The siege of Delhi, structures during World War II and key memorials, roads and marketplaces – these are some of the interesting aspects brought to light in a new book which presents an exquisite study of the maps of Delhi, from the onset of the 19th century till the master plan of 2021. In “Maps of Delhi”, Italian architect Pilar Maria Guerrieri seeks to show the development of the city’s planning, the diversity of its cartography and the impact that foreign influences have had upon it.
Published by Niyogi Books, it is billed as the first organised collection of the maps of the city, an illustrated cartographic history of the Capital. Each map has been described individually, elaborating on its idiosyncrasies, aesthetic details, and rich historical information.
The author says the collection enables a study of the territory as such and further helps in understanding the relationships between its individual parts while facilitating an analysis of the morphologies that developed within. The maps indicate varying purposes: military intelligence and strategy, tourism, complex irrigation or sewage schemes, plans outlining prodigious developments, projects and colonies.
The book includes a chronology of ancient and modern hand-drawings as also digital maps of the city. The evolution of planning and architecture, which unfolds through the maps, mirrors the political, social, and historical progression of the capital.
The maps indicate varying purposes: those of military intelligence and strategy, in which the shrewd and vigilant martial strategy of the British, employed in their encounters with Indian forces is illustrated; tourist maps emphasising the sight-worthy monuments, plans outlining prodigious developments, projects or colonies; and of course an abundance of survey maps illustrating the status quo of the territory.
Among the maps is one that seems to have been printed as a sequence of points and was possibly used for military
operations. “The map, as such, depicts the siege of Delhi and was certainly printed after Delhi was recaptured by the British on 22nd of September, 1857, since the grave of General Nicholson and ‘the spot where Gen. Nicholson was shot’ are marked,” Guerrieri says.
“Possibly commissioned by Sir Archdale Wilson of Delhi as a preventive measure or a tool for further strategic use, this map of Shahjahanabad precisely positions and labels the various battalions and batteries by their placement as well as their respective commands,” she writes.
Noted architect and urban planner AG Krishna Menon writes in the book’s foreword, “Today when digital Google maps and satellite photographs are easily available and have transformed our visual imagination of the geography of a city, we begin to realise through books like this, how the beauty of printed maps and the many forms of pleasures and insights they offer when they are physically handled have been elided in public consciousness, thus diminishing an important attribute of the city they represent.”