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Delhi: Past And Present
By H. C. Fanshawe, C.S.I.
Bengal Civil Service, Retired;
Late Chief Secretary To The Punjab Government,
And Commissioner Of The Delhi Division
John Murray, London. I9o2.
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A Brief Account Of Delhi In 1902 A.D.
THE city of Delhi1 is situated in lat. 28.38 N., and long. 77.13 E., very nearly due north of Cape Comorin, and very nearly in a line with the more ancient cities of Cairo and Canton. It lies in the south-east corner of the Province of the Punjab, to which it was added after 1857, and is placed in a narrow plain between the river Jumna and the northernmost spur of the Aravalli Mountains, which rise here 80 to 110 feet above the country, and finally disappear from the surface of India at Wazirabad, three miles north of Delhi. [1 The original name was Dilli, of which the Muhammadan version was Dehli. The accepted spelling is Delhi.]
The north-east trend of the ridge and the outlying rocky spurs under the Salimgarh Fort and the Jama Masjid 2 have secured the plain from erosion by the river; and the natural advantages of the situation, protected by a broad stream on the one side and by a mountain ridge on the other, must have been apparent from a very early date, and particularly to the various invaders of India, who were compelled to follow the lines of the rivers.[ 2 Many small outcrops of rock may be seen in the clear space between the Moghal Palace of the Jama Masjid.]
The present Moghal city of Delhi, which should properly be known as Shahjahanabad, is the most northern and most modern of a number of capitals and fortresses constructed on the above plain between 700 and 1550 of the Christian era, from the Lal Kila of Rai Pithora at the Kutab Minar eleven miles south-west of Shahjahanabad to the Jahannuma palace and quarter, built by Firoz Shah Tughlak on the ridge, slightly in advance of the Moghal capital.
The 'six' cities of Delhi
[New Delhi, which had not come into existence in 1902, is supposed to be the seventh. There is no agreement on which the earlier six were.]
These old cities from north to south were :—
1. Firozabad of Firoz Shah Tughlak (c. 1360 A.D.), adjoining modern Delhi on the south.
2. Indrapat of Humayun and Sher Shah (on the site of a still older, but doubtless small,
city), two miles south of modern Delhi (c. 1540 A.D.).
3. Siri (now Shahpur), four miles south-west of Indrapat (c. 1300 A.D.)
4. Jahanpanah, or the space between Siri and Old Delhi, which became gradually occupied, and was ultimately connected by walls with the cities north and south of it (c. 1330 A.D.).
5. Old Delhi, or the Fort of Rai Pithora, the original Delhi of the Pathan invaders in the twelfth century, and containing the Kutab Minar, three miles to the south-east of Siri (1150- 1350 A.D.).
6. Tughlakabad, four miles south-east of Siri, and five miles east of Old Delhi, built by Muhammad Tughlak Shah (c. 1320 A.D.).
Besides these were some unimportant and still more short-lived capitals at Kilokhri, one mile south of the tomb of the Emperor Humayun, and Mubarikabad, a little further south again, of which there are no remains at the present day.
Modern Delhi or Shahjahanabad dates only from 1650 A.D., and is thus just 250 years old. Its title to be termed the Imperial City of India rests upon a very brief pedigree, and Milton was perfectly correct in placing in his list of the great capitals of the East as the principal cities of the descendants of Baber
“Agra and Lahor of Great Mogul, Down to the golden Chersonese, or where The Persian in Ecbatan sat, or since In Hispahan. . . .” — Paradise Lost, xi. 386. Milton very possibly based his reference upon the memoir of Mr William Finch, Merchant, who alone of all early travellers in India visited both Agra and Lahore (1609-11 A.D.), and recorded an intelligible account of these places. Regarding the Agra Palace, Finch wrote: “The gates, courts, and buildings belonging to it are too many for a transient description. The mighty castle of Agra is a subject sufficient for an almost entire volume of itself,” and regarding Lahore, that the Castle was very fine, that the mohols (mahals, or private apartments), the courts, the galleries, and rooms of state were almost endless; that the king’s apartments were overlaid with gold, and that the picture gallery contained portraits of all the descendants of Baber. Of the city of Lahore he added : “This certainty is one of the greatest cities in the East, and perhaps when all is done to it that this king (the Emperor Jahangir) designs, it may be one of the finest.” ”3 The royal palace was built first, between 1638 and 1648, then the city walls and the Jama Masjid, and with them various public buildings erected by members of the family of the Emperor Shahjahan, and, no doubt, many palaces of the nobles.
