New Delhi 1912 Imperial Axis of Delhi

Delhi 1912 Imperial axis: Palace, Obelisk and Triumphal Arch

The Imperial axis was always constructed and seen in various European cities to represent the Imperial and military power as well as dominance.

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In Imperial Delhi, Sir Edwin Lutyens, British architect in charge of the construction of the new Capital City, designed a Neo Classical imperial axis; the King’s way. In the plan of the city, one principal axis started from the dome of the Viceroy’s house on the Raisina Hill to Shah Jahan’s Friday Mosque. At 60 degrees to this, the ceremonial axis of the capital City, the King’s way extended out towards the east. On each side of the King’s way axis, the Secretariat buildings were symmetrically placed. In other European countries, the imperial axis is places with three fixed points. For example, in Paris they placed the palace (Louvre), obelisk and triumphal arch. However, Lutyens did not place an obelisk but rather a column like element of the Trajan’s; the Jaipur Column, in between the two fixed points of the palace and the triumphal arch.

The central axis; the King’s way symbolizes the Imperial Raj as it extends from the Imperial Palace. It branches off from the King’s way in a complex pattern of hexagons and triangles and linking its way through monuments. The Lutyens’ plan and extension of axis provided an aesthetic strategy as stated by Lord Hardinge, “acceding to Indian sensibilities in order to maintain British rule.” He was determined to express British supremacy with the elevated location of the Imperial palace and government buildings by connecting all buildings through the central axis.

These imperial axis was utilized as avenues where resplendent army could march through the grand open space. Symbolically, these avenues and boulevards stood as an announcement of the British rule. Additionally, in practical sense, such wide boulevards allowed the authorities to efficiently control the events of disorder of the public.

1.Andreas Volwahsen, Imperial Delhi: The British Capital of the Indian Empire (Munich: Prestel, 2002), 216

2.Final Report of the Delhi Town Planning Committee regarding the selected site, Delhi 1913, p.6.

3.Vale, Lawrence J. Architecture, Power and National Identity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992

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