Delhi 14 Historic Walks by Swapna Liddle
Delhi 14 Historic Walks is a book that I would have wanted to write. Based on my experiences of walking around the Indian cities and Delhi, in particular. Is that there is no end to the amount of history that city holds in its layers and the sheer vastness and diversity that lives within its seemingly limitless limits. Having said that Swapna Liddle has been conducting these historical walks for INTACH for many years now. And is one of the historians who focus specifically on the city.
14 walks cover the historical places, mostly the past cities of Delhi from the time of Sultanate period to the British era. They take you through the three world heritage site complexes of Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutab Minar. They take you through the popular places like Lodhi Garden, Chandni Chowk, and Central Vista. Then there are known but not so visited places like Hauz Khas, Purana Qila, Nizamuddin, and Kashmiri gate. Then there are places you know exist but never thought of them as historical places like Mehrauli, Tughlaqabad, Satpula & Khirki. Between them, they cover the vast expanse of Delhi physically and historically.
Each walk covers an area, sometimes walkable, sometimes a bit more than that. An overall map tells you the orientation of the walk. A fact sheet lets you know the ticket information, timings, and nearest metro station. There are black and white photographs accompanying the text that begins by telling you the brief history of the area and the people who ruled from this place. The walk takes you through a path and asks you to look left and right. Take note of special things and look at places that hold some story or some peculiarity. It tells you about architecture, about the buildings that are there and those that were there but no longer exist. The story behind names and the various periods that co-exist in the same premises.
One complaint that I have is that this book also talks about the history of Delhi beginning with the Sultanate period. It stays clear of anything that existed before that period. For example, there are a few temples that are old. And must find a mention in the cities history. Like Mehrauli’s Dadabari temple from the time when the city was called Yoginipura. Or Surajkund area, which was inhabited by the Tomars. I agree there may not be much to see there. But then is there so much to see in say Jahanpanah area. Of course, these are personal judgments. But I think most historians and tourism offices ignore Pre-Islamic Delhi. Another irony is that none of the walks ever take you to the Yamuna, which is the oldest living entity in the city. And on the banks it almost all cities were planned.
Delhi 14 Historic Walks by Swapna Liddle is a field book that you can take along with you when you go for a walk and refer it as you walk. For world heritage sites, I strongly recommend ASI guides as they explain everything about these monuments very well. For other walks this is a good book.
How you find this book depends on how much you enjoy the walks in the city.