The founder can hardly have spent more than five or six years in his new capital after it was fairly established and his usurping son and successor, the Emperor Aurangzeb, left it in 1680, after twenty years’ residence, and never returned. .[ 3 The whole passage deserves to be quoted :— “City of old or modern fame, the seat Of mightiest empire, from the destined walls Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can, And Samarchand by Oxus, Temir's throne, To Paquin, of Sinæan kings, and thence]
Till thirty years afterwards the place saw but little of the Moghal Emperor of the day; and from then to the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1739 only thirty years more intervened. Oudh and Hydrabad were practically independent by that time. Malwa was ceded to the Mahrattas four years later; in less than twenty years Ahmad Shah the Pathan sacked Delhi for a second time; and when, after the defeat of the Mahrattas at Panipat in 1761, he placed Shah Alam II. on the throne, that Emperor was absent from Delhi, and did not come back till ten years later.
From his return he reigned for over thirty years wholly as the puppet of various ministers and of the Mahrattas; and the popular distich —
“Badshah Shah Alam Az Delhi ta Palam.” “King Shah Alam” (meaning monarch of the world) “From Delhi to to Pálam.” (Palam is scarcely ten miles distant from Delhi to the south-west)— overstates the extent of the effective imperial authority of the time rather than understates it.
From 1803, or at least 1806, there was no pretence of Delhi being any longer the imperial city of India, though the imperial dignity of the Moghal dynasty was humanely, but unfortunately, kept up in certain respects.
Delhi really ceased to be an imperial city with the death of Muhammad Shah in 1748, or just 100 years after the completion of the Palace by his grandfather’s grandfather, and at the most liberal computation its imperial existence cannot be reckoned at more than 150 years; but the glamour of the great cities which bore that name for four and a half centuries previously has clung round and clings round it still.
The present city of Shahjahanabad extends for nearly two and a quarter miles along the right bank of the Jumna from the Water Bastion1 to the Wellesley Bastion in the south-east corner, nearly one-third of the frontage being occupied by the river wall of the Palace. [1 The Water Bastion is known popularly as the Bador Rao Burj, and was known officially as the Moira Bastion; the Kashmir Bastion bore the name of the Ali Burj.]
The northern wall, so famous in the history of 1857, extends just threequarters of a mile from the Water Bastion to the Shah, commonly known as the Mori, Bastion; the length of the west wall from this Bastion to the Ajmir Gate is one and a quarter mile, and of the south wall to the Wellesley Bastion again almost exactly the same distance, the whole land circuit being thus three and a quarter miles.
In the north wall are situated the famous Kashmir Gate and the Mori or Drain Gate, the latter built by a Mahratta Governor and now removed; in the west wall are the Kabul, Lahore, Farash Khana, and Ajmir Gates —the first two removed—and in the south wall the Turkman and Delhi.
The gates on the river side of the city were the Khairati and Rajghat, the Calcutta and Nigambod—both removed; the Kela Gate, and the Badar Rao Gate, now closed.1[1 The old gates of the city form a serious obstruction to traffic, and several more of them are about to be presently relieved by side openings through the walls. The Kashmir Gate will of course be retained untouched.]
The city is divided into two somewhat unequal portions by the Chandni Chauk, which, with the Lahore Bazar, runs for just over a mile from the Lahore Gate of the city to the Lahore Gate of the Fort. This gate is very nearly equidistant from it and from the Kashmir, Delhi, and Ajmir Gates.
The east side of the city is opened up by a road from the Kashmir to the Delhi Gate, passing in front of the Old Magazine and the Fort and Palace, and having the Jama Masjid on its right, while the western portion has a main artery in the Lal Kua and Sirkiwalla Bazar, which at the Hauz Kazi divides into three branches leading to the Ajmir Gate on the west, the Turkman Gate on the south, and by the Chauri Bazar to the Jama Masjid on the east.
Two well-known streets, Egerton Road, starting from opposite the clock tower, and Billimaran, further west, connect this main western artery with the Chandni Chauk. In the south-east corner of the city, between the walls and the Feiz Bazar, is the small cantonment of Daryaganj, in which a native regiment is quartered, the rest of the Delhi garrison, consisting of a battery of garrison artillery and two companies from the British regiment stationed at Meerut, being cantoned in the Fort.
