The Wrecking Ball Culture

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, there was one thing that astounded all visitors to New Delhi: the ruins. For miles in every direction, half-collapsed and overgrown, robbed and reoccupied, and neglected by all, lay the remains of 600 years of trans-Indian imperium. Hammams (steam baths) and palaces, thousand-pillared halls and mighty tomb towers, empty temples and half-deserted Sufi shrines—there seemed to be no end to the litter of the ages. "The prospect towards Delhi, as far as the eye can reach, is covered with the crumbling remains of gardens, pavilions, and burying places," wrote British traveler William Franklin in...

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