1902 Encyclopedia > Delhi


DELHI,_ a district of British India under the jurisdiction of the lieutenant-governor of the Punjab, situated between 28° 13' and 29° 13' N. lat. and 76° 53' and 77° 34" E. long. It consists of a strip of territory on the right or west bank of the River Jumna, 75 miles in length, and varying from 15 to 23 miles in breadth, bounded on the N. by the district of Karnàl, on the E. by the Jumna river separating it from Meerut (Mirat) and Bulandshahr districts, on the S. by Rohtak, and on the W. by Gurgàon. With the exception of a low-lying alluvial tract in the north, and a narrow fringe of fertile soil along the river bank to the south of Delhi city, the country consists of stony or hard sandy soil, where cultivation mainly depends upon artificial irrigation. This is supplied by the Western Jumna canal, which has a course of 51 miles in the district; by the Ali Murdán canal, constructed by a celebrated Persian nobleman of that name; by the new Agra canal; and by the Jumna river, and a few hill streams. An offshoot of the Mewàt hills runs in a north-easterly direction nearly across the district. This offshoot forms a sterile, rocky table-land, from two to three miles in breadth, but nowhere exceeding 500 feet above the level of the surrounding country.

The district population, according to a census taken in 1868, numbered 608,850 souls, scattered over an area of 1227 square miles, showing a density per square mile of 496 persons. According to their religious beliefs the inhabitants are thus classified: -Hindus, 438,886, or 72'08 per cent.; Mahometans, 130,645, or 21'46 per cent.; Sikhs, 580, or '09 per cent.; others, 38,739, or 6'36 per cent. Four towns contain a population exceeding 5000,-viz., I Delhi city, population 154,417; Sonipát, 12,176 ; Faaridábád, 7990; and Balabgarh, 6281.

The principal agricultural products of the district are wheat, barley, sugar-cane, and cotton. In the lands of the northern part, commanded by the irrigation canals, cotton and sugar-cane are the most lucrative staples of the autumn harvest, while joár (great millet), bájrá (spiked millet), and makái (Indian corn) are grown for local consumption. The spring crops consist of the better kinds pf grain, such as wheat and barley, and of gram and tobacco. In some irrigated villages a superior kind of rice is grown, but it nowhere forms a staple product. Cotton cultivation is extending, and a ready market for the fibre exists in Delhi city. The total area of the district is returned at 814,672 acres, of which 525,255 are cultivated, viz., 206,853 irrigated and 318,402 unirrigated. A tract of 1147 acres, set apart by the native rulers as a hunting ground, is now inclosed by Government as a timber preserve; and other plantations along the banks of the river have recently been formed and placed under the Forest Department. The hills produce good building stone, and a fair kind of marble of two colours, black and grey. A white clay, supposed to be kaolin, is found at Arangpur, Murádpur, and Kasmpur, and has been employed with success at the Government foundry at Rurki for making crucibles. At the first named village is a crystal mine, no longer worked. The East India Railway and the Punjab Railway run trains into Delhi from their junction at Ghaziábá, about twelve miles distant, while the Rájputáná State Railway traverses, the district for about twelve miles in the direction of. Gurgáon. The Government revenue of Delhi district in 1872-73 amounted to £383,082, -- of which £89,036 was derived from the land, £264,909 from salt and custom duties, and £14,086 from stamps. The land settlement is not a permanent one, but for a term of years. For the education of the people Government in 1872-73 maintained in whole or in part 72 schools, attended by 3645 pupils, at an outlay to the state of £7760. There were also 32 unaided indigenous schools, attended by 529 pupils in 1872-73. Three Government dispensaries gave gratuitous relief to 18,303 patients, at a cost of £925, 8s. (1872-73). For administrative purposes, the district is subdivided into three tahsíls of Delhi, Larsauli, and Balabgarh. The staff consists of a deputy commissioner, with two assistants and two extra assistant commissioners, a judge of the small cause court, 3 tahsildárs and 3 naib or assistant tahsíldárs, a superintendent and an assistant superintendent of police, and a civil surgeon.

