The Governor’s house, popularly called Raj Bhavan, is the seat of the office of the Constitutional Head of the State. The State of Nagaland came into existence on 1st December 1963, to become the 16th State in the country. It comprised Tuensang Frontier Division of the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and the Naga Hill District of Assam with which the former was merged in 1957.
The first Governor of the State was sworn in on the day of the inauguration of the new State. Shri Vishnu Sahay was at that time the Governor of Assam and took over the concurrent charge of the Governor of Nagaland. The tradition of Governor holding charge of the State jointly with other States of the North East, continued till the time Dr Gopal Singh became the first full time Governor of Nagaland.
The Raj Bhavan, located on the historic Garrison Hill, has been an active participant in the developmental activities in the State for over four decades since its inauguration. It has been the venue of numerous discussions and decisions that guided and modulated the history of the State. The occupants of the Raj Bhavan have, thus, played a key role in steering the course of administration.
II. From the Garrison Hill to Governor’s House
The Raj Bhavan in Kohima is situated on a picturesque hill feature, one of the most scenic spots offering magnificent views on all sides. Originally, it was called Summer Hill because it contained a small thatched summer house – where the present Durbar Hall of Raj Bhavan is situated. This location was used as a picnic spot, the thatched house providing shelter from rain while a narrow bridle path, called Ladies Mile, girding the hill, offered tempting walks and rides. The British officials and their wives frequently came here to relax in the golden evenings of Kohima and to enjoy the beautiful vista spread before them. Later, during the Second World War, Summer Hill became known as Garrison Hill because the British Garrison in Kohima was stationed here. On the lower terrace-like slopes of the hill, were located the official bungalow and office of the then Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills, Sir Charles Pawsey, bungalow of the Commandant, Assam Rifles, a Club House and a Tennis Court for the Deputy Commissioner. This Tennis Court shot into prominence during the famous Battle of Kohima in World War II. Although other skirmishes, like the one in Sechü (Zubza), beyond this spot, took place, the struggle over the Tennis Court, day in and day out, became a symbol of Allied resistance to Japanese advance into India. The Tennis Court represented the western most reach of the Japanese forces and from where the Japanese advance was effectively halted! The Tennis Court is still preserved, and its outlines well maintained. A monument around the center of the court has been established by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as part of the Kohima War Cemetery.
During the War, the target of Japanese attack in Kohima was the Garrison Hill because the British administration and troop headquarters were all set up here. The Japanese Forces also overran most other areas of Kohima and, finally, concentrated their attacks on the Garrison Hill. And with heavy fighting on the lower slopes, even the Deputy Commissioner, Sir C.R. Pawsey, and his Head Dobashi, Mhiasizolie Angami of Khonoma, were compelled to take refuge in the area where the present Governor’s House is located. When the fighting was over, and the Japanese began their painful retreat in an attempt to re-cross the Chindwin River, most of Kohima lay in ruins, including the bungalow of the Deputy Commissioner. A ‘Grant Tank’, a relic of the Battle of Kohima, still stands about 200 meters from the Raj Bhavan as a mute witness to the bitterness and severity of the struggle in and around the Garrison Hill. At the War Cemetery lay the mortal remains of 1,421 soldiers, killed in the Battle of Kohima.
In recent years, during the construction works in the Raj Bhavan, some human skeletons, munition shells, grenades and weapons used during the war, were found. Old trees, mainly Oaks and Cryptomeria Japonica, which grow abundantly even now create a nostalgic mental picture of the original verdant grandeur of the Garrison Hill that witnessed the visit of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, and Thakin Nu (U Nu), Prime Minister of Burma to Kohima on March 30, 1953.
III. Commissioner’s House to Raj Bhavan
Shri D.C. Kapoor, a senior IAS officer of Assam Cadre, and the first Commissioner to the Naga Hills, got the Commissioner’s official residence built in early 1957. The area measured hardly 2 hectares and the building itself was a small hill type with wooden frames and bamboo walls plastered with cement and consisting of only three bedrooms and a drawing room. This was considered to be the best available accommodation for the Governor. Later, the Governor Shri B.K. Nehru observed in his memoirs, that the three bedroom bungalow that became the Raj Bhavan, was “far too small to contain the gathering invited to the swearing in ceremony which was consequently held in the Assembly Hall.”
The Governor, Gen. (Retd.) K. V. Krishna Rao in his book “In the Service of the Nation: Reminiscences”, writes the existing Raj Bhavan was just a normal bungalow, with little space for any function. There was a plan to shift the Raj Bhavan to the new capital area after the Secretariat was constructed. I felt the existing Raj Bhavan at Kohima, on the historic hill where the final battle during Second World War was fought, was good enough. We also planted some chinar trees from Kashmir, coffee seeds from Coorg and some fruit trees, which, to our pleasant surprise, were doing well. These still survive with luxuriant growth.
The Raj Bhavan has since seen many changes, and has grown over the years. Dr. Gopal Singh, on assuming the first full charge of the office of Governor of Nagaland, took up the renovation of the Raj Bhavan. Naga art works engraved on wooden planks were fixed at the entrance, imparting an ethnic touch. The subsequent Governors contributed building assets to meet the increasing needs of the Raj Bhavan. Thus, from an initial Assam type construction of a few quarters which housed the Governor and the Secretariat, the Raj Bhavan has now acquired a beautiful Durbar Hall, Guest Houses, Banquet Hall, a modern Secretariat building and other facilities.
