A 16th century citadel, a sprawling green island and a motley collection of animals and birds, all in the middle of a burgeoning urbane Delhi.
But till just about 100 years ago, the landscape was different. People lived inside the Purana Qila and around it was their farm and grazing land spread over areas that now are Delhi zoo, Sundar Nagar, Bapa Nagar and Kaka Nagar etc.
Land was acquired for building ‘New Delhi’ after the British shifted capital here from Kolkata in 1911 . When the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) notified Purana Qila as protected, the Qila residents were shifted to Nangli Razapur.
The Delhi zoo came decades later after the New Delhi was built.
Although the idea to have a zoo at the national capital was mooted in 1951, the Park was inaugurated in November 1959.
“Nangli Razapur was originally situated near the Pontoon Bridge near Mayur Vihar. A flash flood in 1932 devastated that settlement. The government then allotted the area right next to Nizamuddin Railway station for 62 families,” said Harish Sharma, a retired government official, whose father Shiv Sahay Sharma was born inside Purana Qila in 1910.
It was sheer luck that Nangli Razapur surroundings escaped yet another acquisition. The village abadi land was spared but the common land was acquired for Yamuna channelisation programme.
AK Jain, heritage activist and former Delhi Development Authority commissioner (planning) said: “The project for channelisation of Yamuna was dropped few years ago by the DDA due to various reasons.”