Secret sealed room found in India’s National Library

Restorers working on the 18th century Belvedere House in Kolkata, home to the National Library of India, have found a large hidden room they had no idea was there. By found I mean they discovered that it existed, not that they’ve actually gone inside because there is no visible means of entrance or egress.

The house has suffered from neglect over the decades. Last year, all 2.2 million books were moved out of the old building into a new structure on the 30-acre estate so that the Belvedere House could be thoroughly 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 [Archaeological Survey of India] conservation engineers stumbled upon a blind enclosure’ on the ground floor, about 1000 square feet in size.

A lot of effort has been made to locate an opening so that experts can find out exactly what it was built for or what it contains. But there is not a single crack to show.

“We’ve searched every inch of the first floor area that forms the ceiling of this enclosure for a possible trap door. But found nothing. Restoration of the building will remain incomplete if we are not able to assess what lies inside this enclosure,” said deputy superintending archaeologist of ASI, Tapan Bhattacharya. “We’ve come across an arch on one side of the enclosure that had been walled up. Naturally speculations are rife,” said another archaeologist.

Among the speculations are the classics: skeletons and hoarded treasure. Apparently prisoners were known to have been walled up and left to die in death chambers during the Raj, and secret treasure rooms aren’t unheard of either. Since the ASI can’t just go knocking down walls in 250-year-old historic buildings, they have to find a way to peek inside without damaging the structure. They’ve applied to the ministry of culture for permission to drill a small hole in the walled up arch through which they can shine a searchlight.

Belvedere House was built by Mir Jafar, the eighth Nawab of Bengal, in the 1760s and shortly thereafter he gave it to Lord Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. It passed through various hands, private and public. Then in 1953, 3 years after Independence, the Imperial Library was renamed the National Library and the collection moved to Belvedere House.

It has long been rumored to be haunted, with lights mysteriously turning on in the ballroom and ghostly carriages seen driving up to the entrance. Certainly it has seen its fair share of intrigue. Hastings had a duel on the grounds with supreme council of Bengal member Sir Philip Francis in 1780. (Hastings had called him “void of truth and honor” in his private dealings, most likely referring to a number of affairs with ladies possibly including one Baroness Inhoff, a guest of Hastings’ at Belvedere House.)

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra

Photo by Avrajyoti Mitra

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21 Comments »

Comment by Ensign Steve
2010-11-20 21:21:26

Let’s put those backscatter machines to good use, eh?

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-20 22:14:28

I know, right? Whatever is inside that room is bound to be way more interesting than what’s in John Q. Public’s drawers.

 
 
Comment by edahstip
2010-11-20 23:52:32

I’ve seen this before. There’s probably a teleporter in another part of the house.

also, haunted.

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-21 00:03:22

So you’re saying there’s a ghost human fly in that room?

Comment by edahstip
2010-11-22 00:18:04

You have to shoot it in the head and while it’s stunned, throw the switch to release the lava.

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-22 00:47:00

Takin notes.

(Comments won't nest below this level)
 
 
 
 
Comment by Anonymous
2010-11-21 00:53:37

:skull: :hattip: :cool:

 
Comment by Arindam Ray
2010-11-21 15:42:26

Nothing is there

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-21 18:55:29

Aw, no fun! Maybe you just can’t see the ghosts.

 
 
Comment by Denise
2010-11-22 20:48:28

I can’t wait to find out what is (or isn’t) in there! Please keep us posted on this :)

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-22 22:29:19

I shall haunt the Indian press like a 19th century political prisoner walled into a room and left to die. :yes:

 
 
Comment by philip coggan
2010-11-26 02:29:42

Mir Jafar built that in the 1760s? It’s totally European in style so far as I can see. If so, I’m amazed that an alien architectural language had been adopted so quickly – the English had barely arrived. As for what’s inside, I have it on good authority that the wicked Sultan walled up his entire harem, plus several tons of gold, rubies, etc, all watched over by deathless zombies. And a curse, there’s gotta be a curse.

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-26 03:39:01

He was Nawab, not Sultan, and he was totally a British puppet. At one point they made him abdicate, and after that he moved to Kolkata and built several buildings in European style.

That only adds to the curse, of course.

 
 
Comment by Qingdai
2010-11-30 01:31:34

OK India is now officially has the coolest library ever!

Comment by livius drusus
2010-11-30 01:48:10

Totally, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few skeletons secreted in the Beaux-Arts carrels of the New York Public Library.

 
 
Comment by Denise
2011-02-24 20:03:47

Has there been more recent news on this topic?

Comment by livius drusus
2011-02-24 22:32:48

I’ve looked but all I can find are stories from November about the find. Nothing new.

 
 
Comment by Denise
2011-02-25 22:26:51

Ok, Just curious… but could not find anything myself either. Thanks! :thanks:

 
Comment by Emily
2013-09-23 15:20:55

http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/room-with-no-view-111052200021_1.html It is a block stuffed with mud to support the building…ohhh, boring :blankstare:

Comment by livius drusus
2013-09-23 15:48:23

Boo, weird structural details! You dashed all our ghost treasure dreams.

 
 
Comment by MiKE M
2014-07-19 01:55:17

Treasure and skeletons? That’s about as boring as the real explanation of what it actually is. I was hoping for some long-lost books and other texts with descriptions of the aliens that built the pyramids in Egypt, and how to find them!

I am more interested in historical writings than treasure. To mean, historical writing is far more valuable than a rock.

 
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