Delhi – Power Center of India till 1857
- Even though the Delhi region was ruled under the Tomar dynasty of Rajputs, the advent of the Delhi Sultanate(1206-1506) made Delhi a major city in the Indian historical map because the city was made capital of Delhi Sultanate.
- Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal dynasty, was the first to refer to Delhi as the ‘capital of all Hindustan’ in the 16th century but this designation faded for a brief period as the Akbar made a capital shift from Delhi to Agra.
- But during the reign of Shah Jahan (1592-1666), Delhi became the Mughal capital once again with the establishment of Shahjahanabad in 1648 (what we know today as Old Delhi), and the fortification around Old Delhi is known as Red Fort.
- Even though as the time cycle moves the areas under their control shrink, the Mughals who rule from Red Fort are considered as legitimate and symbolic rulers even for newcomers like East India Company. It can be substantiated by citing the example that coins issued by the Mughals remained in circulation till the 19th century.
- One of the key highlights in history which shows the significance of Delhi is
that during the 1857 rebellion, the rebellious soldiers headed towards the
Delhi and made the then-Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) as
their king because Delhi was still the strongest symbol of indigenous authority,
around which they rallied and the fall of Delhi pretty much sealed the fate of
From the viewpoint of the British
- Delhi at the time was of minor importance to the East India Company, and
housed very few Europeans, so after capturing Delhi from the rebels, the
British initially planned to raze the whole city (Shahjahanabad) to the ground,
their primary objective being to wipe out the memory of the Mughal Empire
from the city.
- But they stepped back from doing such things, instead, they looted precious
artworks and the imperial treasury (what was left of it in 1857), and many of its
inner structures were demolished to be replaced by British structures. The
palace was converted into a British garrison and the famed Diwan-i-Aam into
Role of Power Played by Red Fort During British Era
- After the 1857 revolt, the historical power centre Delhi was made only a minor
provincial town by the British.
- As time passed the city witnessed Delhi Durbars (1877, 1903, 1911). These
grand ceremonies proclaimed the British monarch as the Emperor of India.
- The British finally decided to shift their capital to Delhi from Calcutta in 1911,
building a grand new city that would be completed in 1930.
Red Fort in Independence Movement and After Independence
- During the struggle for independence, the red fort witnessed the INA soldiers’
trial and in this regard, Nehru decided to hoist the national flag in Red Fort in
the event of Independence Day (August 15).