IV. The New Raj Bhavan
As the Governor continued to live in the old hill type building, it was considered imperative to construct a new Raj Bhavan, keeping in view the long term requirements of the constitutional office. On the active initiative and advice of then Governor Shri Shyamal Datta, the State Govt. decided to construct a new Raj Bhavan in the existing location. The old Raj Bhavan has demolished in April 2004 and the new construction began at the same place. During the construction, the Governor’s residence was shifted to Dzükou House. A new two Storied Raj Bhavan building with a plinth area of 12514 Sq. ft. incorporating various facilities was dedicated to the people of Nagaland by the then Chief Minister Shri Neiphiu Rio on February 11, 2006 marking an important milestone I the history of Nagaland Raj Bhavan.
The new Raj Bhavan blends modernity with tradition. The drive-way around the new oval shaped lawn leads to the Raj Bhavan’s entrance. The entrance is cladded with the stones.
The lobbies on the ground floor and the first floor are tiled with a round shaped design enlivening the area. The artifacts, crystal Chandeliers, arched wooden doors leading to the suites and rooms add to the slendour of the lobbies. On the first floor, natural light filters through a canopy at the centre of the ceiling made of polycarbonate sheets. The acrylic panels having design with Naga motifs below the canopy are the main attraction of the lobby. A large folding door opens into the waiting area and offers the view of the resplendent greenery outside. The first floor has the Presidential Suite and the Governor’s Suite. It also has two fully equipped Guest Rooms.
The drawing room on the ground floor can accommodate 34 guests. The artistically designed fire place matching chandeliers, traditional artifacts and paintings are the main attractions for the visitors.
The dining hall can seat 18 guests. The painting in the niche with flowers in the front and the decorative glass in the skylight above, and four chandeliers hanging from the ceiling lend charming ambience.
The suite on the ground floor with attached office is utilized during the visit of high dignitaries.
Surrounded by the garden lights, the new Raj Bhavan glitters in resplendent glory in the night on the Garrison Hill.
In the Raj Bhavan complex, several buildings have been added with beautiful architecture and regard for environment. The hexagonal Durbar Hall, a building constructed in the year 1988 during the tenure of General (Retd) K.V.Krishna Rao, as Governor, is located on a slightly higher feature than the Raj Bhavan ground.
It is a very graceful Hall that meets the ceremonial and formal requirements of the Swearing-in Ceremonies, Governor’s At Homes on the Republic Day and the Independence Day, as well as annual functions of the Rajya Sainik Board, Bharat Scouts & Guides and the Red Cross. It also hosts social and cultural events, including musical performances, flower shows and painting contests. It dazzles with lights during the Deepawali and Christmas celebrations.
A guest house was added to the Raj Bhavan at the initiative of Governor Shri O.N. Shrivastava. Inaugurated by Governor Shri O.P. Sharma in 1998, the Dzüku House, named after the famed Dzükou Valley, is used by the State Guests. Its three suites are named after three famous peaks of Pulebadze, Japfu and Saramati, the lounge takes its name after Lake Shiloi, the picturesque lake in the Pochury area of district Phek.
Initially, the Raj Bhavan did not even have a regular office for the Governor. A beautiful environment-friendly building the ‘Naga Bhavan’ was constructed when Shri O.P. Sharma was Governor and inaugurated by the then Chief Minister Shri S.C. Jamir on 15th August, 1999. Its basement, which was a water tank, serves as the Conference Room of Governor’s Office
The Governor’s Secretariat was also housed in a makeshift basha type (split bamboo) building. This has now been replaced by a regular Secretariat building, the Ura Bhavan, which was dedicated to the people of Nagaland by the then Union Home Minister Shri L.K. Advani on February 24, 2001 in the august presence of Governor Shri O.P. Sharma and Chief Minister Shri S.C. Jamir.
A very unique and a symbolic feature was added in the form of a Constitution Wall as the commemoration wall to mark the 50 years of the Republic of India on 26th January 1999. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is engraved on black granite in the exact form and design of the original manuscript of the Constitution. It is symbolically protected by the two Naga warriors on its two flanks. It is embedded in the stone wall, the workmanship having been provided by the craftsmen of the famous Khonoma village, Kohima.
A traditional Naga Morung, a building made of bamboo and thatch has been an ethnic landmark of the Raj Bhavan since 1997. A traditional Log Drum, gifted to Governor Shri O.P. Sharma by the Konyaks of Longkei village in Mon district in 2001, is displayed on a balcony overlooking the greenery and the hills. The entire ambience of Raj Bhavan is marked by Naga culture.
Among special attractions of the Raj Bhavan is the Gnat aircraft, presented by the AOC-in-C, Eastern Air Command in 1991. The aircraft is prominently displayed on the high ground near the main gate. An addition to the Raj Bhavan is the statue of an Assam Rifles jawan helping a lady and her son. The statue, installed inside the main entrance of the Raj Bhavan in 2006.
A Banquet Hall was constructed during 2011 to meet the growing demand. The foundation stone was laid by Shri K. Sankaranarayan (former Governor of Nagaland) on 26th January 2009 and inaugurated by Shri Nikhil Kumar (former Governor of Nagaland) on 12th August, 2011 in the presence in Shri Neiphiu Rio, Hon’ble Chief Minister.