Home > Delhi, Delhi Architecture, Delhi History, General > Coronation Park, Delhi, Site of three Delhi Durbars

Coronation Park, Delhi, Site of three Delhi Durbars

Coronation Park, Delhi

Site of three Delhi Durbars

Delhi Durbar meaning the court of Delhi, was an Indian imperial style mass assembly organised by the British at Coronation Park, Delhi, India, to mark the succession of an Emperor ad Empress of India. Also known as the Imperial Durbar, it was held three times, in 1877, 1903, and 1911.

The towering commemorative Obelisk of the third Delhi Durbar, Coronation Park, Delhi

The towering commemorative Obelisk of the third Delhi Durbar, Coronation Park, Delhi

First Durbar (1877): The first durbar, also known as the proclamation durbar, was held in Jan 1, 1877 to proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India. It was an initiative of Viceroy of India Lord Lytton (1876 – 80). The Durbar was an extravaganza of pomp and ceremony including a parade on a decorated elephant by Lord and Lady Lytton in the presence of nearly 70,000 people. The imperial gathering consisted of royalty from all the provinces of India and the most senior British dignitaries.

The towering Obelisk of, Coronation Park, Delhi

The towering Obelisk of, Coronation Park, Delhi

Second Durbar (1903): The second durbar was held at the same venue on Jan 1, 1903 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. It was an initiative of Viceroy of India Lord Curzon (1899 – 1905), who converted the drab and dry land of the park into a virtual tented city by establishing huge encampments with colourful tents.

In this city of tents there was a variety of infrastructure including water, drainage, sanitation, electricity and rail communications supplied to the venue from different locations in the nearby city. Firework displays, exhibitions and glamorous dances were organised.

More than 100,000 people attended the durbar Special postage stamps were issued on the occasion. Post offices, telegraph and telephone communications were provided.

Third Durbar (1911): The third and final durbar of Delhi was held on Dec 12, 1911 to commemorate the coronation of George V (the original coronation was held on June 22, 1911 in London).

It was an initiative of Lord Hardinge (1910 – 16) and ws attended by George V and Queen Mary. The official ceremonies lasted from 7 December to 16 December, with the Durbar itself occurring on Tuesday, 12 December. The royal couple arrived at Coronation Park in their Coronation robes, the King-Emperor wearing the Imperial Crown of India and received homage from the local princes.

The inscriptions (English and Urdu) on the Coronation Memorial testifies the final Durbar, Coronation Park, Delhi

The inscriptions (English and Urdu) on the Coronation Memorial testifies the final Durbar, Coronation Park, Delhi

It was also at this durbar the King-Emperor announced the move of India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi. After the third durbar the towering Coronation Memorial was built. Made of sandstone, it is erected over a high raise square plinth with steps on all four sides. The memorial has been erected at exactly the same location where all the three British Durbars were held in the past. The inscriptions (English and Urdu) on the Memorial testifies the final Durbar event and states.

The towering statue of King George V, Coronation Park, Delhi

The towering statue of King George V, Coronation Park, Delhi

In the 1960s the the Coronation Park became the final resting place of statues of British kings and officials. Statues were moved from various locations of Delhi including Rajpath. The grandest of these statues is that of King George V.

Viceroy statues of Coronation Park. L - R: Lord Hardinge, Lord Willingdon, Lord Irwin and Lord Chelmsford

Viceroy statues of Coronation Park. L – R: Lord Hardinge, Lord Willingdon, Lord Irwin and Lord Chelmsford

The 15 m high (including pedestal) marble statue by Sergeant Jagger (1885-1914) once occupied the canopy behind the India Gate. 19 pedestals were set up to house other statues of British Kings and officials but only a hand full of them were occupied.

Boys play cricket at CoronationPark, Delhi

Boys play cricket at CoronationPark, Delhi

After years of neglect, it was only in 2011 (centenary of last durbar) the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) took up the initiative of restoring the Coronation Park. After missing several deadlines the park has been landscaped to certain extent.

During my visit in 2017 April I found the grass has lost its sheen, with the local boys enjoy a game of cricket. The new walls and structures lie neglected, incomplete and defaced.

The towering memorial welcomed me into the park. Approached by a flight of steps of all four sides the obelisk has commemorative plaques in English and Urdu. Behind the commemorative obelisk memorial is the colossal statue of King George, complete with crown and scepter and it totally out of place.
At first it is possible to mistake the Ozymandias – image for a displaced Egyptian Pharaoh or a lost Roman Emperor. Only on closer examination does it become clear that it is George V, The King Emperor.
William Dalrymple, City of Djinns

The vacant pedestals have been removed and presently the park consists of only four statues, excluding the King Geroge V, and are placed at equal distances from the stepped pyramid supporting the Coronation Memorial and are hedged by commemorative walls. There were plaques for the names but during my visit in 1017 the names were yet to be written.

A viceroy statue hedged by commemorative wall, Coronation Park, Delhi

A viceroy statue hedged by commemorative wall, Coronation Park, Delhi

The statue on the front left corner is of Lord Hardinge,the architect of the third and final durbar of Delhi. The statue is in fairly good condition but the marble has lost its shine and luster. Moving clockwise the next statue is of Lord Willingdon, which is in fairly good condition. Next comes the statue of Lord Irwin, which is badly damaged and gives the appearance of a phantom. Last is the fairly well maintained statue of Lord Chelmsford.

The amphitheater, with Coronation Memorial in the background, Coronation Park, Delhi

The amphitheater, with Coronation Memorial in the background, Coronation Park, Delhi

The Coronation Park will consists of paved pathways through manicured lawns and lines of Mughal styled small sandstone pavilions. An amphitheater, water bodies, children play area and restaurant are also part of the Coronation Park restoration plan. An Interpretation Centre, interpreting the history of India since 1857, including the three durbars, is also on the cards.
The finished design will have elements that reference the best-known parts of New Delhi, such as stone masonry work and sandstone with the same finish as those of the capital’s main government buildings.
Swapna Liddle, Convener, INTACH, Delhi
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) wants to portray The Coronation Park as an Indian park. They have plans of a flag pole, for the national flag, which will be about 10 m higher than the Coronation Pillar.
The flagpole will dominate. It is going to be an Indian park; it’s not a celebration of imperialism. Imperial events took place here but the park itself is a park built by India in 2011.
A.G. Krishna Menon, Ex Convener, INTACH, Delhi
Reference:
  1. Wikipedia Article on Coronation Park, Delhi
  2. Economic Times, 12 Dec 2017, New Delhi’s 106th anniversary: Coronation Pillar wears defaced look
  3. The Wall Street Journal, 9 Dec 2011, Delhi Journal: At Coronation Park, Size Matters
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  1. March 28, 2018 at 2:03 PM

    Impressive post about historical events. It is an information for us that this Coronation park is associated with Three Important Coronations.

  2. April 18, 2018 at 1:03 PM

    I found it beautiful but most of my friend did not 🙂

    • April 21, 2018 at 8:08 PM

      Thanks Yogi for sharing your experience. But why didn’t your friends like it? can you please share the reasons

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