A heritage walk to Kashmiri Gate this Sunday morning was a different and a special experience for we got a chance to know and explore one of the busiest areas of the Delhi City. The area which is frequently visited yet less ‘known’, the area which hides various traces of Indian history but is only termed as congested and filthy.
We all know how rapidly urban spaces change. It was seems incredible, but our first stop, Nicholson’s Cemetery, was located in the area which was a battleground for British and the Indian rebels during the 1857 revolt. The cemetery has both British & Indian burials. If Brigadier General John Nicholson was known for his excellent military skills then Master Yasudas Ramachandra was popular for his intellectual excellence. Our next stop was, the remains of one of the magnificent gates of old Delhi-the Kashmiri Gate. The road through it led to Kashmir and so gave it this name; likewise it also lent the name to the neighborhood around it. In close vicinity to the gate were the remains of the wall of the walled city of Shahjahanabad. It is important to note that not only was the city evolving but also its wall and the people nearby saw various ups and downs in their life time as the city transformed. Not to be ignored is the Bengali Club located at the Kashmiri Gate? Once it was a hub for promoting Bengali culture, customs, traditions and festivals but sadly it is in a forgotten state. We then proceeded to a place called Bada Bazaar which is known to have houses of various Mughal Nobles and British officials before the bazaar came up. None of us could miss the charm of Lal Masjid, also known as Fakhr-ul-Masajid, projecting itself amidst the old archaic surrounding architecture. Our heritage trail then proceeds towards the old buildings of two famous colleges of Delhi University, St. Stephens and the Hindu college. Former was started by the missionaries to spread the English western education while the latter by Indians in opposition to British ideas. Right in front of us was elegant building of the St. James Church, whose property was looted and stolen by the rebels during 1857. A canteen and a field hospital were established here by the rebels. The church was established by James Skinner & the churchyard has the Skinner family burial ground as well as the grave of his good friend, William Fraser. Next in our stop was the bungalow of William Fraser, a majestic colonial building which is known to be built on the basement Ali Mardan Khan’s (important Mughal noble) residence. Now, passing by the old buildings of the city we reached an Archaeological Museum which was once an important Mughal and British building. Called the Dara Shukoh Library, it was later made into the British Residency. This is where David Ochterlony lampooned as ‘Loony Akhtar’ lived. A few steps ahead is the Telegraph Memorial and remains of British Magazine, both memorials for the British; the loyal and faithful service of their officials, whose important deeds resulted in controlling the uprising. We finally reached the end of our walk at the Lothian Road Cemetery, the first British cemetery in Delhi. Our journey was an attempt to unravel the story of bravery and loyalty, tracing both sides of the story.
(posted by Niti Deoliya & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)