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And New Delhi was unveiled

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2011 12:52 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times
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On February 10, 1931, a sunny day after three days of rain and cloudy weather, Viceroy of India Lord Irwin formally inaugurated New Delhi at 11am.

Nearly 20 years after King George V had announced the shifting of India's capital from Calcutta to Delhi, the grand new capital was finally complete. To mark the event, Irwin inaugurated the four dominion columns - four red stone columns with gilded galleons, gifts by the Empire's four dominions Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and designed by architect Herbert Baker.

The decision to shift the capital changed the course of Delhi's history. But in the two decades it took to build the new capital, the fate of the British Empire itself had changed. While it was an all-powerful empire in 1911, by 1931 it was pretty much clear that a transition of power was imminent.

The Delhi that we know today had its beginning in the 1910s itself. With the British Raj relocating to Delhi, it brought along officials and employees from all parts of the country. None of them were Dilliwallahs in the old sense but all of them made Delhi their own, creating the multi-ethnic Delhi of 2011.

Till the 1920s, Delhi meant the walled city with a few suburbs like Karol Bagh and a small area in north Delhi where the Europeans lived. The influx of migrants since then triggered its expansion, beginning with government employees. The population trebled after Partition when refugees started pouring in. Since then, the capital has attracted millions, looking for better opportunities and a better life from across the nation.

The British had anticipated the city's expansion early on and acquired 1,290 square miles as 'Delhi enclave' to accommodate later growth. Till the 1940s, New Delhi would turn into a ghost town after sunset and on holidays. Apart from houses for the top ranking officials and Princes, residences were not built in New Delhi. Those who came to work here would return to their homes in the Walled City or suburbs.

The tide changed when, unable to cope with the congestion in 'old Delhi', its residents started moving south towards New Delhi. Those who came after Partition populated areas like Rajinder Nagar and Lajpat Nagar.

New Delhi, one of the country's richest cities, is now much more than just its country's seat of power. Delhi is not limited by the boundaries created by the British either. The once far flung areas like Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad are also very much a part of the metropolis.

Tracking history through Hindustan Times