28 January, 2021

Dehli, That Town Which Was

Audacious in scale, the panorama made by Mazhar Ali Khan in 1846 gives a 360-degree perspective of the Red Fort and Shahjahanabad

Dehli, That Town Which Was

Shahjahan decided to move his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1638. A decade later, he made a triumphant processional entry through the Lahori Gate to his dream abode. The city it now overlooks—call it Shahjahanabad—took another ten years to fully come up.

The envy of the world when Shahjahan was ensconced at the Qila-i-Mualla, Shahjahanabad saw a precipitous decline within a period of 200 years. In 1857, the last of the Mughals, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was exiled to Rangoon and the Red Fort became a magazine and a garrison for British troops. Exquisite marble pavilions were pulled down to create barracks. Entire parts of the city were demolished and the city changed beyond recognition.

Mazhar Ali Khan, one of the great painters of the period between 1803 and 1857, when the British took charge of the city and the Mughal king was reduced to being a pensioner, was commissioned by the British Resident, Thomas Metcalfe, to do a series of paintings on different buildings and monuments of the city. This was a period when British...



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