The early history of the district will be found noticed below. In the last century, the Delhi empire fell under the Marháttás, and the emperor Sháh Alam became a pensioner of the Mahárhjá Sindhia. In 1803 Lord Lake broke the Marhatta power. The Mughul emperor was taken under the protection of the Company, and a considerable tract of country, consisting of nearly all present districts of Delhi and Hissar, was assigned for the maintenance of the royal family. This tract was placed under charge of a British officer as Resident, and the revenue was collected and justice administered in the name of the emperor. The annual allowance to the royal family paid from this assigned territory was originally £100,000; it was afterwards increased to £120,000, and subsequently to £150,000, exclusive of certain crown lands which yielded about £15,000 a year. The emperor received the homage of royalty; and throughout the assigned territory all judicial decrees were pronounced in his name, and sentences of death were referred to him for approval. The fiscal arrangements were under the entire control of the resident. This continued till 1832, when the office of resident was abolished, the tract being annexed to the North-Western Provinces, and a British Commissioner appointed to administer it. On the outbreak of the sepoy mutiny in 1857, the whole of the district was for a time lost to British rule, and the southern part was not subdued until after the fall of Delhi city in September 1857. In 1858 Delhi district was separated from the North-Western Provinces, and annexed to the then newly constituted lieutenant-governorship of the Punjab.

DELHI, the chief city of the district and division of the same name, and the capital of the Mughul empire, is situated in 28° 39' 40" N. lat. and 77° 17'45" E. long. It abuts on the right bank of the River Jumna, and is inclosed on three sides by a lofty wall of solid stone constructed by the Emperor Sháh Jahán, and subsequently strengthened by the English at the beginning of the present century by a ditch and glacis. The eastern side, where the city extends to the river bank, has no wall; but the high bank is faced with masonry, and bears from the outside the appearance of one. The circuit of the wall is 52 miles. It has ten gates, of which the principal are the Kashmir and Mori gates on the north; the Cabul and Lahore gates on the west; and the Ajmír and Delhi gates on the west.

Red Fort, Delhi image

Red Fort (or Lal Qila), Delhi

The imperial palace, now known as "the fort," is situated in the east of the city, and abuts directly on the river: It is surrounded on three sides by an imposing wall of red granite, with small round towers, and a gateway on the west and south. Since the mutiny of 1857 a great portion of the palace has been demolished in order to make room for English barracks. The more beautiful buildings in the palace, viz., the entrance hall, the naubát kháncá or music hall, the diwán-i-ám or hall of public audience, the diwáni-khás or hall of private audience, the rang mahal, and some pavilions, have been preserved intact. As Mr. Fergusson well says, in his History of Architecture, however, these buildings "without the courts and corridors connecting them lose all their meaning, and more than half their beauty."

South of the fort, in the Dariáganj quarter of the city, is a cantonment for a regiment of native infantry, which, with one wing of a European regiment stationed within the fort, makes up the garrison usually stationed at Delhi.

On the opposite side of the river is the fortress of Salímgarh, erected in the 16th century by Salím Sháb, and now in ruins. At this point the East India Railway enters the city by a magnificent bridge across the Jumna, passing over Salímghar, and through a corner of the fort, to the railway station within the city walls. Thence the line proceeds as the Rí,jputáná State Railway, and, after traversing the city, emerges through the wall on the north west. In the north-eastern corner of the city, within the walls, and close to the Kashmír gate, are situated the treasury and other public offices. Dariáganj, the fort, the public offices, and the railway form an almost continuous line along the eastern and northern faces of the city, -- the angle between them being devoted to public gardens. The area thus occupied amounts to nearly half of that of the entire city; it presents a comparatively open appearance, and forms a marked contrast to the south-west quarter of the town, which is' densely occupied by the shops and dwellings of the native population.

The buildings in the native town are chiefly of brick, well-built and substantial. The smaller streets are narrow and tortuous, and in many cases end in culs de sac. On the other hand, no city in India has finer streets than the main thoroughfares of Delhi, ten in number, thoroughly drained, metalled, and lighted. The principal thorough fare, the Chándni Chauk, or Street of Silver, leads east wards from the fort to the Lahore gate, and is three quarters of a mile long by 74 feet broad. Throughout the greater part of its length, a double row of ním and pípál trees runs down its centre on both sides of a raised path, which has taken the place of the masonry aqueduct that m former days conducted water from the canal into the palace.

