maps from the ages

Six Delhi maps chart the city’s evolution from 1807 to 2021

Pilar Maria Guerrieri’s book ‘Maps Of Delhi’ reveals the changing face of the metropolis over two centuries.

A map in the musty room of the National Archives of India shows Delhi in 1807, shortly after the arrival of the British in 1803. It highlights the hierarchy of settlements, from small to larger villages. The map marks out Shahajahanabad, Tughlaqabad, Mooralee and the Qutab Minar complex and is attributed to British surveyor FS White.

This illustration of Delhi in the 19th century is one of the first maps in Pilar Maria Guerrieri’s book, Maps Of Delhi.

The smaller settlements are indicated only by name, and the delicate, miniature abstraction of villages, at times even trees, give this map an element of unique artistic expression,” writes Guerrieri about this map titled Sketch Of The Environs of Delhi.

Sketch of the Environs of Delhi, 1807. National Archives of India (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Sketch of the Environs of Delhi, 1807. National Archives of India (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).

In her exquisitely produced book, Guerrieri arranges maps chronologically from as early as the beginning of the 19th century, to depict Delhi and the various influences that have caused its evolution into the city as we know it now.

In 2011, the architect chose India to do her PhD research in architectural design, architectural composition, criticism and theory. “Italy has a strong background in terms of using mapping as a tool to understand cities,” Guerrieri told Scroll.in. She was inspired by an Italian architect, Saverio Muratori, to study Delhi through its maps. Muratori had systematically surveyed Venice and Rome by comparing historical maps. Over the next three years, Guerrieri pored over old maps and books in dusty libraries, visited strangers’ houses when physically measuring areas and built up a collection of maps of which 61 have been published in the book.

The pre-independence maps included in the books are from the collection of maps drawn by British cartographers.

“At first, before the great 1857 rebellion, the colonialist sought to mingle with the local population and live inside Shahajahanabad. However, soon after the British assumed power over the subcontinent and had expelled the then Mughal emperor, they developed a practice of separating themselves,” writes Guerrieri. The maps in the book, up till 1911, demonstrate this phenomenon documented by the British. “They gradually relocated, first to the north with the military cantonments and residences in the Civil Lines area, then to the south in 1911, founding a new imperial city known as New Delhi.”

A significant event in the pre-independent India, the rebellion of 1857, has been demonstrated over a few maps. One particular pocket map, titled Siege of Delhi from that year, highlights the military operations planned by the British.

“The map... was certainly printed after Delhi was re-captured by the British, on the 22nd of September, 1857, since the grave of General Nicholson and ‘the spot where Gen Nicholson was shot’ are marked,” writes Guerrieri.

Siege of Delhi, 1857. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Siege of Delhi, 1857. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).

“It remains ambiguous whether this map is a historical account of what transpired, since it marks the Enemy’s trench with Left Breach’ and Right Breach on either side of it, or if this map was to serve, effectively, as a pocket guide for future encounters with the rebelling forces,” she writes.

Following the rebellion, the British built a railway line and demolished parts of the Red Fort to prevent future mutinies. The maps and sketches of the city post-1857 reflect the New Delhi that the British planned to set up.

One such sketch, titled Lay Out Plan of New Delhi, gives details of the imperial New Delhi and illustrates land occupied by the government and its plans for future acquisitions.

Lay Out Plan of New Delhi, pre 1930. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Lay Out Plan of New Delhi, pre 1930. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).

It marks out Connaught Place, the Viceroy house, the secretariats and the parliament.

A 1945 map in the Indian archives also shows the impact of World War II and where temporary buildings were erected for military purposes in Delhi. Apart from its importance as a military document, the map is insightful from an urban planning perspective. It is interesting to note that the map confirms that Lodi Colony had already been planned by this time as part of the Imperial Capital.

The plan, said Guerrieri, possibly became an integral model for future housing projects that would take place after Independence.

“Compared to the colonies of Karol Bagh or Jangpura, a visible improvement in the conception of design and layout becomes evident; the geometry of each block demonstrates a conscious relationship between residential buildings, per se, and the open spaces, private or semi-public, around it,” she writes.

