Filling in the gaps historic percents of 20th century
STUDY OF HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD OF NEW
THE BRIDGE BETWEEN OLD AND NEW DELHI
FILLING IN THE GAPS :WORLD HERITAGE
&THE 20TH CENTURY
This paper is being presented
for session 4, focusing on the
historic urban landscape of
the 20th century Indian cities.
The subject of this paper is
the historic precinct of
Daryaganj in the vicinity of
Redfort a world heritage
monument and Jamamasjid
one of the largest Moslems in
the world. It lies within the
city of Shahjahnabad. This
area has played a significant
role in the history of city and
yet is its importance as a
historic precinct is most often
neglected and more often is
not even very well known, It
has a pin code of New Delhi
110002 , in spite of falling
within the old city walls!!
This paper attempts to trace the significance of this area
in the history of the city and its present day role in the
urban landscape of Delhi.
This area though a part of the walled city has always
had an individual identity. There is an urgent need to
understand and appreciate both the tangible and the
intangible heritage of this area And focus on developing
a conservation plan for this area, urban pressures and
changing demographics are enthusing unrestricted and
unplanned growth of this area, resulting in irreparable
loss of historic details especially since now we are
coveting the world heritage status for the city of Delhi.
Its proximity to two very prominent monuments necessitates this, Otherwise in the years to
come the larger relevance to these monuments would be lost.
View of the fort and its environs in , the neighborhood of Daryaganj with the
Yamuna flowing against the city walls is visible on the upper left corner .
Scheduling of this precinct as a heritage area falls in line with the article
1.3 of ISC 20C Madrid document which clearly states
Identify and assess the setting and associated landscapes. To understand
the contribution of context to the significance of a heritage site, its associated
landscape and setting should be identified and assessed. For urban
settlements, the different planning schemes and concepts relevant for each
period and heritage site should be identified and their significance
The article 1.4 further elaborate
Proactively develop inventories of the architectural heritage of the twentieth
century.The architectural heritage of the twentieth century needs to be
proactively identified and assessed through systematic surveys and
inventories, thorough research and studies by multidisciplinary teams, with
protective conservation measures established by the responsible planning
and heritage authorities.
Rising land values, population pressures and increasing FAR’s in the
master plans is resulting in rapid urbanization of the area and historic
environment and thus a corresponding need for a broader consideration of
social, economic and cultural issues in urban conservation processes. This
area has always experienced change and therefore is a soft target for
fragmentation and deterioration.
It is essential to appreciate the cultural significance of Daryaganj and the nature
of transformations impacting its cultural, social and economic order. This paper
ambitiously aims to highlight a suitable approach to prevent any further
deterioration to the area and means of restoring it, its rightful place as the viaduct
between the Old and New Delhi.
A bridge of boats across the Jumna, or Yamuna River, as viewed from Delhi, circa 1858.
The literal meaning of Daryaganj is `the mart by the river’. When Mughal Emperor Shahjahan
established his new capital in Delhi, Daryaganj, just south of Red Fort was where much of the river’s
traffic docked, loading and unloading grain and other produce that came via the river to feed the
capital. Originally the river Yamuna flowed, along the eastern walls of the city connecting the fort and
the Delhi gate. In the 17th century, this area was an important wholesale market.
A number of prominent noblemen, such as the Nawab of Jhajjar, Nawab of Balabhgarh, Nawab of
Kishenganj etc had also built palatial mansions in Daryaganj. It was in one of these mansions that
William Faser the British resident to the Mughal court had dined on the day of his murder.
Daryaganj was marked as the area between the fort and Delhi gate. On its one edge was the city wall
running adjacent to Yamuna and on its other side was the road connecting the palace with Delhi
darwaza. This was the second most important street of Shahjahanabad after Chandni Chowk
The main street connecting the Delhi darwaza of the palace with Delhi gate of the city
wall which almost constitutes the present day netaji subhash marg, was the second
most important street in the city of sahajhanabad after chandani chowk. The section up
to midway from the fort was called the Urdu or the Military Bazaar; from the bazzar to
Kotwali, or the Head Police Station of the city, was the Phul ka Mandi or the flower
market. It was a tree lined avenue with a water canal in the center.
