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Histories of Cities in India

Sridhar
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Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 03:18

The purpose of this thread is to discuss the histories of various cities in India and interesting facts from their histories. We could post old maps of these cities, discuss important events in their history and generally talk about their evolution into the cities we know today.

The idea for this thread came from a discussion about pre-independence New Delhi in an unrelated thread on the strategic forum.

To start this thread off, I post an old map of New Delhi dating either to pre-independence days or to the dawn of independence (date approximate but indicated by names of roads and localities on the map).

http://www.cs.jhu.edu/~bagchi/delhi/pics/Delhi.jpg

[For the record, the person hosting the map claims it shows Delhi circa 1962. However, the date seems incorrect if you go by the name of National Stadium (indicated as Irwin Amphitheater on the map) or of several roads and localities.]

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby SankarS » 21 May 2003 03:35

Madurai (TamilNadu) is one of the oldest city in India. You can find some information about the history of Madurai in this website. http://madurai.indianvisit.com/about-madurai.html

The cultural prominence of Madurai in ancient times has earned it the epithet of the 'Athens of South India'. It has been the center for learning and the heart for South Indian culture and tradition for the last 2,500 years. It had also been the political capital of the Pandyan and the Nayakan dynasties. The illustrious past of the city can still be witnessed in the architectural splendor of the temples and the palaces.
It used to be one of the very well structured city in ancient India (not anymore.. :( ). You can find modern day Madurai city map here .. http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/tamilnadu/madurai.htm.

Some more links:
http://www.clickmadurai.net/about/about.htm
http://www.indiatravelogue.com/dest/tam/madu.html

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:02

An article about the jewish settlement in Chennai by the person who has written a number of books about the city's history - S. Muthiah.

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2002/09/30/stories/2002093000180300.htm

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:07

Pictures of trams in various cities of India

http://www.tramz.com/tva/in.html

Quiz time, folks: identify the locations where these trams have been photographed. And also any prominent buildings that you may notice in the background. (I don't know all the answers but we can collectively learn).

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Abhijit » 21 May 2003 04:16

Bombay Tram picture shows Flora Fountain (Hutatma Chowk) on the left side of the picture.

Added Later: It also looks similar to the fointain in front of Regal.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:17


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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:19

Excellent, Abhijit_ST. It is Flora Fountain (Hutatma Chowk now). I think there were tram tracks running uptil Museum/Regal too but this photo is not from there. Can you name the prominent building in the background?

Incidentally, these tram tracks were never removed. Road layers were built on top of them. So if someday the municipal corporation digs this road for whatever reason (like the expansion of the adjacent Maharashtra memorial that is planned soon), these old tram tracks from a century ago may well be revealed!

Mumbai looks really attractive in that picture!

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Abhijit » 21 May 2003 04:22

Can you name the prominent building at the back?
We used to know it as a building in front of which you can buy cheap second-hand books. But is it ANZ Grindlays?

George J

Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby George J » 21 May 2003 04:22

Originally posted by Sridhar:
Excellent, Abhijit_ST. It is Flora Fountain (Hutatma Chowk now). Can you name the prominent building in the background?
If its Regal then thats the DGP's office.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:25

No - ANZ Grindlays is further down the road towards Museum (it is close to Kala Ghoda).

The building in the background is the Oriental Insurance Building and now houses the American Express Bank. (I learnt this recently from somebody I consider an authority on anything related to Mumbai and trains and trams etc.).

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:27

Another prominent and beautiful building in Mumbai - the Rajabai Tower. The following link talks a little bit about its history.

http://www.mumbainet.com/travel/rajabai.htm

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Abhijit » 21 May 2003 04:31

The building in the background is the Oriental Insurance Building and now houses the American Express Bank
So at least I got the foreign bank part right ;) . Man, that makes me nostalgic. All the Wodehouse from British Council, those great books near fountain for Rs. 5 each, then cheapo clothes from fashion street, Cannon pav bhaji and then back home in a local train, hanging out the door. Junior college was a blast. :cool:

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 04:35

Kolkata, Chennai guys: any idea about the locations? I don't know the answers for these cities.

Delhi, anybody? ( I know the location approximately).

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Kedar » 21 May 2003 05:06

Delhi is it Gole Dakkhana (Circular Post Office) by any chanc?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 05:11

Kedar: Nope.

Gol Dakkhana (New Delhi GPO) is in the New Delhi area. The Delhi tram was entirely within the confines of the city walls, i.e. it was in old Delhi.

