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Raj remains get Delhi makeover

More than half the work in the multi-crore,ambitious project to give Coronation Park a makeover is complete.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | New Delhi |
September 27, 2012 12:40:42 am

More than half the work in the multi-crore,ambitious project to give Coronation Park a makeover is complete. The site,in North Delhi’s Burari area,is where King George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911.

Spread over 56 acres adjacent to a forest,the park has been teeming with construction workers,stone-carvers,artisans and heavy machinery ever since the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) took up the project in 2011 to give this historical site a modern makeover.

Cleared in 2009 with an initial budget of Rs 20 crore,the redevelopment plan includes intricately built “chhatris” at specific places,statues of historical figures,a heritage interpretation centre,a restaurant,a flagpost,an amphitheatre and a lake. Besides,landscaping will add to the aesthetics.

Chhatris are dome-shaped canopies widely used in palaces and forts. These were originally attributed to Rajasthani architecture and later adapted as a standard feature in Mughal architecture.

Red and white sandstone and marble have been brought from Rajasthan and Agra for the chattris,walls around the statues and the meandering footpaths.

The park will have two entry points,one of which will be reserved for VIPs.

The path from the VIP gate will have the flagpost and the amphitheatre to its right. Leading to an obelisk at the centre,this pathway will be flanked by four chattris on each side.

The entrance for the masses will be close to an heritage interpretation centre.

“Almost 90 per cent of work on the pathway is complete. A small portion of the forest was cleared to build a jungle trail. A rose garden is coming up near the heritage interpretation centre. Craftsmen are working on the walls around the statues. These will be engraved with information on the history of the place,” an official said.

The park has the tallest statue of King George V on a pedestal. It was brought to the site in 1960 from its earlier location at India Gate. “Conservation of the statue is being done by INTACH,” the official said.

A highlight of the park will be the heritage interpretation centre,which is essentially a museum. Siddhartha Chatterjee,consultant at INTACH,said the centre will showcase the key moments of the past 150 years in the area around Kingsway Camp,apart from providing information and anecdotes on the Coronation Durbar of 1911.

“Events from the past will be viewed through the perspective of India in,say,2012. This will reflect our diverse past and heritage,including the present-day legacies. We intend to provide an opportunity to the people to recognise and think about the many influences that have come to shape Delhi and our lives,” he said.

Tracing the growth of the city,the exhibition at the centre will cover events since the 1857 Mutiny,the three imperial durbars held at the park,the building of New Delhi,post-Partition history and the changing ecology of North Delhi and the Ridge.

Developments during Mughal-era Delhi will also be part of the exhibition.

All these events will be linked to the larger story of colonialism,nationalism,Independence and the aftermath,Chatterjee said.

Visual material is collected in the form of government accounts,records,maps,archival photographs and illustrations,quotations from historical accounts and reports,newspapers and journals published in Hindi,English and Urdu to showcase the city’s rollercoaster ride through history.

Though work hasn’t stopped ever since “the first bunch of workers moved in with tools in hand”,officials said small,niggling problems have delayed the project. It has already overshot its deadline of March this year and could,probably,run beyond the revised December date.

Officials at the site said the low-lying parkland was flooded with rainwater in the monsoon. “As a result,pumping out water has taken more time than digging and putting pipes to build an underground water-disposal system. To deal with the flooding,four water tanks had to be constructed in the park. Around 75 per cent of the underground drainage system is ready and the remaining,weather permitting,will be completed soon,” an official said.

This is good news for the ground crew doing the landscaping at the site.

But,the official said the floodwater — pumped out and stored — cannot be used on the plants because of high salinity. “Water for the gardens will come from the Delhi Jal Board’s treatment plant located nearby,” he said.

Slice Of History

King George V announced the shifting of imperial India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi in December 1911 at this site in Burari,North Delhi

3 coronation durbars — 1877,1903 and 1911 — held

A plaque at the gate proclaims:

“This memorial was erected to commemorate the Coronation Durbar of King George V and Queen Mary held in December 1911. On this occasion the King announced the transfer of the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi.”

What to look for

30-metre-long iron flagpost,towering above the 20-metre obelisk

Chhatris,or dome-shaped canopies with intricate Mughal jaali work or fine trellis work,at specific places

Statues of King George V and historical figures. The 49-foot marble statue of King George V,designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens,is opposite to the obelisk commemorating the durbar. This statue was at India Gate until 1960

A heritage interpretation centre or museum that will take people on a trip down Delhi’s history

A lake and landscaped gardens

An amphitheatre

A restaurant

A jungle trail

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