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Three centuries of learning

delhi Updated: Oct 14, 2012 00:12 IST
Nivedita Khandekar
anglo arabic school


Barely a few metres from the cacophony and the chaos outside the New Delhi railway station on the Ajmeri Gate side lies an island of serenity. Anglo Arabic School, the more than three centuries old institution of learning, is probably the city's oldest school. The sprawling premises opens up to a different world.

"It was originally a 10 acre campus. Land was acquired when the railway line was laid in the early 20th century, leaving about seven acres," said Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who is on the panel of the governing body of the school.

It was founded by Ghaziuddin Khan, a leading Deccan commander, in 1692 during Aurangzeb's reign and named as Madarsa Ghaziuddin Khan. This was also the centre for Delhi's renaissance.

Rakhshanda Jalil in her 'Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments of Delhi' has documented the transition: "It has been, in its 300 years of existence, an Arabic madarsa, an oriental college, briefly an artillery barrack and a police station, a hostel, a madarsa again; now it is a high school with 1,900 students from class XI to XII."

It is more than a coincident that the premises is located at the junction of the Old and the New Delhi and has been a witness to three centuries of change. And there is a change right outside it too.

"The enclosure wall is also a part of heritage. Shops and rehdi-thelas clinging to it and the rain basera on the footpath have more or less become permanent fixtures," Ahmed said.

(A sunday column in which HT explores a place in today’s Delhi and finds out what it used to be once)