Why, when constructing New Delhi, the British chose to spare the Sunehri Bagh mosque

  • Jan. 2, 2024, 4:23 p.m.

The New Delhi Municipal Council has stirred up controversy by requesting public comments and objections to a plan to demolish a specific mosque from the Mughal era in the city of New Delhi.

It can help to know a little bit of history to comprehend how this structure came to be where it is. Qutub Road was a significant thoroughfare that connected Gurgaon to the Qutub Minar and the northwest corner of the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad, sometimes known as "Old Delhi," until around a century ago. This road had several gardens next to it, just like many other highways from the same era. These would have been rest stops in the days before motorized transportation, when traveling by car was a laborious process. Sunehri Bagh, one of these gardens, had a mosque.

The British administration in India decided to construct New Delhi in and around Raisina in 1912; a portion of this route went through Raisina. Most of the structures on the land were dismantled, the inhabitants were moved, and the land was purchased. There were many older buildings, including palaces, tombs, and houses of worship that had been constructed over the ages, in addition to the relatively new residences that the previous residents had constructed. The government tasked the Archaeological Survey of India with cataloging these historic structures to determine which should be saved and which may be torn down.

At last, most were removed, while a few remained. Particularly significant historical or architectural buildings were spared, including Agrasen ki Baoli, Humayun's mausoleum, Jantar Mantar, and Safdarjung's mausoleum. A structure's historic significance was not the only factor in its preservation. A number of historic houses of worship were spared primarily because they continued to function. These included the mosque in Sunehri Bagh, the Hanuman Mandir on what is now Baba Kharak Singh Marg, the mosque in Zabita Ganj on the Central Vista grounds, the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, the mosque in Rakab Ganj, and the two Jain temples across the road from it.

It took considerable ingenuity to incorporate these structures into the new city's town plan. Clusters were converted into green spaces; several Mughal tombs were incorporated onto the golf course, while the Lodi and Syed tombs were incorporated into the Lodi Gardens. The placement of these imposing structures as focal points on views was intentional for several key routes; Safdarjung's tomb at the end of Prithviraj Road is one such example. Some alignments were changed; Sher Shah Road, for example, is now curved to accommodate Lal Darwaza, making it distinct from the other straight roads that radiate from the C Hexagon, which is where India Gate is located. Unwanted buildings were allowed to remain on pavements and in more compact green spaces. One of the numerous roundabouts that were constructed was the location of the Sunehri Bagh mosque.

This makes the Sunehri Bagh Mosque noteworthy not just as a mosque from the Mughal Empire but also for what its placement atop a roundabout indicates about New Delhi's town layout. The site already had a scattering of old buildings when the street design, which consisted of intersecting radial roads and roundabouts, was established. New Delhi's planners not only made space for these buildings, but they also fundamentally began with the ancient landscape that already existed. The Viceroy, Charles Hardinge, was instrumental in deciding this component of the city's design, as Edwin Lutyens noted in a 1933 speech, "The new city owes its being to Lord Hardinge." The equilateral and hexagonal plans originated with his directive that one avenue lead to Purana Kila and another to the Jumma Masjid. In reality, Purana Qila, Jama Masjid, and Raisina Hill form a triangle, which Lutyens used to describe the layout of New Delhi's streets.

This was a political statement being made by the British administration in India. Repositioning oneself to Delhi was an attempt to detach itself from Calcutta, which was portrayed as the capital of an alien force. It tried to show at least some sort of link with the Indian people in Delhi by creating a city that drew inspiration from past Indian dynasties.

The mosque situated atop the roundabout today serves as a symbol of the city's multifaceted and intricate past. Furthermore, the city of New Delhi, which is roughly equivalent to the NDMC area, has a highly unique town plan that is defined by low-rise, low-density construction that is covered in trees and serves as a lung within a metropolis that is experiencing an air pollution crisis. This alone makes maintaining the low densities and moderate traffic volume—which the roundabouts do a great job of serving—justifiable.

 

 

 

 

Author : Rajdhani Delhi Representative

Rajdhani delhi representative

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