New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) In 1911, when King George V announced that the national capital would move to Delhi from Kolkata, this city shed its tag of a historical city to become a metropolitan behemoth.

The making of the new Delhi required mammoth build-up -- of plans, buildings, infrastructure and a new city. Major portions of it were documented by various agencies, artists and photographers who moved around the city with their box cameras and sketch books.

Several of the photographs and the pioneering blueprints of the capital were stowed away in the Central Public Works Department archives.
The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) and the Alkazi Foundation have brought out hundreds of buried documents for exhibition.

A month-long showcase, 'Dawn Upon Delhi: Rise of a Capital', which opened at the NGMA late Monday evening, has now recreated the making of the city of Delhi from the Mutiny of 1857 to the present day with more than 250 rare documents.

These are engravings, maps, plans and vintage and modern photographs of the capital as well as the British strongholds of Bombay and Calcutta (now Mumbai and Kolkata respectively).

'The archive is a hidden treasure of maps and photographs by state photographs, which is untapped. We have enlarged and digitised the documents we have dug up for the exhibition. Most of them are in a deplorable condition...They need to be saved now or they will be lost forever,' curator of the showcase Rahaab Allana of the Alkazi Foundation told IANS.

Some of the visuals have also been acquired from the Alkazi Collection, the Archaeological Survey of India, and the personal archives of photographers D.N. Chaudhuri and Habib Rahman.

'The Delhi Coronation Durbars of 1877, 1903 and 1911 were at once self-appraising representations of imperial power. In contrast to the close knit architecture of Old Delhi, the durbar city easily lent itself to the panoramic photography,' Allana said.

Glimpses of the Durbar and the people who attended it have been represented in the exhibition through iconic 19th and 20th century photographers like Vernon & Co, Johnston and Hoffman, Bourne & Shepherd, Raja Deen Dayal & Sons and artists like Mortimer Menpes.

Two of the other sources were the Illustrated London News and the Illustrated Times published from London.

'We have tried to show the historicity of the capital to put its evolution in context. There is a representation of Tughlaqabad, Siri, the Qutab complex - and references to the seven ancient cities which made Delhi. In a sense, we wanted to show the transition from Kolkata to New Delhi,' Allana said.

The visuals are mounted in a loose chronological order, beginning with engraved 1858 images of the siege of the capital from the 'History of Indian Mutiny' by Charles Ball, which were published by The London Printing & Publishing Company.

Rare black and white photographs of the last Mughals, their clans and homes, an old Delhi nautch girl, trading communities of old Delhi, the early days of Connaught Circus, the erstwhile maharajas of India, a photographic portrait of Lord Curzon and the construction of the secretariat, north block and Lutyen's Delhi offer fascinating peeks into another era - transporting viewers to the past.

A priceless hand-drawn and signed map of the imperial bungalows of old Delhi by British architect Edwin Lutyens, the master-planner of the capital city between 1912 to 1930, shines in the crowd of nostalgia.

In contrast, photographs by Habib Rahman and D.N. Chaudhuri present the contemporary past of the capital.

'I started my work on New Delhi 60 years ago in 1952. I bought a box camera with seven pounds that I received from the Illustrated London News for publishing a photograph of my father - Niradh C. Chaudhuri - and went around the city photographing the landscape. Later, I was joined by my wife Malavila Chaudhuri. Now I carry digital camera... Even today I photographed two nilgais foraging for food in the garbage piles near the Tughlaqabad relics,' photographer D.N. Chaudhuri, son of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, told IANS.

Chaudhuri is author of a 2005 pictorial volume, 'Delhi: Light, Shades & Shadows'.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at