Delhi: Delhi Gate

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I thought of starting a new series on Delhi… This picture you see is Delhi Gate… What can I say about this gate? Let me quote from an e-book that I am halfway through – on my street photography in the Walled City of Delhi – Shahjahanabad.

This is only the first draft yet…. so it will be improved upon.

Delhi Gate is situated at one end of the street/ area called Daryaganj.

Quote One

This street is, in some ways, imbued with a different kind of history. Way back on 20th September 1857, the last Mughal King – Bahadur Shah Zafar – was brought back through Delhi Gate, to stand trial at the Red Fort. He had tried to escape after the Mutiny, and was found hiding in the tomb of his ancestor – Humayun – the second Mughal Emperor.

Just outside the boundaries of the Walled City, is another gate called the Khooni Darwaza, or ‘The Bloody/Blooded Gate’. Bahadur Shah’s two elder sons, who were being brought back as prisoners on a cart drawn by asses, were asked to dismount, stripped naked on the street, and shot.

This happened on the 21st September, 1857. Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan were shot by Major William Hodson. Bahadur Shah Zafar, his wife Zenat Mahal, and a few others were exiled to Rangoon in 1858. Bahadur Shah died in 1862, and is grave is regarded with some degree of respect by visitors today. Some consider him to have been a sort of saint.

With this event, not only did the Mughal Empire finally end, but it also marked the end of a way of life. The age of poets, and the royal courts was over. The voice of the courtly poets was now stilled forever, as the whole area was then converted into an area of mass killings.”

Quote Two

Fast forward now, to 1947. Ninety years passed, and India was now a free, and newly independent country. In the bloody frenzy of Independence, and Partition, many Punjabis and Hindus crossed the borders into India.

Many of them came to Delhi, and started new lives in India. Many of them, and I count my own ancestors in this, gave up their lives in West Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, and came to Daryaganj to start all over again.

From here, they branched out to other parts of Delhi, and thus the story of Delhi continued. The vendors of today have probably forgotten the old stories, but they live on in the bricks of the old wall of the city.

The old stories, and memories live on in the remains of Delhi Gate. The voices of the past, and the ghosts of our history live on in the crumbling walls and the crumbling facades that now line the streets that take us on our faltering steps into the future.

I could not help but reflect upon the histories that we Indians are all too willing to distort or forget as we attempt to forge our mark upon the modern world.”

Quote Three

The day was still young. People were busy shopping. Life was moving on. There was very little time for reflection. There was very little time for sentimental reflections on the past.

The vendors who I photographed had smiles in their eyes, and this is something that I silently thanked them for. Despite the struggles of their lives, they had not lost their sense of humour, or their essential warmth as people.

This, at least, was something we can be grateful for, I mused, as I made my way through the crowded streets to the Metro station that would take me home that afternoon.”

 

 

39 Comments

  1. Nice bit of history there Rajiv. I especially liked the last part “Despite the struggles of their lives, they had not lost their sense of humour, or their essential warmth as people.”
    Leslie

  2. I really enjoyed that. Thank YOU! Fascinating stuff and I have found out such a lot from this post. I do love looking at the photographs, but those, coupled with text is the best. Once again, thanks

      1. Bungalow, I have no idea. Must check. Jodhpurs, yes. Jodhpur is a town in India, so the word has a definite Indian slant to it,

        The word, Blighty, I read, is a corruption of the Indian word – vilayati – which, means ‘a foreigner’.

        I don’t know how accurate that theory is, though

      2. Yeah… I don’t want to be nasty to the Brits, but while there were some very good chaps here (and, we did get most of our infrastructure from the Brits), on the whole many of our problems are of British creation.. Not all

        We are still, in South Asia, not able to close the wounds of the Partition. They should have kept Lord Wavell in India, and never brought Mountbatten in.

