CONTRIBUTED BY URVASHI SRIVASTAVA
Golghar is located in Patna, one of the oldest cities of India. Situated at the confluence of four rivers the city was a river port since ancient times. During 17th century the city became a centre of international trade. In 1620 the English East India Company established a factory in Patna for trading in calico and silk. Soon it became a trading centre for saltpetre. Trade encouraged other Europeans, principally the French, Danes, Dutch and Portuguese, to set up factories and compete in the lucrative business. However after the decisive Battle of Buxar of 1764, Patna fell into the hands of the East India Company, which installed a government there.
The disastrous experience of crop failure and famine during the 1770s pressed the need to erect golas which could store grains produced in good agricultural years, reserves which could be used during times of crisis. Consequently the general plan ordered by the British Governor General and Council decreed that a granary be erected at Bankipur in Patna, an early British Military centre, for the perpetual prevention of famine in these provinces. Captain John Garstin was recommended to undertake the construction of the granary at Bankipur to serve as a State Granary for the British Army. A huge and impressive beehive shaped gola was constructed by John Garstin in 1786 on the banks of the Ganga. The location of the gola was carefully chosen close to the river port to facilitate easy transportation of grains.
The gigantic dome shaped gola, 29m meters high with walls approximately 3.6 meters thick at the bottom has two symmetrical spiral staircases running on the outside of the structure leading to the top. The idea was to carry the grains up the stairs and throw it into the opening at the top. The grains could be emptied through two doors at the ground level. The gola was possibly filled with grains once but immediately changes in the walls were noted and fearing they would burst it was never filled completely. Till about a decade back the gola was being used by the Bihar State Food Corporation.
The fame of the gola at Bankipur more popularly known as Golghar is however not connected with its primary function. At the time of its construction, Golghar was the tallest building in Patna. Rising above the humdrum of daily life one gets a splendid view of the entire city of Patna from top of the Golghar. The small circular platform at the top of the Golghar offers a breath taking view of Ganga with its large expanse of water almost resembling a sea. The space inside the golghar also has a powerful echo which repeats 32 times making it a unique whispering gallery.
Having outlived its function this curious piece of architecture has come to be regarded as a monument. The design of the golghar appears to have been inspired from the circular grain houses commonly found all across the rural landscape of India. Apart from the memorable journey up the Golghar, the space inside the structure has immense potential of being adapted for reuse offering the visitors a unique experience. Despite being criticized for its non functionality, the golghar stands like a colossus on the banks of the Ganga. The peculiar shape and size of this structure has an uncanny resemblance to Buddhist stupas and its grand scale commands respect, challenging and inspiring the onlooker to explore its summit. Designed as a granary, the journey up the endless spiral stairs of the golghar is nothing more than a revelation of ones physical and mental energies, an arduous yet unforgettable transition from the mundane to the spiritual.
Image Source: Wikipedia
- European Archtecture in India 1750-1850, Sten Nilsson
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