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Secret chamber found in India’s National Library

A mysterious room, with no opening of any kind, has been discovered in the 250-year-old National Library of India in Kolkata.

The chamber has lain untouched for over two centuries. Wonder what secrets it holds. The archaeologists who discovered it have no clue either, their theories range from a torture chamber, or a sealed tomb for an unfortunate soul or the most favoured of all a treasure room. Some say they wouldn’t be surprised if both skeletons and jewels tumble out of the secret room.

Belvedere House as the National Library building was known during the Raj was among the many buildings Mir Jafar built in Alipore in the 1760s after he was forced to abdicate his throne in Murshidabad. He gifted it to the first Governor General of India, Lord Warren Hastings. What happened to the house between 1780, when Hastings is said to have sold it, and 1854, when it became the official residence of the Lt Governor of Bengal, is uncertain. But from 1854 to 1911, Belvedere housed a number of Lt Governors till the British capital shifted to Delhi.

After Independence, the National Library (which was then in Esplanade) was shifted to Belvedere House. Since the Belvedere House is of great architectural and heritage value, the treasure of books has been shifted to a new building on the 30-acre campus while the old building is getting restored.

The ministry of culture that owns the National Library decided to get the magnificent building restored by the Archaeological Survey of India since it is heavily damaged. Work has already started. It was while taking stock of the interior and exterior of the building that ASI conservation engineers stumbled upon a blind enclosure’ on the ground floor, about 1000 square feet in size.

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One thought on “Secret chamber found in India’s National Library

  1. Wasn’t Belvedere House a rather wonderful piece of 18th century architecture, at least from the outside? No wonder it was used as the official residence of the Lt Governor of Bengal. And I bet the library was delighted to take it over and have it restored, as soon as they could.

    Do you know if Belvedere House was based on any specific European building? Is it possible to see internal photos, at least of the main reception rooms?

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