        Sigh

  3. The Brits like other Colonials ( Italians; French, Belgium and Germans to a lesser degree ) obviously had an interest in what that country could offer. Lets face it, you are not in such a terrible position as Africa but that probably seems a rather feckless reply from me. I appreciate there are difficulties. Yes we left you with Education, in a way; Railways and Post Office. but also there was cheap labour which we had in return. Would you have come to the same position now had we not come and conquered? Probably. I always think of Indians as ” terribly British”. You have manners and courtesy that we seem to have diluted now. If anything, I always think of Indians as more British than British, which would probably enrage you but I hope you get my clumsy point. Being a romantic I would like to think we left some ” good things”
    The Partition was sadly. Dreadfully so with families and communities ripped apart. Mountbatten and his odious wife were just ” Gravy train drainers” and if anyone had an elephant gun they should have shot the pair of them. I think with hindsight, many would have loaded the gun.

    1. Well, it is a complex subject.. I am obviously prejudiced one way.

      The Brits, as per historians, built the railways etc for their purposes, and not for Indians. Having said that, if the Mughals (for instance) had stayed on, we would not have got the Railways. So, while the motive behind the construction can be debated, the benefits cannot.

      The Brits could come into India, because we as a nation, were not united. This has been the sad history of India. In 1182, when Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Mohammed Ghori, paving the way for 700 years of Muslim rule in India, it was largely because he was betrayed by the other Rajput princes. Plus, his strategy was wrong.

      India was a centre of learning until about 1000 AD, and then we went into the dark ages. Many reasons. Of course, India was not perfect before then either!

      Apart from causing the decline of India’s economy, what I can blame England for, is fomenting the Hindu Muslim divide from 1858 onwards, and the Partition of India. The other three people who must share the blame for this, are the three wise old men of India at the time – Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah. It was their power struggle, which contributed to the mess of the Partition.

      William Dalrymple has even gone so far as to hypothesise that the seeds of modern terrorism were sown by the British, because of their actions post 1858. I am not an expert, so can’t comment on this hypothesis.
      Are we Indians very British? Possibly so, upto the 1960’s. Not anymore. There has been a marked decline in our manners.

      1. A fascinating and insightful response. Thank you. Yes, I get the point about being educated before we arrived. However like all educated countries ( Egypt; Greece) everyone seems to have limited time in the sun and then it wanes. I would be fascinated to know how we contributed to your decline. Not in a contentious way but from a curious way. if we are to understand, we must as questions and take different views on board. So if you feel mindful, please tell me. I felt Gandhi was not ” as good as he might be” but surprised to hear an Indian person voice this. I know very little about him. What would happen if you joined up again? Another mess? Its done now and one has to live with the consequences. Many other countries live likewise. Do you feel it would benefit your country if Hindus and Muslims lived side by side again. I guess there are some living like this now, but more as ” opening up of two countries”
        I think everyone has a marked decline in manners, but here in UK, if someone if thought to be polite, its more likely an Indian. Maybe a huge generalisation but I haven’t met a rude Indian yet. More…..please???

      2. Let’s see.Nehru called it India’s descent into the Dark Ages,

        One of the world’s oldest universities, the Nalanda University, is being rebuilt. Let’s see

        What people believe, is that once the visitors from the Middle East started coming into India, we closed our doors. I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone knows. I think we did not want the foreign influence.

        Having said that – and I am reading a book on the Partition of the Punjab – integration between the Hindus/Sikhs and Muslims did take place over 1,000 years. Then suddenly, it vanished…. I will write about this.

        I think that, if the division had not taken place, we would have been better off, and so would the rest of the world.

        Pakistan is considered to be the hot bed of terrorism in the world. I doubt that this would be the case if the Partition had not taken place. Jinnah was, in the beginning, a Nationalist. Later, he became a separatist. Integration is always better.

        So yes, it is not just us as a country, but the world that has to live with the consequences of the Partition, and this (in my humble view) is something that is little appreciated.

        We Indians, in India, are polite privately. Publicly, we are (especially in the North) increasingly rude and boorish.

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