Parliament House Estate comprises the Parliament House, Reception Office building, Sansadiya Gyanpeeth (Parliament Library Building), Parliament House Annexe and the extensive lawns around it where ponds with fountains have been provided. Special floral decoration is done at important points in the building during sessions of Parliament as well as on other important occasions.
By the very nature of things, Parliament House Estate as a whole and the Chambers of the two Houses in particular are subject to strict security precaution all round the year. The entire Parliament House Estate is enclosed by an ornamental red sand stone wall or iron grills with iron gates that can be closed when occasions demand. The approach roads which cut across the Parliament House Estate and form part of the Estate are not allowed to be used as public thoroughfares.
Parliament House is one of the most magnificent buildings in New Delhi which has one of the brightest clusters of architectural gems possessed by any country in the world. Visitors to the capital invariably pay a visit to this building as the two Houses of Parliament—the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) are located within its walls.
The building was designed by two famous architects— Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker—who were responsible for the planning and construction of New Delhi. The Foundation Stone of Parliament House was laid on the 12th February, 1921 by H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught. The construction of the building took six years and the opening ceremony was performed on the 18th January, 1927 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Irwin. The cost of construction was Rs. 83 lakhs.
Parliament House is a massive circular edifice 560 feet (170.69 metres) in diameter. Its circumference is one-third of a mile 536.33 metres and it covers an area of nearly six acres (24281.16 square metres). The open verandah on the first floor is fringed with a colonnade of 144 creamy sandstone columns—each 27 feet (8.23 metres) high. The building has twelve gates among which Gate No. 1 on the Sansad Marg is the main gate.
Apart from the fact that the building was built with indigenous material and by Indian labour, the architecture of the building bears a close imprint of the Indian tradition. The layout of fountains both inside and outside the building, the use of Indian symbols the “Chhajjas” which shade the walls and windows and the varied forms of “Jali” in marble are reminders of the story of the craftsmanship displayed in ancient monuments and memorials. With the ancient features of Indian art are mingled modern scientific achievements in acoustics, air-conditioning, simultaneous Interpretation and Automatic Voting etc.
The centre and focus of the building is the big circular edifice of the Central Hall. On the three axes, radiating from this centre are placed the three Chambers for Lok Sabha (House of the People), Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the erstwhile Library Hall (formerly the Princes Chamber) and between them lie garden courts. Surrounding these three Chambers is a four storeyed circular structure providing accommodation for Ministers, Chairmen, Parliamentary Committees, Party Offices, important offices of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats and also the Offices of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
Three Committee Rooms on the first floor are used for meetings of Parliamentary Committees. Three other rooms on the same floor are used by Press Correspondents who come to the Press Galleries of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. There are six lifts operating in the building, one on either side of the entrances to the Chambers. The Central Hall is air cooled and the Chambers are air-conditioned. The outer wall of the corridor on the ground floor of the building is decorated with a series of panels depicting the history of India from the ancient times and India’s cultural contacts with her neighbours.
The Central Hall is circular in shape and its dome which is 98 ft. (29.87 metres) in diameter is stated to be one of the most magnificent domes in the world. The Central Hall is a place of historical importance. The transfer of power on the 15th August, 1947 from British to Indian hands took place in this Hall. The Indian Constitution was also framed in the Central Hall. The Central Hall was originally used as the Library of the erstwhile Central Legislative Assembly and the Council of States. In 1946, it was converted and refurnished into the Constituent Assembly Hall. The Constituent Assembly met there from December 9, 1946 to January 24, 1950.
At present, the Central Hall is used for holding Joint Sittings of the two Houses. At the commencement of the first session after each general elections to Lok Sabha and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President addresses both the Houses of Parliament assembled together in the Central Hall. When the Houses are in session, the Central Hall is used by Members for informal discussions among themselves. Central Hall is also used for special occasions when the Members of Parliament are addressed by distinguished Heads of States of other countries. The Hall is also equipped with Simultaneous Interpretation System.
The Central Hall has six galleries on its first floor. At the time of Joint Sittings of the two Houses, the two Galleries which are towards the right of the dais are occupied by Press Correspondents, the one facing the dais is set apart for distinguished visitors and in the other three, the guests of the Members of the two Houses are accommodated.
The Chamber of the Lok Sabha is semi-circular in shape with a floor area of about 4800 sq. feet (446 square metres). The Chair of the Speaker is placed on a raised platform at the centre of the diameter connecting the two ends of the semi-circle. On the wooden panel just above the Speaker’s Chair, which was originally designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the famous architect is installed an electrically-lit motto in Sanskrit. To the right of the Chair is located the Official Gallery meant for the use of the officials required to be present in attendance on Ministers in connection with the business of the House. To the left of the Chair is the Special Box reserved for the Members of the family and guests of the President, Governors of States, Heads and Prime Ministers of Foreign States and other high personalities in the discretion of the Speaker.
In the pit of the Chamber just below the Speaker’s Chair is the table of the Secretary-General of the House. In front of him is placed a large table which is the Table of the House on which papers are formally laid by Ministers, Officers of the House and the Official Reporters sit at this Table.
The Chamber has seating accommodation for 550 Members. The seats are divided into six blocks, each with eleven rows. Block No. 1 on the right-hand side of the Speaker’s Chair and Block No. 6 on the left-hand side have 97 seats each. The remaining 4 blocks have 89 seats each. A seat is allotted in the Chamber to each Member including Ministers who are Members of Lok Sabha. The seats on the right-hand side of the Speaker’s Chair are occupied by the Members of Government party and those on the left-hand side by Members belonging to the Opposition Parties/Groups. The Deputy Speaker occupies the first front row seat on the left side.
Over looking the Chamber and fixed on the wood-work opposite to the Speaker’s seat is the portrait of the late Shri Vithalbhai Patel, the first elected President of the Indian Legislative Assembly.
In the wood-work around the Lok Sabha Chamber, there are 35 gilded designs representing the various Provinces of undivided India, the Dominions and certain other British Settlements.
In the first floor of the Lok Sabha Chamber are located the various public galleries and the Press Gallery. The Press Gallery is just above the Chair and to its left are situated the Speaker’s Gallery (meant for the guests of the Speaker) the Rajya Sabha Gallery (meant for Rajya Sabha Members) and the Special Gallery. The Public Gallery is in front of the Press Gallery. To the right of the Press Gallery are situated Diplomatic and Distinguished Visitors’ Galleries.
Rajya Sabha chamber is almost on the same pattern as that of the Lok Sabha Chamber but it is smaller in size. It has a seating capacity of 250. It is also equipped with modern sound equipment, Automatic Vote Recording and the Simultaneous Interpretation System.
The Public Gallery, the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery, the Diplomatic Gallery, the Chairman’s Gallery (meant for the guests of the Chairman), the Press Gallery and the Gallery for Members of the Lok Sabha are all located on the first floor of the Rajya Sabha Chamber as in the case of the Lok Sabha Chamber.
The Reception Office accommodated in a circular building, constructed, opposite Gate No. 1, is a friendly waiting place for large number of visitors who come to meet Members, Ministers, etc. or to witness the proceedings of Parliament. Its entry is from Raisina Road side. The building which is fully air-conditioned is unique in conception and combines the value of both the old and the new forms of architecture. The outer portion of the building is finished in red sandstone and the inner portion is given wooden lining which radiates the feeling of warmth and welcome. There is provision for cafeteria inside the Reception Office for the convenience of the visitors.