A hundred years ago, the British monarch King George V chose a dusty field of Delhi to anoint himself the Emperor of India. Nobility from across India witnessed the colonial jamboree — and from a distance, the ‘natives’ — as the foundations of what is now known as New Delhi were laid.
In less than 40 years, the British empire, the ‘Emperor of India’ and its nobility were all gone. Delhi, as it had for centuries, continued to grow. The planned city of the new Delhi was built on land that belonged to several villages spread between miles of woods and thorny shrubs. Some of those villages are now the most expensive, and expansive, parts of town.
The new buildings that came up acknowledged the city’s Mughal milieu as well as its colonial context. Wide roads, lined with trees imported from Africa, the viceroy’s residence, now Rashtrapati Bhavan, the signature circular structure of Parliament, then called Council House, the majestic India Gate, all were built before India became independent.
After the British, New Delhi stayed on as the capital of India. The lines and distances that divided the new and old cities became blurred as the city grew in all directions. Acres of keekar trees and shrubs gave way to ‘colonies’.
Immigrants boosted the population and pushed its boundaries. Today, New Delhi is still growing. It has some of the signs of a modern metropolis, it maintains its historicity while struggling to find its new identity.
But two things have remained the same. One is change, which has been New Delhi’s constant companion. The other is Hindustan Times, which has chronicled the city for 85 of its 100 years. HT has brought to readers the good, bad and ugly of the Capital every morning for all these decades. Now, as New Delhi turns a hundred, HT will celebrate its centenary through the year. Join us in the festivities from today, where we bring back memories of the Dilli Durbar of 1911 — the year New Delhi was born.
( By Sanjoy Narayan, Editor-in-Chief)