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Cities That Have Served As The Capital Of India

Published on: February 15, 2017 | Updated on: March 20, 2017


Did you know that New Delhi has not always been the capital of India?

  • India was divided into many kingdoms through the ancient and medieval times, each with its own capital. Many of these grew into trade hubs and cultural centres.
  • Pataliputra, near Patna, was the capital of the Nanda, Mauryan and Gupta empires of yore. But eventually, the focus shifted west, especially with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate which came to be governed from Delhi.
  • Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, and even Lahore crystallised as the centre of administration under the Mughals.
  • The East India Company (EIC), formally (1600-1708) Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, or (1709-1873) United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, landed in Surat in 1608 to open their first ‘factory’, and by 1623 had established factories at Broach, Agra, and Masulipatam. The Company was soon attracted to Bengal given the flourishing prosperity and agricultural riches of the region. Also, The Company needed a port to conduct their trade out of, so Calcutta emerged as the best choice.
  • Calcutta eventually became the capital of British India and remained the capital till 1911. Lahore was the capital of the Sikh Empire.
  • On 12 December 1911, King George V and Queen Mary visited Delhi. It is during this Delhi Durbar that the British monarch announced that the Raj intended to move its capital from Calcutta to Delhi and that the latter would be remodelled.
  • On February 13, 1931, Delhi was formally inaugurated as the capital of India by Lord Irwin, Viceroy of British India.
  • Apart from the fact that Calcutta represented the eastern extreme of a sprawling country making it difficult to administer, the growing resistance to the British in Bengal made the move an imperative one.
  • Not only was Delhi’s location central, it also held a great cultural significance having been the capital of the Pandavas themselves (as the ancient city of Indraprastha). Since the move, Delhi has remained at the heart of Indian politics, culture and diplomacy.
  • Two other cities that have held the honour of being the capital of modern India are Allahabad and Shimla.
  • In 1858, Allahabad was deemed the capital of India for a period of one day as the East India Company handed over the administration of the nation to the British monarchy in the city. At the time, Allahabad was also the capital of North-Western Provinces.
  • Between 1864 and 1939, Shimla also served as the summer capital of the British Raj. The British authorities preferred to administer the nation from the cool confines of this beautiful hill station during the summer months when the Gangetic plains become unbearably hot.


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