Delhi University has something very special planned for students this Valentine’s Day — a grand story replete with fighting, blood, incarceration and, of course, some romance.
After months of planning, the university’s sound and light show will finally see the light of day.
“A lot of history is associated with the university, in fact, you can say the history of India has played out in a microscopic fashion in the university, especially the freedom movement,” said Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh.
The erstwhile Vice-Regal Lodge, a massive white colonial mansion which currently houses the Vice-Chancellor’s office, is where shows will be held on all three evenings of the Antardhvani festival.
“The lights will run through almost the whole length of the building, starting from the left. We have hired professionals and there is a committee that was formed long ago which is responsible for the logistics,” added Prof. Singh.
He explained that the lodge became university property in 1933 after serving as the residence of several Viceroys of the British Raj.
“Mahatma Gandhi used to stay here, and Bhagat Singh was imprisoned here, however, the lodge’s tryst with history did not begin or even end there…It used to be a hunting lodge around the 1857 revolution when all this was just a forest.”
On those hot summer days in 1857, mutinous soldiers charged into the city and an emperor was reinstated. Then suddenly the coin turned, the British were driven into hiding in the North of the city, some of them making it to Kingsway Camp and some even into the lodge.
Parts of the revolution played out near the lodge will form the opening act of the show.
“Some of the British people who were putting up a fight against the Indian troops from this lodge were about to be massacred, when they were saved by the timely intervention of the British Army from Punjab. After a pitched battle, the British got the upper hand but the roads leading out of this office till Kingsway Camp were strewn with bodies,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
Later on, Bhagat Singh and two of his comrades were incarcerated at the lodge. Dungeons used for imprisoning the freedom fighter still exist below the lodge, complete with prison-like toilets and a hole to throw down food.
Politics of course, is played out with the era of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, both of whom have a big part in the play. “The Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed right here.”
There is, however, a break in the history lesson with a marriage proposal.
“Lord Mountbatten proposed to his wife Edwina, who was the niece of then Viceroy Lord Reading.”
The grand ballroom, which may have been witness to many other romances, now functions as a convocation hall and it is with a convocation that the show ends. “In 1948 the university gave honorary degrees to Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten, our show ends with this.”
A special enclosure will be made for the show and the Vice-Chancellor said entry might be with passes, but only if the committee formed for the project feels that too many people might attend.
“Otherwise, it will be open to everyone, even to the public,” he added.