How “Dehli” was turned into “Delhi” by Lord Hardinge

25th July 2019

25th July 2019

BJP stalwart Vijay Goel wants “Delhi”, the name of India’s Capital, to be changed to “Dilli” and there is a good enough reason for it.

“Dilli” or “Dehli” turned into “Delhi” by Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy and Governor-General of India in 1913 because it wasn’t a tongue-twister for Englishmen. The name has remained stuck for over a century now. Wrote Swapna Liddle in her book “Connaught Place and Making of New Delhi”: Though indeed Delhi was the wrong spelling and pronunciation, long usage by the British had sanctified it.”


Goel, while demanding a change in Delhi’s name on Wednesday, suggested in Parliament that “Dilli” may have originated from the name of Mauryan emperor Raja Dillu. He argued that that name of the Capital should convey city’s culture and history which the word Delhi doesn’t do.


As per Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, the octogenarian Urdu critic and theorist, “it’s believed that there was a ruler called Raja Dhillu who named the city after himself. It’s also believed that it was named after a small village in the area…the words “Dehli” and “Dilli” do appear in the 11th century texts.


The Mauryan-era relics in Delhi, claimed Faruqi, recorded both “Dilli” and “Dehli” and the two names were interchangeable. Citing traditions Faruqi said: “Even Amir Khusro went by Amir Khusro Dehlavi and this was in the 13th century. The 14th century mystic poel and Sufi saint Nasiruddin Chirag also suffixed Dehlavi to his name.


Says author Sadia Dehlvi: “For centuries, the city has been called Dehli, the sultanate was also called Dehli Sultanate. The refined word was always Dehli and in the colloquial language, it was Dilli.” Her grandfather suffixed “Dehlvi” to his name to reflect the family’s connection to the city.


Goel also added that “it’s also said Delhi’s name should change to Indraprastha or Hastinapur but I won’t talk about it now.” Both Indraprastha and Hastinapur are mentioned in the Mahabharata. According to Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s 19th century work Asar-us Sanadid: “Indraprastha was the name of the land between Khooni Darwaza of Dariba and Purana Qila…though there are no signs of the city any longer, the land to the south of Shahjahanabad, outside Delhi Darwaza, is called Indrapat. This was the first city of Delhi.”


Professor Narayani Gupta of Indraprastha University explains that Delhi is a large area that encapsulates many earlier forts such as Qila Rai Pithora, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Feroze Shah Kotla, Dinapanah, Qila-e-Mubarak and towns such as Jahanpanah, Firozabad, Shahjahanabad and New Delhi. The walled forts or towns are named after the direction they face and that there are “Delhi Darwazas in forts all over India…Even Shahjahanabad has a Dehli gate, which led to Mehrauli, which in the 17th century was called Dehli,” said Ms Gupta.


So the logic suggests the time has come to give Delhi its true identity. If Jullundur can be changed to Jalandhar, Bhatinda to Bathinda, Cawnpore to Kanpur, Poona to Pune, Gauhati to Guwahati etc, keeping local, cultural sensibility in mind, the Delhi too should change to Dilli or Dehli.

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