Monday, 9 January 2012

History of Delhi

Delhi was laid out to the south of the Old City which was constructed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. However, New Delhi overlies the site of seven ancient cities and hence includes many historic monuments like the Jantar Mantar and the Lodhi Gardens.

Establishment of New Delhi

Calcutta was the capital of India until December 1911 during the British Raj. However, Delhi had served as the political and financial centre of several empires of ancient and Delhi Sultanate, most notably of the Mughal Empirefrom 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. On December 12, 1911, during the Delhi Durbar, George V, the then Emperor of India, along with Queen Mary, his Consort, made the announcement that the capital of the Raj was to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, while laying the foundation stone for the Viceroy's residence in the Coronation Park, Kingsway Camp.

The foundation stone of New Delhi was laid by King George V and Queen Mary at the site of Delhi Durbar of 1911 at Kingsway Camp on December 15, 1911, during their imperial visit. Large parts of New Delhi were planned by Edwin Lutyens (Sir Edwin from 1918) and Herbert Baker (Sir Herbert from 1926), both leading 20th century British architects, and the contract was given to Sobha Singh (later Sir Sobha Singh). Lutyens first visited Delhi in 1912, and construction really began after World War I and was completed by 1931, when the city later dubbed "Lutyens' Delhi" was inaugurated on February 13, 1931, by Lord Irwin, the Viceroy. Lutyens laid out the central administrative area of the city as a testament to Britain's imperial aspirations.

However, soon Lutyens started considering other places. Indeed, the "Delhi Town Planning Committee on the planning of new Imperial capital" with George Swinton as chairman and John A. Brodie and Lutyens as members, submitted its reports for both "North" and "South" sites. However, it was rejected by the Viceroy, when the cost of compensation while acquiring the properties, was found to be too high. The central axis of New Delhi, which today faces east at India Gate, was previously meant to be a North-South axis, linking Viceroy's House with Paharganj, as the end of the axis. Eventually owning to space constraints and presence of a large number heritage sites in the North side, the committee finalized on South site. A site atop the Raisina Hill, formerly Raisina village, a Meo village, was chosen for the Rashtrapati Bhawan, then known as the Viceroy's House. The historic reason for this choice was that the hill lay directly opposite to the Dinapanah citadel, which was also considered the site of Indraprastha, the ancient region of Delhi. Subsequently, the foundation stone was shifted from the site of Delhi Durbar of 1911-1912, where the Coronation Pillar stood as well, and embedded in the walls of the forecourt of the Secretariat. The Rajpath, also known as King's Way, stretched from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The Secretariat building, which houses various ministries of the Government of India, flanked out of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and the Parliament House, both designed by Herbert Baker, is located at the Sansad Marg, which runs parallel to the Rajpath. Towards the south, land till Safdarjung's Tomb was acquired for construction to create what is today known as Lutyens' Bungalow Zone. Before the construction could begin on the rocky ridge of Raisina Hill, a circular railway line, around the Council House (now Parliament House), called the 'Imperial Delhi Railway', was built to transport construction material and workers for the next 20 years. The last stumbling block was the Agra-Delhi railways line that cut right through the site earmarked for the hexagonal All-India War Memorial (India Gate), Kingsway (Rajpath) as the Old Delhi Railway Station served the entire city till then, eventually the line was shifted along Yamuna river and open in 1924. The New Delhi Railway Station was opened in 1926 with a single platform at Ajmeri Gate near Paharganj, ahead of the inauguration of the city in 1931. As the principal construction of the Viceroy House (present Rashtrapati Bhavan), Central Secretariat, Parliament House, and All-India War Memorial (India Gate) was winding down the construction of shopping district and plaza of the new capital, Connaught Place began in 1929, and was complete by 1933. Named after The Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught (1850–1942), it was designed by Robert Tor Russell, chief architect to the Public Works Department (PWD).

After the capital of India moved to Delhi, a temporary secretariat building was constructed in a few months in 1912 in North Delhi. Most of the government offices of the new capital moved here from the 'Old secretariat' in Old Delhi (the building now houses the Delhi Legislative Assembly), a decade before the new capital was inaugurated in 1931. Many employees were brought into the new capital from distant parts of India, including the Bengal Presidency and Madras Presidency. Subsequently housing for them was developed around Gole Market area in 1920s. Built in 1940s, to house government employees, with bungalows for senior officials in the nearby Lodhi Estate area, Lodhi colony near historic Lodhi Gardens, was the last residential areas built by the British Raj.


After India gained independence in 1947, a limited autonomy was conferred to New Delhi and was administered by a Chief Commissioner appointed by the Government of India. In 1956, Delhi was converted into a union territory and eventually the Chief Commissioner was replaced by a Lieutenant Governor. The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 declared the Union Territory of Delhi to be formally known as National Capital Territory of Delhi. A system of diarchy was introduced under which the elected Government was given wide powers, excluding law and order which remained with the Central Government. The actual enforcement of the legislation came in 1993.

The first major extension of New Delhi outside of Lutyens' Delhi came in the 1950s when the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) developed a large area of land southwest of Lutyens' Delhi to create the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri, where land was allotted for embassies, chanceries, high commissions and residences of ambassadors, around wide central vista, Shanti Path. The second phase of extension of New Delhi, which started in late 1950s by acquiring land from Munirka farmers. Developed by CPWD to south-West of Central Secretariat, its development continued till 1970s, when R. K. Puram, one of the largest residential colonies of the time was established. By now Delhi was growing in all directions, especially towards South Delhi and trans-Yamuna areas, with new private colonies coming up rapidly, filling up all the spaces left behind by government housing colonies. The construction picked further speed when Delhi Development Authority (DDA) started developing public housing colonies across Delhi, as well as housing townships, from Pitampura, Patparganj, Rohini, Dwarka to Vasant Kunj in the south, in the 1980s and 90s. So much so, that Safdarjung Airport which was once at the edge of the city, came almost in its middle, and is no longer in use for commercial flights, which started operating from the Palam Airport in 1962. Two big spurts of growth in the city, came when the city hosted international sports events, first the 1982 Asian Games and more recently the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The city celebrated 100 years as Capital on 12 December, 2011............

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