Beyond the Lahore Gate and the northern portion of the west wall of the city lies the Sadar Bazar, with the Kadam Sharif and Idgah below it, and the Kishanganj and Paharipur quarters, the western Jumna canal and the south end of the Ridge above it. About half a mile west of the south end of the Ridge are the Sabzi Mandi and Roshanara Gardens, which complete the principal objects of interest on this side.
Beyond the north wall of the city, and approached by the Kashmir and Mori Gates, lies the Civil Station, skirted on its south side by the sites of the siege batteries of 1857, and the cemetery, and by the Nicholson and Kudsia Gardens, and bounded on the west by the Ridge, and on the east by the Jumna. Beyond the Ridge is the Old Cantonment, which was destroyed in May 1857, and was occupied by the force besieging Delhi from June to September in that year.
This is bounded to the west by the drainage canal from the Najafgarh Jhil, upon which the military cemetery of 1857 abuts. Across the canal, to the north of the high road, is the Bawari Plain, the site of the Imperial Assemblage of 1877, and of the scene of the greater Coronation Darbar of 1st January 1903.
This site lies three and a half miles from the Kashmir Gate of the city, from which all places to the north are measured, and one and a half mile from the Ridge. Two and a half miles further up the Grand Trunk road, from the point where the route to the Bawari Plain diverges, is the site of the battle of Badli ki Serai, fought on 8th June 1857, and west of the field of battle are the scanty remains of the once famous Shalimar Gardens.
Half a mile beyond the Delhi Gate, in the south-east corner of the Daryaganj Cantonment, are the ruins of the citadel of Firozabad, above which the Buddhist Lat, placed there by Firoz Shah, still rises, and a mile further south is the Purana Kila, or Indrapat.
Two miles south again is the tomb of the Emperor Humayun, with the group of buildings round it described in Chapter IV., which terminates the objects of interest south of Delhi and adjoining the river. Turning west from here, the Dargah of the great Shekh Nizam-ud-din-Aulia is first seen on the left, and after two and a half miles, Mubarikpur to the south, and the tombs of the Lodi Kings to the north, are passed; and half a mile further on, the tomb of Nawab Safdar Jang is reached.
This is situated six miles from Delhi by the road from the Ajmir Gate, and from it the distance to the Kutab Minar and Old Delhi, to the south, is five miles, the road passing the tomb of Firoz Shah, one and a half mile to the west, and the Begampur Mosque one mile to the east, besides many other buildings
At the original Delhi are situated the Kutab Minar, the Kuwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the Alai Darwazah, the tomb of Altamsh, and the Dargah, or shrine of Khwaja Kutab-ud-din, all of which are of great interest, besides the walls of the old Fort, and several other structures.
Five miles east of the Kutab are the remains of the gigantic fortress and city walls of Tughlakabad and the tomb of Tughlak Shah. Alone of all notable places in the neighbourhood, the field of the battle of Delhi, fought by Lord Lake on 11th September 1803, lies on the left bank of the river, between five and six miles from Delhi.
Such, briefly, is the ground of interest to be covered at Delhi; full details will be found in the following chapters, and a brief itinerary is appended here. The following general statistics of Delhi will no doubt be of interest : —
Population, according to census of 1901
Total . . . . . 208,000
Muhammedans . . . . 88,000
Hindus . . . . . 114,000
Christians . . . . 2,000
Others . . . . . 4,000
Average municipal income of the last five years— Rs. 435,000.
Average value of rail-borne trade for last five years : —
Exports . . Rs. 100,51.00,000
Imports . . 68,000,000
Numbers under instruction in recognised educational establishments . . . . . 3,500
St Stephen’s College and Schools, the recently inaugurated Hindu College, and the Municipal High School are the principal educational institutions.
