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Mughal era embankment, structures

Uncovering hidden Mughal structures near Talkatora, Jan 28 2017: The Times of India

A Mughal era embankment with related structures, having remained hidden from view at the Talkatora Garden all this while, will get a new lease of life. Its conservation is being taken up jointly by Delhi government's department of archaeology and Intach Delhi chapter.

The surviving structures of the embankment (bund) at the NDMC-run park have been described as two bastions, or chhatris at the western end, and the central baradari (pavilion). The enclosure walls have disappeared, as has a water tank that was usually a part of such an embankment, as shown in similar edifices near Malcha Mahal and Kushak Mahal, both built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq.

“When we first started conservation work here, much of what remained was hidden from view under dense foliage,“ said Ajay Kumar, project director, Intach Delhi chapter. “Whatever could be seen showed repairs done with modern building materials.“ Clearing the overgrowth revealed “a beautiful gem“ inside the garden. When more area was cleaned of the shrubbery , new elements such as walls of a pavilion and arches and other remnants were exposed.

The bund at Talkatora, a late Mughal period structure, was built to hold back rain water. The ridge to its west side forms a katora, or a bowlshaped natural depression, giving the place its name. It is made of the thin, flat, kilnbaked Lakhori bricks and stone masonry , revealing its distinct Mughal roots. An Intach official said, “This is a fascinating, artificially creat ed dam and storage tank, and it should be revived.“

According to historians, this is also the site where the Marathas defeated the Mughals in 1738. The place was used as a camping ground by the Maratha army in 1736-37. Saadat Khan, a Mughal army officer, having attacked a contingent of the Maratha army after it crossed the Yamuna, retired to Mathura thinking he had defeated the enemy . Peshwa Baji Rao had, however, taken another route to reach Delhi and camped at the Talkatora grove.

City's Tree Sanctuary

Together with Delhi zoo, Purana Qila, Millennium Park and Humayun’s Tomb, the nursery stands in an uninterrupted Mughal landscape spanning more than 1,000 acres More than 1,800 mature trees of over 200 species at the nursery recorded on a geographic information system (GIS). Hundred more species planted Biodiversity studies conducted by AKTC in 2012 documented 54 species of resident birds and 24 species of butterfl ies

Almost 20 acres exclusively for CPWD’s nursery functions Central axis inspired by the Persian carpet design with fountains, sandstone lights all carved with hand in true Mughal style A number of Mughal monuments can also be found


The Times of India, Oct 08 2015

Picture courtesy: The Times of India, Oct 08 2015
Picture courtesy: The Times of India, Oct 08 2015

Dharvi Vaid

In demon king Ravana, Titarpur artisans find their god

For about a month before Dussehra, the streets of Titarpur in West Delhi are lined with tall, intricately-woven bamboo frames, and gigantic heads of Ravana made using papier-mâché. Artisans are seen peeling bamboo, using its wicker to make the skeleton of the “demon king“. But on Dussehra, when the whole country revels as these effigies are burnt, gloom descends on Titarpur.

Being one of the largest efigy markets in the country with a 40-year-old history ,Titarpur “worships“ Ravana. Indebted to their “hero“, the craftsmen here believe that he is a source of their livelihood; the art has perked up the area's economy.

Local legend has it that an old man, “Ravanawaale baba“, came to the area about 40 years ago from Sikandrabad in Uttar Pradesh and started selling articles used in funerals. Gradually , he got into the art of effigy making. When he sat with bamboo sticks, weaving frames, children got fascinated and learnt the art watching him. Ever since, every inhabitant of the area, rom ironsmiths to food stall owners, took to the craft.

Sixty-year-old RajendraKashyap claims that he learnt he craft from “Ravanawaale baba“ at the age of six. “I, too, was curious about his art. I never knew what I learnt play ully would become my profession,“ he says. “I started making effigies o support my huge family .Iniially, there weren't many craftsmen in the area, so money came in easily .Gradually ,I saved enough to set up a food stall near a Metro station,“ he says.

Among the oldest effigy makers around, Kashyap has never celebrated Dussehra.He stays back at home when he effigies of Ravana are set on fire as he “cannot see them burning“. “It feels like a fam ly member burning. Had Ravana not been there, I wonder what my financial state would have been? I begin my day by aking his name,“ he says.

Kamal Kumar makes efigies as it is a family legacy “My father and uncles were in o the effigy-making business As a kid, I saw them painting colourful papier-mâché faces and learnt the art from them,“ says Kamal. One can find this 35-year-old electrical engineer conversing with his custom ers in English.

The craft earned him enough to support his education after his father's death Every Dussehra, he and his brother make limited number of effigies mostly for schools “They order effigies five to 50 feet tall,“ he says. Rahul Kumar, a cab driver doubles as an effigy maker to have an extra source of in come. Associated with an e commerce company

These craftsmen start making effigies two months before Dussehra. Whereas bamboo is brought from mar kets in Delhi and UP , paper and glue are purchased from Sadar Bazaar. Artisans start with making hands and legs, keeping the bust and the head for the last. “Eyes are the most important part. They have to look ferocious to give the effigy an intimidating appearance,“ says Kashyap.

Most effigies are 25 to 50feet tall and cost Rs 200 per foot. They also get orders from abroad. Sellers say they net 30% to 40% profit, but fear rising cost of raw materials might reduce this margin.

Town Hall

1860s-2018: a brief history

Paras Singh, Town Hall to be a heritage hotel?, September 10, 2018: The Times of India

All But Forgotten, 150-Year-Old Victorian Building May Now Be Leased To Global Bidders

Inauguration plaques bearing the names of Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, a message from Mahatma Gandhi, oil portraits of national figures, even a symbolic key to the capital once ritually handed over to the new mayor, these artefacts make Town Hall a veritable time capsule. But time has literally stopped in Chandni Chowk’s pale yellow Victorian building with arched windows and Ionic pillars — the hands of the old clock high above the portico have stood at 2.35 for some years now.