By the 1700’s, Delhi had started losing
its former glory due to a succession of
weak-willed rulers and a series of
disasters—the bloody invasion of Nadir
Shah in 1739; the conquest of the city
by the British. These developments
also resulted in Daryaganj losing its
prestige. The British settled in, making
Daryaganj a cantonment.
The Mortella Tower and the City Wall
Some of the important buildings in the area were: the dak bungalow the Akbarabadi Mosque, the
Ghata maszid and the Sunheri maszid etc.
During the course of time important government offices of the East India company were also
established here, with the passing over of the crown to the East India company in 1803. There
was a demographic change in Daryaganj and it became a Christian suburb. There were a
number of houses along the city wall and were occupied by the Baptist minister, conductors,
clerks and pensioners.
Zeenat-ulMasajid: or ghata
masjid Located near
Ansari road built by
daughter in Zeenat
Begum in it is a
replica of the jamma
This small mosque stands near the Delhi gate of Red Fort. It was constructed in 1751 during the
reign of the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah. The persons responsible for its construction were
Qudsia Begam, the mother of the emperor and the real power behind the throne; and her trusted
courtier Javed Khan. This mosque was used mainly by the Mughal royal family, and after the
suppression of the Revolt of 1857, passed into Army control
The mutiny of 1857 had a drastic effect on Daryaganj, it was here that the largest Christian
population resided within the city walls and it was here that they were massacred.
On return of power to the British they were as ruthless as the mutineers. The entire muslim
population was displaced and their places of worship mutilated or razed to ground prominent
among them was the Akbarabadi mosque, and others—such as the Sunehri Masjid ,and the
Zeenat-ul-Masajid were confiscated by the British. The area continued to be a cantonment albeit
with difference, the idyllic surroundings were however lost. The trees along the faiz bazzar were
cut and the water canal filled up.
The urban structure of Delhi went through a major
change both in physical and social terms after
1857, the railways came in and with it there was an
additional influx of people and goods to the city.
This further increased the pressure on the urban
land and infrastructure. The durbar of 1911
increased this manifold as then it was also declared
that the capital of british India would shift to Delhi.
The growing population was creating a demand for
more habitable land. There were planned
extensions on the western side of the city in the
karol bagh area the patparganj area. The
municipality of Delhi was trying to make more land
available for the residential areas. It was around
this time that the garrison and cantonment in
Daryaganj were shifted to the ridge thus making
available this very important land close to the city
for civic development.
There was yet another demographic shift in Daryaganj. It glimpsed its former glory, being
patronized by the rich and famous of the city. The new royalty the Rais, the rich merchant and
business scions close to the British administrators had their properties in this new planned
In 1915, Daryaganj north was developed for the residential plots while Daryaganj south was
developed for schools and charities.
Some of the prominent schools were : Anglo Sanskrit Senior secondary School with the objective
of synthesizing Sanskrit pathshala culture with the English system of higher education.
Anglo Sanskrit vidyalaya. Was
established in 1869 in a haveli donated
by Lala Chunamal near Katra Neel in
Chandni Chowk, the school was a
witness to history being created. There
was a time when wearing a Gandhi topi
was compulsory for students. It later
shifted to its present location. It present
building has an imposing façade with a
neo classical colonial façade.
The Modern school Delhi was established in house no 23, Daryaganj and operated from there for
13 years while its present building was being constructed. It was started by Lala Raghubir singh in
1920, with the primary aim of providing quality education to the Indian children. An orphanage and
children’s home and temple belonging to the jains was also constructed during this time.
Original Modern school building
Another landmark building was the Dr shroff eye hospital. It was started by Dr. S. P.
Shroff, the first Indian ‘Fellow’ at of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, U.K .He
started Ophthalmological work in Delhi in 1926 making it the first hospital of its kind in
The residential plots were also auctioned and taken up by prominent traders and
businessmen The plots had a planned system with parallel streets and green areas in
between them. Their layout was obviously influenced by the philosophies of Patrick
Geddes who visited Delhi in 1914 and gave a report on planning of walled city as well
As the capital of New Delhi was being built , Daryaganj along with Paharganj were only
two buffer areas between the new city, and older city, which was by then being called the
“walled city” The netaji subash marg lined with buildings in neoclassical style was the
continuous link between the old and the new delhi. The area continued to grow in a
planned manner till 1947, when another major event brought drastic demographic
changes in the area.
