This Day in History (4-Dec-1924) – Gateway of India was inagurated by Lord Riding

The objective behind the construction of the Gateway of India was to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay (Mumbai). In March 1911, Sir George Sydenham Clarke, who was then the Governor of Bombay, laid down the monument’s first foundation. Although, this plan was approved in 1914, the reclamations at Apollo Bunder were completed in 1919. The architectural design of Gateway of India was fashioned by architect, George Wittet. It took four years to complete this monument’s construction.

The structural design of the Gateway of India is constituted of a large arch, with a height of 26m. The monument is built in yellow basalt and indissoluble concrete. The structural plan of Gateway of India is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style. One can also find traces of Muslim architectural styles incorporated in the structure of the grandiose edifice. The central dome of the monument is about 48 feet in diameter, with a total height of 83 feet. Designed with intricate latticework, the 4 turrets are the prominent features of the entire structure of the Gateway of India. There are steps constructed behind the arch of the Gateway that leads to the Arabian Sea. The monument is structured in such a way that one can witness the large expanse of the ‘blue blanket’ right ahead, welcoming and sending off ships and visitors.

At one point of time, this monument represented the grandeur of the British Raj in India. The total construction cost of this monument was approximately 21 lakhs. The passing of the ‘First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry’ was recorded as the first main event that took place at the Gateway of India. This ceremony was conducted on February 28, 1948, when the last set of British troops and divisions left India, post-independence.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.mumbai.org.uk/gate-way-of-india.html

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This Day in History (18-Nov-1727) – Maharaja Jai Singh-II of Amber laid the stone of pink city of Jaipur

Jai Singh II, a child prodigy, came to the Rajput throne in 1699. The young lad quickly impressed the 71-year-old Aurangzeb who awarded him the title ‘Sawai’, meaning one-and-a-quarter. Jai Singh II, having proved his soldiering ability further enriched his coffers and fulfilled his other passions – the arts and sciences. The impressive giant stone instruments which he devised for the open-air observatories at Jaipur, Delhi, Ujjain and Varanasi stand testimony to his scientific prowess. After ascending the throne, he shifted the capital from Amer. He studied the architecture of several European cities and drew up plans for constructing a larger and well-planned city.

After building close bonds with the Mughals and sure that there could be no danger to his throne, Sawai Jai Singh, envisioned his dream project, the building of Jaipur. The foundation stone was laid by him in 1727 and an eminent architect from Bengal, Vidyadhar Bhattacharaya, was asked to design the city. Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya, following the principles of Shilpa Shastra, and referencing the ancient Indian knowledge on astronomy, further developed and discussed the plan with Jai Singh. It is said that the foundation of the city was laid down on 18th November 1727 by Jai Singh himself. It took minutely planned strategies and 4 years for the city to come to form. The city was named Jaipur as ‘Jai’ means victory and was also the ruler’s first name. That it was later chosen as the capital of Rajasthan formed from the amalgamation of various kingdoms, was a tribute to both Jai Singh and Bhattacharya.

The city was planned in a grid system of seven blocks of buildings with wide straight avenues lined with trees, with the palace set on the north side. Surrounding it are high walls pieced with ten gates. The site of the shops were chosen after careful planning and they are arranged in nine rectangular city sectors (chokris). Jaipur was the first sizable city in north India to be built from scratch, though the famous pink colour symbolizing welcome, came later when Ram Singh II received the Prince of Wales in 1876. The colour was chosen after several experiments to cut down the intense glare from the reflection of the blazing rays of the sun. To this day, the buildings are uniformly rose pink.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.jaipurtravel.com/history-of-jaipur.htm

http://www.jaipur.org.uk/history.html

This Day in History (9-Aug-1173) – Construction of the Tower of Pisa begins, and it takes two centuries to complete

To show the world just how important the city was, the people of Pisa decided to build a great cathedral complex, the Field of Miracles. The plan included a cathedral, a baptistery, a bell tower (Tower of Pisa) and a cemetery. The construction of the leaning tower of Pisa began in august 1173, but was interrupted several times by wars, debt and while engineers worked on solutions to correct the lean. Probably without these interruptions that allowed the soil to compress under the tower, it would have toppled over. Pisa Tower was eventually completed in the mid-1300s.

The real identity of Tower of Pisa’s architects is a mystery. The most accredited architects of this first phase of work are Bonanno Pisano and Gherardo din Gherardo. The second phase of construction started in 1275, and the work is attributed to Giovani di Simone. Tommaso Pisano (1350-1372) was the architect who finished the work. The lean, first noted when three of the tower’s eight storeys had been built, resulted from the foundation stones being laid on soft ground consisting of clay, fine sand and shells. The next storeys were built slightly taller on the short side of the tower in an attempt to compensate for the lean. However, the weight of the extra floors caused the edifice to sink further and lean more. Over the next 800 years, it became clear the 55-metre tower wasn’t just learning but was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimetres per year. Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is more than five metres off perpendicular.