A little to the south of the Chándni Chauk is the Jámá Masjid, or great mosque, standing out boldly from a small rocky rising ground. Begun by Sháh Jahán in the fourth year of his reign, and completed in the tenth, it still remains one of the finest buildings of its kind in India. Its front court-yard, 450 feet square, and surrounded by a cloister open on both sides, is paved with granite inlaid with marble, and commands a view of the whole city. The mosque itself, a splendid structure forming an oblong 261 feet in length, is approached by a magnificent flight of atone steps. Three domes of white marble rise from its roof, with two tall and graceful minarets at the corners in front. The interior of the mosque is paved throughout with white marble, and the walls and roof are lined with the same material.

Two other mosques in Delhi deserve a passing notice, -- the Kálá Masjid, or black mosque, so called from the dark colour given to it by time, and supposed to have been built by one of the early Afghan sovereigns, and the mosque of Roshán-ud-daulá.

Among the more modern buildings of Delhi may be mentioned the Government College, founded in 1792, the Residency, and the Protestant church, built at a cost £10,000, by Colonel Skinner, an officer well known in the history of the East India Company. About half-way down the Chándni Chauk is a high clock-tower, with the institute and museum opposite.

Behind the Chándni Chauk, to the north, lie the Queen's Gardens; beyond them the "city lines" stretch away as far as the well-known rocky ridge, about a mile outside the town. From the summit of this ridge the view of the station and city is very picturesque.

Humayun's Tomb image

Humayun's Tomb

To the west and north-west, considerable suburbs cluster beyond the walls, containing the tombs of the imperial family. That of Humáyun, the second of the Mughul dynasty, is a noble building of granite inlaid with marble. It lies about two miles from the city, amid a large garden of terraces and fountains, the whole surrounded by an embattled wall, with towers and four gateways. In the centre stands a platform about 20 feet high by 200 feet square, supported by cloisters, and ascended by four great flights of granite steps. Above, rises the Mausoleum, also a square, with a great dome of white marble in the centre.

About a mile to the westward is another burying-ground, or collection of tombs and small mosques, some of them very beautiful. The most remarkable is perhaps the little chapel in honour of a celebrated Mussulman saint, Nizám-ud-dín, near whose shrine the members of the late imperial family, up to the time of the mutiny, lie buried, each in his own little inclosure, surrounded by very elegant lattice-work of white marble. The Kutab Minár, or Pillar, is situated about nine miles south of the city.

Qutub Minar (Kutab Minár), Delhi image

The Qutub Minar (or Kutab Minár)

The palaces of the nobles, which formerly gave an air of grandeur to the city, have for the most part disappeared. Their sites are occupied by structures of less pretension, but 47 still of some elegance of architectural design. The city is now amply supplied with water; and much attention has of late been paid to its cleanliness and its sanitary condition generally. The principal local institution was, until 1877, the Delhi College, founded in 1792. It was at first exclusively an Oriental school, supported by the voluntary contributions of Mahometan gentlemen, and managed by a committee of the subscribers. In 1829 an English department was added to it; and in 1855 the institution was placed under the control of the Educational Department. In the mutiny of 1857 the old college was plundered of a very valuable Oriental library, and the building completely destroyed. A new college was founded in 1858, and was affiliated to the university of Calcutta in 1864. The old college attained to great celebrity as an educational institution, and produced many excellent scholars. Under orders of the Government of the Punjab (February 1877), the collegiate staff of teachers was to be withdrawn, in order to concentrative the grant available for higher-class education upon the central and more useful institution at Lahore, the present capital of the province.

The population of Delhi in 1853 was returned at 152,424, viz., 76,390 Hindus and 76,034 Mahometans. In 1868, the census showed that since the Mutiny the Mahometan population had greatly diminished, while on the other hand the Hindus had considerably increased. In that year, the population was ascertained to be made up as follows:-- Hindus, 85,087 (males 46,547 and females 38,546); Mohametans, 61,720 (males 32,361 and females 29,359) ; Sikhs, 357 'males 267 and females 90); other denominations, 7253 (males 4177 and females 3076): total of all religions, 154,417 (males 83,346 and females 71,071). The Delhi municipality, which also embraces the suburbs, contains a population of 184,840. The total income (mainly derived from octroi duties) in 1871-72 amounted to £25,610, or an average of 2s. 9_d. per head.

