I just landed at Patna airport, which is not a new swanky airport but something typical of the ’80s. After getting my luggage, I walk out and booked my app cab to take me to my hotel. I was expecting a scene, which I had seen in Gangs of Wasseypur but Patna, in reality, is a little city with lots of infrastructure construction ongoing.
My day was a packed schedule and after a quick shower, I rushed to another hotel where an event was going on and I was supposed to represent my organization. With a packed schedule, I did not expect any sightseeing thus did not carry my camera with me.
During the lunch break, I wanted to just step out and try some local food instead of expensive star hotel lunch. I stepped out and opened my map application on my mobile phone just to locate some restaurants nearby; I found that there is something called Golghar within three hundred meters from where I stand. I had seen another blogger posting about Golghar on a social media platform thus, I knew this place had some historic value but did not remember the details.
I was tired since I had an early morning flight thus asked and battery-operated rickshaw to drop me to the gate. He seemed perplexed since it was quite nearby but I insisted so he agreed to drop me for a sum of Rs. 20. I happily agreed and with a minute or two was right in front of a park that had its outer wall beautifully hand-painted with carious colorful motifs.
Golghar – Patna
From a distance, it looks like a Stupa but unlike it, this one is hollow from inside and its main purpose was to store food grains. It is a giant food warehouse designed by the British when they were ruling the country. To be specific by East India Company under Warren Hastings who was then the Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William.
The construction of this project was overseen by the East India Company engineer John Garstin who started its construction on the 20th of January 1784 and was completed on the 10th of July 1786.
For people of Kolkata if the name John Garstin rings a bell then you are correct to assume that this is the same very person whom Garstin Place was named after. The same Garstin Place, which was, housed the old All India Radio broadcast center and was said to be haunted. If you are around Park Street, Kolkata then check out the famous South Park Street Cemetery where he is buried under a tomb.
Why Was GOLGHAR Built
Bengal had suffered a devastating famine in 1770 so Warren Hastings decided to create food banks around the Bengal Presidency so that the surplus grains can be stored and be used during the shortage. Surprisingly there were no other copies of Golghar and there seems to be only one that was built in Patna and nowhere else.
The structure was constructed using brick and lime mortar. Contrary to belief lime, mortar is very strong and will last more than cement concrete. The reason being that lime mortar is porous so during raining season water will not remain within the structure or remain trapped. Water causes damage in the long term thus with cement structures trapped water creates weak spots. This is the very reason that this nearly 250-year-old structure is still standing strong.
To facilitate the large volume of grain storage it was built like a stupa with a hollow inside and an opening on top which could be reached by stairs on two sides. The idea was to fill the hollow structure with grains from the top and access the stored grains from the two doors at the base on two sides.
Logically this sounds brilliant but there was a technical problem, which was never thought of. If the whole structure is filled with grains, the total weight of the grains will create a huge pressure on the two doors at the bottom. The height of the structure was 29 meters thus you can well imagine the amount of weight the doors would be under.
The main reason, however, why it got the name as “Garstin’s Folly” was due to another disastrous design concept. The two doors at the bottom of the structure open inside so there is no way the doors could be opened even of the structure would have been filled half with grains. The weight of the grains would make it impossible to push open the door.
As per some historians never in history has this structure been filled with grains to its maximum capacity.
The Structure Now
Golghar is still standing strong to date but it has developed massive cracks on the outer wall due to uncontrolled constructions around the heritage structure. No guests are allowed to climb up to the top using the stairs as the heavy flow of guests was taking a heavy toll on the structure stability. Archaeological Survey of India plans for some major renovations soon so hopefully, the structure will survive few more centuries of development.
This is a small detour that you can take during your next trip to Patna, I am sure you would love to walk around the park and enjoy Garstin’s Folly.