Delhi: Kashmere Gate

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St James' Church, Kashmere Gate, Delhi; Picture courtesy: The Times of India, Jul 03 2016
A history, St James' Church, Kashmere Gate, Delhi; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Jul 03 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Dara Shikoh's library


Mohammad Ibrar, Dara Shukoh's library to get fresh lease of life, April 3, 2017: The Times of India

Before being killed in a battle of succession by his brother, Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shahjahan, known as a man of intellectual pursuits, had established a library in 1637 near Kashmere Gate.

The books have long been lost, but the building stands even today . Last month, the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) began work to restore the historic edifice to its former glory .

After the prince's death, the library building changed hands several times. According to historian Swapna Liddle, it was given to Donna Juliana, the Portuguese governess of the roy al Mughal children and the name behind Sarai Julena near Jamia Millia Islamia. It remained in her family till Nawab Safdarjung purchased it in mid-18th century .

After that, the building morphed into the first British residency occupied by Sir David Ochterlony and then in subsequent years into a government college, a municipal school, office of the state archaeology department and finally into an archaeological museum.

Liddle said that Ochterlony , after buying the building with personal funds, transformed it by incorporating European features while revamping the building. “The original fluted pillars and arches were covered over to produce a façade of pillars in the neoclassical style,“ explained Liddle.

The building is unique for the mix of Mughal architectural features, such as baluster columns and scalloped arches, and colonial additions like the Roman pillars with Ionic capitals. “INTACH hopes to conserve this unique hybrid of architectural styles,“ said Liddle. The series of columns and arches found on the lower level constitute what was perhaps the Qutub Khana, or library , which originally housed the books, most of which were destroyed after the events of 1857.

In 2011, the Sheila Dikshit government decided to convert the library into a city museum in collaboration with INTACH with “the intention of preserving and promoting cultural heritage“. The state archaeology department will display around 2,200 artefacts, including excavated coins, stones and other antiquities from ancient and medieval times.


Mohammad Ibrar, April 10, 2021: The Times of India

In 2021 the Dara Shikoh Library became the Partition Museum of Delhi
From: Mohammad Ibrar, April 10, 2021: The Times of India

All this time, the Dara Shikoh Library has had an unnoticed existence on the Kashmere Gate campus of Ambedkar University Delhi. It lay hidden behind British columns and a large roof, looking more like a colonial building than a Mughal structure. Now after four years of conservation work, the building stands ready to be resurrected as the Partition Museum of Delhi.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) began work to conserve the structure in March 2017 and now there are only the final touches to be administered.

Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, was known for his intellectual pursuits and had established a library in 1637 near Kashmere Gate. He was killed in battle for power by his younger brother and later emperor Aurangzeb.

According to Intach engineer Sagar, the lime plastering on the Mughal structure had completely eroded. “The building has a history of adaptive reuse, including as an office. Now, since it is to become a museum, we are making some more changes,” said Sagar.

Before its transformation into a cultural space with three museums, one on the Partition, another housing Delhi’s historical artefacts and the third on Dara Shikoh himself, the library saw a chequered history. After the death of the prince in battle, the building was given to Donna Juliana, the Portuguese governess of the royal Mughal children after whom Sarai Julena near Jamia Millia Islamia is named. Then it came into the possession of Mughal elite Nawab Safdarjung and later of Sir David Ochterlony, British resident to the Mughal court. The building also housed a government college, a municipal school and the office of the state archaeology department.

Sagar explained that the conservation project involved keeping intact the Mughal and the colonial features. “The Mughal arches are what remain of the original building. We strengthened and cleaned the structure. We also strengthened the wall built with lakhori bricks at the rear, filling in the gaps there,” the engineer said. Toilets will be installed, the backyard will be developed, and landscaping will be done at the front.

According to Kishwar Desai, chair of The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which will develop the Partition Museum as part of the government of India’s Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan project, “the idea is to turn the historical complex into a cultural hub. She said that using the library space will honour its history.

The Partition Museum is being created and, according to Desai, will be Daastaan-e-Dilli, in which the city will be showcased “in three phases of its evolution”. Desai added that discussions were going on about the creation of a separate entrance for the museum and for collaboration with the AUD faculty.

