Chugging through the soul of Shahjahanabad — going past Lal Qila, Jama Masjid, St Stephen’s Church and Begum Samru’s palace — is the Delhi Metro’s brand new Heritage Line. To be up and running from May 28 onward, it binds Central Secretariat to Kashmere Gate with new stations at Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid and Lal Qila. The 5.7 km-long underground section stands out for the art installations that dot the walls of the stations. Conceptualised by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the work is a collage of photos of how the walled city has evolved and the monuments that dot Old Delhi.
“We purchased photos from photographers Aditya Sharma, Sondeep Shankar, Alkazi Collection of Photos, Delhi Archives and British Library Board, and then designed the installations,” said Dr Swapna Liddle, convener, INTACH. From black-and-white photos of vyaparis (merchants) on a busy day and the ghantaghar (clock tower), juxtaposed next to colourful pictures of shops selling chaat and wedding outfits at Delhi Gate Metro station, to jaali work frames, which are reminiscent of the work in Red Fort at the Lal Qila station — each station has a different theme.
At the Kashmere Gate station, a detailed map of Shahjahanabad post the Revolt of 1857 takes over an entire wall, and photos of the Khooni Darwaza and glass paintings inside the churches in the area are framed under painted metallic arches that signify the architecture of the times. Though detailed captions identifying the monuments and markets, with date stamps would have been helpful. “These are not information panels, they are art installations. Even if five people begin reading captions, it could cause traffic at the station. Maybe we can release a booklet online for those interested,” said Liddle.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was granted final clearance by the National Monuments Authority (NMA) in 2013. Since its conceptualisation, the line has encountered various roadblocks such as passing close to monuments such as Sunehri Masjid and Khooni Darwaza, trouble with contractors and evacuation of around 2,000 people, among others. From gate number 2 of Jama Masjid station, the mosque is only a few hundred metres.
“During peak traffic hours, it can take an hour to reach Kashmere Gate from ITO. With this line, it will take minutes. With the Heritage Line ending at Kashmere Gate, it becomes the first station of the network with three interchanges — Red, Yellow and Violet,” said Anuj Dayal, Executive Director (Corporate Communications), DMRC.