The Delhi Durbar of 1911, with King George V and Queen Mary seated upon the dais.
Calcutta (now Kolkata) was the capital of India during the British Raj, until December 1911. Calcutta had become the centre of the nationalist movements since the late nineteenth century, which led to the Partition of Bengal by then Viceroy of British India, Lord Curzon. This created massive political and religious upsurge including political assassinations of British officials in Calcutta. The anti-colonial sentiments amongst the public led to complete boycott of British goods, which forced the colonial government to reunite Bengal and immediately shift the capital to New Delhi.
Old Delhi had served as the political and financial centre of several empires of ancient India and the Delhi Sultanate, most notably of the Mughal Empire from 1649 to 1857. During the early 1900s, a proposal was made to the British administration to shift the capital of the British Indian Empire, as India was officially named, from Calcutta on the east coast, to Delhi. The Government of British India felt that it would be logistically easier to administer India from Delhi, which is in the centre of northern India. The land for building the new city of Delhi was acquired under the Land Acquisition Act 1894.
During the Delhi Durbar on 12 December 1911, George V, then Emperor of India, along with Queen Mary, his consort, made the announcement that the capital of the Raj was to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, while laying the foundation stone for the Viceroy's residence in the Coronation Park, Kingsway Camp.
The foundation stone of New Delhi was laid by King George V and Queen Mary at the site of Delhi Durbar of 1911 at Kingsway Camp on 15 December 1911, during their imperial visit. Large parts of New Delhi were planned by Edwin Lutyens, who first visited Delhi in 1912, and Herbert Baker, both leading 20th-century British architects. The contract was given to Sobha Singh. The original plan called for its construction in Tughlaqabad, inside the Tughlaqabad fort, but this was given up because of the Delhi-Calcutta trunk line that passed through the fort. Construction really began after World War I and was completed by 1931. The city that was later dubbed "Lutyens' Delhi" was inaugurated in ceremonies beginning on 10 February 1931 by Lord Irwin, the Viceroy. Lutyens designed the central administrative area of the city as a testament to Britain's imperial aspirations.
The 1931 postage stamp series celebrated the inauguration of New Delhi as the seat of government. The one rupee
stamp shows George V
with the "Secretariat Building" and Dominion Columns.
Soon Lutyens started considering other places. Indeed, the Delhi Town Planning Committee, set up to plan the new imperial capital, with George Swinton as chairman, and John A. Brodie and Lutyens as members, submitted reports for both North and South sites. However, it was rejected by the Viceroy when the cost of acquiring the necessary properties was found to be too high. The central axis of New Delhi, which today faces east at India Gate, was previously meant to be a north-south axis linking the Viceroy's House at one end with Paharganj at the other. Eventually, owing to space constraints and the presence of a large number of heritage sites in the North side, the committee settled on the South site. A site atop the Raisina Hill, formerly Raisina Village, a Meo village, was chosen for the Rashtrapati Bhawan, then known as the Viceroy's House. The reason for this choice was that the hill lay directly opposite the Dinapanah citadel, which was also considered the site of Indraprastha, the ancient region of Delhi. Subsequently, the foundation stone was shifted from the site of Delhi Durbar of 1911–1912, where the Coronation Pillar stood, and embedded in the walls of the forecourt of the Secretariat. The Rajpath, also known as King's Way, stretched from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The Secretariat building, the two blocks of which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan and houses ministries of the Government of India, and the Parliament House, both designed by Baker, are located at the Sansad Marg and run parallel to the Rajpath.
In the south, land up to Safdarjung's Tomb was acquired to create what is today known as Lutyens' Bungalow Zone. Before construction could begin on the rocky ridge of Raisina Hill, a circular railway line around the Council House (now Parliament House), called the Imperial Delhi Railway, was built to transport construction material and workers for the next twenty years. The last stumbling block was the Agra-Delhi railway line that cut right through the site earmarked for the hexagonal All-India War Memorial (India Gate) and Kingsway (Rajpath), which was a problem because the Old Delhi Railway Station served the entire city at that time. The line was shifted to run along the Yamuna river, and it began operating in 1924. The New Delhi Railway Station opened in 1926, with a single platform at Ajmeri Gate near Paharganj, and was completed in time for the city's inauguration in 1931. As construction of the Viceroy's House (the present Rashtrapati Bhavan), Central Secretariat, Parliament House, and All-India War Memorial (India Gate) was winding down, the building of a shopping district and a new plaza, Connaught Place, began in 1929, and was completed by 1933. Named after Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught (1850–1942), it was designed by Robert Tor Russell, chief architect to the Public Works Department (PWD).
After the capital of India moved to Delhi, a temporary secretariat building was constructed in a few months in 1912 in North Delhi. Most of the government offices of the new capital moved here from the 'Old secretariat' in Old Delhi (the building now houses the Delhi Legislative Assembly), a decade before the new capital was inaugurated in 1931. Many employees were brought into the new capital from distant parts of India, including the Bengal Presidency and Madras Presidency. Subsequently, housing for them was developed around Gole Market area in the 1920s. Built in the 1940s, to house government employees, with bungalows for senior officials in the nearby Lodhi Estate area, Lodhi colony near historic Lodhi Gardens, was the last residential areas built by the British Raj.
After India gained independence in 1947, a limited autonomy was conferred to New Delhi and was administered by a Chief Commissioner appointed by the Government of India. In 1966, Delhi was converted into a union territory and eventually the Chief Commissioner was replaced by a Lieutenant Governor. The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 declared the Union Territory of Delhi to be formally known as National Capital Territory of Delhi. A system was introduced under which the elected Government was given wide powers, excluding law and order which remained with the Central Government. The actual enforcement of the legislation came in 1993.
The first major extension of New Delhi outside of Lutyens' Delhi came in the 1950s when the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) developed a large area of land southwest of Lutyens' Delhi to create the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri, where land was allotted for embassies, chanceries, high commissions and residences of ambassadors, around a wide central vista, Shanti Path.