Volume 56 Number 3, March 2005
The Idea of Delhi
|Specifications:||132 pages, 116 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
This book is about how Delhi has been imagined by those who have determined its pattern of urbanization. One idea that has appeared almost continually in its history is imaging it as a capital city. This idea has been linked not only to the pragmatic reasons of portraying power through its layout and architecture but to abstract ideals about placing this city as a symbol of power in a paradise garden and in British times, in a garden. Inevitably, ideas when they get implemented undergo change and in many cases remain unfulfilled. The chapters explore these ideas, and also cover post-independence Delhi.
Romi Khosla is a well known architect who runs the Romi Khosla Design Studios in Delhi. He has designed major building projects in India as well as Planned Urban Projects for the United Nations in the Balkans, Cyprus, and China.
The City as an Idea
Rambling through Some of the Pasts of Delhi
The Delhi that Once Was
Glory of Empire: Imperial Delhi
Claiming Community through Narratives: Punjabi Refugees in Delhi
The DDA and the Idea of Delhi
Suneeta Dasappa Kacker
The Idea of a New Chic Delhi through Publicity Hype
Roaming through Delhi
The volume deals with the ideas and visions that the many rulers of Delhi tried to realize in laying out the cityscape. These ideas were given physical form through geometry. These urban geometries determined the patterns that have woven together the cores and peripheries of the planned city. The various cities of Delhi were established in a historical sequence of single settlements, each with a different name and location. In the British period these settlements became rooted in two permanent Delhis – Old Delhi hemmed in by space constraints, and the more well-tended and spacious New Delhi. At partition, refugees streamed into Delhi and large tracts of agricultural land began to be converted to housing plots. The idea of a city ideal began to be transformed from “ground vision” to “grand adjustment”. Today there are more than a dozen simultaneously existing sub-Delhis.
The first settlement of Delhi is traditionally believed to be the Pandavas’ grand city of Indraprastha. Excavations at Purana Qila revealed a settlement going back to the first millennium BCE, but indications are that this was a small and not very significant one. Even in subsequent times it was overshadowed by metropolitan cities like Taxila, Kaushambi, Mathura, and Kanauj. Strategically located Delhi became important only when the Turks, Afghans, and Mughals settled in the area. Thereafter, the repeated location of Delhi as the capital is striking, each dynasty building anew at the site. The past is still visible but the interface of past with present needs to be strengthened.
After the Indraprastha of 1500 BCE, the next attempt to create a paradise was Shahjahan’s Dillee in the 17th century, the first Dillee to rival heaven on earth. In between came a succession of historic cities of Delhi. Quoting Urdu verse and travellers’ accounts, the writer recreates the city then. Today that paradise is reduced to the status of a slum; the dream has died.
With the decline of the Mughal empire it was time for another Delhi to be founded. To reinforce the glory of the British Empire, the capital was moved to Delhi from Calcutta, since Delhi and empire were synonymous in the minds of the people. In 1912 the Raisina Hill site was selected by Lord Hardinge and the work divided between Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the emphasis being on visualizing the new capital as a city of monuments.
In popular imagination Delhi is identified as a Punjabi city outside Punjab. Few recall that Punjabis were the refugees who invaded Delhi and its culture in 1947. This amnesia is most visible among the Punjabis themselves who now lay claim to the city as much as the Kayastha Hindus and the remaining Muslim populace of Old Delhi. The Punjabis have come to dominate most facets of the city, blurring the categories of “refugees” and “resident”. This essay attempts to analyse this amnesia through personal accounts of resettlement.
In 1947, five lakh refugees from Pakistan entered the national capital. Many agencies operated in this context, significantly the Delhi Improvement Trust, opening barren lands to residential areas. The city grew rapidly in an uneven way: the walled city marked by overcrowding; New Delhi catering to the better off. The need for a single planning authority was felt; hence the Delhi Development Authority was constituted in 1957 mandated to implement a Master Plan. Delhi thus became the first city in the world where State intervention was attempted on a large scale. In 1964 the DDA started selling land developed by it for private housing. Priority changed to maximizing profits through sale of land at high prices, paradoxically catering them mainly to the rich, and led to the proliferation of unauthorized colonies. While its planning role has been subverted, the DDA has been successful in large projects – sports facilities, industrial estates, parks, and built-up housing. The DDA’s housing programme offers affordable options to the middle and lower income groups. However the next vision for Delhi must address how the aspirations of 70 per cent of the population for economic and social betterment can be enabled.
Advertisements and hoardings for the new residential colonies on the outskirts of Delhi promise a blend of ecological utopia and modern conveniences, revealing the aspirations of their affluent potential residents. This contrasts with other forms of suburban extension such as illegal colonies. This pattern reinforces social segregations, a trend common to the metropolization of the developing and developed worlds.
After a brief history of the maps of Delhi and its environs prepared by British surveyors and later the Survey of India, the writer, who has more than 30 years’ experience in surveying and mapping, explains how Delhi was mapped for Eicher. Using satellite imagery to map Delhi and the satellite towns of Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, and NOIDA, the challenge was to capture the units of the urban sprawl. The area was divided into map pages, and details down to house numbers in Delhi’s colonies were included in this exhaustive map of the city.
A photo-essay on the landmarks of New Delhi and Old Delhi.