The ancient city of Delhi turned a new page in its history on December 12, marking 100 years as the capital of modern India.To commemorate the centenary, a series of celebrations have been arranged, including a yearlong festival by the Culture Ministry.
As part of the festivities, a pictorial book, Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina, has been launched by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Chronicling the history of the national capital, the book maps the journey of the city from the Mughal era in 1638 to the era of British India, where the foundation of a new city was laid in 1911.
Also illustrating Delhi’s rich culture are an exhibition “Dastann-e-Dilli” (Story of Delhi) and a three-day food festival “Delhi ke Pakwan.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Despite the festive atmosphere, though, some commentators disagree with the importance being given to the century mark, believing that Delhi has always been the capital of India.
Senior journalist M J Akbar, for example, describes the celebrations as an attempt to make the“British narrative…more acceptable to contemporary India than the Mughal one.” He suspects that “today’s aspiring India feels an emotional continuity with the Raj not because of British rule, but because of the English language.”
With its long history eliciting different reactions, Delhi has always defied easy definition. In his book, Delhi Adventures in a Megacity, Sam Miller calls it “India’s dream town – and its purgatory.” Historian William Dalrymple refers to it as the “City of Djinns.”
Either way, rather than remaining stagnant over time, this city of 11 million people has come a long way from the Mughal era, and taken its colonial past in stride, symbolizing the melting pot of India by preserving its past and embracing its future.
Sanjay Kumar blogs at Indian Decade.