Patna Collectorate: Dutch-Era Record Room, Featured In Oscar-Winning Film "Gandhi", Demolished

The fate of the historic collectorate complex was sealed on May 13 last year when the Supreme Court rejected a plea by Delhi-based heritage body INTACH for its preservation, paving the way for its demolition by the Bihar government.

Patna Collectorate: Dutch-Era Record Room, Featured In Oscar-Winning Film "Gandhi", Demolished

Patna, Jan 28 (PTI) The Dutch-era Record Room Building of the Patna Collectorate with a colonnaded frontage that featured in Oscar-winning film "Gandhi" has been demolished, but a few pillars of the historic landmark have been salvaged for the posterity.

The over 300-year-old majestic building, which ran on a north-south axis on the banks of the Ganga river in Patna, had high ceilings, massive doors and unique skylights on its roof. It was also the oldest structure on the 12-acre campus of the old collectorate.

The fate of the historic collectorate complex was sealed on May 13 last year when the Supreme Court rejected a plea by Delhi-based heritage body INTACH for its preservation, paving the way for its demolition by the Bihar government.

Bulldozers rolled on its sprawling campus the very next day as dismantling began and the 1938-built District Board Patna Building was the first to face the blows, triggering grief among heritage lovers and Gandhians.

By May 17, the British-era structure as well as the Dutch-era Record Room Building were reduced to mountains of rubble. A small portion from the front side had been spared then as the Record Room office was still occupying it.

The old documents and office of the Record Room was shifted to another building near the Gandhi Maidan in the last few months, and the remaining portion of the Dutch-era building was razed by December end, according to a senior official.

"However, we have preserved the pillars from its frontage. It was quite an engineering challenge to pull out the pillars while carrying out the demolition work for the redevelopment project. Once the new collectorate complex comes up, these pillars will also be prominently displayed on the campus so that people can see both the modern structures and a piece of the past," a top official told PTI.

A board containing historical information on the old collectorate would also be displayed, he said.

Work is currently underway in full swing on construction of a new high-rise complex on the site of the old collectorate and it is expected to be completed in two years.

The senior official said the "chief engineer has been instructed to look at the layout map of the project and come out with a plan for suitably displaying the preserved pillars".

Eight Tuscan pillars, which earlier formed a part of the magnificent colonnaded frontage of the now-demolished Record Room Building, clamped in iron braces, are currently kept in a corner of the construction site, in an erect position on a concrete slab.

The pillars stand near a big heap of rubble of the structure it once supported.

The Record Room Building consisted of the Revenue Record Room located on the front side approached with a few steps made of stone, and a Judicial Record Room located adjacently behind it, followed by several huge rooms that earlier housed different departments of the Patna district administration.

The frontage was endowed with an elongated verandah running on an east-west axis with four prominent columns in front of the steps in the central portion, and three prominent columns each in its east and west wings.

The historic single-storey building was subjected to insensitive architectural interventions in the last several decades, diminishing its original glory, and eventually demolished, rue conservation architects, who had pitched for the preservation and restoration of all heritage buildings in the Patna Collectorate campus as a signpost of history.

Two Tuscan columns in the eastern wing of the Record Room's verandah had got embedded in a wall as a makeshift room had been created in a portion of the verandah many decades ago.

The inside of the Revenue Record Room had a few huge free-standing columns which are believed to have been razed during the demolition work.

The state government had in 2016 proposed to demolish the old Patna collectorate for a new high-rise complex, drawing criticism from the public and appeals from various quarters, including the then Dutch envoy in India and London-based Gandhi Foundation.

"Gandhi", the multiple Academy Award-winning film, including the best picture and best director, had featured the Record Room Building as Motihari Jail, while the British-era DM Office Building (demolished in June last year) was dressed up as a court to film the famous Champaran trial that turned barrister Mohandas K Gandhi into a "Mahatma" for the people.

Eight buildings, including two post-Independence structures, have been dismantled for the redevelopment project.

INTACH was fighting a legal battle since 2019 to save the landmark from demolition, and after losing the case in the Patna High Court in 2020, had soon appealed in the Supreme Court, which had granted a stay on September 18, 2020, barely two days after the foundation stone of the redevelopment project was laid by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The Patna High Court in its verdict had rejected the plea by INTACH, but directed to not bulldoze the pillars.

Several historians, scholars, conservation architects, Gandhians and ordinary citizens have expressed their anguish over the demolition of the historic Patna Collectorate.

Ironically, the Patna Collectorate is still mentioned as a cultural site on the official website of Bihar Tourism.

Also, the Patna Collectorate, among other sites, are listed as heritage buildings in the 2008 Bihar government publication,

Patna: A Monumental History

According to the publication, the collectorate started functioning from its present premises from 1857. The Record Room was housed in what used to be the Old Judges Court building, it says.

The old buildings of the Patna Collectorate were some of the last surviving signatures of Dutch history of Patna.

The Dutch came to Patna in the early 17th century and renowned scholar K K Datta in his book. The Dutch in Bengal and Bihar 1740-1825 AD describes the accounts of Dutch factories and houses in Patna, many of which were grand buildings surrounded with beautiful gardens.

(The above article is sourced from news agency PTI. has made no editorial changes to the article. News agency PTI is solely responsible for the contents of the article)