2023: museum

Anuja Jaiswal, May 6, 2023: The Times of India

Museum at Dara Shikoh library
From: Anuja Jaiswal, May 6, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi: For thousands of Delhiites who have gone through the pain of Partition in 1947, it will be a walk down the memory lane when they visit the world’s second museum on Partition of India at Delhi’s Dara Shikoh library building. For their descendants, it will be an opportunity to see what their parents and grandparents had suffered and a lesson in history about the world’s largest migration.

The purpose of the museum, to be inaugurated on May 18, is to connect people with their past. It will also give visitors a sense of heritage. “History is important and the young generation should learn from the past and should not repeat the mistakes,” said the chairperson of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, Kishwar Desai. Lakhs of people were killed and displaced during Partition and people need to remember that such violence should never happen, she added.

The work started three years ago and lots of efforts have turned the museum, full of belongings of people who witnessed Partition, into a place depicting that time. “We gave the plan of adaptive reuse of the building to Delhi government and we were asked to set up the museum,” Desai said.

In the introduction gallery, old newspapers have been displayed to tell why Partition happened and what was happening during this period. “Three lakhs of Hindu and Sikh refugees migrated within a week,” she said.

“Delhi became a huge refugee camp. Whether it was Khan Market, Nizamuddin, Lajpat Nagar, Karol Bagh or Kingsway Camp. . . slowly they became colonies as they got regularised. Most of the monuments in Delhi were also used by refugees during this period,” Desai said. Delhi has been chosen to set up the second museum as 80% of its residents has some connection with Partition whether they are Punjabis, Bengalis, Sindhis or from any other community, she added. The first museum is housed in Amritsar.

A wooden sculpture of a horse loaded with skeleton and bones made in paper mache style by Kashmi- ri artist Veer Munshi conveys the pain of people during the migration. In a few audio-visual clips, Delhi residents who decided to stay back narrated their experiences — what they saw, what happened to them, the day of Independence.

Rehabilitation was also not easy and this struggle has been depicted through a wooden “fallen house” made by Munshi. Even when a person tries to resettle, his/her house has actually fallen apart, Desai pointed out. Among the showcased items are a commendation certificate that was granted to a policeman in Lahore for good work done to control the Congress agitation in August 1942 and a passport copy used for commuting between India and Pakistan in the initial days. Then there’s a wedding card, a family’s memory of the last peaceful ceremony in Lahore before the country was divided.

The museum also tries to offer a virtual reality experience of what happened inside trains that were often attacked while travelling to and from Pakistan. Scattered bangles, clothes, shoes, blood spots have been used to portray the pain of losing near and dear ones.

A gallery on refugees shows the condition of camps in Delhi with the visuals of Purana Qila crowded with people. Their only identity was a ration card, which is also on display. A sculpture shows the struggle to start rebuilding a home while carrying everything together on a cycle.

The museum will have a souvenir shop and a letterbox where visitors can express their feelings through a post card. A photograph of flowers inside guns says what Partition should have taught us — there should be no violence.

Notorious Market

AlokKNMishra, Auto spare parts for a fraction of `original' price popular with buyers, Jan 1, 2017: The Times of India

When TOI visited the shops in the automotive hub at Kashmere Gate, it found Made in Taiwan taillights of a Honda City available for Rs 2,500 when it costs Rs 6,500 at a showroom. Brake pads of a Skoda Superb, which, according to a trader, are listed at Rs 25,000 at the showroom, were available for a tenth of the amount.

Satbir Singh, general secretary , Automotive General Traders Welfare Association (AGTWA), a body of tractor spare parts dealers, pointed out that the price of a clutch assembly at the showroom of a top tractor brand is Rs 25,000, but the same product is available at Ram Bazaar or Mori Gate for Rs 12,000.

The prolific sale in cheap spares bearing the name and logo of auto companies here has led to the market being pulled up as a “Notorious Market“ by the United States Trade Representative. There are around 25,000 spare parts stalls Kashmere Gate, Panja Sharif, Ram Bazaar and Mori Gate. The combined turnover of these shops is reportedly around Rs 5,000 crore annually . That is money that should legitimately have gone into the accounts of the genuine auto part makers.

