DECEMBER 31, 1926. That is the day when ‘New Delhi’ as we know the capital city was named as such.
When British monarch King George V and his consort Queen Mary held one of the grandest darbars on December 12, 1911, where he assumed the crown of India and announced the shifting of the imperial capital from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Delhi,
the new capital had remained unchristened.
On December 15, the King and the Queen, the first monarchs to attend their coronation darbar in India, laid two plain foundation stones of the new city, bearing just the date “December 15, 1911” engraved on it.
It was only 15 years after his coronation as the ‘King-Emperor of India” that King George V named the city ‘New Delhi’. Until then, the city had in common parlance been referred to just as the “new capital” or “new imperial capital” or “imperial city”.
According to archival documents of the period at the National Archives of India (NAI) in New Delhi, it was on “December 31, 1926” that King George V officially named the new capital as ‘New Delhi’.
“It is hereby notified for general information that His Majesty the King-Emperor has signified his approval to the new capital being named “New Delhi”. This name will be brought into use forthwith,” says the 1926 public notification in this regard by the Home Department.
The grand city of ‘New Delhi’, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, after its completion was officially inaugurated in February 1931 by the then Viceroy Lord Irwin amid much pomp and fanfare.
The historic capital city-naming notification, among other rare records of the colonial and post-Independence era, are on display at an ongoing month-long exhibition at the NAI Museum in New Delhi as part of the 125th year celebrations of the institute.
A rare colour-coded 1912 map of Delhi, depicting land acquisition proposals for the creation of the “new imperial capital” is also on display at the exhibition entitled, ‘Treasures of National Archives’.
Titled ‘Delhi & Vicinity’, the map in multiple hues displays the regions acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for planning the new capital city, the cantonment, civil lines, development and firm areas. Even here, the new city is mentioned as the “imperial city” only.
Another rare exhibit is an old volume showing the seating plans for the darbar amphitheatres, shown in three colours, corresponding to the three historic Delhi Darbars, held in 1877, 1903 and 1911 respectively.
“We have put on display some of our rarest records and some may be for the first time ever. The exhibition would educate and delight in equal measure,” a senior official of the Archive’s Exhibition Unit told reporters.
Among the other colonial-era records on display are the richly illustrated ‘The Journal of Indian Art’ and the ‘Historical and Architectural Sketch of the City of Goa’ of
A book, ‘A Picturesque Tour along the River Ganges and Yamuna in India’, published in 1824 with “highly-finished and coloured views, a map and vignettes”, a reprint of which was launched on NAI’s foundation day this March 11, is another rarity.
Incidentally, National Archives, which began its journey on March 11 in 1891 in Calcutta as the Imperial Record Department (IRD), was later moved to Delhi post the shifting of the imperial capital in 1911 and the present building of the Archives was constructed in 1926.
Lutyens, who designed NAI’s building alongside other architectural landmarks in the city, even has a zone named after him, called the ‘Lutyens Bungalow Zone’.
Interestingly, the original ‘new capital’ site, near the darbar venue (close to today’s Kingsway Camp), where the foundation stones of the city were laid, was rejected for being “low-lying” and was moved to Raisina Hill. The stones were later also removed and shifted.
The historic city of Delhi is said to have had seven successive capitals over the centuries. British Delhi or ‘New Delhi’ was in a way the eighth in the line. The city of Shahjehanabad, currently Old Delhi, including the famous Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, did not form part of the new capital laid out by Lutyens and Baker.
The exhibition, which opened on March 11, closes on April 10.