Talking of Gol Dakkhana - Delhi is the only city in India with two GPOs - one in New Delhi and the other in Old Delhi (located in a beautiful early British building next to Lothian Bridge in Kashmere Gate area). The Old Delhi GPO is also the only one amongst the metros not to have a PIN code ending in 1 - its PIN is 110006.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Abhijit » 21 May 2003 05:17

Kolkata looks like Park Street or Burra Bazaar (I know, my Bong friends will groan at equating the two ;) ) - more likely Park Street.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Rudra » 21 May 2003 05:27

imo the Kolkatta one is road leading from
Chowringhee towards New market. park street is
too wide.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Anindya » 21 May 2003 06:10

I've been trying to chase down facts about Calcutta history prior to 1690 - unfortunately, its very difficult to come by. Nevertheless, here are some interesting pictures and a web site of the history of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family - the original owners of the 3 villages.

Calcutta pictures from 17th and 18th centuries

Calcutta in the 19th century

History of Sabarna RoyChowdhury family

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby GGanesh » 21 May 2003 06:18

Excellent thread.

Does anyone know the oldest contemporary city in India?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Rudra » 21 May 2003 06:19

I feel resentment that such a glorious city was
reduced to ruin by the efforts of the british
and commies (with some help from kangress)

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Anindya » 21 May 2003 06:41

Originally posted by GGanesh:
Excellent thread.

Does anyone know the oldest contemporary city in India?
Isn't it Delhi - under Purana Quilla, there are supposed to be remains of construction well over 3000 years old.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Arvind » 21 May 2003 07:01

By conservative accounts Dholavira and Rakhigarhi from ~2500BC were India's oldest cities. This is of course excluding the sites in Western India that are now being called TSP.

Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Chanhudaro (In TSP), Shortugai (Afghanistan), Dholavira, Rakhigarhi, Lothal, Rangpur, Desalpur, Surkotada, Manda, Ropar and Kalibangan seem to be Greater India's major urban during its first urbanization.

The size of these urban centers can be appreciated by the following depressing fact: When the rail way from Multan to Lahore was laid it was entirely ballasted by bricks of Indus valley origin. So these genuine qualify as cities.

Of the extant cities many are fairly old going back to the epic period. Eg. Dilli goes back to indraprasta, one of the bhArata capitals. Lucknow, Takshashila in TSP, Kashi, Prayag are all old cities with a settlement record of at least 3300 years.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 07:25

Originally posted by Kaushal on the India-Israel thread

posted May 20, 2003, 02:05AM
Most of the names of the roads esp. in New Delhi date after independence.Remember the city was built only in 1911 (and not even then, the process of building took almost till the 1930's) by Edwin Lutyens and the British have never been known to give Indian names esp. to the most famous streets in the capital. My marriage took place in Wellesley Rd. as it was known even in the late 1960's(where my f-in-law used to live). But i dont know what it is called now. Janpath, Rajpath(originally known as Kings way ?), teen Murti Marg, Akbar, Aurangzeb, ShahJehan rd are all post independence names. Most of the english names were slowly weeded out after independence,with the exception of Connaught Place, but the choice of naming key streets after the Moghals was definitely an idea of the Congress, again to impress the world with our secularism. of course the world doesnt give two hoots what you name a street for the most part.
posted 20 May 2003 12:39 PM
Where does it say it is a pre-Independence map ? In fact it clearly says it is a 1962 Map on the site. In fact i visited Delhi during my engineering college tour in the 50's, and IIRC there were very few Indian names of streets even then. The process of changing street names was not instantaneous and took several years.

As for guessing, why make the accusation that I am guessing, without knowing whether i am doing so or not.
posted 20 May 2003 07:22 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We really a need a map of Delhi circa 1930 to 1947 to settle the issue of who named Aurangzeb rd. Most streets with Indian names (esp. Hindi/Hindu names)were renamed after 1947. It is of course possible that Aurangzeb rd. was an exception, although i concede my recollection (that i saw no such street )could be faulty and that the Brits made an exception for a very samll number of Pre-British rulers.
In any event it was neither a guess nor a conjecture on my part, but an inference based on the observation that in the early years (post 1930 and pre 1950)most street names in New Delhi had English names and that now NDelhi has very few such names. It is a reasonable inference to make that the same people who changed Kingsway to Rajpath also changed the name to Aurangzeb rd.It is also possible Aurangzeb rd. was one of the few exceptions and that it was so named by the Brits, in which case the question arises why did they so name it.
3 assertions in the above posts,
1. Post 1 - Congress named these roads after the Mughals
2. Post 2 - very few roads were named after Indians
3. Post 3 - Aurangzeb road might have been one of the few exceptions

Now, here's the truth. I was unfortunately unable to get hold of the 1931 Delhi Master Plan (yet) and therefore could not find a map with Aurangzeb Road specifically shown. But I did get hold of other maps. Let me go source by source and I shall list roads named after Indians in alphabetical order and put the spellings as they appear on these maps. Also note that I am not listing roads with 'Indian' sounding names like Barakhamba Road, Panchkuin Road, Gurudwara Road, Bangla Sahib Road, Sunehri Bagh Road, Purana Qila Road etc. even though they appear circa 1931 (source B below).

