For a small trek through Delhi’s landscapes, try Northern Ridge, in the winters. Throw in exploration of some of the sites of 1857 which played out in this area, and it is a day well spent. Our heritage walk in Northern Ridge traces a route connecting a few landmarks of 1857 in the Kamla Nehru Northern Ridge. We start at Delhi University Vice Chancellor’s office, which is a notable example of colonial building style. It used to be the Vice Regal Lodge when the new city of Delhi was under construction. One piece of gossip about this building is that it was in the Registrar’s office here that Lord Mountbatten (last Viceroy of India) proposed to Edwina. To complete the triangle & the irony, we now have a bust of Nehru looking wistfully towards the building!!
The second stop on our heritage trail is the Flagstaff Tower. This is the most prominent building on the Ridge & is frequently a part of the British accounts of 1857. It is here that European families took shelter for a night before fleeing from the rebels in Delhi. They waited for reinforcements but when it became apparent that no help could reach them, they escaped towards Karnal. This was ridiculed by the local papers as the ‘English gathering at the flagstaff’. The building is a protected monument & stands on a bit of clearing, at a height. There is vegetation all around now, but contemporary photographs show that the Ridge was mostly barren. The forest was planted by the British after they took over Delhi.
And this protected forest hides many a surprise within it. Some tracks have been made pucca for joggers & those on early morning walks. However, once you move into the interiors the ridge has much more than the monkeys. Some monuments are completely hidden behind vegetation & rocky contours of the terrain. For example, a grave enclosure, a guardhouse & the Khooni Jheel. There are tiny temples which long haired holy men living among the trees; badminton courts & playgrounds, should you care to look. Obviously, this is no deserted jungle. Our walking tour takes us into the interior of the Ridge for a glimpse.
Some distance to the south of Flagstaff Tower is the Chauburja Mosque, or the 4-turret mosque. Considered to be a Tuhgluq-period mosque, it has been much altered over centuries & has evidence of late Mughal architecture as well. It was also the site of a British picket. A little further is the Hindu Rao hospital & the complex has a few sites of interest. A hunting lodge built by Firuz Shah Tughluq stands behind the hospital & now it is locally called Pir Ghaib or the place where a saint vanished from. A completely ruined structure, the complex is also believed to have been an observatory & has a baoli next to it. Bara Hindu Rao was once the residence of William Fraser, the British Resident & after he was murdered, it became the property of Maratha nobleman, Hindu Rao. Close by stands the Ashokan Pillar & again Firuz Shah Tughluq was the one responsible for getting it here from Topra. The last stop on our heritage walk was the Mutiny Memorial built on the site of Taylor’s battery. The inscriptions of the memorial give details of battles between Delhi Field Force & the rebels in 1857. Given that the British version sees the rebellion as a ‘mutiny’ & that they were the winning side, the memorial is called Munity Memorial. There is some attempt by the Indian government to provide the other side of the story as well. There is plaque stating the rebels were fighting against colonial rule, and the monument is now called Jeetgarh (fort of victory) as well!
(posted by Kanika Singh & Pushpa Mandal, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)