Pisa got its name in 600 BC from a Greek word meaning “marshy land.” There are several other towers in Pisa that also lean: the bell tower at the church of St. Michele dei Scalzi, and the bell tower at the church of St. Nicola. Until recent years tourists were not allowed to climb the staircase inside the tower, due to consolidation work. But now the leaning Tower of Pisa is open again and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/august/9

http://www.towerofpisa.info/

http://www.towerofpisa.info/Tower-of-Pisa-facts.html

http://www.towerofpisa.info/Tower-of-Pisa-historical-facts.html

This Day in History (13-May-1648) – Construction of the Red Fort at Dehli was completed

In 1638 Shahjahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. It is enclosed by a rubble stone wall, with bastions, gates and wickets at intervals. Of its fourteen gates, the important ones are the Mori, Lahori, Ajmeri, Turkman, Kashmiri and Delhi gates, some of which have already been demolished. His famous citadel, the Lal-Qila, or the Red Fort, lying at the town’s northern end on the right bank or the Yamuna and south of Salimgarh, was begun in 1639 and completed after nine years. The Red Fort is different from the Agra fort and is better planned, because at its back lies the experience gained by Shahjahan at Agra, and because it was the work of one hand.

It is an irregular octagon, with two long sides on the east and west, and with two main gates, one on the west and the other on the south, called Lahori and Delhi gates respectively. While the walls, gates and a few other structures in the fort are constructed of red sandstone, marble has been largely used in the palaces. Emperor Shah Jahaan’s royal seat stood in Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), made of solid gold frame and studded with precious stones such as rubies, emeralds, pearls and diamonds including the world’s largest, the Kohinoor.

The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperors of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. With the end of the Mughal reign, the British gave official sanctions to remove and sell valuables from the palace at the Red Fort. In 1863, British destroyed many buildings inside and outside the fort, filled up the gardens, stripped the fort of any valuable items and reduced the fort to just a military structure.

On 15 August 1947, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru raised the Indian national flag above the Lahore Gate. On each subsequent Independence Day, the prime minister has raised the flag and given a speech that is broadcast nationally.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_tktd_delhi_redfort.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Fort

http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/top-10-interesting-facts-about-red-fort-26406.html

This Day in History (31-Mar-1889) – The Eiffel Tower Opens

The committee, set up to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution in 1889, announced a contest to design and build a monument to the revolution. After a six-week competition, Gustave Eiffel’s design was announced as the winner. When plans were first unveiled based on Eiffel’s concept, the design was severely criticized by intellectuals and artists, calling the design a disgraceful skeleton . . . “a gigantic factory chimney whose form will disfigure the architectural harmony of the city.”

The Eiffel Tower rose at a rate of almost two feet per day, an astounding fact considering 18,038 pieces of iron were fitted together with 2.5 million rivets by more than 100 workmen who functioned almost like acrobats and stuntmen. Not one man lost his life during the construction. On March 31, 1889, just days after the final piece of the tower was put in place, Eiffel proudly led a number of government officials and journalists at the 980-foot-high upper level and unfurled the French flag to a 25-gun salute commemorating the completion of the tallest structure in the world at the time. When the tower opened to the public in May, 1889, it was an instant success. Eiffel was able to reimburse his creditors within one year, just through the admission ticket receipts from the 1,868,000 visitors.  The “Iron Lady” — the tallest manmade object on the planet for more than four decades — has had more than 250 million visitors since.

Twenty years later, however, the lease for the land expired, and Eiffel lost control of his tower to the City of Paris. The land was too valuable for such a frivolous structure, according to city council, and plans were made to turn the tower into scrap metal. Fortunately for the Eiffel Tower, the First World War came along, and the tower was transformed into a military radio and telegraph centre. Its lease was renewed for another 70 years, and the tourists continued to flock to the structure. While the Germans occupied Paris during World War II, legend has it Adolf Hitler refused to make the climb to the top, leaving some to say he “conquered France, but the Eiffel Tower conquered him.” With the Allies approaching in August 1944, Der Fuhrer ordered the landmark destroyed in order to damage French morale but General Dietrich von Choltitz — thankfully — ignored the Nazi leader.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/march-31-1889-the-eiffel-tower-opens

http://www.eiffeltowerguide.com/Gustave-Eiffel-Biography.html

http://www.eiffeltowerguide.com/Eiffel-Tower-History.html