Class 8 History

Colonialism and City

Table of Contents

Inside the Old City

In the past, the famed canals had brought not only fresh drinking water to homes, but also water for other domestic uses. This was an excellent system of water supply and drainage. But it was neglected in the nineteenth century. The system of wells (or baolis) broke down. The channels to remove household waste were damaged.

This was also the time when the population of the city was growing continuously. The broken-down system of canals could not serve the needs of the rapidly growing population. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Shahjahani drains were closed down. A new system of open surface drains was introduced. But very soon, this system became overburdened. Many of the wealthier inhabitants complained about it. But the Delhi Municipal Committee was not willing to spend money on a good drainage system. On the other hand, millions of rupees were being spent on drainage system in the New Delhi area.

The Decline of Havelis

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Mughal aristocracy lived in grand mansions, called havelis. A haveli housed many families. The beautiful gateway to the haveli led to an open courtyard. The courtyard was surrounded by public rooms which were meant for visitors and business. The public rooms were exclusively used by males. The inner courtyard too had pavilions and rooms. They were used by the women of the household. Rooms in the haveli were used for multiple purposes. They had little by way of furniture.

Under the conditions of the British rule, many of the Mughal amirs were not in a position to maintain these large establishments. Hence, havelis began to be subdivided and sold. The street front of the havelis often turned into shops or warehouses. While some havelis were taken over by the upcoming mercantile class, most fell into decay and disuses. The colonial bungalow was quite different from the haveli. It was meant for one nuclear family. It was a large single-storeyed structure, with a pitched roof. The bungalow was usually set in one or two acres of open ground. Living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms were separate. The bungalow usually had a wide verandah in the front, and sometimes on three sides. A separate space from the main house was utilised to build kitchens, stables and servants' quarters. Services of dozens of servants were taken to run the house. The women of the household usually sat on the verandah to supervise tailors or other tradesmen.

New Plan of the Municipality

The census of 1931 revealed horrible situation in the walled city. It was overcrowded with as many as 90 persons per acre. On the other hand, New Delhi had only about 3 persons per acre. But in spite of the poor conditions, the walled city continued to expand.

An extension scheme, called the Lahore Gate Improvement Scheme was planned by Robert Clarke for the Walled City residents, in 1888. The plan was to draw the residents away from the Old City. A new type of market square was planned in the new extension. Streets in this redevelopment strictly followed the grid pattern. Land was divided into regular areas for the construction of neighbourhoods.

But the development remained incomplete and could not help to decongest the Old City. Even in 1920, water supply and drainage in these new localities was very poor.

The Delhi Improvement Trust was set up in 1936. It built areas like Daryaganj South for wealthy Indians. Houses were grouped around parks. Within the houses, space was divided according to new rules of privacy. Instead of spaces being shared by many families or groups, now different members of the same family had their own private spaces within the home.

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