History. -- From the earliest period of Indian history, Delhi or its immediate neighbourhood has been the site of a capital city. Within the circuit of a very few miles from modern Delhi, city after city has risen upon the ruins of its predecessors, and. the debris of ancient buildings is now estimated to cover an area of 45 square miles. The first of these fallen capitals, Indraprástha, is supposed to date from the 15tb century B.C., when the Aryan colonists of India were beginning to feel their way down the Jumna. The Sanskrit epic, the Mahábhárata, relates how the city was founded by Yudhisthira and his brothers, the five Pándava.s. It lay upon the banks of the Jumna, near Humáyun's tomb, about two miles south of the modern city; and the Migambod glát, near the old Calcutta gate of Delhi, is believed to be its one surviving relic. A list of monarchs brings the history of Indraprástha down to the middle of the 1st century B.C., when the name of Dilli, or Delhi, is first met with. By this time the city had spread or been removed some miles to the south, as far as the site now occupied by the Kutab Minár. Another blank of several centuries occurs until the 3d or 4th century A.D. To this latter period belongs the carved iron pillar near Delhi, one of the most curious monuments in India. It consists of a solid shaft of wrought iron, upwards of 16 inches in diameter, and more than 50 feet in length, of which 22 feet are above ground. The pillar bears a Sanskrit inscription in six lines, recording the history of one Rájá Dháva, who "obtained by his own arm an undivided sovereignty on the earth for a long period." Delhi next makes its appearance in history at the time of the foundation of the Tomára or Tuá r dynasty by Anang Pal in 736 A.D. This ruler is said to have restored the city, and during his dynasty the capital alternated between Delhi and Kanauj. About 1151 A.D. the Tomára dynasty was overthrown by Visala Deva, the Chohan king of Ajmír, but a marriage of the daughter of the vanquished monarch to the son of the conqueror united the two families. The son of this union, the famous Prithivi Rája, was the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. In 1191 came the invasion of Muhammad of Ghor. Defeated on this occasion, Muhammad returned two years later, overthrew the Hindus, and captured and put to death Prithivi Rája. Delhi became henceforth the capital of the Mahometan Indian empire, Kutab-ud-dín (the general and slave of Muhammad of Ghor) being left in command. His dynasty is known as that of the slave kings, and it is to them that old Delhi owes its grandest remains, among them Kutab-ud-dín’s mosque and pillar, a few miles south of the modern city. The slave dynasty retained the throne till 1288, when it was subverted by Jalál-ud-dín Ghilzái. The most remarkable monarch of this dynasty was Ala-ud-dìn, during whose reign Delhi was twice exposed to attack from invading hordes of Mughuls. On the first occasion, Ala-ud-dìn defeated them under the walls of his capital ; on the second, after encamping for two months in the neighbourhood of the city, they retired without a battle. The house of Ghilzái came to an end in 1321, and was followed by that of taghlak. Hitherto the Pathán kings had been content with the ancient Hindu capital, altered and adorned to suit their tastes. But one of the first acts of the founder of the new dynasty, Ghiás-ud-dín Taghlak, was to erect a new capital about four miles further to the east, which he called Taghlakábád. The ruins of his fort remain, and the eye can still trace the streets and lanes of the long deserted city. Ghiás-ud-dín was succeeded by his son Muhammad Taghlak, who reigned from 1325 to 1351, and is described by Elphinstone as "one of the most accomplished princes and most furious tyrants that ever adorned or disgraced human nature." Under this monarch the Delhi of the Taghlak dynasty attained its utmost growth. His successor Firoz Sháh Taghlak transferred the capital to a new town which he founded some miles off, on the north of the Kutab, and to which he gave his own name, Firozábád. In 1398, during the reign of Mahmud Taghlak, occurred the Tartar invasion of Timurlane. The king fled to Guzerat, his army was defeated under the walls of Delhi, and the city surrendered. The town, notwithstanding a promise of protection, was plundered and burned ; the citizens were massacred. The invaders at last retired, leaving Delhi without a Government, and almost without inhabitants. At length Mahmud Taghlak regained a fragment of his former kingdom, but on his death in 1412 the family became extinct. He was succeeded by the Sayyid dynasty, which held Delhi and a few miles of surrounding territory till 1444, when it gave way to the house of Lodi, during whose rule the capital was removed to Agra. In 1526 Baber, sixth in descent from Timurlane; invaded India, defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi at the battle of Pánipat, entered Delhi, was proclaimed emperor, and finally put an end to the Afghan empire. Baber's capital was at Agra, but his son and successor, Humáyun, removed it to Delhi. In 1540 Humáyun was defeated and expelled by Sher Sh'ah, who entirely rebuilt the city, inclosing and fortifying it with a new wall. In his time Delhi extended from where Humáyun's tomb now is to near the southern gate of the modern city. In 1555 Humáyun, with the assistance of Persia, regained the throne ; but he died within six months afterwards, and was succeeded by his son, the illustrious Akbár.

