Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Romancing Delhi

For a quick lesson in the rich and turbulent history of sadi Dilli, the sound and light show at the Purana Qila (Old Fort) is a must watch! The fort stands majestic between the Kilkari Bhairav Mandir and the National Zoological Park and is known to be the sixth of the seven cities that make up modern day Delhi. 

A boring Sunday evening immediately turned vibrant and pulsating the moment the grandiose show began. Aptly named as ‘Ishq-e-Dilli’, the one-hour show beautifully juxtaposes modern techniques like lasers, video projections and digital drawings to tell a 5000-year-old historical tale of the capital.

The sonorous background scores, lavish use of imagery and electrifying illustrations made the first person narrative even more spirited. From Mughals to the Britishers, the historical saga of Delhi was laid out in this stunning art show. The narrative begins with 11th Century emperor Prithiviraj Chauhan and proceeds towards Lodhis, Mughals, Britishers and finally Independent India. Each ruler had a unique love affair with Delhi and each one had a role in drawing different contours of our vibrant city.                  

Interesting anecdotes of these Mughal lovers of Delhi, kept me on the edge of my seat. The dervish dances glorifying Khwaja and a dance rendition on Chhap tilak transported us to a mystic era that is associated with Turkish music, courtesans, parapets, conniving emperors and blood-soaked battlefields. All of which was once witnessed by our capital city.

Those riotous times were aptly summed up by the narrator in Amir Khusrau’s tenor, “Khusrau dariya prem Ka, ulti waa ki dhaar; jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar” which is translated as ‘Oh Khusrau, the river of love, runs in strange directions, one who jumps into it drowns, one who drowns, gets across”. Clearly, it was the thirst of the throne which resulted in several wars of succession.           

Selected pages from the annals of Delhi’s legendary past were brought to life. The game of dice at Hastinapur and Draupadi’s disrobing episode, the tragic death of Humayun who tumbled down the stairs of his library and Bahadur Shah Zafar laying down arms before the British – all these and many more references were encompassed in this engrossing show. The style is movingly expressive and never slips into overblown oratory.          

Ishq-e-Dilli is a love affair that haunts the viewer for a long time. The sound system is so good that it forces you to turn your back expecting a herd of horses each time you hear galloping. There are no screens, no characters in flesh and blood and no physical props – yet each event is given a throbbing life with the state-of-the-art 3-D video projection against the backdrop of the fort.

Only word of caution: Do slather layers of ODOMOS on your body if you don’t want to be devoured by a scourge of mosquitoes. Also, the entry pass soon doubled up as a hand fan, so choose a pleasant breezy evening for your show. We opted for the Hindi show in August which started from 7:30 pm and lasted an hour. I am now eager to watch the English version too. At Rs 80 for an adult and Rs 40 for children above three, this is a love affair to remember! 


  1. Hindustan ka dil hai Ye Dilli....

  2. This why last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar fell in love with Dilli---Kitna badnaseeb hai zafar tu dafn ke liye; Do ghaz zameen an milli kuuu-e-yaar (Dilli) me.

  3. Anonymous - I read about this helpless soul in 'The Last Mughal'. You are welcome to share more poetry.

  4. This is a true reflection of our rich heritage.. and what outsiders had done to our country & landed up being a part of the rich culture. Whoever has come here has fallen in love with this land.. Great read..

  5. thanks alot Shagun Ji for such beautiful write up on my ishq-e-dilli

  6. Really well crafted... leaves me eager to know more.. may visit soon... Well Done !!

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