If you are on Lothian Road and going towards Red Fort, behind the row of shops on your left is a significant centre of learning. The present-day campus of Delhi government’s Ambedkar University has a hidden gem on its sprawling premises: the Dara Shikoh Library.
An old but renovated building sporting a mix of Mughal and British architecture is the proud legacy of Dara Shikoh (1615-1659), the eldest son and heir apparent of emperor Shah Jahan. However, his younger brother Aurangzeb beat him to the Mughal throne.
Dara Shikoh, an erudite scholar, had a huge collection of books. An example of his penmanship are his translations of several Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian. After his death, the building underwent numerous changes.
It became the residence of a Mughal noble, then that of a British resident, a government college, district school, a municipal school and much later, in the 20th century, the Delhi government's department of archaeology moved in.
Every occupant or agency added on to its architecture. The English built the tall imposing Roman-style pillars as additions were made from two sides to the Mughal-era building. Inside, you can still see the decorated sandstone arches akin to that of a baradari.
The archaeology department’s administrative wing recently shifted to Vikas Bhawan II, adjacent to Metcalfe House. "However, our museum artifacts and archival records continue to remain there. In the future, we hope to put this building to better use,” said Vishwa Mohan, additional secretary, department of art and culture.