An old, ornate gate standing on the periphery of Doordarshan’s building at the Mandi House circle here is perhaps the only reminder of a royal house that once stood here, lending the area its name. ‘Mandi House’, now synonymous with the country’s public service broadcaster, was originally a palatial house with a beautiful garden, owned by the Raja of Mandi. Mandi is a place which now falls in Himachal Pradesh.
The untold story of this legendary house, which today survives as merely the name of a popular city landmark, has now been presented before the public as part of a permanent exhibition that has come up inside the premises of the new, eponymous metro station.
The exhibition has been organised jointly by the city-based Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) inside Mandi House metro station, which recently opened to the public as part of an extension of the ‘Violet Line’. The exhibition encompasses two backlit panels of dimensions of about 37ft by 6ft covered with a protective sheet. The panels depict monuments and historical and cultural buildings around the Mandi House station.
ICHR, under the Ministry of HRD, provided two artworks for Mandi House metro station with the vision to make history “more popular and accessible” rather than keeping it confined to books and libraries. “People hardly pause and look back on a city which has been transformed in every aspect, physically, topographically. “We thought that since metro stations are points of intersection of various regions and cultures, we can offer people a visual hook for appreciating the history of the city,” Gopinath Ravindran, Member- secretary, ICHR told PTI.
He said that when ICHR approached DMRC with the idea in late December, “(the latter) sounded quite enthusiastic about it and, without much paperwork, we finished the project within a span of three to four months.” The exhibition brings alive the history of the Mandi House area, chronicling its journey from brick kilns to a culture hub now frequented by artistes, actors, journalists, businessmen and musicians.
The panels showcase digital prints of original maps and vintage photographs sourced from personal and institutional archives, which are supplemented with running texts. Among the exhibit are a rare aerial view of Modern School at Barakhamba, an old photograph of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru literally throwing open the ‘Sapru House’, actor Naseeruddin Shah seen in a 1973 production of “Danton’s Death” by theatre doyen Ebrahim Alkazi.
Rare images of Dadi Pudumjee, under whom the Sri Ram Centre established the first modern puppet theatre, American architect Joseph Allen Stein, who built some of Delhi’s iconic post-colonial landmarks like IIC and IHC, architect Habib Rahaman and his prized ‘Rabindra Bhawan’, which came up in 1961, are also on display.
“The entire process took three to four months, including deliberations on the kind of exhibition which was to be continued…