A. A British Magazine called "The Architecture Review: A Magazine of Architecture and Decoration" did a feature on the then newly built city of New Delhi in its January 1931 issue. (the city was to be inaugurated as the capital in February 1931 and also the Round Table Conference was taking place - hence the feature on New Delhi according to the magazine).
Vol. LXIX, No. 410, author - Robert Byron.

On page 3 of this magazine, there is a map of the central area with the Government buildings. Unfortunately, there is no other map (lots of photos and diagrams of buildings though). I noted the following roads with names of Indians
1. Akbar Road
2. Asoka Road
3. Bhagwan Das Road
4. Ferozeshah Road
5. Mansingh Road
6. Prithviraj Road
6. Shahjahan Road

B. The book "Imperial Delhi" by Andreas Volwahsen (Prestel Publications) published in 2002.

This book, while recent has numerous pictures and maps from old documents. In particular, it has parts of maps from the Delhi Town Plan 1931. Unfortunately, since it again focuses on the 'Government' part of Delhi and the Connaught Place area, it gets cut off before Aurangzeb Road. I could find the following roads named after Indians (some may be repeated from source A but reinforce the argument).

Map on Page 249 depicting CP and surrounding area
Ahilya Bai Road
Asoka Road
Ferozeshah Road
Humayun Road
Jai Singh Road
Jaswant Singh Road
Jehangir Road
Mahadeo Road
Nur Jahan Road

Map on Page 76-77 depicting the Government area
Akbar Road
Asoka Road
Bhagwandas Road
Ferozeshah Road
Humayun Road
Kushak Road
Jaswant Singh Road
Prithviraj Lane
Sher Shah Road

These are in maps where there are not a whole lot of roads. Most of these roads still retain these names and are important roads even today, as they were in 1931. In any case, in the lists above except Aurangzeb Road, all the major Mughal rulers from Akbar onwards had roads named after them circa 1931. Unfortunately, none of the maps in these sources extend beyond the so-called Delhi Imperial Zone (DIZ) and Aurangzeb Road lies outside it. There is no reason to believe that Aurangzeb Road was not named then. In any case, when I get hold of Master Plan 1931, I shall prove that even Aurangzeb Road was named before independence.

So what am to make out of your assertions?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 07:33

HH:

When is the earliest archeological evidence in these cities dated to? References would be appreciated.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 07:37

Originally posted by Kedar Bhandary:
Delhi is it Gole Dakkhana (Circular Post Office) by any chanc?
I am not 100% certain of the location, but the only line in Delhi circa 1963 was from Red Fort to Chawri Bazar, partly on Chandni Chowk. It does not look like Chandni Chowk, so I can only guess that this is somewhere in the Chawri Bazar area. Or perhaps somewhere on Chandni Chowk that looked very very different from today (unlikely since most buildings there are really old). Only possibility on Chandni Chowk is near the Town Hall (current MCD HQ).

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 07:40

Quiz Questions:

1. Most of us know Teen Murti Bhavan as the official residence of the first Prime Minister - Jawaharlal Nehru. But which high Government official's residence was it before it became the PM's house? What was it called before being renamed Teen Murti Bhavan?

2. What was the immediate cause for the closure of the Chennai tram system on April 12, 1953?
a. Bankruptcy of the tram company
b. Labour strike
c. Traffic congestion on the streets
d. Opening of the new bus transport system

Meanwhile, the quiz questions on the locations in the Kolkata and Chennai tram phots remain open.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby SandeepA » 21 May 2003 07:43

Excellent idea for a thread.
Can we collect a list of original names of cities of India?

Sandy

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Anindya » 21 May 2003 07:48

NOt quite Charnock's Calcutta

JOB CHARNOCK is credited with having founded Calcutta, now Kolkata, in 1690. But excavations conducted recently by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Dumdum, near the location of the Kolkata airport, indicate that an advanced urban civilisation flourished in the region long before the chief of the East India Company got there.

