Planning a New Capital – Colonialism and the City – History Class 8 Notes

In this blog on Planning a New Capital, we will learn some more facts on how Delhi was chosen as the new capital of India. The British were fully aware of the symbolic importance of Delhi. After the Revolt of 1857, many spectacular events were held there. In 1877, Viceroy Lytton organized a Durbar to acknowledge Queen Victoria as the Empress of India. It is important to Remember that Calcutta was still the capital of British India, but the grand Durbar was being held in Delhi. But do you think Why was this so?

During the Revolt, the British had realized that the Mughal emperor was still important to the people and they saw him as their leader. It was, therefore, important to celebrate British power with pomp and show in the city the Mughal emperors had earlier ruled, and the place which had turned into a rebel stronghold in 1857. In 1911, when King George V was crowned in England, a Durbar was held in Delhi to celebrate the occasion. The decision to shift the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi was announced at this Durbar.

Let us drive further into the blog on Planning a New Capital and learn some more facts.

New Delhi was constructed as a 10-square-mile city on Raisina Hill, south of the existing city. Two architects, Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker were called on to design New Delhi and its buildings. The government complex in New Delhi consisted of a two-mile avenue Kingsway (now Rajpath), that led to the Viceroy’s Palace (now Rashtrapati Bhavan), with the Secretariat buildings on either side of
the avenue.

The features of these government buildings were borrowed from different periods of India’s imperial history, but the overall look was Classical Greece (fifth century BC). For instance, the central dome of the Viceroy’s Palace was copied from the Buddhist stupa at Sanchi, and the red sandstone and carved screens or jails were borrowed from Mughal architecture.

But the new buildings had to assert British importance: that is why the architect made sure that the Viceroy’s Palace was higher than Shah Jahan’s Jama Masjid.

Planning a New CapitalLife in the time of Partition

The Partition of India in 1947 led to a massive transfer of populations on both sides of the new border. As a result, the population of Delhi swelled, the kinds of jobs people did change, and the culture of the city became different. Days after Indian Independence and Partition, fierce rioting began.

Thousands of people in Delhi were killed and their homes looted and burned. As streams of Muslims left Delhi for Pakistan, their place was taken by equally large numbers of Sikh and Hindu refugees from Pakistan. Refugees roamed the streets of Shahjahanabad, searching for empty homes to occupy.

At times they forced Muslims to leave or sell their properties. Over two-thirds of the Delhi Muslims migrated, almost 44,000 homes were abandoned. Terrorized Muslims lived in makeshift camps till they could leave for Pakistan. At the same time, Delhi became a city of refugees.

Nearly 500,000 people were added to Delhi’s population (which had a little over 800,000 people in 1951). Most of these migrants were from Punjab. They stayed in camps, schools, military barracks and
gardens, hoping to build new homes.

Some got the opportunity to occupy residences that had been vacated; others were housed in refugee colonies. New colonies such as Lajpat Nagar and Tilak Nagar came up at this time. Shops and stalls were set up to cater to the demands of the migrants; schools and colleges were also opened.

The skills and occupations of the refugees were quite different from those of the people they replaced. Many of the Muslims who went to Pakistan were artisans, petty traders, and laborers. The new migrants coming to Delhi were rural landlords, lawyers, teachers, traders, and small shopkeepers. Partition changed their lives and their occupations.

They had to take up new jobs as hawkers, vendors, carpenters, and ironsmiths. Many, however, prospered in their new businesses. The large migration from Punjab changed the social milieu of Delhi. An urban culture largely based on Urdu was overshadowed by new tastes and sensibilities, in food, dress, and the arts.

Read More: Colonialism and the City – De-urbanization – Class 8 History Notes

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