City Walk – Raisina Hill Walk, Central Delhi
Into the heart of the governing elite.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The 2019 General Election results will be out later this month. By then we’ll have a clear idea of who would be ruling upon us for the next five years.
In the meantime, one way of commemorating the sun setting on the current 16th Lok Sabha is by taking a sunset walk into the political heart of India’s ruling elite. Raisina Hill is a colonial-era edifice fashioned out of sandstone. In the early 20th century, a village of this name was relocated by the British to build Viceroy House, which was renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan upon becoming the official residence of the president. The best way to approach Raisina Hill is to start your walk from India Gate, the 138 foot-high memorial arch. Clearly inspired from the 4th century Arch of Constantine in Rome, it was designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1931— this year is the architect’s 150th birth anniversary.
With the names of 13,516 martyred soldiers etched on its arch, India Gate is connected to Rashtrapati Bhavan by the 2.4 km-long Rajpath, the principal route of the annual Republic Day parade.
As you walk up the Raisina Hill, the approaching Rashtrapati Bhavan plays hideand-seek. It initially begins to disappear from view. By the time you reach the vast square of Vijay Chowk, you only see the dome.
The upward slope finally ends into a flattened top, teeming with selfie-seeking tourists.
On the left of Rajpath is South Block, home to the Prime Minister’s office and of the external affairs and defence ministries; on the right is the North Block, which houses the ministries of finance and home. With picturesque columns and domes, these buildings were designed not by Lutyens, but by the lesser-known Herbet Baker, who worked with him.
This summer evening the sun-soaked air is fused with a cool gentle breeze. A Tamilspeaking tourist is excitedly showing the views to his wife in Chennai through a WhatsApp video. Nearby, two girls are playing hide-and-seek around their father’s legs, showing no interest in the great monuments.
The most arresting sight, nevertheless, is of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Until five years ago, you could reach up to its ornate gate. But now, the access is blocked by a police barricade. That doesn’t spoil the view though. In the backdrop of the sinking sun, the giant columns of the Presidential Palace turn into papery silhouettes. The sight is poignantly majestic, like a farewell ceremony for our democratically deposed MPs.
People’s power trip