In disuse since 2010, when the municipal bodies shifted to the high-rise Civic Centre on Minto Road, Town Hall has crumbled. Its windows and doors hang askew on the hinges, the mouldings are disintegrating, the old furniture turning into dust under the attack of termites, and the ceiling is on the verge of collapse.

“The clamorous din of over 5,000 municipal officials hearing the grievances of city dwellers has been replaced by disquieting silence and noise of rodents romping in the echoing rooms,” is how a civic official put it.

After several attempts to resurrect the emblematic building in the historic quarter of old Delhi, Town Hall may finally get a new avatar as a heritage hotel with an attached museum.

Earlier in 2012, K S Mehra, the last commissioner of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi, proposed the development of Town Hall as a cultural heritage centre, but soon after the government at the centre changed and nothing came of the plan. Since then, the complex has been envisioned as a museum, cafeteria, library and sculpture garden.

The complex has survived 150 years of wear and tear, the last major reconstruction undertaken in 1947 by Messrs Johri Mal Gupta Contractors. In their book on Delhi, Gaynor Barton and Laurraine Malone say the building started off as the Lawrence Institute and housed the Delhi College of Higher Studies. In 1866, it was bought by the municipality for Rs 1,35,457 and it housed offices, a library and the European Club. The bronze statue of Queen Victoria that stood there was replaced after independence by one of Arya Samaj leader Swami Shraddhanand.

In its heyday, the grand edifice at the Mughal-era Begum Bagh, the garden-inn complex set up by Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahanara, was a beehive of political activity. Today, its rooms store yellowing administrative records, at times electronic voting machines. Its offices have turned into dwellings for the security personnel, their drying laundry a sad symbol of faded glory. The library is in derelict state. “It seems we have been forgotten here,” mumbles Praveen Bansal, the librarian and the highest ranking official now in the building.

The two main halls are rented out for occasions like traders’ meetings and film screenings, so are largely well maintained.

The same, however, cannot be said of the 50 other cavernous rooms. “The roofs leak water when it rains,” says the caretaker. “They used to get a tar coating regularly, but no longer.” The lengthy corridors are only cleaned once a month, and the lackadaisical effort shows in the dust and peeling paints.

The plan is to lease Town Hall to a licensee through global tendering, but the renovation will have to respect its heritage status.

“We will not allow the licensee to alter its basic and external structures,” assures Veena Virmani, chairman, standing committee, North Delhi Municipal Corporation. She adds that the restoration has to be acceptable to the central government’s Heritage Conservation Committee.

Many may baulk at seeing the stately building as a commercial hotel, but the civic body thinks it is better to let it live on rather than die. Besides, the corporation wouldn’t mind the Rs 1.96 crore it could bring every month as licence fee.

Transport Nagar

The Times of India, Sep 04 2016

Risha Chitlangia

Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar has over 80,000 workers and a daily inflow of 3,500 trucks. But devoid of even basic facilities, it paints a picture of serious neglect “Every time a loaded truck passes our office, we dread that it will topple over because the road is riddled with craters,“ says Ajay Rana, an executive with an automobile firm at Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar in north Delhi. He has a legitimate worry . It may be one of the biggest transport hubs in north India, but Transport Nagar is also a big story of ill planning and apathy . Close to 3,500 trucks drive every day to the place, where over 80,000 people are employed in transport firms. But the facilities belie the expectation of such a large workforce.The roads are poorly illuminated, there aren't many public toilets around or proper arrangement for drinking water. When TOI visited the area, it saw two-foot deep potholes on the main roads. At some spots, there were no roads at all. At others, they were ankle-deep in water.

“The politicians don't care about this place because those who work here don't live here and aren't voters,“ cribs,“ deplores Kultaran Atwal, president of the Federation of Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar. The Delhi Goods Transporters Association invited Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal here a few months ago and apprised him of the abysmal conditions.

“Kejriwalji said that the area was under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and he could only improve facilities if we got the area transferred to Delhi government,“ discloses Tarlochan Singh Fhillon, president of Delhi Goods Transporters Association.

The corporation's response to this was that it had sent a proposal for upgradation to the union ministry of surface transport. Says VP Pandey, leader of the house in the corporation: “We prepared a Rs 30-crore plan for the centre's approval, but the file has to go through the state government, and it is not clearing the proposals.“

Caught in this political blame game, Transport Nagar is going to seed. Sitting beside a pool of dirty water filled with wriggling mosquito larvae, truck driver Tariq Khan almost spits out: “This is hell. And this is supposed to be the national capital.The transport centre in Punj in Kashmir is much better than this.“

The transport centre was developed in 1990s by the Delhi Development Authority as part of the plan to decongest the Walled City. Around 2,000 transporters were allotted plots in Transport Nagar in line with the government's plan to shift wholesale markets out of the area. But while the transporters have constructed big buildings on their plots, they continue to operate from Old Delhi. “Our work is dependent on wholesale markets. When those markets didn't shift, we had to continue working from our old premises,“ explains Atwal.

Transport experts say the area is an example of poor planning by DDA.“By shifting the problem from one place to another, both DDA and the North Corporation have failed mis erably ,“ says SP Singh, senior fellow, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training. Singh points out that the current prob lems are clear indications that the area was not planned keep ing in mind the certain increase in workload over the years.

Incredibly for a transport complex, the major roads are not even wide enough for two trucks to pass by easily . To add to the woes, parking space is at a premium. No wonder, Fhillon asks, “Why relocate people to new places if you can't provide basic services?“

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