NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary
Colonialism and the City - The Story of an Imperial Capital
About 14 capital cities had been founded on the left banks of the river Jamuna, which is known as Delhi today. The most splendid and famous among the 14 cities was Shahjahanabad, built by Shah Jahan I, in 1639. Shahjahanabad housed the famous Red Fort or the Lal Quila, which was the palace complex.
Delhi was also a hub of Sufi culture during the reign of Shah Jahan. It had numerous Sufi lodges called Khanqahs, open prayer places known as idgahs, and tombs of Sufi saints called dargahs. There was a stark difference between the rich and the poor in Delhi.
Initially, Delhi did not enjoy the status of an important city under the British rule. In the 18th century, the presidency cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras grew in importance. Eventually, trade moved to the presidency cities gaining important under British power while smaller cities, old ports and trading centres declined.
The British defeated local rulers and set up new centres of administration, which led to the collapse of the former centres of regional power. By the early 20th century, Indian cities were inhabited by just 11% of the total Indian population.
Delhi, gained more importance in modern times when it was made the capital of British India in 1911.
Making of New Delhi
The Battle of Assaye was a major battle fought between the British East India Company and the Maratha Confederacy. The Company won the battle and on the 30th of December, 1803, Delhi came under the control of the British with Calcutta still being the capital.
The Indians stayed in unplanned areas known as “black” areas, the British stayed in well-planned areas known as “white” areas. Before 1857 the British in Delhi stayed within the walled city among the wealthy Indians, took part in local festivals, and enjoyed Persian and Urdu poetry and culture. The years from 1830 to 1857 is considered by many as the period of the Delhi renaissance.
In 1857, rebellious sepoys fought against the British, killed many British citizens and took over Delhi. This angered the British, and, on recapturing the city, they burnt houses and killed hundreds of helpless Indians. They exiled Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and his wife to Rangoon in Burma, destroyed several parts of his palace, shut down the gardens and constructed barracks in their place. Nearly 1/3rd of the city was destroyed.
In 1877, a Durbar was organised in Delhi to proclaim Queen Victoria as the Empress of India. In 1911, Delhi was announced the new capital of British India. The British now wanted to build New Delhi and the task of designing the city was assigned to architects Herbert Baker and Edward Lutyens.
The city of New Delhi was built on the Raisina Hill to the south of Delhi. The Secretariat buildings were built on either side of a two-mile long street, the Kingsway, which today is known as the Rajpath. The Kingsway led to the Viceroy’s Palace, known today as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The streets of New Delhi are broad and straight, and are lined with extensive mansions in the centre of large compounds.
The Old City of Delhi
After the Revolt of 1857, the British started to build the city of New Delhi, and Shahjahanabad fell under neglect. The famous canals, wells and drainage systems got damaged during the 19th century.
The end of the 19th century also saw the decline of many havelis, which were splendid mansions where the Mughal aristocrats lived during the 17th and the 18th centuries. The British rule was making it difficult for the rich Mughals to maintain the havelis, and so, many of them were subdivided and sold off.
While the rich Mughals stayed in havelis, the British stayed in colonial bungalows meant just for one nuclear family. These bungalows were huge, single-storied constructions with inclined roofs and set in an open ground.
In 1888 Robert Clarke planned an extension scheme, called the Lahore Gate Improvement scheme to decongest the walled city. However, the scheme remained incomplete. In 1936, Delhi Improvement Trust was established. A census conducted in 1931 revealed that Shahjahanabad was horribly crowded.
The partition of India in 1947 led to a large number of people crossing the new border on both the sides increasing the population of Delhi. Streams of Muslims from Delhi left for Pakistan, and an equal number of Hindu and Sikh refugees arrived in Delhi from Pakistan.
Many new colonies, schools, colleges and shops also came up in the city during this time. The city of old Delhi saw a marked change during the 19th and the 20th centuries. The social environment of Delhi changed with the arrival of new migrants, and the Urdu culture, which was once prevalent, was replaced by new tastes in dress, food and the arts.