On 106th anniversary of New Delhi, Coronation Pillar stands defaced

The monument that marks the Coronation Durbar held in Delhi in 1911 wears a defaced look today, while a centre that was to showcase the city's history on its ground is yet to see the light of day.

Published: 17th December 2017 03:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th December 2017 04:15 PM   |  A+A-

The base of the Coronation Pillar at a park in north-west Delhi seen defaced on its anniversary day. The obelisk marks the iconic Delhi Durbar held here on Decembr 12 1911 where British monarch King George V had announced the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: A monument that marks the Coronation Durbar held in Delhi in 1911 wears a defaced look today, while a centre that was to showcase the city's history on its ground is yet to see the light of day.

On December 12, 106 years ago, at this very imperial gathering, British monarch King George V had announced the shifting of India's capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

The historic ground is now part of the Coronation Park, located in Burari near Kingsway Camp, a name that harks back to the regal assembly which had turned the area into a royal tent city, memories of which have survived in old monochrome and sepia-toned images and grainy footage.

In the 1911 Delhi Durbar, King George V and Queen Mary were coronated as the Emperor and Empress of India. It signalled the birth of a new imperial capital. Designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the city was christened 'New Delhi' on December 31, 1926.

The heritage site, owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), saw decades of neglect, until it was taken up by the Sheila Dikshit regime to be redeveloped as a Coronation Park. Work was to be completed by 2011, to coincide with the 100th anniversary.

But the DDA, after missing several deadlines, has only managed to landscape the area, even though the grass has lost its sheen, while the history walls erected in front of the four statues of Viceroys, lie incomplete and defaced.

"It just has been lying underutilised. And any place that lies in such a condition ends up being subjected to defacement," said the convener of heritage body INTACH's Delhi Chapter, Swapna Liddle.

Liddle, who recently led a heritage walk at the park, said she had seen the pillar and the walls being scribbled with graffiti.

"It of course means we need to impart more education to our youth, who think by scrawling their names on public structures they are achieving something," Liddle told PTI.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was chosen by the DDA as a consultant for the ambitious project.

History records that on this ground, two other Delhi Durbars were held -- in 1877 and 1903 -- "both also filled with grandeur and splendour, the royal tents and the other paraphernalia", she said.

"The Durbars also celebrated art, craftsmanship, photography and films. The 'Interpretation Centre' can tell a fascinating tale," she said.

The 'Interpretation Centre' is part of the redevelopment plan. The building is ready, but the centre, which will showcase Delhi's history, is yet to come up.

A senior DDA official, when contacted, said, "I am not aware of the status of the redevelopment project." The official declined to comment on the defacement.

On anniversary day, there was little to remind the people of the city's history.

A group of boys played cricket near the Coronation Pillar, as decaying marble statues of King George V and four Viceroys looked stonily on.

The statues tell their own tale of decay. King George V in gleaming marble, once adorned the canopy opposite the India Gate, but was dumped at this site many years ago. Other statues were shifted later, from different public places over different periods of time.

Today, the King's face lie disfigured while the statue of Lord Hardinge, under whose Viceroyalty the capital was shifted to Delhi, has no shine. Lord Chelmsford is in a better off condition but the damaged statue of Lord Irwin gives the appearance of an apparition. Lord Willingdon stands in a solitary pose in a corner.

Local residents, oblivious of the importance of the place, or that it was the 106th anniversary of New Delhi, strolled in the park.

"I came here today for the first time, but had no idea about the historic value of this place. We haven't been taught about the place," said Nikhil, a class 10 student.

Liddle said one possible reason for the neglect of such British-era landmarks was the sentiment against the Raj.

"Many people think colonial history should not be promoted. But studying and knowing about the Raj era through exhibition and other means do not mean we are celebrating imperialism," she said.

Liddle underlined that there was history and stories connected to the place.

"It is, after all, the birthplace of New Delhi. We all should celebrate it for that reason alone," she said.

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