The Making and Remaking of Connaught Place

Connaught Place is one of the poshest and most well connected markets of Delhi. More commonly known as CP, this market was constructed to mark the opening site of Lutyen’s Delhi (what was then known as New Delhi). From being the pride of British Government’s newly constructed capital city in India, this market has sure come a long way. Today it is the world’s fourth most expensive destination in the world. In terms of real estate, it is the fifth highest priced market in the whole wide world! In the next few lines we share with you the story of how this transformation occurred.

Whilst Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker were occupied with designing other parts of the last city of Delhi, the responsibility of designing this market fell upon Robert Tor Russell, the then chief architect of the Public Works Department. Based on the outlines made by W.H. Nichollas the architecture of this market was modeled after the Royal Crescent Bath of England. Of course back in 1933 when its construction was finally completed, the people of Delhi still preferred the culturally rich tastes of Shahjahanabad. Gradually the picture began to change. It was named after the first Prince Arthur, who was also the first Duke of Connaught, besides being the third son of Queen Victoria. Some of the first commercial stores opened in this market were by traders from Old Delhi like Keventers, Galgotia, and Snow white. One of India’s pioneering footwear chains, the Balujas had in fact opened their store in 1931 in spite of the market’s construction being incomplete then! An eatery that still continues to remain popular with food lovers is Wengers. It was established by a Swiss couple for providing homemade pastries and Swiss chocolates and earlier frequented mostly by the British rulers.

After independence, the first master plan of Delhi was formulated keeping in mind, among other goals, the promotion of Connaught place as a thriving business centre. Till the turn of the century, not many changes were introduced to the market. Its Inner Circle was renamed as ‘Rajiv Chowk’ after the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and outer circle named after Indira Gandhi as ‘Indira Chowk’ (the first woman Prime Minister of India). It was in fact the in the first decade of twenty first century when CP became the focus of a lot of new activities with the construction of the Delhi metro. Possibly keeping in line with the sensibilities of the architects of CP who ruled out the plan of constructing a railway station on top of the Central Park, the metro too constructed beneath it.

The remaking of CP began with the ‘Return to Heritage Project’ undertaken by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The plan was to restore its earlier glory by putting up heritage sensitive signage, improvement of roads, drainage and water supply, to finally prepare a bright and shining CP all set for the Commonwealth Games of 2010 held in Delhi. The two major sore points of that project were delay in completion and the congested traffic jams that the process caused. Both of course are long forgotten, while CP stands tall as the pride of Delhi.

Psst… the latest plans for CP include the introduction of central air-conditioning for the offices, extension of night timings for shops located in the inner circle, and a car free zone in night – the last two specifically with the aim of encouraging the renewal of CP’s night life!

Nearest Metro Station: Rajiv Chowk

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