We thought of a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself. It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades and we requested them to write for Kafila.
This series is titled Dilli hai jiska naam and the links to the previous posts can be found at the end.
This is the seventh post in the series by Anisha Shekhar Mukherji
Onion City: Anisha Shekhar Mukherji
Apparitions of different Delhis : A medieval structure engulfed by the expansion of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, 2010 (Photo: Snehanshu Mukherjee)
Delhi often reminds me of an onion. Imperfectly taken apart, many layered, veined, maimed. Its layers are not coherent or visibly bound. Scattered stray wisps forlornly curl at the edges in some corner, many centuries lie bunched together in another. Yet within them lie hidden vapours of many pasts, rising unbidden to sting you into an awareness of a different time.
Celebrated in tradition, song and history, the region of Delhi has been an urban centre almost continuously for more than 3000 years. The legendary epic Mahabharata refers to Indraprastha—the capital of the kingdom of the five Pandavas, each embodying a virtue, and their beautiful wife, Draupadi—on whose site it is said, present-day Delhi sits. The Pandavas lost and won Indraprastha again. And that has been the fate of Delhi through the ages—to be lost and won successively by different rulers. Archaeological fragments and architectural remains of later dynasties, who built their cities here, may still be seen—from those of the Tomars in the eleventh century to the Mughals in the nineteenth century CE—vast palaces, intricate temples, looming gateways, arched bridges, domed mosques and tombs. In actuality each ruler demarcated a portion of land, within the larger area of what is now termed Delhi, as his city. So, effectively, the various cities of Delhi consisted of separate stakes of land with their own city walls, forts and supporting fabric. Sometime these cities encompassed and integrated the older ones. Sometimes they appropriated, ousted or ignored them. Continue reading ONION CITY – Dilli hai jiska naam VII: Anisha Shekhar Mukherji