‘In 1947, after independence and partition of India, Delhi witnessed one of the largest immigration of
people in its history. Millions sought shelter in Delhi and its population was doubled in just months.
There were some Muslim families as well who had left Delhi and gone to settle in the new state of
Pakistan. The evacuee properties were given to the new immigrants. The demand for housing and
rising values of urban land resulted in the big mansions being divided into smaller parcels of land for
private development by individuals.
The influx of immigrants created newer area of interest, the immigrants brought with them winds of
change which demanded which introduced newer concepts of urban entertainment. One of them
was setting up of cinema halls in the city and one of the early ones was the Golcha cinema
inaugurated in 1954.It was designed by W.M. Namjoshi in the art deco style. It represented a
landmark in the development of urban and social ethos of the time. The urban elite from the walled
city and surrounding areas came to Daryaganj for entertainment. Watching a movie in the movie
hall and a dinner at Motimahal, one of the first commercial eateries in Delhi became elitist and
became synonymous with social status.
Dr Shroffs eye hospital and the presence of some more important names in the field of medicine
gave it a reputation of being a doctor’s area. At one point of time any doctor with a reasonable
practice had to have his clinic in Daryaganj otherwise his practice was not considered worthy. It is
evident even today with the great many stalwart of medicine having their clinics in this area. Till the
late 1960’s this area was an elite suburb of Delhi having a professional and educated populace or
the other section of society were the business families which had their works within a desirable
distance in the chandani chowk area which continued to be the business hub of the city.
The next phase of development in the city of
Delhi was the expanding of the city in all
directions gobbling up the green lands to lay
down yet newer colonies. The city
infrastructure also expanded in terms of roads
and transportation network. These expansions
and rising facility of transport availability of
cars and private vehicles fueled further growth
Now there was a steady movement of the
populace from the old city to the newly
established colonies. Increasing land values
decreasing infrastructural support in the city
center prompted this new development. This
new trend was the single most reason
responsible for the decline of the old city area.
This changed the use from being residential to
commercial. The erstwhile havelies and mansions
were converted to warehouses and offices. This
change in land use further congested the area already
facing huge urban pressure. It was onset of a cyclic
process of deterioration and congestion one
phenomenon feeding the other, resulting in a chaotic
The next few decades saw a slow and steady change
in the land use pattern of Daryaganj. It changed from
being a posh suburb of Delh to a convenient business
location in the heart of city. More and more residential
population was moving out vacating their properties to
the highest bidder who were subdividing and parceling
smaller units fit for the commercial use. The changing
F.A.R values further added to the woes of the area,
because the new regulations permitted an extra floor
the old buildings were loaded with haphazardly
constructed barsati floors.
The way forward
To manage change in a historic area the most important aspect is awareness about significance. It
calls for making aware more and more populace about our shared heritage. Awareness about the
historic significance of the area among a wider audience shall generate more sympathizers. It is
desirable to hold dialogue with the key audiences and stakeholders in the area and make them an
active and willing participant the change. Before intervening the cultural significance shall be
assessed, and all components defined and their relationship and setting understood.
As a very first step we need to acknowledge the contribution of this area in the urban sprawl of the
city and spread this awareness on various public platforms. The local population needs to be
involved in the conservation process. Apart from the protected monuments a further listing of
buildings needs to be done to identify historic buildings which retain their architectural and cultural
significance and lend the historic flavor to the neighborhood. These buildings need to be granted a
protected status where any further construction to utilize the extra F.A.R. and construct an
additional floor is negated. Instead the owner should be compensated for the lost F.A.R, and also
given more incentives to conserve and preserve the historic properties. Once the process of change
has been suitably managed, the land use pattern shall become comfortable and the land mafias
shall be diverted from the area.
There is also a need to bring back the cultural ethos of the area. Its central location should be used
as an advantage and the entertainment areas that already exist need to be given a face lift. The
connectivity of the area is increasing with the coming of metro to Daryaganj in the next phase,
which shall add to the footfall. Heritage walks should be arranged which have the involvement of
There is an imperative need to highlight this area as it proximity to the world heritage site of red fort
and Jamma masjid makes it imperative focus on the historic area of Daryaganj. Especially more so
now as we covet the world heritage status for the city of Delhi.