Date:01/02/2011 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/yw/2011/02/01/stories/2011020150210200.htm
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Delhi- 100 years as the Capital

SWATI DAFTUAR

Delhi as a capital hits the century mark this year. Through wars and riots, pomp and show, the history of Delhi is as colourful as it is interesting. Let us celebrate this unique and historical city.


The last 100 years have seen Delhi grow and change.


Photo: S. Subramanium

On the banks of the Yamuna is the city of Delhi. This year it celebrates its centenary as a nation's capital. Delhi was a major political, cultural as well as commercial city on the trade route between northwest India and the Gangetic plain, after the rise of the Delhi Sultanates. It is a city steeped in history and some of the monuments are still there today. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Calcutta was the capital. It was in 1911 that King George V announced that the capital would be shifted back to Delhi. This is a multicultural, cosmopolitan metropolis and people from all over the country have migrated to it and made it their home.

Some famous personalities

Khushwant Singh is one of the best-known Indian writers. Singh has also written extensively about Delhi.


M.F. Hussain is one of India's most famous painters. Also a filmmaker, In 1967 he made his first film, ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter”. Shown at the Berlin Festival, the movie won a Golden Bear.

Pervez Musharraf, the former President of President, was born in Delhi


Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood's leading actors, was born in Delhi and has a Masters Degree in Mass Communication from Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, the legendary sitarist and composer is India's venerated musical icon and is known for his pioneering work in introducing Indian classical music to the West.

Photo : PTI

Raisina Hill : An important location in Delhi.

On December 12, 1911, the capital of colonised India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, re-establishing the city as the political centre for the British Empire in the country. This month, Delhi completes its centenary year as the capital of modern day India.

The city had been a capital before, according to references dating back to 1450 B.C. Between 12th and 19th century A.D., Delhi served as the capital for many rulers. The original seven cities that came together to form what we know as Delhi today were Siri, Tughlakabad, Jahanapanah, Ferozabad, Dinpanah, Shergarh and Shahajahanabad. The eighth city, the ‘new' Delhi that never really got another name, was built by the British.

Clearly, the city was a choice capital, and for reasons that are obvious even now. The two characteristic features of the city, the Delhi Ridge and the Yamuna, gave it natural sustenance and protection. Flanked by these two geographical features, Delhi was the obvious choice for ambitious rulers.

Variety and diversity

Before New Delhi, the core of the city lay in the northern parts: Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate and Civil Lines flourishing with trade and commerce. The small villages and hamlets in the southern part of the city had a motley group of communities living in them: Jats, Brahmins, Christians, Muslims and Gujjars. They reared animals, engaged in agriculture and worked as labourers in Shahjahanabad, the city established by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Eventually these villages gave way to symmetrical, planned neighbourhoods and architectural marvels like the Secretariat and the Parliament, landmarks that define a certain face of New Delhi.

The nation's capital is perhaps the best example of the variety and diversity of the country, a perfect salad bowl that accepts people of all religions, regions and groups. With no single citizen a true son of Delhi, the city has become home for many migrants in search of livelihood from all over the country.

The last 100 years have seen Delhi grow and change. The recent Commonwealth Games even gave the city a rapid makeover.

The nation's capital has indeed come a long way, and perhaps the greatest change has been in the population. Bursting at the seams, a city initially intended for around 70,000 people is currently the home of over 16 million citizens, an ever increasing number.

The river, which was the source of life and sustenance, has begun to closely resemble a drain.

The pressure on the depleting resources of the city is ever growing and poses serious ecological crises. Perhaps, as we celebrate the centenary year of a great city, it is time to remember and preserve what made it great in the first place.

Photo : V. Sudershan

Connaught Place :A bird's eye view.

Places to look out for

Connaught Place was named after the Duke of Connaught, a member of the British royal family. A sprawling circular market, it was once the largest of its kind in India. The British believed that a market in the shape of a horseshoe would prove lucky. ‘CP' continues to be Delhi's premier shopping destination 65 years after of its birth. 

Jama Masjid in Delhi is the biggest mosque in India. Constructed by Shah Jahan in 1650, it took six years to complete. The mosque stands on a rocky elevation and is constructed in sandstone and white marble and can be entered from both North and the South Gates. The eastern gateway is supposed to remain open in Friday and was used by the emperor himself.

National Museum is rightly called the cultural gateway into India. Set up on August 15, 1949, the museum is a treasure house of antiques and historical memorabilia ranging from sculpture through carving, paintings, jewellery and manuscripts to arts and crafts The museum now boasts of over 2,00,000 works of exquisite art, both of Indian and foreign origin, covering a time span of more than 5,000 years.

Chandni Chowk, a main marketplace in Delhi, is the city's living legacy of Shahjahanabad. Created by Shah Jahan, the fascinating market was planned, as legend has it, so that his daughter could shop for all that she wanted. The market was divided by canals. The canals are now closed, but Chandni Chowk remains Asia's largest wholesale market.

Darya Ganj is another exciting shopping centre, popular for its Sunday Book Market. The pavements of Darya Ganj become shopping stalls for book sellers every Sunday. The market stretches for almost two kilometres. Books on virtually every topic are available at throwaway prices.

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