Plan Showing All The Temporary Buildings in New Delhi erected in Connection with the War, 1945. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Plan Showing All The Temporary Buildings in New Delhi erected in Connection with the War, 1945. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).

Post-independence

“Right after independence, there was an explosion of settlements in Delhi owing to the influx of refugees from all social strata into Delhi which gave birth to various inconsistently built colonies,” said Guerrieri. One of the maps created after independence, includes many of these refugee colonies – Patel Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and Nizamuddin.

Development Plan of Greater Delhi, 1947-1955. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Development Plan of Greater Delhi, 1947-1955. Delhi State Archives (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).

As we progress to the late 1990s, digital maps become the medium of choice. “The maps I like the most are the ones that have been beautifully drawn by hand,” said Guerrieri. “They are like works of art that one can almost imagine the cartographer forming an emotional and sentimental attachment to. Drawing of maps on paper or cloth is a lost art in this day and age of digital maps.”

The last map in the book shows the forthcoming Master Plan 2021 by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. It depicts a vast increase in the urbanised area and the undeveloped areas in the map have been marked as “urbanisable”.

“Even though there is an indication to monuments, the map of the city has seemingly become detached from its conventional purpose; historical information is neglected and artistic and aesthetic values compromised in favour of a more methodical and arid scientific analysis,” writes Guerrieri.

Master Plan - 2021. INTACH Delhi Chapter. (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
Master Plan - 2021. INTACH Delhi Chapter. (Image from 'Maps of Delhi' by Pilar Maria Guerrieri; Niyogi Books).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

When house hunting is as easy as shopping for groceries

The supermarket experience comes to a sector where you least expected it.

The woes of a house hunter in India are many. The dreary process starts with circling classifieds in newspapers and collecting shiny brochures. You flip through the proposed and ready designs that launch a hundred daydreams on the spot. So far so good. But, every house hunter would attest to the soul-crushing experience of checking out a disappointing property.

The kitchen of a 2BHK is carved from the corner of the hall, the 3BHK is a converted 2BHK, the building looks much older than in the pictures…. after months of reading the fine line, and between the lines, you feel like all the diagrams and highlights seem to blur into each other.

After much mental stress, if you do manage to zero in on a decent property, there’s a whole new world of knowledge to be navigated - home loans to be sifted through, taxes to be sorted and a finance degree to be earned for understanding it all.

Do you wish a real estate platform would address all your woes? Like a supermarket, where your every need (and want) is catered to? Imagine all your property choices nicely lined up and arranged with neat labels and offers. Imagine being able to compare all your choices side by side. Imagine viewing verfied listings and knowing what you see is what you get. Imagine having other buyers and experts guiding you along every step while you make one of the most important investments in your life. Imagine...

MagicBricks has made every Indian house hunters’ daydream of a simplified real estate supermarket a reality. Now you have more than a pile of brochures at your disposal as the online real estate marketplace brings you lakhs of choices to your fingertips. Instead of bookmarking pages, you can narrow down your choices by area, budget, house type etc. Just so you aren’t hit by FOMO, you can always add a suburb you’ve been eyeing or an extra bedroom to your filter. But there’s more to a house than just floor space. On MagicBricks, you can check for good schools in the vicinity, a park for evening walks or at least an assured easier commute. Save time and energy by vetting properties based on the specs, pictures and floor plans uploaded and have all your niggling concerns addressed on the users’ forum.

Shortlisted a property? Great! No need to descend down another spiral of anxiety. Get help from reliable experts on MagicBricks on matters of legalities, home loans, investment, property worth etc. You can even avail their astrology and Vastu services to ensure an auspicious start to life in your new home or office. With its entire gamut of offerings, MagicBricks has indeed brought the supermarket experience to real estate in India, as this fun video shows below.

Play

Get started with a simplified experience of buying, renting and selling property on MagicBricks here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MagicBricks and not by the Scroll editorial team.