This intriguing plan depicts ‘Old Delhi’ as it appeared during the Great Uprising of 1857. While the Delhi region had been settled as early as the 6th Century BC, the city went through numerous reincarnations. Delhi as depicted here was founded in 1638 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in order to serve as his new capital city. Named as Shahjahanabad it was comprised of seven square miles enclosed by great walls. The city was dominated by the colossal Red Fort, the imperial palace constructed in 1648, that straddles the ‘Jumna’ (Yamuna) River, in the lower part of the plan. The rest of the city was composed of a dense warren of streets interrupted by a few broad avenues, fine gardens and magnificent mosques.
While Delhi remained the Mughal capital until 1858, its role diminished during the 18th and early 19th Centuries along with the fortunes of the Empire. It was captured several times by the other powers, including the Marathas and the Sikhs. In 1803, the East India Company (EIC) created a Residency Compound in the northeastern part of the city (lower right of map) and over time the British presence around the city increased. By 1857 Delhi had a population of around 200,000 and was still major centre, although its role in India’s affairs was one of faded grandeur.
Delhi regained it place in the spotlight during the Uprising of 1857, when the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II and many local Indian factions rebelled against EIC rule and violently expelled the British from Delhi. A large British force besieged the city from June 8 to September 21, 1857, and only managed tor regain control of Delhi with great difficulty. In 1858 Delhi was placed under direct British Crown rule and became an important regional centre. In 1911, the British named Delhi as the future capital of India, a role realized upon the completion of New Delhi in 1931.