The transfer of capital from Calcutta to Delhi

The transfer of capital from Calcutta to Delhi


The idea of the transfer of capital form Calcutta to Delhi was first initiated by King George V during his visit to India in 1905-1906. From the British point of view, shifting of the capital can inevitably escape from the relatively unhealthy climate and political instability of Calcutta. In the search of the new capital of the British Raj, the most important aspect was to illustrate a clear and visible sign of the British dominance in India. Other than that, geographically Delhi was well drained and constituted of slopes and plains between the ridge and river, surrounded by historical monuments of past empires, and included all natural and historical elements of India. On 12 December 1911, King George V along with Queen Mary as their capacity as Emperor and empress of India announced that the capital of the Raj to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. He said “We are pleased to announce to our people that on the advice of our ministers, tendered after consultation with our Governor-general in council, we have decided upon the transfer of the seat of the Government of India from Calcutta to the ancient capital of Delhi – It is our earnest desire that these changes may conduce to the better administration of India and the greater prosperity of our beloved people”.[1]


After the shift of the capital is announced, the style of architecture and planning were one of the key aspect of the construction of Imperial Delhi. Herbert Baker, who were already advised to work with Edwin Lutyens in the construction of Imperial Delhi has said “The King’s Decree to build a new capital of India at Delhi brings into prominence the question of the style of architecture to be employed. It is a question of Imperial as well as of artistic importance.”


Follow the decision, the next challenge was the planning and construction of New Delhi. It was a new and unusual challenge for the British Empire. An international town planning competition was not considered, because the legitimate interests of the King must come first. Lord Crewe, was responsible for the plans of Imperial Delhi in London. On the other hand, in Delhi, it was with the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge was responsible for all decision making regarding of the selection of a suitable location for the series of new buildings. The architect must be a British, during that period of time, even Edwin Lutyens had not much success in town planning, he was the most favorite and successful architect to do the job[2]. Also, he was married to a daughter of a former Viceroy of India which opened the door for him. Lutyens offered his friend, Herbert Baker as an equal partner to work on the project[3]. Not only being friend with Lutyens qualified him, also his experiences in construction of government building. H.V. Lanchester has also been engaged as an extra consultant who Lutyens had tried to avoid from.




[1] The Imperial Publishing Co.: The Imperial Coronation Durbar (Illustrated), Lahore 1911, p6-7

[2] Volwahsen, A. Imperial Delhi The British Capital of the Indian Empire, Prestel, London 2002.

[3] Lutyen, M., Edwin Lutyens, by his daughter, London, 1980


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