There are four places of Christian worship: St James’ Church, at the Kashmir Gate; St Stephen’s Church, at the Cambridge Mission; the Baptist Chapel, near the Delhi Bank, at the east end of the Chandni Chauk; the Roman Catholic Church, ease of the Mor Sarai. The Missions are the S.P.G. Mission, specially represented by the Cambridge Mission (ten European and twenty-three lady workers), and the Baptist Mission (four European and eight lady workers). The present Bishop of Lahore, the Rev. Dr Lefroy, was for many years head of the Cambridge Mission. The Hospitals are the Municipal Dufferin Hospital, on the north side of the Jama Masjid—one of the best found institutions of its class in North India; St Stephen’s
Hospital for Women, in the Chandni Chauk, which has won a great reputation for itself among the people of the city by the devoted labours of its staff; and the Baptist Hospital, on the south side of the open space in front of the Jama Masjid, to which will shortly be added the Empress Victoria Memorial Hospital,1 on the south-west flank of the Jama Masjid.[ 1 No less a sum than Rs. 125,000 has been subscribed for this Hospital by all classes of the Delhi community, under the auspices of a committee of citizens. This remarkable result is largely due to the devoted labours of the members of the committee, and especially of the Rev. Mr S. S. Thomas, of the Baptist Mission; Captain M. Douglas, Deputy Commissioner, and Mrs Douglas, the ladies of Delhi having contributed a very considerable sum.
I have confident hopes that many of the great Chiefs of India will mark their presence at the Coronation Darbar by adding to the endowment of the proposed Hospital, and thus enabling it to become a real centre of female medical education in North India, as well as a local medical institution.—H. C. F.]
Delhi is served by five different railways, viz. the East Indian, the Oudh and Rohilcand, the Rajputana - Malwa and Bombay, Barodah, the Southern Panjab, and the North-Western, and is placed in an extremely favourable position for railway and sea-borne trade, being 940 miles distant from Karachi, 950 miles from Calcutta, and 960 miles from Bombay by the shortest route, which is likely to be made shorter than either of the first two by the construction of a chord line from Rewari to Jeypur.
This route of the Rajputana-Malwa Railway involves, however, a break of gauge, and the shortest broad-gauge route to Bombay by the Midland Railway is 982 miles. There is direct communication now with the Oudh and Rohilcand Railway system by Moradabad, and with Lahore by the Southern Panjab Railway, which the East India Railway, as far as Amballah, and the North-West Railway, also connect with Delhi.
The distance to Lahore by these routes is 310 miles and 348 miles, and to Peshawar 588 miles and 626 miles. Owing to these advantages, there is every reason to think that Delhi will become one of the greatest trade centres in India, and to hope that it will also become a large manufacturing centre. At present the place boasts three spinning-mills, and eleven other mills worked by steam. Several others, started unwisely or managed improperly, have unfortunately failed, and this has tended to discourage manufacturing enterprise for the present.
The Municipal Committee has always been distinguished for its enlightenment, and has spent twelve lakhs of rupees on its Water Works, and is about to spend as much on a complete system of city drainage.
It consists of seven Hindu, ten Muhammadan, and seven European members, five of the last being district officials. Twelve of the members are elected and twelve nominated; the number of registered electors is 10,000. The place is unusually healthy, and the once well-known Delhi boil or sore has almost entirely disappeared. The heat is very great in May and June, and until the rains fall.
The cold weather is much milder than that in the northern portions of the Punjab. Of late years the district has suffered from a series of bad seasons, which further west have resulted in actual famine. As a great centre of vernacular education, Delhi has produced a number of eminent scholars. Among those recently distinguished may be named the Shams-ul-ulemas Maulavis Zakaullah1 Khan, Khan Bahadur, Nisar Ahmad Khan, Ziauddin Khan, Khan Bahadur, the two last of whom have received the distinction of hon. D.C.L. from the University of Edinburgh. [1 This gentleman, who is a well-known Indian historian, has kindly afforded me much information regarding Delhi.]
To these may be added the well-known mathematician, Ram Chandar. Among local institutions may be specially mentioned the Hindu College and the Yunani School of Medicine, maintained by the late Hazik-uI-Mulk, Hakim Abdul Majid Khan, and now continued by his brothers. During the last two years the city has had to lament the losses of this distinguished practitioner, of its leading, generous-minded citizen, Rai Bahadur Ram Kishan Das, and of its late Deputy- Commissioner and Commissioner, Mr Robert Clarke, B.C.S., who was closely connected with Delhi and its development for a period of nearly ten years, and was greatly beloved by all classes of its citizens.
Delhi is famous for its art wares of gold and silver embroidery, and its jewellers, whose shops will be found on the north side of the Chandni Chauk. Many of the firms have a wide and well-established reputation. Minor art products are ivory miniatures and ivory carvings, but these are no longer of high quality, while the manufacture of the finer blue Delhi pottery has entirely ceased.
