Delhi gets a new vista
India Gate and the popular public spaces around it donned festive attire for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though the area was, for much of the evening, cordoned off for members of the public.
The newly christened Kartavya Path and its magnificent greens were lit up almost 19 months later, as the revamped Central Vista Avenue was thrown open to the public on Thursday evening, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi also unveiled a 28-foot-tall statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the canopy behind India Gate.
India Gate and the popular public spaces around it donned festive attire for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though the area was, for much of the evening, cordoned off for members of the public. It was thrown open after 8.45pm, when the inauguration ceremony came to a close.
Still, a few hundred visitors were present to view the event outside on large LED screens installed at Rafi Marg and Man Singh road.
While some looked for a flashy new backdrop for their social media posts, others who reached, said they wanted to be a part of history.
MS Bellubbi, a visitor from Karnataka’s Vijaypura district said he was in the city for personal work but did not want to miss the historic occasion.
“These things happen once in a lifetime. I have been to Delhi five times earlier and this is the first place people from other states come to see. It looks much better now,” he said.
With the Prime Minister reaching the venue around 7pm on Thursday, a series of selfies followed in front of the LED screens, with India Gate in the backdrop, illuminated with the Tricolour and lasers beaming into the sky.
All major buildings around Central Vista were equally decked up to match the occasion, with bright lights and the Tricolour the common themes.
“I have been coming to India Gate frequently, but this was an occasion that could not be missed. I intend to capture the entire occasion on video, which will form a part of my vlog, which showcases different flavours of Delhi,” said Shehnaaz Alvi, who hails from Sonipat but has been working in Delhi as a school teacher.
A host of people also made their way to the Netaji statue after the inauguration to take photographs. A short clip of Netaji’s contribution to the freedom movement was played at the event.
Anand Mukherjee, a member of the Netaji Subhas INA Trust, said, “It is an important moment for us. He has been neglected by successive governments. This government has played an important role in recognising his contribution.”
The area around the statue was decorated with large-scale paintings by schoolchildren on Netaji. The Prime Minister got a glimpse of the cultural events that have been planned along Kartavya Path as part of the three-day cultural event, with a performance at the amphitheatre that has been set up at the India Gate lawns.
Modi also interacted with construction workers involved in the redevelopment of the Avenue and said they would be his “special guests” during the Republic Day parade next year.
“With the redevelopment of the entire stretch, I have also become a part of this historic work. I will never forget this moment,” beamed Neeraj Kumar, who was among workers involved in the Central Vista Avenue redevelopment.
Vendors who hoped to profit from Thursday’s festivities, however, were a disappointed group, with few able to make their ways open to the general public. Most of them were asked to vacate the area.
Bipin Kumar, who sells ice cream in the vicinity, said he was hopeful the event would bring several people to the venue. “The traffic police told us we were not allowed to stand there so we kept moving. While some visitors did stop and buy ice cream, we had to eventually move away from Kartavya Path,” he said.
Some visitors who were around India Gate on Thursday said they were caught by surprise.
Siblings Aanand Upadhyay (25) and Parikshita Upadhyay (20), who were on a visit to Delhi, said they caught a glimpse of the renewed Avenue “by chance”.
“We will be leaving Delhi on Friday. It was sheer chance that we ended up witnessing the ceremony. It appears to be a significant upgrade, but we hope it is kept clean,” Parikshita said.
“Over the years, we have been spending a lot of time at India gate lawns. The shade of jamun trees serve as excellent spaces to relax. It looks much more sleek now with lights and pathways but I hope they allow people to use it like old times,” said 31-year-old Sandeep Singh from Bihar’s Hajipur, who is preparing for competitive exams in Delhi.
The stretch of Kartavya Path from Man Singh Road towards Rashtrapati Bhawan was partially thrown open for visitors after 8.45pm, but with barricades and security personnel in place, few made their way to the newly verdant greens.
After the Prime Minister’s address ended, the spotlight turned instead to two stages set up near India Gate and between the Kartavya Path stretch between Rafi Marg and Man Singh Road where performances from various states were held to showcase the various hues of local cultural dances.
Among those were a group of 15 tribal artistes from Adilabad in Telangana, who performed the Gussadi dance of the Adilabad Gonds tribe.
Uday Kumar (30), the head of the group, said the dance dates back thousands of years, and is now performed on major festivals such as Sankranti and Dussehra.
“The dance is traditionally dedicated to the snake god. We are a group of 15 people who arrived in Delhi on Monday. Besides showcasing our art, all the dancers have jobs as teachers, farmers and in the private sector. We are proud to be a part of this historic event,” he added.
Onlookers also enjoyed the Dalkhai dance of Odisha.
Bausdev Behera, the flautist in the 15-member troupe said that the dance is performed on the eighth day of Navratri.
“Sisters keep a fast for their brothers and the dance is held at night in front of the Goddess Durga. It is an integral part of Navratri in Odisha,” Behera added.