If Mehrauli was a mandi and a place for blue-collar workers, Said-ul-Ajaib emerged as a space for business and art. The early cafes and experimental artists’ studios were attracted to the area for its bohemian appeal reminiscent of the lofts and attics of the western world.
Mehrauli continues to fascinate its visitors — the young and the “hip” flock to its many clubs and boutiques, historians are often found meandering through its narrow lanes studying one of its many structures, tourists flock to Qutub Minar, and pilgrims go to its temples and dargahs to seek comfort in the divine
Though Chirag Dilli is now surrounded by some of the most upscale colonies of South Delhi, till the 1950s, there was nothing but farmlands and dense jungles. Among the wilderness was the shrine of Hazrat Nasiruddin Mahmud Chiragh-Dehlavi.
As Delhi expanded southwards in the 1950s and 60s, it gobbled up the farmlands of the rural villages that had existed along the periphery of the city for hundreds of years. Khirki was one of them. Suddenly dispossessed of their land and livelihoods, the people continued to retain their ties to their traditional ways of life and social organisation.
We often think of “Old Delhi” as the current Shahjahanabad area. However, a number of urban villages in the city (especially concentrated in South Delhi) trace their history to the Sultanate era. This five-part series focuses on the history and culture of Delhi’s “urban villages”. We would explore the everyday practices and living culture of these communities and situate them within the larger history of Delhi.