The shops of photographers will be found for the most part inside the Kashmir Gate, near the Municipal Board School. The exhibition which will be held in connection with the Coronation Darbar will no doubt enable visitors to judge of the art products of all parts of India. The Delhi bazars offer little or nothing, either by way of curiosities or picturesque bits, and are not worth a special visit.
The Chandni Chauk is sadly spoilt by the very modern frontages of many of the shops and houses, and it may be hoped that these will be gradually improved. As it stands, the city, apart from the old Imperial and other public buildings, will be found a sad disappointment as the seat of a whilom Eastern capital.
The principal hotel is Maiden’s Hotel, well situated in the civil station, close to Ludlow Castle, and excellently managed. Laurie’s Hotel is outside the Mori Gate, and another hotel is just inside; and there are usually two or three hotels inside the Kashmir Gate, near St James’ Church. The management of most of these frequently changes, and it is not possible, therefore, to say much about them.
There are two small rest-houses at the Kutab, and a good breakfast or lunch may be obtained at them; if it is proposed to sleep there, bedding, etc., for the night must be taken from Delhi. Permission to occupy the rest-house in Adham Khan’s tomb at the Kutab must be specially obtained from the Deputy-Commissioner of Delhi. There are a number of banks in Delhi, including a branch bank of the Bank of Bengal and the Bank of Delhi. Most of them are situated off the Chandni Chauk.
The Telegraph and Post-Offices are situated 600 yards inside the Kashmir Gate, the latter in the enclosure of the Old Magazine
A three-day sightseeing schedule
A week, or at least five days, may well be devoted to Delhi, many of the sights of which deserve repeated visits. For those who can spend only three days to the place, the following plan of sight-seeing will perhaps be found the most convenient :—
FIRST DAY—Morning.— Drive through the Kashmir Gate to the Fort and Palace, the Jama Masjid, and the Chandni Chauk
Afternoon.— Drive to further end of Ridge, and from there along it to the south end. Then proceed along the route of the sites of the siege batteries and the breaches, finishing with the spot where General Nicholson was shot and grave where he lies buried
SECOND DAY.— In the morning drive to the Kutab (12 miles), by the direct route of the Ajmir Gate and Safdar Jang’s tomb Spend the day there—one cannot see well all that is worth seeing in less than some four hours—and return in the evening by the same road, pausing if there is time to see the group of tombs at Khairpur. (By starting at 7.30 A.M., and having a second relay of horses, it is possible to include Tughlakabad in the day’s trip; this, however, involves a drive of 35 miles, and five to six hours’ sight-seeing).
THIRD DAY—Morning.—Visit the Purana Kila, Humayun’s tomb, and Nizam-ud-din; if possible also the tomb of Isa Khan, and of Khan Khanan
Afternoon.—Visit the Delhi Palace again, the Kala Masjid, and the tomb and College of Ghazi-ud-din at the Ajmir Gate (Chapter II. Part II.), and anything else that seems of most interest in that Chapter,
It will be readily understood from this that two days more can be well filled up with a visit to Tughlakabad, and seeing the Begam, Roshanara and Kudsia Gardens, all beautiful in their way, and minor buildings of interest, such as the Fatehpuri Mosque, the Zinat-ul-Masajid Mosque, the pretty little golden mosque to the south of the Delhi Gate of the Fort, the Kudam Sharif, etc.,
Those who can give only two days to Delhi will perhaps make the best disposition of their time by devoting the first day as above indicated, and the second to (1) the drive in the morning to the Kutab by the Kotila of Firoz Shah, Purana Kila, Humayun’s Mausoleum, and Nizam-ud-din—it is hopeless to attempt to see more; and (2) the principal sights of the Kutab in the afternoon, visiting Safdar Jang’s tomb on the way back in the evening. Whenever drives are likely to be prolonged into the evening, and especially till some time after sunset, between 1st November and 15th March, wraps should always be taken.
A pleasant morning or evening walk may be taken by following the Ridge towards the north to Wazirabad, three and a half miles distant from the Kashmir Gate, where the picturesque shrine of Shah Alam will be found The path along the Ridge gives the finer view, but a better route for walking is through the Old Cantonment north of the Grand Trunk Road. The walks through the Metcalfe Estate and through the old ruined Cantonment are also pretty ones.