While some concede that among the products available here are counterfeits, mostly from China, the market also sells genuine wares, products from original equipment manufacturers and locally made products. Kawaljeet Singh, executive member, Delhi Motor Traders Association, said it was mostly in Panja Sharif that duplicates were sold. But he resented the area being designated a “notorious market“ because, he pointed out, some of the spare parts shops are registered with India's Directorate General of Foreign Trade for the export of locally made products to Latin American and South African countries.Description: https:ssl. gstatic.comuiv1iconsmailimagescleardot.gif The Automotive Parts Merchants Association also found the listing demeaning and has planned a meeting of the governing council next week to discuss the issue, said its general secretary Vishnu Bhargav. Niranjan Poddar, president of AGTWA, argued that branding the entire market as a hub of spurious prod ucts just because a few engaged in sale of dupli cates was unfair.

But police, of course, have a different story.

Unlike in Gandhi Na gar, also hauled up by the USTR for across-the board trademark viola tions by apparel sellers, the cops regularly raid shops for selling fake products in Kashmere Gate.“Our investigative units keep a check on these shops. We have confiscated counterfeits earlier. Even last week, we carried out raids,“ said an officer at the Kashmere Gate police station.

The temptation of having to pay less for a spare part brings thousands to Kashmere Gate. Automotive spares and accessories -whether it is for a small passenger car or high-end vehicle -are more than 50% cheaper here than in dealerships and at showrooms.These cheap products are sourced from China, Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea. They look like genuine spare parts and often bear the brand and logo of automobile manufacturers.

St James' Church

The Times of India, Jul 03 2016

Richi Verma 

St James' Church, Kashmere Gate, Delhi- restoration (Phase-I and Phase-II), as in December 2017
From: Richi Verma, Why revamp of city’s oldest church is stuck midway, December 25, 2017: The Times of India

St James' Church in Kash mere Gate isn't just the oldest church in Delhi, it's also pivotal to the cap ital's history. Established by Colonel James Skinner in the early 19th century, the church has stood proud for over a century and a half, surviving even the battering it received during the Revolt of 1857. But age is finally catching up with this first protestant church of Delhi. The church's facade has been damaged by water seepage and missing mouldings; there are cracks in the building and the red sandstone flooring has also seen rapid deterioration. Naturally, the managing committee is worried.

Intach Delhi chapter has prepared a detailed project report on the problems faced by St James church. “The most important step is to strengthen the building and its foundation. This is critical as the metro corridor near the church will start by the year-end. We do not know what will be the effect of vibrations. We have suggested a few measures to safeguard the building,“ said an official.

Members of the church congre gation said it was necessary to have a complete overhaul. “Over the years, there has been steady decay, and strengthening the foundation is a priority. We are highly concerned about the impact of metro vibration. Delhi Metro has built two underground tunnels in front of the church. While DMRC has assured us that the line will have no impact on the church building, we want to be doubly cautious. Once the trains start running at a twominute frequency in each direction, we wo r r y i t w i l l cause tremors that could affect the church. Even though DMRC says with modern technology, there will be no impact on the church, we are the custodians of this church and we want to our own assessment. So we asked Intach to prepare a report on the condition of the grounds around the metro tunnel and the possible effect on the church,“ said a senior member of the church committee.

“Extensive instrumentation and real-time monitoring was done to check the effect of vibrations or damage to the structure during tunnelling in this stretch. DMRC has taken a lot of measures to ensure that tunnelling progresses smoothly without disturbing the church,“ said a DMRC spokesperson.

Checking the effect of vibration is a priority for the church; water damage is another problem that must be addressed.

“The church's proximity to the Yamuna and a high underground water table has made it vulnerable to water damage. There is seepage through the walls and pillars that has damaged the facade,“ said a church member.

The Intach report lists the problem of water accumulating around the church, particularly during the rains. “We need to ensure water doesn't accumulate around the building, as that leads to seepage and damages the building. The terrace also needs water-proofing,“ said an Intach official.

Other problem areas are cracks in the terracotta balustrades, weakening of pillars due to water damage and rusting of iron rafters. The memorial plaques need cleaning too. The DPR submitted in April focuses on strengthening the building to reduce effect of vibrations and overall conservation of the building. The project is expected to start in September.