According to informed ASI sources, seals, semi-precious stones and terracotta and stone figurines unearthed from the site belong to the Sunga-Kusana period. "It is fascinating that where Kolkata now stands such an ancient civilisation existed,'' Bimal Bandhopadhyay, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Kolkata, told Frontline.


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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sridhar » 21 May 2003 08:19

I was just thinking about the assertions of Kaushal that the Congress Government named roads after Mughal Kings in order to prove its secular credentials.

All the roads in Delhi named after Mughal Kings have been proved to have been named in pre-independence days (Well all except Aurangzeb, the road after whose name I know for a fact was named before 1947 and shall prove so when I get the right source). I was trying to think - is there any other major city in India with roads named after any of these Kings? I could not think of any in the cities that I have lived in, including the other metro cities.

Can we have these assertions backed by some evidence please?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Arvind » 21 May 2003 09:23

When is the earliest archeological evidence in these cities dated to? References would be appreciated.
Two reliable methods have been used to date the Indus civilization.
1) The Mesopotamian frame work: The Extensive work in Mesopotamia has resulted in a detailed caliberation of its entire urban sequence. So an object from an alien civilization found in Mesopotamia can be dated based on the Mesopotamian level it was recovered from.
The first Indus seals in Meso occur in the 2600 BC level of Ur. The last Indus seals occur from the Kassite level 1300-1400 BC

2) radioCarbon dates: Huge number of carbon dates have been obtained from Harappa, Kalibangan, Lothal, Surkotada and Shortugai. These date to 2000-2800 with the central tendency around 2500BC.
Those from Hulas and Bhagawanpura date to around 1200-1300BC.

So we may say that the date from the two methods are consistent.

references:
archaeology of Indian cities

India an archaeological history

Lal's book

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Ashutosh » 21 May 2003 09:42

Aren't Pataliputra, Hastinapur, Bhubaneshwar and Panipat amongst the oldest cities?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Gudakesa » 21 May 2003 10:15

Present day Patna is among the most ancient cities in India which has been continuously inhabited. As Pataliputra, it has been the centre of some of India's greatest empires.

Takshasila is in present day Pakistan. Hopefully its heritage will not be entirely destroyed.

Down south, Madurai is of considerable antiquity. And I think, so is Kumbakonam. Delhi is also very old and is reputed to be the present day successor of Indraprastha. Then there are Benaras or Kashi or Varanasi, and Somnath. Kashi is also among the oldest cities in India. Sarnath where the Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment is about 14 Kms from Benaras.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sai » 21 May 2003 11:02

Excellent topic.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Anindya » 21 May 2003 11:09

What are the approximate dates for the earliest structures in Patna (pataliputra)?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby ramana » 21 May 2003 11:09

Sridhar, Teen Murti Marg housed the Commander-in Chief of the British Indian Army. After Independence it became PM J.L. Nehru's residence.
The Teen Murti are the soldiers from Indian Army. Prior to 1947 it was the Commander-in Chief's House?

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Kedar » 21 May 2003 11:17

Originally posted by GGanesh:
Excellent thread.

Does anyone know the oldest contemporary city in India?
I remember my brother telling me from a book he read that Damascus was the oldest and Varanasi the second oldest cities in the world.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Sai » 21 May 2003 11:21

Queen Mary's College, which Dr JJ wanted to pull down to make way for a new secretariat. The High Court stopped the demolition. There's a petition on the net against its demolition.

http://www.blonnet.com/2003/04/05/stories/2003040501061700.htm

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Kedar » 21 May 2003 11:25

Originally posted by Sridhar:
Originally posted by Kedar Bhandary:
[b]Delhi is it Gole Dakkhana (Circular Post Office) by any chanc?
I am not 100% certain of the location, but the only line in Delhi circa 1963 was from Red Fort to Chawri Bazar, partly on Chandni Chowk. It does not look like Chandni Chowk, so I can only guess that this is somewhere in the Chawri Bazar area. Or perhaps somewhere on Chandni Chowk that looked very very different from today (unlikely since most buildings there are really old). Only possibility on Chandni Chowk is near the Town Hall (current MCD HQ).[/b]
Sridhar, that was my second thought (Town Hall) near Chandni Chowk. Holy Sh!t that was Chandni Chowk. However, on third thoughts it is starting to look like the modern day Asaf Ali Road, Turkman Gate, Ajmeri Gate area.

BTW, an excellent topic.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Kaushal » 21 May 2003 11:39

So what am to make out of your assertions?

I stand corrected.

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Re: Histories of Cities in India

Postby Kaushal » 21 May 2003 12:07

Does anyone know the oldest contemporary city in India?

Ayodhya is clearly one of the oldest contemporary cities.


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