Chanakyapuri: How New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave got its name 68 years ago

By: | Published: March 1, 2019 10:21 AM

The popular 'Chanakyapuri' area got its name way back in 1951 when the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to send ambassadors to 44 countries, and those 44 countries too wanted to send their ambassadors to India.

An affluent neighbourhood and diplomatic enclave, Chanakyapuri plays host to a majority of foreign embassies in New Delhi. (The Indian Express)

The popular ‘Chanakyapuri’ area that boasts of being home to ambassadors and their embassies from many countries got its name way back in 1951 when the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to send ambassadors to 44 countries, and those 44 countries too wanted to send their ambassadors to India, a report in The Indian Express said.

It was at that time when a 26-year-old diplomat Maharajakrishna Rasgotra, who was then the assistant chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested the name for the diplomatic enclave centered on sprawling Nehru Park, a landscaped expanse with ponds, a Lenin statue and regular Indian music performances.

According to The Indian Express, Rasgotra suggested the name ‘Chanakyapuri’, after ancient Indian teacher and philosopher Chanakya. Other connecting roads around the area were soon named in the same fashion based on Chanakya’s principles – Shanti Path, Nyaya Marg, Vinay Marg, Satya Marg and Niti Marg. The area had only Prime Minister’s residence as the only landmark.

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Rasgotra, now 94, recollects that he had been in the Foreign Services for less than three years when a crucial meeting to ponder on the name of the area was held by Chief of Protocol Indrasen Chopra. “The issue was that we didn’t have a designated area for their residences or embassies. That’s when the area, which we now call Chanakyapuri, was zeroed in on by Nehru for this purpose,” he told IE.

A Sanskrit scholar, Rasgotra, who retired as Foreign Secretary in 1985, was asked to give his ideas. He suggested that the area should be named after an Indian authority on diplomacy and foreign policy like Kautilya; Kautilya Nagari, for example. Rasgotra disclosed this in his book, A Life in Diplomacy.

Recalling the account of events, he told IE, “I was sitting in a corner as Chopra asked for suggestions for naming the area. Someone said ‘Diplomatic Enclave’, while another person said road name references could come from the Mahabharata. Chopra shot down these ideas, and asked me ‘You Sanskrit scholar, Rasgotra! Have you any idea?’”

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Later, he received a call from Chopra and was asked to name the roads. For naming the surrounding roads of the present Chanakyapuri, Rasgotra again flipped through the pages of Kautilya’s book, Arthashastra and name the roads after his policies.

An affluent neighbourhood and diplomatic enclave, Chanakyapuri plays host to a majority of foreign embassies in New Delhi. Chanakyapuri was also developed as official residences for both politicians and civil servants of the central government and has numerous parks and open spaces while being popular for suffering few utility disruptions.

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