Delhi Urban Arts Commission's exhibition to be held during the Commonwealth Games is an endeavour to make Delhi residents come closer to their city.

To appreciate it better, you should know it better. The entire exhibition “Dillinama” or “Delhinama”, being put together by the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) leans on this premise. Amidst the din of the Commonwealth Games and several other glittering affairs will be “Dillinama” — an exposition uncovering layers and layers of history that preceded the contemporary cosmopolitan city of today.

While the CWG itself may have been robbed of some of the sanctity, the platform still doesn't fall short of providing an opportunity to reach out to the masses. “It has got nothing to do with the CWG. We are only using the time to tell Delhiites about the value of this city so that they start loving and respecting it. The month-long exhibition would start a week before the Games and continue till a week after. We also plan to bring out a book on the exhibition,” reveals K. T. Ravindran, Chairperson, DUAC. He is also professor and head of Urban Design at the School of Planning and Architecture.

The exhibition will go on at three venues simultaneously: The India Habitat Centre, Delhi University (North Campus) and the Red Fort.

With its myriad histories unfolding before the eyes of the viewers through rare photographs, panels, drawings, paintings, cartoons, maps, interactive media models and artefacts, Ravindran believes it will help them understand what made the city what it is today.

“The research has brought out the continuities between various Paleolithic, monolithic and Harappan sites that existed in this city, and the exhibition presents this connectivity in the city's history,” explains Ravindran.

While DUAC member M. Shaheer is looking after environmental issues, landscapes and water bodies; Nayanjyot Lahiri is taking care of ancient history, and Ratish Nanda is handling heritage and medieval history. Geographer Ravi Sundaram, architect Ashok Lal, historian Upinder Singh, writer Devika Rangachari, Urban designer and architect Arunav Dasgupta are also associated with the mammoth project.

From Stone Age

Working as a research consultant along with Megha Dikshit, architect Mrinal S. Rammohan says the exercise opened his eyes to a whole new world. “One of the first things we encountered was that the history of inhabitation in Delhi stretches back to the Stone Age which is 30,000 years ago. It astounded us,” he shares with us, adding that there are scores of facts like these that will astonish the viewers. The visitors will learn about the significant role G.T. Road played in the Central Asian trade route. “The road used to connect Leh to Dhaka and it was a late Harappan era site,” relates Mrinal. Mandawali village in East Delhi has derived its name from Mandoli, a Harappan settlement which existed in the close vicinity of the village.

“The four basic frameworks it operates in are: contemporary city; city's natural environs and their inter-relationship, for example between the river and the ridge; people of Delhi and influx of population; and the dualities in the city,” says Mrinal, who has been collecting data from various sources like ASI, State Archaeological Department, CPWD, and ISRO, etc. The original drawings of Lutyens from CPWD archives show the design of a cultural square that was to come up on the intersection between Rajpath and Janpath but didn't.

Aiming to make it accessible in every sense, Ravindran says the exhibition will not be text heavy. To captivate the viewer's attention, powerful imagery accompanied by crisp short captions are planned. “Also, the design will be such that the viewer wouldn't need to go to it, he/she will encounter it automatically,” notes Ravindran.