13 February 1931: New Delhi became the capital of India


New Delhi, the capital city, had its foundation stone laid by George V, the then Emperor of India. The event took place in the Delhi Durbar of 1911. The city’s architecture and planning were done by two British architects, namely Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was on 13 February 1931 that Lord Irwin, India’s Viceroy, inaugurated New Delhi as the new capital of the country. Since then, New Delhi has become the center of government, with all the branches (legislative, judiciary and executive) needed to run the country.

Before New Delhi became the capital of India, Kolkata had the privilege of being the country’s capital till 1911. However, Delhi had been the financial and political center of many empires that had earlier ruled India. Some of the best examples of this are the reign of the Delhi Sultanate as well as the reign of the Mughals from 1649-1857. With the coming of the British in India, many things changed. It was in the early period of the 1900s that the British administration thought of shifting the capital of the British Indian Empire from Calcutta to Delhi.

One of the main reasons that were cited for the capital shift was the location of Delhi. Calcutta was situated in the eastern coastal part of the country, while Delhi was located in the northern part. The British government of India felt that ruling India from Delhi was easier and more convenient. The proposal was heartily accepted by the British Raj. During the Delhi Durbar on 12 December 1911, George V, the then ruling Emperor of India, along with Queen Mary, announced that the capital of India would be shifted from Kolkata to Delhi. Along with the announcement, the foundation stone for Coronation Park, Kingsway Camp, was also laid. This would be the Viceroy’s residence.

The initial planning and architecture for Delhi were done by two British architects, Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens. They were among the leading architects in Britain then. Once the plan was sanctioned, the contract of building the city was endowed on Sobha Singh. The construction work began after the First World War and the whole construction got over by 1931. The city was finally inaugurated by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, on 13 February 1931. Once the city was inaugurated, plans of extending the city also started coming up. Different architects gave their ideas and inspirations but the majority of them got rejected by the Viceroy. The main reason behind the rejection was the huge cost involved.

Once the capital of the British Indian Empire shifted to Delhi from Calcutta, a temporary secretariat building was constructed in North Delhi in 1912. Many of the important offices shifted to the place so that general working would not be affected. It is also quite interesting to note that for proper running of the various offices of the then British Indian Government, employees were brought from Madras Presidency, Calcutta Presidency, and so on. The employees lived in the nearby areas and later turned into one of the most posh residential areas of New Delhi.

Other events on this day:

1835 – Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Indian religious leader, founded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was born

1879 – Sarojini Naidu was born 

1944 – Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Indian actor, was born

1974 – Amir Khan, Indian singer, died

2010 – A bomb exploded in the city of Pune, Maharashtra, killing 17 and injuring 60 more

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