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Map of Shahjahanabad, (The old walled city of Delhi) During Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857

Mirza Firuz Shah
Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857
Stacked Wooden Logs


Old Delhi or Purani Dilli is an area part of the greater city of Delhi, India. It was founded as a walled city named Shahjahanabad in 1639, when Shah Jahan (the Mughal emperor at the time) decided to shift the Mughal capital from Agra.[1] The construction of the city was completed in 1648, and it remained the capital of the Mughal Empire until its fall in 1857, when the British Raj took over as paramount power in India. It was once filled with mansions of nobles and members of the royal court, along with elegant mosques and gardens.

Despite having become extremely crowded by recent wave of migrants from East India, it still serves as the symbolic heart of metropolitan Delhi and is known for its bazaars, street food, shopping locations and its Islamic architecture; Jama Masjid being the most notable example, standing tall in the midst of the old city. Only a few havelis are left and maintained.

Upon the 2012 trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Old Delhi became administered by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

he site of Shahjahanabad is north of earlier settlements of Delhi. Its southern part overlaps some of the area that was settled by the Tughlaqs in the 14th century when it was the seat of Delhi Sultanate. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206[6] and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty.[7] The five dynasties were the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), Lodi dynasty (1451–1526) and the Suri dynasty (1540-1556)

Delhi remained an important place for the Mughals, who built palaces and forts. Most importantly, Shah Jahan had the walled city built from 1638 to 1649, containing the Lal Qila and the Chandni Chowk. Delhi was one of the original twelve subahs (imperial Mughal provinces), renamed Shahjahanabad in 1648, bordering Awadh, Agra, Ajmer, Multan and Lahore subahs. Daryaganj had the original cantonment of Delhi, after 1803, where a native regiment of Delhi garrison was stationed, which was later shifted to Ridge area. East of Daryaganj was Raj ghat Gate of the walled city, opening at Raj Ghat on Yamuna River.[8] The first wholesale market of Old Delhi opened as the hardware market in Chawri Bazaar in 1840, the next wholesale market was that of dry fruits, spices and herbs at Khari Baoli, opening in 1850. The Phool Mandi (Flower Market) of Daryaganj was established in 1869, and even today, despite serving a small geographical area, it is of great importance due to dense population.[9]

After the fall of the Mughal Empire post 1857 revolt, the British Raj shifted the capital of British controlled territories in India to a less volatile city, Calcutta in Bengal, where it remained until 1911. After the announcement of the change, the British developed Lutyens' Delhi (in modern New Delhi) just south-west of Shahjahanabad. At this point, the older city started being called Old Delhi, as New Delhi became the seat of a national government. It was formally inaugurated as such in 1931.

People of Old Delhi

Population of Old Delhi is mix of many North Indian ethnicities, after the construction of city, many people from Rajasthan, Awadh, Haryana, Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and Jammu came for job opportunities and better living standards, some people in Muslim dominated areas of Old Delhi have ancestors from Southern Afghanistan, Central Afghanistan, Eastern Afghanistan, and Western Pakistan. Culture of Old Delhi is mix of many cultures, but Urdu remains the most spoken language. Just like Ethnic demographics and history of Delhi, old Delhi also has many ethnic groups and cultures from different parts of Indian subcontinent.

t is approximately shaped like a quarter cìrcle, with the Red Fort as the focal point. The old city was surrounded by a wall enclosing about 1,500 acres (6.1 km2), with 14 gates:[10]

1- Nigambodh Gate: northeast, leading to historic Nigambodh Ghat on the Yamuna River

2- Kashmiri Gate: north

3- Mori Gate: north

4- Kabuli gate: west

5- Lahori gate: west close to the Sadar Railway station, Railway Colony, including the tomb of Syed Abdul
Rehman Jilani Dehlvi.

6- Ajmeri Gate: southwest, leading to Ghaziuddin Khan's Madrassa and Connaught Place, a focal point in New Delhi
7- Turkman Gate: southwest, close to some pre-Shahjahan remains which got enclosed within the walls, including the tomb of Shah Turkman Bayabani.

8- Delhi Gate: south leading to Feroz Shah Kotla and what was then older habitation of Delhi.

The surrounding walls, 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and 26 feet (7.9 m) tall, originally of mud, were replaced by red stone in 1657. In the Mughal period, the gates were kept locked at night. The walls have now largely disappeared,[13] but most of the gates are still present. The township of old Delhi is still identifiable in a satellite image because of the density of houses.

The Khooni Darwaza, south of Delhi Gate and just outside the walled city, was originally constructed by Sher Shah Suri.

In this map that appeared over a hundred and fifty years ago, it is interesting to locate NCR towns and villages and Delhi suburbs even if you may not see New Delhi. To someone like me, these places seemed to exist only in a post-20th-century reality, with their quasi-urban character and intriguing underbelly perception. The best part is mouthing the amusing British-style spellings and imagining how they might have said 'Shahderuh' instead of Shahdara, 'Bulubgurh' and 'Buhadoorgurh' instead of Ballabhgarh and Bahadurgarh!

This map is part of a dedicated page Columbia University has for maps of Delhi, which is in turn a part of Professor Emerita Frances W Pritchett's site on South Asian studies. The page has maps on Delhi's immediate environs from the 1901 Murray's Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon, one of the Imperial Delhi that Lutyens had envisioned, and a historical representation of the area during the Sultanate age. My favourite in this collection of maps is this colourful, neatly drawn map of the walled city of Shahjahanabad, complete with the individual precincts and gates.

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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Shah Sharaf Barlas


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