Alipore in Kolkata which is now home to the city’s most affluent Marwari business tycoons such as Birlas and Bangurs also houses the Belvedere Estate where Warren Hastings – the first Governor General of Bengal (1773-1785 CE) – once lived.
Belvedere House is said to have been Warren Hastings’ abode till the 1780s. It is believed to be one of the many houses built by Mir Jafar Ali Khan who became the Nawab of Bengal by betraying Siraj-ud-Daulah’s (the previous Nawab of Bengal) army and helping the British in the Battle of Plassey (1757 CE). With the help of the British, Mir Jafar became the Nawab of Bengal but as he could not meet with the British demands for money he was ousted as the Nawab by Henry Vansittart (who was the then Governor of Bengal). It was then that he came and lived in Alipore. He was further reinstated by Warren Hastings as the Nawab, and hence gifted this particular house to Warren Hastings in the late 1760s, as a token of appreciation.
The architecture of the Belvedere House is of the Italian Renaissance style. It is built amidst a 30 acre ground. Interestingly, on 17th August 1780 there was a duel between Warren Hastings and his legal officer-Philip Francis at this ground. It is said that the duel was either over a political conflict between the two or a certain Baroness Von Imhoff. The latter was a particularly sensitive topic because it is believed that after the Battle of Buxar (1764) Hastings left for England and returned to Calcutta as the Governor in 1772 with Baroness Von Imhoff, causing quite a scandal. She is said to have come to India on board the same ship as Hastings and was considered to be the favorite among the ladies.
It is widely assumed that the Belvedere Estate was sold off to one Major Tolly- an East India Company official. After his death his family sold off the property and after this it was used as the Lieutenant Governor’s house till the Capital of the English East India Company shifted to Delhi in 1911. It was further used as the Calcutta residence of the Viceroy of India till 1947.
But the house itself has been a talking point for decades. There have been stories doing the rounds about how the Belvedere estate being haunted and people have had sightings of supernatural elements within its premises!
Since 1948, one of the buildings in the estate houses the National Library of India, one of the largest libraries in India, not just in volume but in space too. It has a collection of 2.2 million books and the reading rooms of the library can accommodate over 500 people. It has some of the rarest collection of books in different Indian languages.
The building is under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India. Apart from that the estate has two buildings that serve as colonies; one for the employees of National Library of India and the other for Central Government Employees.
LHI Travel Guide
Belvedere estate is located in Alipore in Kolkata. Howrah railway junction, about 10 kms away, is the nearest railway station to Belvedere estate. The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport about 25 kms away.
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