The city with innumerable legends may have officially turned 100 yesterday but its birthday celebrations sit in the warp and weft of this seasons cultural calendar. A hundred years have rolled by since the British made a declaration on December 12,1911,when,at the coronation ceremony of King George V and Queen Mary,the King announced the shifting of the Capital of the British Raj from Calcutta to Delhi.
Despite some scepticism about commemorating what was essentially a colonial decision,the Capitals birthday got many groups of enthusiasts interested. They argue about the idea of Delhi like writer Sunil Khilnani did about the idea of India that the sum is bigger than its parts. One of them is Pramod Kapoor,founder of Roli books,who released Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina,edited by curator JP Losty and with writings by Union minister Salman Khurshid,conservation architect Ratish Nanda and publisher Malvika Singh. The book traces the journey of Delhi from the making of Red Fort to the making of New Delhi at Raisina Hill. Kapoor will also display paintings and photographs from the book at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts,in an exhibition that will begin on December 15. It will follow the format of the book,which includes artists depiction of Shahjahanabad,life in the old city,colonial view of Delhi and eye-witnesses accounts of Delhi, he adds.
Comprising 110 works,the highlights include the 1846 watercolour,Panorama of Delhi from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort,by Mazhar Ali Khan. The panorama from the top of Red Forts Lahore Gate is like a satellite image, points out Kapoor. It captures the details of architectural landmarks,from Jama Masjid to the Ridge and the narrow streets of Chandni Chowk. Giving a glimpse of the city as it was before the Mutiny of 1857 is the Map of Shahjahanabad by a Delhi Cartographer.
That was in the last century. In the past decade,Delhi-based artist Vikram Kalra too walked the by-lanes of old Delhi holding his sketchbook. In the exhibition titled,From Red Fort to Raisina Hill at the India Habitat Centre,he depicts buildings around Raisina Hill,belonging to the Mughal period and the British period,from 1800 to 1911. These include the Residency building,Flagstaff tower,James Skinners haveli,Nicholsans cemetery,British Commander-in-Chiefs house (now Teen Murti Bhavan) and the Old Secretariat (now the Vidhan Sabha). Ive tried to capture the details,including Hindu motifs like the lotus,cows and elephants used by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in the North and South Blocks, says the artist.
Delhi of the past is also the theme of the exhibition Timeless Delhi organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. To be displayed at Azad Bhavan from December 14,it will compromise photographs of Raja Deen Dayal among others. There have been several transitions in Delhi in the last 100 years. Celebrating the city through cultural activities seemed most apt, says Suresh Kumar Goel,director general of ICCR,that has also lined-up other festivities,including a dance performance by Shovana Narayan and a thumri recital by Dr Kumud Jha Diwan.
Lest pastness becomes a repetitive leitmotif,among the other exhibitions there is one with contemporary interpretations too. Nine artists are part of the show titled Celebrating 100 Years of Delhi that is on at The Claridges,Surajkund,till December 23. I asked the artists to commemorate Delhi through their work. Its their tribute to Delhi, says curator Kiran Mohan.