After a seventeen-month delay (thanks to archaeological surprises and a boring machine that, er, dozed off), the DMRC has finally delivered the Heritage Line as a Ramzan gift, which means that old Delhi is now a direct ride away from South-East Delhi and Faridabad. This new extension of the Violet Line eliminates the painful changeover at Central Secretariat, and bypasses crowds at Rajiv Chowk and New Delhi – take that, Yellow Liners! Even its tunnels have lights: the effect, at least the first time, is of travelling on a delightful fairyland ride.
The heritage quotient, in tribute to the historicity of the area the line passes under, is provided by INTACH, which has sponsored a series of installations and artwork in the concourse area of all the stations, depicting the surrounding history and architecture. We took a ride on the inaugural day this Sunday, in the company of many Walled City denizens thronging the stations to check out the coolest addition under their ’hood.
Here’s what to look out for:
Delhi Metro’s first station to offer interchanges between three lines is also the largest – no Rajiv Chowk level congestion here. The walls are an architectural education in the local styles – from the Mughal façade of the Gate itself, to the Greek colonnades of St. James’s Church and the imposing Ambedkar University building. Two maps from the 1857 revolt add a nice historical touch, depicting the British positions and lines of advance on Shahjahanabad during the siege of Delhi.
Nearby: Two of the station’s many gates open right up to the beautiful Nicholson Cemetery and Qudsia Bagh. Getting to those HRTC Volvos for your hills holiday is also a whole lot easier with a direct passage to the ISBT, which hitherto involved a long trudge through the Red Line concourse. The latter is also connected through a vertigo-inducing climb up a bank of five escalators – again, the largest at any Metro station. The 16th century Dara Shikoh library, one of the city’s oldest, is walking distance away, on the Ambedkar University campus.
This new extension of the Violet Line eliminates the painful changeover at Central Secretariat, and bypasses crowds at Rajiv Chowk and New Delhi – take that, Yellow Liners!
The station’s theme is based on the architecture of the Red Fort (for some reason, Delhi Metro uses the Hindi name even on English signs), featuring the familiar red turrets framing blow-ups of the fort’s many buildings, complete with cardboard cutouts of Mughal miniatures. Even the station office overlooking the platform has arched windows, adorned with coats of arms. Shah Jahan would be proud.
Nearby: Besides the Fort itself, the station also offers hassle-free access to Chandni Chowk minus the Yellow Line’s luggage-toting crowds from Old Delhi station. Also at hand are the Sisganj Gurudwara, the Jain bird hospital and the old GPO (from where the last telegram in India was despatched just last year).
These interiors are a tribute to Delhi’s largest mosque, and elements on the wall here include the finial on the mosque’s dome, a miniature minaret, spectacular photography - some of it from the Delhi archives, we learn - and a map showing the two Metro lines in old Delhi (which run on either side of the mosque). Completing the display are a couple of pigeons who’ve made a subterreanean home, likely becoming the first avian species to nest underground.
Nearby: Gate 1 of the station provides easy, walkable access to the mosque, and given the season, to the iftar food stalls around Urdu Bazar and Matia Mahal. (Hello, al-Jawahar!) Down the road in the opposite direction, find Haji Shabrati, purveyor of perhaps Delhi’s finest Nihari.
This station is a tribute to the old city, and a lovely medley of old photographs revives memories of the area, including long-disappeared relics like a tram (this Metro’s predecessor?) and an ornate clock tower. Framing these are the jalis and wrought iron facades of the havelis, completing the Shahjahanabad touch.
Nearby: Train your eyes on Gate 3, which opens directly into the Daryaganj Sunday book bazar. Don’t forget to call ahead to book Sunday lunch at the Delhi Parsi Anjuman next door.
You’ll no longer have to walk miles to get home after the next Delhi Daredevils washout, either: both the Kotla and Ambedkar stadia are a stone’s throw from Gates 5 & 6. Anti-nationals, your trip to Pakistan got easier – the Delhi-Lahore bus leaves from Ambedkar Terminal, behind the stadium. And if you feel the need to call on the father of the nation, his relics are a short walk down the road at Rajghat.
Gate 1 of Jama Masjid station provides easy, walkable access to the mosque, and given the season, to the iftar food stalls around Urdu Bazar and Matia Mahal. (Hello, al-Jawahar!)
Like any good underground scene, the Heritage Line promises some tripping – the ‘Dream Gates’ (at Lal Quila and Jama Masjid) which DMRC claims can be accessed via your phone. We have no idea how this works, but cards and tokens are fine for now. The regular fare gates also stay open throughout, instead of opening when you show your card. Beware, there’s no free ride – walking through without swiping will set off an alarm and guarantees much staring and public embarrassment. A flurry of potted plants from the inauguration add a nice touch to the stations, although we’re unsure how long they’ll stay.
Like the Commonwealth Games for which it opened, the Violet Line has always been a problem child, and with construction delays, smaller trains and crowds, it has lived in the shadow of its broader Yellow sibling. But no more – today, it is the only line on the network to run all its trains at full-length, and with the Heritage Line, has finally come into its own. As any loyal Violet Liner would attest, seeing “Kashmere Gate” on a standard-gauge train for the first time is a feeling that not even the purplest of prose can capture.
Getting there: The Heritage Line is the northern extension of the Violet Line beyond ITO. Interchanges at Kashmere Gate, Mandi House and Central Secretariat. The artwork is inside the paid concourse area of the stations, above the platforms (you don’t have to exit to see the installations).
This story was contributed by Manish, who finds trains to ride to new places when he’s not solving legal policy puzzles. Find him on Twitter at @jimanish.
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