Coronation Park – A Stoic Remnant of British Rule & Birth Place of New Delhi

Delhi has multiple layers of culture, tradition, history and civilization neatly curated by myriad leaders, world influencers and rulers who left a portion of their story one some wall or stone. It was equally influenced by many other plunderers, mauraders, looters and raiders  who gave a reasons to rebuild the city. So, when Britishers overtook Delhi from Mughals in 1857, they wanted to leave their everlasting footprints on Delhi and they succeeded also with the construction of New Delhi.

North Block , south Block, India Gate, Parliament House and Rashtrapati Bhavan are few buildings that tale the magnanimous story of British Rule but then there is Coronation Park on North border of Delhi which is a junk yard of anything British, a remnant of that Empire. It has high heritage quotient attached but sadly everyone wants to forget it. It’s a symbol of irony as on one end, we celebrate our democracy inside the very structures built by Britishers and on other end, once left independent; we scavenged their leftovers and junked them at Coronation Park. It houses grand statue of King George V, which once occupied its rightful place near India Gate and also statues of other Viceroys and Generals.

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A 60 feet statue of King George V

The park stands exactly on the site of the three great Delhi Durbars (Imperial court of Delhi) which used to be the ceremonial climaxes and biggest events in heydays of British Glory.

Story of Delhi Durbars – The Imperial Proclamation Courts

Because of it prominent place in world political map, Delhi was chosen thrice as location for Delhi Durbar and each time it created unprecedented buzz across globe for sheer display of pomp and glorified ceremonies.  The Durbars were proposed and subsequently executed in hopes of securing the loyalty of Royal families of Indian Princely States in 1877 and 1903, and of the Indian public in 1911.

First Delhi Durbar at Coronation Park – 1877

First Durbar, initiated by Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy of India, was held on 1st January 1877 at the Coronation Park in Delhi to mark the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India. A parade was organized in real Indian royal way and Lord and Lady Lytton set on a elephant leading the parade in the presence of nearly 70,000 people including royals representing every state and principality.

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It was a magnificent pageant, a scene of unrivaled splendor.

Second Delhi Durbar at Coronation Park – 1903

In 1903, the second Delhi Durbar was organised to celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy planned meticulously creating an extravagant display of splendor. Lord Curzon converted the drab and dry land of the park into a magnificent amphitheater which had been specially constructed for the occasion presenting a scene of incomparable splendor.

Firework, exhibitions and glamorous dances were organized which created ripple all across globe as perfect so called page one and page three news. Exhibition had priceless artifacts on display which were lent by princes and nobles of India. Honors were conferred to loyalists, new pay scales introduced for troops and amnesties were granted to prisoners.

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Third and The Last Delhi Durbar at Coronation Park – 1911

Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India, organised the third Delhi Durbar with great care and effort ensuring that everything was done with the utmost glitter and pomp as the King-Emperor, George V, was to attend.

It was a thunderous outburst of loyality attended by who is who of Indian princely states as for the first time a reigning Monarch of UK was to attend a Durbar accompanied by Queen Mary. It presented the most gorgeous and stirring spectacles which was first time witnessed in the history of India. Events included homage by Kings of various states of India to the British monarch, exchange of gifts,  musical performances, lavish banquets, sporting events, public entertainments, exhibitions of Indian art, receptions and garden parties.

700px-Delhi_Drubar_1911The Nizam of Hyderabad pays hommage at the Delhi Durbar, 1911, (1935).

Two amphitheaters were erected in the park just like Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khaas of Mughal tradition, smaller one for King to meet VIPs and the bigger one to meet general public accommodating 50000 persons. The great amphitheater, which was five times bigger than the Coliseum of Rome, was filled with a brilliant assemblage, representative of every caste and creed in India. It provided a dazzling kaleidoscopic picture of wealth and beauty. The highlight and most striking feature of the event was the mighty display of great military. In true sense, such extravagant event never took place again ever in the world as soon World War I changed everything across globe politically, diplomatically and financially.

In the third and last Durbar, King-Emperor announced transfer of capital from Kolkata to Delhi to commemorate his coronation. This proclamation was received by tumultuous cheering from audience. The new capital was planed the site of the Durbar and a foundation stone was laid by George V.

Coronation Park – The Birth Place of New Delhi

Delhi – one of the ancient cities of the world. Delhi – a city with a blood-red history. Delhi – a city with marble dome, of gold tipped spires, of fluted minarets, of ages of mosques and temples. Delhi – a city with its story of massacre, blood and revolution, was again proclaimed as the capital of India by King George V.

After the Coronation Durbar, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker were authorized by Lord Harding to proceed with preparing plans for building Imperial capital, the seventh city of Delhi. After understanding the geography and terrain, they had to shift the location of New Delhi from the Site of Coronation Park to Raisina Hills. It was planned to be a crowning achievement in colonial architecture and colonial town planning, a capital worthy of the British Empire. The grand plan had three pivotal and impossing structures – Viceroy House, Secretariat and Council House – at one end and the All-India War Memorial at the other end of the central vista. It took them 20 years to realize the plan and on 13 February 1931, Lord Irwin, India’s Viceroy, inaugurated New Delhi as the capital of the country.

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A set of stamps were launched to commemorate the inauguration of New Delhi in 1931

The ceremony was held at the Raisina Hill, with the Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan), and Secretariat witnessing another grand function that lasted for a week to mark the occasion. The inauguration of city was executed by unveiling four Dominion Columns each presented by Austraila Canada, South Africa and New Zealand as a symbol of solidarity and commonwealth.

British government built this grand city as they believed that India too would soon become a British dominion. India, however, became independent in the next 17 years and the Secretariat became the seat of power of a sovereign India and Viceroy House the palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Coronation Memorial at Coronation Park

A commemorative Obelisk was erected at the place where King George V and Queen Mary sat during the Durbar of 1911. It is erected at the middle of Coronation Park

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King George V’s statue was removed in the 1960s from the canopy opposite India Gate. It was relocated to a plinth in Coronation Park, where it has been placed across the Obelisk which is further surrounded by other statues of generals and viceroys.

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Coronation Park is a den full of nostalgia and must be visited to see the remnants of a great empire. Visit this place not only to see the statues but to relive those magnanimous moments of Delhi Durbar. Its an important part of our history and we must make it a part of our history instead of letting it get buried.

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Delhi has many more such unique experiences and hidden gems. Tell us your story from Delhi.

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