Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Delhi (1929 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 9

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the ninth edition of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.) 

Calcutta (Kolkata) was the capital of India until December 1911 during the British Raj. However, Delhi had served as the political and financial center of several empires of ancient and Delhi Sultanate, most notably of the Mughal Empire from 1649 to 1857. During the early 1900s, a proposal was made to the British administration to shift the capital of the British Indian Empire (as it was officially called) from Calcutta to Delhi. Unlike Calcutta, which was located on the eastern coast of India, Delhi was located in northern India and the Government of British India felt that it would be easier to administer India from Delhi rather than from Calcutta.                                                                               
India Gate or the All India Memorial (as called by the British) (at night). This memorial was constructed to honor the Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British Crown in the First World War (1914-1919)

Connaught Place at Night. It was developed as a showpiece of New Delhi (planned by Edward Lutyens) featuring a Central Business District.

Night View of the inner radial of Connaught Place

History -
                  As per a letter sent by Lord Hardinge (the then viceroy of India) to the Earl of Crewe in 1911 the britishers wanted to move out of Calcutta to Delhi because of the rising importance of legislative bodies meant that Britain needed to find a more centrally located capital.  There was also an increasing resistance to the British rule in Calcutta that was making it less than a hospitable capital city. The people's movement for Home-Rule was growing stronger and after Lord Curzon partitioned the Bengal in 1905  into two along religious lines (in an attempt to quell the movement) the nationalist sentiments of the Indians had grown manifold as well which eventually led to large protests, boycott of British goods and a spate of political assassinations. 
 Aerial View of the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) (Architect - Sir Edward Lutyens)

 Parliament of India (Architect - Sir Herbert Baker)

On December 12th 1911, a magnificient Delhi Durbar of (British) Imperial Emperor George the Fifth was organnised to announce his ascension to the throne of Britain. He accepted homage's and promises of allegiance from the local Indian rulers (vassals) and then announced his intention of building a new capital city would be made in Delhi for the British India. Moreover the British Emperor George the fifth, was simply continuing with the traditions of previous pan-India Hindu (Indraprastha), Islamic (Tughlaqabad) and Mughal (Shahjahanabad) rulers who had established their capitals over here.
Architecture -
                               Much of New Delhi, planned by the leading 20th century British architects Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, was laid out to be the central administrative area of the city as a testament to Britain's imperial vanity. The construction of the city began after the First World War ended (1919) and was completed by 1931.

 A view of Raj Path (King's Way). The way stretches from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate. The parade on Republic Day(on 26th January) takes place over here.

  Raisina Hill which hosts the Central Secretariat (North Block - Right, South Block - Left). Notice the Jaipur Column in front of the Central Dome. The Raj Path (Kings Way) starts from this point. This spot is also known as Vijay Chowk (Victory Square).

                              While planning and constructing New Delhi Edward Lutyens invented his own new style of classical architecture, which is normally known as the "Delhi Order". Unlike the more traditional British architects who came before him, he was both inspired by and incorporated various features from the local and traditional Indian Indian architecture. For example -  although the dome of the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) is said to have been influenced by the Roman 'Pantheon', it indicates an influence of the famous Sanchi Stupa (Buddhist architecture).
                            The landmark buildings constructed by Lutyens in New Delhi were All India Memorial (India Gate), Viceroys House(Rashtrapati Bhawan), the Parliament(designed by Sir Herbert Baker), Central Secretariat, the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (which houses current M.P.s of India) e.t.c.

Life in New Delhi -
                                           Today the city of New Delhi has already celebrated 100 years of being a formal capital to India . The city still serves as the capital and the seat of power for the Republic of India. It has expanded and incorporated all the former cities which ever stood in its vicinity into its modern borders. People from all parts of India come to Delhi in search for work and a better life. Various studies and travel magazines have dubbed New Delhi as 'Alpha-City', 'Metropolitan City', 'Cosmopolitan City', 'Most Expensive city for Expatriates in South Asia', 'A Must visit destination in your lifetime' e.t.c. e.t.c.

 A street in Lutyens Delhi. Streets in this portion of Delhi are known for their immaculate planning.

Culmination of the Series -
                                                             While I was doing considerable research for this series, visiting all the monuments and ruins of past, and then writing about them.. I started to understand how it felt like being a citizen of each of the preceding cities of New Delhi and I could not help but compare those cities with the city of today.
                                                             As compared to the past the city is much secure thanks to the stability provided by the Britishers and the current Indian establishment. Also as compared to the past the current government of India is much more stable than the previous governments because of its democratic nature.
                                                             I realized that this piece of earth has seen everything that could be seen. From the grand processions of Emperor Shah Jahan(1650 A.D.) to the massacre of its citizens ordered by Timur lane(1398 A.D.) and Nadir Shah (1739 A.D.). From seeing moments of dominance( when Ala ud din Khilji hung heads of Mongol Soldiers from the walls of Siri in 1299 A.D.) to moments of weakness (when the Britishers sacked the city of Shahjahanabad in 1857 A.D.)
                                                            Here's to hoping that after seeing instability for over a thousand years the city of Delhi now gets to see peace and stability for the next thousand years to come. Amen. 

The No-Nonsense Travel Advice
Name of the City
New Delhi, India
Edward Lutyens (of Lutyens Delhi)
Year of Completion
1931 A.D.
How to Reach Delhi
By Air – All major airlines fly in and out of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Intl Airport
By Railways – The city is connected to all parts of India with regular trains
By Road – Interstate buses to all destinations in North India ply to and from Delhi
Places to Visit
Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Complex (all World Heritage Sites), Connaught Place, Purana Qila (Old Fort), Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, National Museum, India Gate e.t.c.
Best Mode of Local Transport
. Take the Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus run by Delhi Tourism to cover Delhi in a day.
. If you wish to cover Delhi at your own pace then for budget travelers the best option is the Delhi Metro Rail. Take a Pre Paid Smart Card and travel around the City with ease


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New Delhi really is a stunning place to visit. With so many sites to see, it's sometimes difficult for visitors to decide where to go first. Best time to visit is during the spring seasons as it's uncomfortably hot in the summers and freezing cold in the winters.

WOW! I cant imagine how it must be to live in a palace as such. Would love to plan a visit.

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