During Akbár's reign and that of his son Jahángir, the capital was either at Agra or at Lahore, and Delhi once more fell into decay. Between 1638 and 1655, however, Sháh Jahán rebuilt it almost in its present form ; and his city remains substantially the Delhi of the present time. The imperial palace, the Jámá, Masjid or great Mosque, and the restoration of what is now the western Jumua canal, are the work of Sháh Jahán. The Mughul empire rapidly expanded during the reigns of Akbar and his successors down to Aurungzebe, when it attained its climax. After the death of the latter monarch, in 1707, came the decline. Insurrections and civil wars on the part of the Hindu tributary chiefs, Sikhs and Marhattás, broke out. Aurungzebe's successors became the helpless instruments of conflicting chiefs. His grandson, Jahandar Shih was, in 1713, deposed and strangled after a reign of one year; and Farrakhsiyyar, the next in succession, met with the same fate in 1719. He was succeeded by Muhammad Shah, in whose reign the Marhattá forces first made their appearance before the gates of Dellii, in 1736. Three years later the Persian monarch, Nádir Shah, after defeating the Mughul army at Karnál, entered Delhi in triumph. While engaged in levying a heavy contribution, the Persian troops were attacked by the populace, and many of them were killed. Nádir Sháh, after vainly attempting to stay the tumult, at last gave orders for a general massacre of the inhabitants. . For fifty-eight days Nádir Sháh remained in Delhi, and when he left he carried with him a treasure in money amounting, at the lowest computation, to eight or nine millions sterling, besides jewels of inestimable value, and other property to the amount of several millions more.

From this time (1740) the decline of the empire proceeded unchecked and with increased rapidity. In 1771 Sháh Alam, the son of Alamgir II, was nominally raised to the throne by the Marhattás, the real sovereignty resting with the Marhattá chief, Sindhia. An attempt of the puppet emperor to shake himself clear of the Marhattá, in which he was defeated in 1788, led to a permanent Marhattá garrison being stationed at Delhi. From this date, the king remained a cipher in the hands of Sindhia, who treated him with studied neglect, until the 8th September 1803, when Lord Lake overthrew the Marhattás under the walls of Delhi, entered the city, and took the king under the protection of the British. Delhi, once more attacked by a Marhattá army under the Marhattá chief Holkar in 1804, was gallantly defended by Colonel Ochterlony, the British resident, who held out against overwhelming odds for eight days, until relieved by Lord Lake. From this date a new era in the history of Delhi began. A pension of £120,000 per annum was allowed to the king, with exclusive jurisdiction over the palace, and the titular sovereignty as before; but the city, together with the Delhi territory, passed under British administration.

