It’s a Walkover

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 Fourteen Historic Walks in Delhi by Swapna Liddle, book reviewThey say the best way to get to know a city is to walk through it and there are many Delhis to walk through since it is like an onion, city within city, with the hallmarks of different conquerors, culminating in Lutyen’s city. A hundred years ago, Delhi had not spread beyond the protecting walls of Shahjahanabad, the city Shahjahan built as his capital in 1638 and the population was just about one lakh. Now that area is known as Old Delhi and lacks the grandeur of the city that the British built but it had its own quirky character, tastes and alleyways.

On the anniversary of Delhi’s centenary as India’s capital, came this book on Delhi’s historic walks. Swapna Liddle, is an eminent historian whose PhD is on 19th century Delhi, and who has been conducting heritage walks in Delhi for Intach – coincidentally, she led a walk at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Secretariat to commemorate the anniversary. Fourteen Historic Walks in Delhi is designed for people who like to be their own guides, picking a route and exploring it, or for student groups out on a history project who want the monuments to physically come to life.

Liddle has done her homework on a thorough physical plane, pacing out each walk and noting the strong and weak points, when to climb stairs down to the water, or at what point to climb the stairs up to the platform of a tomb. She also has detailed information about the price of tickets, how to get to the place and if you take a car, where to park. There are also maps covering two pages and information about what kind of clothes to avoid when visiting the Jama Masjid.

She covers sites like Qutub Minar, Lodi Gardens, Red Fort, and Humayun’s Tomb and throws in intriguing snapshots of history. For example there is the story of Shaikh Nasiruddin Mahmud who wanted to build a step well in Delhi but was opposed by the Sultan Mohammed bin Tugluq since he was also busy building at the time. As a result people worked for the saint by night and when the Sultan refused them oil for their lamps, the saint’s power illuminated the water and won for himself the title Roshan Chirag-iDilli (Illuminated Lamp of Delhi). There many more similarly fascinating anecdotes which actually inspired Liddle’s sister to write a Mughul whodunit, some of them building related, some people related and some food related as in Liddle’s description of the alleys of Shajahanabad, including the famous parathewale galli.

Liddle’s text is written on a one to one basis and as befits a guidebook is no nonsense, easy to grasp and cheerful. For those new to Delhi or those who want to revisit old haunts, this is the ideal book.

Fourteen Historic Walks in Delhi by Swapna Liddle
Published by Westland in India


Buy book online
Buy book online
Fourteen Historic Walks in Delhi
by Swapna Liddle

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Written by Anjana Basu
Anjana Basu

Anjana Basu works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. In 2003, Harper Collins India brought out her novel Curses In Ivory. In 2004, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland where she worked on her second novel, Black Tongue, published by Roli in 2007. In February 2010. her children's novel Chinku and the Wolfboy was brought out by Roli. She writes features for travel magazines and reviews for Indian newspapers.

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