Why Is New Delhi the Capital of India?

(Last Updated On: January 8, 2020)
Why Is New Delhi the Capital of India?

The capital of India is New Delhi, an urban district of Delhi located in the northern center of the country. Founded in 1911, New Delhi is the seat of all three branches of government in India today. Although Delhi and New Delhi are often used interchangeably, it’s important to make the distinction that these are two separate entities. New Delhi is part of the larger city and territory of Delhi, which is officially known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT). 

So what led to New Delhi being selected as capital of India in the first place? Let’s take a quick look through history to find our answer. 

Quiz yourself: Closest Capitals to New Delhi.

The Capital of India

Calcutta (spelled Kolkata today) was the capital of India during the rule of the British Raj. It was established in 1690 after three nearby villages came into possession of the British East India Company, which was looking to trade in the region. As Calcutta steadily grew, it would serve as the capital of all British territories in India until 1911. 

What happened in 1911? Well, Calcutta had become a center of Indian nationalism starting in the late 19th century. Dissatisfied with colonial rule, unrest in the city began to grow. Protests and boycotts in the city became common, and the colonial government was becoming nervous. Even today, modern Kolkata remains a hotbed of contemporary politics. 

The civic unrest in Calcutta was coupled with the fact that the city had many geographical disadvantages. Since it’s on the eastern edge of the country, it was becoming increasingly harder to govern all of India from that location. All this led the British government to begin seeking a new capital of India.

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Why Is New Delhi the Capital of India?

When the decision to move capitals was made, Delhi was a natural choice. Delhi had served as the political, financial, and cultural center of many past Indian empires, such as the Mughal Empire from 1649 to 1857. Delhi’s location also helped, as British officials felt it would be easier to administer India from this central location. 

In 1894, the Land Acquisition Act set aside land for the construction of a new capital in Delhi. At a mass assembly at Coronation Park, Delhi, King George V and Queen Mary made a formal announcement that the capital of India would shift from Calcutta to Delhi. 

Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker were tasked with planning large parts of New Delhi, as this capital district came to be called. However, World War I would slow development, and New Delhi would not be completed until 1931. 

Today, New Delhi continues to serve as the capital of India. It is located inside the metropolis of Delhi and is one of nine districts that make up the NCT. 

Modern New Delhi

New Delhi is one of the fastest-growing cities, not only in India, but in the world. As such, one of the primary challenges the district faces is overpopulation. The city is packed with cars and constantly plagued with heavy traffic jams. The city also struggles with heavy pollution: air, water, soil, and noise. 

But New Delhi also has much to offer. It is a vibrant region, and is the cultural center of India. The district has many festivals that happen on holidays like Republic Day and Independence Day as well as many religious observances. It also has many beautiful historical buildings. New Delhi is a unique capital with a rich story, rooted in colonial history, and absorbed in a vibrant present. 

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About Mark Heald 221 Articles
Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.