On the margs
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Aurangzeb Road, rest in peace. In August 2015, the New Delhi Municipal Council decided to rename this central Delhi road in honour of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who died on 27 July.
The road was once home to Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. According to newspaper reports, the demand to rename it came from East Delhi’s MP, Maheish Girri, of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Indian Express reported him as saying: “Whenever we remember (Mughal emperor) Aurangzeb, we think about cruelty and torture. We do not want to be reminded of that. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on the other hand, is known for his love for the nation, his loyalty to the country, his generosity and kindness. We need to correct the mistakes made in our history.”
The Delhi Walla gives you a list of such “corrections”, and of some roads that still retain their original names.
Dr Bishambar Das Marg, earlier Allenby Road
It is named after a Punjab-born doctor who popularized homoeopathy in the country. The road initially got its name from British field marshal Edmund Allenby, remembered for his role in West Asia during World War I.
Tees January Marg, earlier Albuquerque Road
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in the premises of a bungalow on this road. The name commemorates that date. The initial name came from Afonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese governor of Goa in the 16th century.
Bangla Sahib Marg, earlier Baird Road
It was originally named after General David Baird, who was the subject of the famous 1839 painting General Sir David Baird Discovering The Body Of Sultan Tippoo Sahib After Having Captured Seringapatam (4 May 1799), by David Wilkie. Its present name comes from the well-known gurdwara situated here.
Subramania Bharti Marg, earlier Cornwallis Road
This road in front of Khan Market was named after a British governor general. It takes its current name from the early 20th century Tamil poet, whose statue is a short walk away from the elegant Sujan Singh Park.
Rajaji Marg, earlier King George’s Avenue
Once named after the English monarch, it was home to Kalam. Its current name commemorates Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, India’s last governor general.
Amrita Shergil Marg, earlier Ratendone Road
It runs along one side of Lodhi Garden, which was once called Lady Willingdon Park. The road was named after her son, the marquis of Ratendone. It was renamed in honour of Amrita Sher-Gil, the celebrated painter who died young, at 28. It is one of Delhi’s most exclusive residential neighbourhoods. In summer, when the amaltas bloom, the road turns golden yellow.
Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg, earlier Circular Road
It runs along the historic Ramlila Maidan. The road is a short walk away from both Old Delhi’s Turkman Gate and New Delhi’s Connaught Place.
Thyagaraja Marg, earlier Clive Road
This road commemorates the great 18th century Carnatic music composer. It was initially named after Robert Clive, described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as the “first British administrator of Bengal, who was one of the creators of British power in India”.
Balwant Rai Mehta Lane, earlier Curzon Lane
A quiet side lane named after Gujarat’s second chief minister, it took its first name from the British viceroy who oversaw the partition of Bengal.
Kasturba Gandhi Marg, earlier Curzon Road
The British Council, American Center and Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan are on this road. It was renamed after Mahatma Gandhi’s wife, though many people still refer to it as Curzon Road.
Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, earlier part of Mathura Road
Named after the last Mughal emperor, who died in exile, it is sometimes called Delhi’s Fleet Street because it’s home to several newspaper offices. Not many know of the large graveyard nearby.
Tilak Marg, earlier Hardinge Avenue
Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar lived here as the country’s first law minister. It was first named after a British viceroy who served in India during the historic Delhi Durbar in 1911, when the capital was shifted from Kolkata. It is now named after freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Kali Bari Marg, earlier Havelock Road
Henry Havelock was a British general who recaptured Kanpur during the 1857 rebellion. The current name comes from a Kali temple dating back to the 1930s.
Baba Kharak Singh Marg, earlier Irwin Road
Irwin was a viceroy. Kharak Singh was a freedom fighter. The most popular landmarks here are the state emporia and the Hanuman temple.
Tolstoy Marg, earlier Keeling Road
Hugh Keeling was the chief engineer of New Delhi. Its name was changed to honour Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, whose statue stands at the starting point of the road, on Janpath.
Maulana Azad Road, earlier King Edward Road
Currently named after India’s first education minister and freedom movement stalwart, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the tree-lined avenue is home to the vice-president.
Rajpath, earlier Kingsway
This is the site of the Republic Day parade. King George V’s statue used to be one of the landmarks, apart from India Gate of course, but it was shifted after independence.
Sardar Patel Marg, earlier Kitchener Road
This road overlooks a part of the Ridge. Home to a number of state bhavans, and the Taj Palace and ITC Maurya hotels, it was originally named after a British military leader. It now commemorates “Iron Man” Vallabhbhai Patel.
Vivekanand Marg, earlier Minto Road
Most famous for its railway overbridge, this road was renamed after the Hindu reformer, though most Delhiites still know it as Minto Road. There were two colonial-era Mintos in India. One was a governor general; the other was his grandson, a viceroy.
Rafi Marg, earlier Old Mill Road
It got its name from a flour mill in the area and was renamed in memory of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, a minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet.
Janpath, earlier Queen’s Way
The royal-sounding title was later democratized—the name literally means “people’s way”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence is on this road.
Shrimant Madhavrao Scindia Marg, earlier part of Canning Road
It was named after a governor general who served in India during the 1857 rebellion. The section was renamed in memory of Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, who died in a helicopter crash in 2001.
Mandir Marg, earlier Reading Road
Lord Reading, or Rufus Daniel Isaacs, was British India’s only Jewish viceroy. Now the road takes its name from the famous Laxmi Narayan Temple, also known as Birla Mandir.
Teen Murti Marg, earlier Roberts Road
Robert Tor Russell was the British architect of Connaught Place, who also designed Flagstaff House on this very road. Renamed Teen Murti Bhavan, this became the residence of Nehru, the first prime minister.
Sham Nath Marg, earlier Alipur Road
Sham Nath was a deputy minister for the railways in the 1960s. Ambedkar spent his last days in a bungalow on this road. The prettiest building here is the colonial-era Maidens Hotel.
Rani Jhansi Road, earlier Mutiny Memorial Road
A memorial here commemorates the lives lost during the 1857 rebellion. This road now memorializes the heroism of the 19th century queen, Lakshmibai.
Vishwavidalaya Marg, earlier Circuit House Road
Its current name reflects its proximity to Delhi University.
Raj Niwas Marg, earlier Ludlow Castle Road
It is home to Raj Niwas, the official residence of Delhi’s lieutenant governor. The road got its earlier name from a 19th century mansion that was also the home of Simon Fraser, the commissioner of Delhi, who was killed in the 1857 rebellion.
Ansari Road, earlier Darya Ganj Road
Bordering the eastern side of Daryaganj, its name honours Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, a freedom fighter who lived there. It’s famous now as a publishing hub.
Netaji Subhash Marg, earlier Elgin Road
Named after a British viceroy, it runs along the scenic Red Fort ramparts. In the 1940s, a treason trial behind those walls put members of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army in the dock.
Swami Shradhanand Marg, earlier Garstin Bastion Road
Built by the British in the 19th century as part of a series of bastioned fronts for the defence of Delhi, it is today a red-light district. Swami Shraddhanand was a social reformer—his statue in Chandni Chowk replaced Queen Victoria’s.
The revolution must start from this road