An illustrated journey through the rich history of New Delhi.

A city is an organic place, forever changing and growing. “Dawn Upon Delhi: Rise of a Capital” looks at the trajectory of Delhi to note its transformation. A clutch of engravings, photographs, paintings, plans and publications evokes the city of the late 19th and mid 20th centuries.

While the oldest exhibit is an 1780 engraving the latest is a photograph of 1960 showing — as Rahaab Allana, curator of the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, puts it — “modernity being brought into the Nehruvian era. It’s concluded there. Rather than taking an antiquarian point of view, we present a modern point of view.”

The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts collaborated with the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, and Ministry of Culture to put together the exhibition. Culled from several important archives like that of CPWD and the ASI, Rahaab says there are many critical exhibits, like the images of the 1940s and 1950s that capture the making of South and North Block taken by an anonymous state photographer of the CPWD. Then there are the original plans of important structures like the Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan done by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker that are out in public domain for the first time. The vignettes of daily life in older Delhi were clicked by D.N.Chaudhuri, a press photographer in the 1950s and 60s. A few photographs by well-known architect Habib Rahman depict the city as a cultural centre.

Education and outreach becomes incidental to such exercises regularly undertaken by the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts. What is also achieved through them is sensitisation and awareness of these rich archives and a discourse on restoration and conservation. “Delhi has so many state archives. When we are celebrating Delhi’s 100 years as India’s Capital, it becomes important to engage with those repositories of rich heritage,” says Rahaab.

Dawn Upon Delhi: Rise of a Capital; NGMA, Jaipur House, India Gate, New Delhi, Until March 13.

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Arts, Entertainment & EventsMay 14, 2012