“The next major step is to get funds. The DPR has a budget of Rs 3.5 crore and our annual budget is a fraction of that. The church has just 200 mem bers and our only source of funds is contri butions. We will soon launch a collection drive and appeal to international agencies, representa tives of Commonwealth countries, British High Commission, Christian institutions and anyone who has a link with us. We also plan to approach the Delhi gover nment and LG office.In 1995, the LG had contributed Rs 20 lakh for conservation,“ said senior member of the church committee.

July-Dec 2017/ Conservation work halted

Richi Verma, Why revamp of city’s oldest church is stuck midway, December 25, 2017: The Times of India

Work on conserving the capital’s oldest church at Kashmere Gate has halted for six months now. After the first phase of work, financed by the Rs 50 lakh that the St James’ Church committee managed, was completed, there are no funds for resuming the restoration. With the entire project requiring Rs 3.7 crore, the church committee and conservation agency Intach have approached several agencies for financial assistance.

Built by British army officer James Skinner in early 19th century, the church suffered problems like water seepage, cracks on the walls and rapid deterioration of the red sandstone flooring. The restoration was divided into two phases, with the first effort involving areas that needed immediate attention, such as consolidating the building.

The focus has now shifted to the second phase, which necessitates work on the superstructure of the building and the seepage. “The terrace is one area where immediate work is critical. There are reports of water seepage there that needs to be managed,” said an Intach official.

The heritage conservation agency has appealed for funds, pointing out how “St James’ Church, the oldest church of Delhi, is a designated heritage building”, and recognised as such by Delhi government on February 25, 2010. The appeal letter says, “Based on Intach’s detailed project report on conservation plans for the church, phase 1A work was carried out over the period March to July 2017 at a cost of Rs 50 lakh. This was achieved through the financial reserves of the church and from donations by its members and others. An important concern now is to enable the funding of the rest of the work in the project.”

Intach said that St James’ Church occupied an important place in the cultural map of Delhi. The neighbourhood of Kashmere Gate, during Mughal times, was home to grand mansions such as the haveli of the prince Dara Shukoh. “Today, despite some neglect, this area has great potential for revival as a hub of cultural, recreational and commercial activities. The restoration of St James’ Church will not only be an important showcase of conservation work in Delhi, it can prove to be a catalyst in reviving this important historic neighbourhood,” the Intach letter says.

Members of the church committee reported approaching the lieutenant governor’s office and Delhi Metro for funds. “We have asked Delhi Metro to assist us after spending around Rs 50 lakh to stabilise the churchfoundation since there are two metro tunnels now running under the church,” explained a committee member. “The DMRC report says the tunnels will not affect the building. We are not disputing the report, but still have long-term concerns. We require and additional Rs 20 lakh to further stabilise the church building.”

As in 2023

May 28, 2023: The Times of India

St James’ Church is one of the oldest churches in the city and is part of the churches of North India Diocese of Delhi. Restoration of the church assumes great significance as this area has close proximity with several historical monuments in Old Delhi and are frequently visited by thousands of visitors every day.

According to officials, the conservation work at the interior and exterior of the main building and on the parapet at the terrace level is in progress with the permission of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The church and its complex cover a total of 10 acres. The present compound of the church has a rectilinear form and the building is situated in the centre. The cemetery lies in the northern part and contains graves of the members of Skinner’s family and many important personalities of Delhi. With the widening of Lothian Road in 1914, the church compound lost 3,500 square ft area.

The church is based on a Greek cross plan with a fine colonial classical architecture and a Florentine dome. The compound walls have four gateways which lead up to the church through driveways.

Earlier used as servant’s quarters, those rooms are being used as storage space at present. The toilet block also lies in this row of rooms. The old people’s home and the Parish Hall were added within the complex during the time of Reverend Robinson in 1940. These two structures were designed by architect Walter George who’s been instrumental in helping Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in designing the capital city. The southern side of the complex was built upon with a two-storey building having four different units in 1957.

This continues to be used as the priest’s residence along with offices of Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The boundary wall of the church complex is made in brick masonry and has been drastically changed with time. Considering the attempts of theft and other security reasons, the height of the new boundary wall has also been increased.

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