Map of Delhi, 1857

A British map from the eve of the battle for Delhi
Map of Delhi, 1857
Map of Delhi, 1857

A visually compelling new book by Pilar Maria Guerrieri, prosaically titled Maps of Delhi (Niyogi Books), studies the capital through the lens of its maps&mdashfrom early 19th century to the master plan for 2021. In this process, it provides a cartographic history of Delhi with commentary that narrates the story and historical context behind each map. One of these maps, pulled out from the Delhi State Archives, presents a plan of Shahjahanabad and its surroundings, as they stood in 1857, &ldquodrawn in the Quarter-Master General&rsquos Office in the British Camp on the Ridge&rdquo.

Map of Delhi from 1857[/caption]

The title suggests, according to the book, that the map served a very specific purpose&mdashrepresenting the locations of barracks, infantry, cavalry, artillery batteries, and picket locations of the British military during the mutiny of 1857. In this respect, it might have been a guide for the counter-attack strategy. Besides the fact that the map was produced in 1857, a crossed-swords symbol on the top-left marks the &ldquofight of June 19th&rdquo, which refers to the start of the mutiny. The book points out that the colours used on the map, too, hold military relevance&mdashred indicates British camps, brown, the Mughal city, yellow, principal routes, and blue, rivers and canals.

We&rsquove read aplenty about the 1857 mutiny from the Indian side but it is a revelation to see an artefact made by the British to counter the mutiny. It&rsquos been nearly 160 years since the battles, yet this part of history does not fail to stir our collective consciousness.

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