental boat jetty and an adjacent park maintained by the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC). To the right is a forest of mangrove. Many momentous meetings have been held at the Residency and many important dignitaries from Curzon to Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi have stopped here. The building continues to be the venue for important State meetings apart from serving as a stop-over for tourists.
This relic of the Raj has yet to be listed as a heritage building.
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