In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on British India — modern South Asia — I have expanded the divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. The charts are in the original. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny and the subsequent major shift in its status as it came under the direct control of the British government rather than that of the East India Company, a private company. — George P. Landow]

DELHI [Sanscrit, Indraprast’ha], a city in Hindoostan, in the presidency of Bengal and capitol of the province of Delhi. It was anciently of the Patan and Mogul empires situated at latitude 28˚ 40' northand longitude 77˚ 16' east About 700 miles northeast of Bombay, and about 790 miles northwest of Calcutta, and now the residence of the King of Delhi. It was at one time the largest city in Hindoostan, covering a space of 20 square miles and had a population of two millions. It is now reduced to a circumference of 7 miles, and its population to about 250,000.

A vast tract covered with the ruins of palaces, pavilions, baths, gardens, and mausoleums, mark the extent of the ancient metropolis of the Mogul empire. The present city, built on two rocky eminences, is surrounded by walls of red sandstone, 30 feet high, and from 3 to 5 feet thick, with a moat 20 feet broad. There are seven colossal arched gates, defended by round bulwarks, and all built of freestone. The streets are all narrow, except ing two, which are, or rather were, of the breadths respectively of 30 and 40 yards, but now narrowed, and otherwise disfigured by the intrusion of new buildings; one of them divides the city east to west, and is intersected by a canal or aqueduct. The houses here are of sandstone and brick, and are of two and three stories in height. The bazaars have a very attractive appearance, being filled with rich and showy goods, dis played to the best advantage, and thronged with busy crowds.

The Palace of the King, Delhi. From the Hon C. S. Hardinge’s Recollections of India. Click on image to enlarge it.

The palace or residence of the Great Mogul, built by Shah Jehan, commenced in 1631, and finished in ten years, is by far the most interesting building in Delhi, from its being the most magnificent structure of the kind in India. It is situated on the bank of the Jumna, or rather a branch of it only, and is about a mile and a half in circuit, being enclosed by an embattled wall of reddish sandstone, nearly 60 feet high, with round towers at intervals; the whole perforated with loop holes, and surrounded by a broad moat, which is separated from the streets of the city by a wide road or esplanade, ren dering the palace a regular fortress, impregnable against an army not provided with a battering train. There are two principal entrances the Delhi and Lahore gates; both the most splendid buildings of the kind, particularly the former, which is probably not surpassed by any similar structure in the world. The lofty embattled walls, the stupendous towers, surmounted by elegant pavilions, the marble domes and gilded minarets, form altogether an unequalled assemblage of taste and magnificence, and give one a high idea of the former splendour of the emperors of Delhi.

The Dewani-Kas (Diwan-i-Khas) or Red Fort. From Forrest, p. 256. Click on image to enlarge it.

The main gateway is flanked by two massy angular towers, embattled to corres pond with the top of the adjacent wall, and surmounted by two elegant octagon pavilions, with marble domes; the central portion of the building is considerably raised above the towers, in the form of an elaborately carved screen, supported on a double row of slender columns, with minarets at the ends; and over all, seven small marble domes, with gilt spires. Just above the great gateway, which is somewhat concealed by the wall of the court that surrounds it, is a covered gallery, with low balustrades in front, which might contain a considerable num ber of people. The interior of the palace corresponds with the noble entrance, and sufficient yet remains to show that in the days of the meridian glory of the empire, it was a place worthy to be seen on account of the richness of its decorations, and the splendour of the court. In many places the walls only remain, and these, from want of repair, are tumbling down and threatening ruin to the inmates.

One of the most remarkable objects in the city is the Jamma mosque, a magnificent structure in the Byzantine-Arabic style, and considered by the Mahometans the wonder of the world. It stands upon an equilateral foundation, and is built of white marble and red sandstone, inlaid like mosaic, in lines and arabesques; at the two extreme corners rise minarets 150 feet high, and between them two lofty domes. This imposing edifice was built by the emperor Shah Jehan, in the 17th century, and took several thousand men for six successive years (1631 to 1637) to complete it. A splendid view of the city and adjoining country is obtained from the summits of the minarets, which are ascended by winding staircases within. There are no fewer than forty other mosques in different parts of the city, many of them having lofty minarets and gilded domes.

Humayun's Tomb. Click on the image for more modern photographs.

Five miles south of the city is the tomb of the Emperor Hoomaioon, the largest and handsomest of the sepulchral monuments of Delhi. It is built also of red sandstone and white marble, and is two stories high, with a large, lofty vaulted hall, in the centre of which are the beautifully sculptured white marble sarcophagi of the emperor and his consort. The exterior of this splendid structure is adorned with domes, supported by square pillars, with arabesques and sculptures. At the distance of a few hundred paces are the tombs of several saints, the most remarkable of which is that of the celebrated Mussulman saint, Nizam-ud-Deen, distinguished by its elegant arabesques and filagree work, executed in beautiful white marble.

There is here a college for the promotion of education amongst the natives of British India, the funds for the support of which are supplied chiefly by the Indian Government. In 1845, the college was at tended by 460 students, of whom 299 were Hindoos, and 146 Mahometans. The salaries and other expenses for 1843, amounted to £39,050, 4s. lOd. This college or madressa, was originally built by Ghazi-ud-Deen. It is an elegant structure, and stands near the Ajmeer-gate.

The famous observatory of Jye Singh, rajah of Jyepoor, at the southwest extremity of the city, has been much dilapi dated, and its astronomical instruments nearly all destroyed or carried off.

The principal manufactures of the town are cotton cloths, indigo, finely embroidered shawls, and jewelry, for which, as well as for delicately carved ivory, Delhi is somewhat noted. The chief imports are by the northern caravans, which bring from Cashmere and Cahool shawls, fruit, and horses. Precious stones of good quality are to be had at Delhi, particularly the large red and black carnelians. In the vicinity, wheat, rice, millet, and indigo are grown.

Delhi, or as it was anciently called, Indraprast’ha, is mentioned by the Mahometan historians as early as A.D. 1008, when it was the residence of the Hindoo rajahs. It has at various times undergone great vicissitudes, having been frequently taken by hostile powers, and subjected to all the miseries of such events. In the beginning of the present century, the prosperity of the city and country around was almost entirely annihilated, and the Mogul Emperor and royal family reduced to the utmost poverty and distress, by the Maharattas, who took possession of his capital, of his gardens and houses, and used his name to oppress and impoverish the people by fraud and extortion. From this miserable state of desolation and ruin, the city was rescued by the British in 1803; when it was entered and taken possession of by Lord Lake, after he had defeated the army of Dowlub Row Scinda in the neighbourhood. Peace and order were now restored to the city and territory, and a handsome annual allowance made to the Emperor and family.

Pop. 250,000, of whom the Mahometans are to the Hindoos in the proportion of two to seven. (Government Returns; Journal Statistical Society, <tc.) DELI-BABA, a vil. Asiatic Turkey, pash. of, and 48 miles east-southeast of Erzeroom. It is inhabited solely by Armenians, of whom there are about thirty-five families, apparently in circumstances of tolerable comfort, though loud in their complaints of oppression. The only building of note is a large Turkish tomb, to which the village owes its name, but its history is unknown. [II. 819-20]

Related material


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Last modified 5 December 2018