Old Is Gold – A Look At Some Of The Old Areas In Our Cities

India is an ancient country dating back to several hundreds of years. Cities that were once centers of power and development stand today in ancient ruins or on archeological sites. Then there are towns and cities that have historical significance and continue to manage to hold together their past while trying to keep pace with the contemporary urban landscapes. And finally, there are our new age, planned cities that are literally built from scratch.
However, there are also a few cities that have managed to grow outwards and become major urban centers, at the same time, retaining the old city charm and aura in its very heart. Almost all cities and towns today see a potential urban growth, with more and more development, infrastructure and construction taking place to accommodate more people and needs. And in all these cities and towns there is a difference in infrastructure and amenities between the older city areas vs the newer developed ones. Yet, in spite of many cities undergoing this additional makeover, there are a few select Indian cities that have a classic old city area which is drastically different from its new city areas. And this difference is seen not only in the infrastructure and buildings or housing or commercial value, but also in its atmosphere, character, flavors, and charisma.

India’s Typical Old City

Here is taking a look at the top 3 Indian cities that are well known for being called ‘old as well ‘new’.

1. Delhi

Our very own capital has to be on top of this list. New Delhi is the administrative center of India, where you will find the most important political offices, such as, the Parliament, government offices and so on. New Delhi has the popular Connaught Place, the Select City and Pacific Mall as well as residential and commercial areas such as, Vasant Vihar and Sunder Nagar. However, in spite of New Delhi being a conglomerate urban terrain boasting of everything that can be in a metropolitan capital city, its heart beats quite literally in the narrow lanes, hot jalebis, crowded homes, dangling wires and Mughal era landmark icons of Old Delhi. Old Delhi or Purani Dilli was founded by Shahjahanabad in 1638 when Shah Jahan decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Delhi remained the capital of the Mughal Empire and owes some of the most majestic monuments, such as, the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid to the construction by the Mughal kings. Other fabulous spiritual, historical and cultural landmarks in Old Delhi include Gauri Shankar Temple, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Sri Digamber Jain Lal Mandir and the Raj Ghat. However, it is the old world charm of Old Delhi, which makes it stand out from its newer counterpart. The bustling market of Chandni Chowk, the spicy flavors of Khari Baoli or the mouthwatering Gali Paranthe Wali bear witness to the essential spirit of an Indian soul. The clamor for space, the Urdu and now hardly spoken  karkhandari zubaan, the restless hurried attitude of pedestrians, the honking of cars and zipping of bikes, the smell of street food mixed with the smell of dust are trademark sceneries of an old city, and Old Delhi lives up to these in almost every single way.

2. Hyderabad

Known for the foray of the IT industry and Hi-Tech city, Hyderabad has been a pioneer of sorts in bringing the MNC culture to the Indian doorstep. With the city paving the way for a commercial revolution of sorts, there was instant boom in the adjoining office areas, creating newer localities out of erstwhile barren waste land and converting the already existing ones into uber modern hubs. Jubilee Hills, Banjara Hills and Kukatpally emerge as the big names on the urban circuit and broader roads, larger intersections and highways have managed to give Hyderabad its much deserved silicon touch. However, not too far off from this new age world, lies the Old City of Hyderabad, where stands the iconic Charminar and the Makkah Masjid. Built by Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah along the banks of the Musi River, the Old City of Hyderabad remained the Nizams hold until 1948. Today the Old City holds a rustic charm that finds expression in its typical Hyderabadi accented dialect, its colorful bangle and somber pearl markets, its narrow bridges over a littered Musi and its tiny squatted cycle rickshaws.

Ahmedabad city photo
View from the roof by wake4jake under CC BY-SA 2.0

3. Ahmedabad

The largest city of Gujarat Ahmedabad is an excellent example of a prospering commercial and industrial entity. With major universities, better housing, wider streets as well as, landmarks such as, the Sabarmati Ashram, Kankaria Lake and Akshardham Temple, Ahmedabad is also a hub for large industries. However, the Old city of Ahmedabad was founded by Ahmad Shah 1 in 1411. This walled city of Ahmedabad also called the Historic City of Ahmedabad does not retain its wall, except in some places near the Sabarmati River but does hold on to some of its gates with beautiful carvings. However, the most noticeable feature in the old city are its ‘pols’. These look like gated housing societies where the homes belong to a particular group of people from the same profession, caste, family or religion. Built almost 100-300 years ago, the oldest one called Mahurat Pol built in about the 18th Though stretching for a little more than 5 sq km. the Old City of Ahmedabad is cramped with historical monuments, old markets, havelis, shrines as well as, the usual clutter of traffic and congestion. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Old City of Ahmedabad calls for a heritage walk for sure.

There are many more cities each with their own heritage hubs that need to be explored and retained. The past usually entails lesson for the present and future, and in many ways, our old cities, though seem unkempt and are a state of confused mess, nonetheless trap and grab us to not let go. Here is hoping that the old areas are able to retain their old worldly charm, albeit in a slightly more organized fashion.

Featured Photo: New Delhi Paharganj rooftop view by Andrzej Wrotek under CC BY-ND 2.0

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