In Patna, looking back fondly: heritage structures razed to raise new buildings, rare pieces ready to find museum space


The Patna Museum is set to preserve and display rare items, purchased after the demolition of the Patna Collectorate building complex dating back to the British era.

The heritage structure has been demolished in the past two months, overcoming opposition from heritage activists, who had taken the case, unsuccessfully, to court. The state government plans to construct a new Patna Collectorate building.

One of the now razed buildings of the Collectorate complex is the British-era Patna District Magistrate’s Office, which was featured in the Oscar-winning film ‘Gandhi’.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had said some of these structures, once used to store opium, are not worth preserving. Today the Patna District Administration wrote to the Director of the Bihar Museum to preserve some rare pieces of Dutch and British era history, including a steam roller once used by the District Council .

The steamroller, manufactured by John Fowler and Co, Leeds, England, is currently collecting moss and dust outside the historic District Engineer’s Office building on the banks of the Ganges.

Other items that may be retained by the Museum’s Management include a vintage British-era ornamental spiral staircase on its west facade, four huge colonial-era security vaults, an old wall clock and a skylight hanging from the Dutch era.

A period security vault, made in Britain, was built into the wall of the now demolished registry office building. Another security vault was built into the district council building, which was the first structure to be bulldozed.

“We asked the Director of Bihar Museums. He is working on it,” Patna District Magistrate Chandra Shekhar Singh told the Indian Express. “An expert will inspect and give his opinion, and a decision will be made afterwards.”

Singh said experts will prepare the list of items that can be kept.

Director of Bihar Museums, Deepak Anand confirmed that he received the proposal from the district administration. He said, “The steamroller is surely one of the few items that we want to keep and display in the Patna Museum. But there are also other rare things, and their lists are being prepared. After experts have inspected them, we will bring Dutch and British period items to the Patna Museum. »

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When asked if the government would take them to the new Bihar Museum, built under Nitish Kumar, Anand replied, “For now, we wish to keep them in the Patna Museum.”

The history of the demolition dates back to May 13, when the Supreme Court rejected a plea from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which had been waging a legal battle since 2019 to save the iconic buildings from demolition.

Demolition began the following day and the then British District Council building was the first to be demolished on 17 May. A total of eight buildings, including two post-independence structures, were completely or partially demolished.


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