Bulldozers on Saturday knocked down front columns of the British-era district board building at the Patna collectorate, a day after the Supreme Court paved the way for the demolition of the complex, parts of which were built during the Dutch era, triggering grief among heritage lovers in India and abroad.
Images of bulldozers clawing down the front portion of the iconic building, which has a majestic meeting hall, endowed with pilaster Corinthian columns, were widely shared on social media by history aficionados, art historians, architects, among others and INTACH, which was fighting a legal battle since 2019 to save the collectorate from demolition.
The state government had in 2016 proposed to demolish the old Patna collectorate for a new high-rise complex, triggering public outcry and appeals from various quarters in India and abroad to prevent the demolition.
The complex, parts of which are over 250 years old, is situated on the banks of the Ganga and is endowed with high ceilings, huge doors, and hanging skylights.
The collectorate is one of the last surviving signatures of Dutch architecture in the Bihar capital, especially the record room, endowed with magnificent Tuscan pillars and the old district engineer's office.
The British-era structures in its complex include the DM office building and district board building.
During the hearing on Friday, the apex court said that not every building of the colonial-era needs to be preserved and dismissed an appeal filed by Delhi-based Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that had it been a building that housed freedom fighters, then it could have been a heritage building but it was used by Dutch to store opium and saltpetre.
"We have a large number of buildings from the colonial era. There are some from the British era, some from the Dutch era, and some even from the French era in Kerala and other places. There may be some buildings having historical value but not all buildings have such value", the Bench said.
The state government in 2016 had proposed to demolish the old structures and build a new collectorate complex in the 12-acre complex.
Soon after the proposal, the public movement 'Save Historic Patna Collectorate' led by citizens from various walks of life was launched. It has members from Patna, various other cities and from several foreign countries, including the US, UK, Italy, Canada and Bangladesh.
On Saturday, the social media page of the movement was flooded with posts expressing grief over the tragic fate of the landmark.
From an architect in Patna to an art historian in London, and from a conservationist in Mumbai to a environmentalist in Noida, all joined in mourning this "loss of colossal history".
On Facebook, many users shared images of the old collectorate and wrote captions with wishful messages, "it should have been preserved by authorities" and "restoration and not demolition is the way forward".
Appearing for INTACH in the hearing, advocate Roshan Santhalia on Friday had said that the building was not so unsafe as was projected by the state government and it needs to be protected.
In 2016, the then Dutch ambassador, Alphonsus Stoelinga, had written to the Bihar chief minister, appealing to preserve this "shared heritage" of the two countries and have it listed under the Bihar state archaeology department.
Some of the key scenes of the Oscar award-winning film 'Gandhi' were shot at Patna collectorate in the 1980s.