The lost glory of Shahjahanabad
The latest official statistics have just confirmed what heritage lovers were fearing.
Shahjahanabad — home to more than two dozen important heritage monuments and at least 500 heritage structures and havelis, not to mention signature shopping haunts and eating out experiences, is getting fewer visitors than ever.
The data released by the Ministry of Culture recently shows that the Red Fort has seen a steady decline in visitors. The World Heritage Site saw an earning of Rs 6.03 crore from the sale of entry tickets in 2007, which decreased to Rs 6.01 crore in 2008 and further to just Rs 5.54 crore in 2009.
ASI officials blame the lack of parking in the area to the declining numbers.
“We have been receiving complaints. There is no parking at or near the Red Fort,” said a senior ASI official.
But lack of parking is just one of the problems the area faces.
From being the city of pride built by Emperor Shahjahan, to a sidelined walled city in contemporary times, Shahjahanabad — which combines an old world beauty with everything ugly associated with growing commerce and modern life has come a long way.
It has the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, old havelis with multicoloured floors and stained glass windows, and tombs of sufi saints.
It also has features one associates with a town like Bareilly or Moradabad —congested roads, overflowing sewers, dangling cables.
But the change did not happen overnight. A chief catalyst was the partition, say experts.
“The partition brought a big social upheaval. With the change in people, the milieu also disappeared,” says R V Smith, a chronicler of Delhi, “Urdu disappeared and with it went the Ganga-Jamunavi tehzib.”
And Narayani Gupta, a historian and an author says, “Shahjahanabad has got into changes that are partly legal and partly illegal. Most people living there are not interested in heritage status.” Plans by government agencies have fallen flat as such projects happen, she says “only when there is an enormous change in mindset.”