Patna, Sep 28 (PTI) An eponymous memorial committee set up exactly 107 years ago to build Patna's famed Hardinge Park had proposed to erect life-size statues of the Viceroy who was instrumental in the creation of the new province of Bihar and Orissa, and also of his wife, according to rare archival documents.
Named after Viceroy Lord Hardinge and built as Patna's first public park, it was opened on January 31, 1916, by then Lt Governor of the province Sir Edward Gait, who had also unveiled a five-tonne life-size bronze statue of the viceroy, in full Durbar regalia.
However, rare archival documents and old newspaper reports say a statue of Lady Hardinge, known for public works, was also to be erected in the garden that has witnessed vicissitudes of fortune in its journey of over 104 years. Eventually, only the statue of the viceroy was built.
Viceroy Hardinge had visited the new capital of Patna in December 1913 to lay foundation stones of the Patna High Court and the Council Chambers of the new province born in 1912.
But, ahead of his first visit to Bankipore, as the civil station of Patna was then known, a public meeting was held on September 28, 1913, and the Hardinge Memorial Committee was constituted.
According to archives with the Jalan family of old Patna City, the meeting was held at Patna College Hall 'to raise subscriptions and to take such other steps as may be necessary to give effect to the proposal to perpetuate the memories of their Excellencies Lord and Lady Hardinge by erecting their Excellencies statues in a well laid out park at the capital city of Behar and Orissa'.
According to a report published in UK-based 'Homeward Mail' in October 1913 on the meeting, barrister Syed Ali Imam, in proposing the Maharaja of Darbhanga to the chair, 'referred to the unique character of the gathering and the movement, and paid a glowing tribute to his Excellency for his sympathies with the aspirations of educated India'.
'He also referred to the supremely womanly qualities of Lady Hardinge which had endeared her to all India,' the report says.
The Raja of Kanika (of Orissa) proposed that a memorial be established in Patna with life-size statues 'of their Excellencies' to mark 'high appreciation of his lordship's statesmanship and gratitude for the boon of provincial individuality,' as per the report.
Lady Winifred Hardinge, known for her contribution in starting the first medical college for women in Delhi, died in 1914 while it was being built. The hospital was later named in her honour.
Interestingly, statues of both the Viceroy and the Vicereine Hardinge were to be erected as per the original plan. Her death mid-way may have changed the situation a bit, said Aditya Jalan, the current scion of the Quila House family.
'An endowment had been made for the maintenance of the park. As per archival documents in our collection, a significant portion of it was taken out and sent to Delhi for the establishment of the medical college,' he said.
A magnificent statue of Lady Hardinge in a sitting posture is located in the premises of the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, established in Delhi in 1916, the same year the Hardinge Park, named after her husband, was inaugurated in a grand function in Patna.
'These collections belong to my great grandfather Dewan Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan, and recently we also found a rare black and white picture of the striking Lord Hardinge's statue while it was still in the park. We are unable to tell the exact year of the photo as of now, but it is surely from the early years of the park,' he told PTI.
From extreme glory to extreme neglect, the park, spread over 22 acres, has witnessed, like a silent sentinel, the struggle for the country's freedom and post-colonial vandalism. One of the arms of the statue was damaged and to this day it stands with a broken arm.
The viceroy's statue was dumped at the Patna Museum in the late 1960s. It was installed again in the 1990s on a platform in a corner of the museum's lawns.
After the removal of the statue, the name of the park was rechristened to 'Shaheed Veer Kunwar Singh Azadi Park' but it is still referred to as 'Hardinge Park' by old-timers and the locals.
Located midway between Patna railway station and the Bihar Secretariat, the place by late 1980s to early 90s had faded, its once shimmering stocks of ornamental flowers wilted, and fountains dried up.
In its centenary year, the park was redeveloped and its century-old fountains were dismantled to make way for new ones. And, in late 2017, one of the last remnants of the Raj-era landmark -- the pedestal on which the Hardinge's iconic statue once stood, was also demolished.
An equestrian statue of Veer Kunwar Singh, known for his heroics in the 1857 Mutiny, was shifted to the park from a public roundabout nearby in April 2018.
The two Ramgarh Raj Pavilions, from the pre-Independence era, are the only remnants of the park, which was a toast of the town in the Raj era.
Lying forlorn in a corner of the British-era museum, the Viceroy's statue, made by noted British sculptor Herbert Hampton, has three of its original bronze plates intact, carrying an inscription and relief work portraying Lady Hardinge, which were on the stone pedestal In the park.
'Lord Hardinge of Penshurst. Founder of the province of Behar and Orissa April 1st 1912. Erected as a tribute of grateful affection by the people of the province,' reads the main inscription of the statue, which was a central piece of the entire layout. PTI KND NSD NSD