Fifty-three years of quiet prosperity for Delhi were brought to a close by the mutiny of 1857. Its capture by the mutineers, its siege, and its subsequent recapture by the British have been often told, and nothing beyond a short notice is called for here. The outbreak at Meerut occurred on the night of the 10th May 1857. Immediately after the murder of their officers, the rebel soldiery set out for Delhi about 35 miles distant, and on the following morning entered the city, where they were joined by the city mob. Mr. Fraser, the commissioner, Mr. Hutchinson, the collector, Captain Douglas, the commandant of the palace guards, and the Rev. Mr. Jennings, the residency chaplain, were at once murdered, as were also most of the civil and non-official residents whose houses were situated within the city walls. The British troops in cantonments consisted of three regiments of native infantry and a battery of artillery. These cast in their lot with the mutineers, and commenced by killing their officers. The Delhi magazine, then the largest in the north-west of India, was in the charge of Lieutenant Willoughby, with whom were two other officers and six non-commissioned officers. The magazine was attacked by the mutineers, but the little band defended to the last the enormous accumulation of munitions of war stored there, and, when further defense was hopeless, fired the magazine Five of the nine were killed by the explosion, and Lieutenant Willoughby subsequently died of his injuries; the remaining three succeeded in making their escape. The occupation of Delhi by the rebels was the signal for risings in almost every military station in North-Western India. The revolted soldiery with one accord thronged towards Delhi, and in a short time the city was garrisoned by a rebel army variously Estimated at from 50,000 to 70,000 disciplined men. The pensioned king, Bahádur Sháh, was proclaimed emperor; his sons were appointed to various military commands. About fifty Europeans and Eurasians, nearly all females, who had been captured in trying to escape from the town on the day of the outbreak, were confined in a stifling chamber of the palace for fifteen days; they were then brought out and massacred in the court-yard.

The siege which followed forms one of the memorable incidents of the British history of India. On the 8th June, four weeks after the outbreak, Sir H. Barnard, who had succeeded as commander-in-chief on the death of General Anson, routed the mutineers with a handful of Europeans and Sikhs, after a severe action at Badli-ka-Sarái, and encamped upon the ridge that overlooks the city. The force was, too weak to capture the city, and he had no siege train or heavy guns. All that could be done was to hold the position till the arrival of reinforcements and of a siege train. During the next three months the little British force on the ridge were rather the besieged than the besiegers. Almost daily sallies, which often turned into pitched battles, were made by the rebels upon the over-worked handful of Europeans, Sikhs, and Gurkhás. A great struggle took place on the centenary of the battle of Plassey, June 23, and another on the 25th August; but on both occasions the mutineers were repulsed with heavy loss. General Barnard died of cholera in July, and was succeeded by General Archdale Wilson. Meanwhile reinforcements and siege artillery gradually arrived, and early in September it was resolved to make the assault. The first of the heavy batteries opened fire on the 8th September, and on the 13th a practicable breach was reported. On the morning of the 14th the assault was delivered, the points of attack being the Kashmir bastion, the water bastion, the Kashmir gate, and the Lahore gate. The assault was thoroughly successful, although the, column which was to enter the city by the Lahore gate sustained a temporary check. The whole eastern part of the city was retaken, but at a loss of 66 officers and 1104 men killed or wounded, out of the total strength of 9866. Fighting continued more or less during the next six days, and it was not till the 20th September that the entire city and palace were ,occupied, and the reconquest of Delhi was complete. During the siege, the British force sustained a loss of 1012 officers and men killed, and 3837 wounded Among the killed was General John Nicholson, the leader of one of the storming parties, who was shot through the body in the act of leading his men, in the first day's fighting. He lived, however, to learn that the whole city had been recaptured, and died on the 23d September. On the flight of the mutineers, the king and several members of the royal family took refuge at Humdyun's tomb. On receiving a promise that his life would be spared, the last of the house of Timur surrendered to Major Hodson; he was afterwards banished to Rangoon. Delhi, thus reconquered, remained for some months under military authority. Owing to the murder of several European soldiers who strayed from the lines, the native population was expelled the city. Hindus were soon afterwards re-admitted, but for some time Mahometans were rigorously excluded. Delhi was made over to the civil authorities in January 1858, but it was not till 1861 that the civil courts were regularly respired. The shattered walls of the Kashmir gateway, and the bastions of the northern face of the city, still bear the marks of the cannonade of September 1857. Since that date, Delhi has settled down into a prosperous commercial town, and a great railway centre. The lines which start from it to the north, south, east, and west bring into its bazaars the trade of many districts. But the romance of antiquity still lingers around it, and Delhi was selected for the scene of the Imperial Proclamation on the lst January 1877.

An excellent chapter on Delhi will be found in H. G. Keene's Fall of the Moghul Empire. In preparing the above account, the materials have been chiefly drawn from the official Statistical Account of Delhi District, together with Sir J. W. Kaye's History of the Sepoy War. (W. W. H.)

The above article was written by Sir William Wilson Hunter, M.A., LL.D. C.I.E, K.C.S.I.; Director-General of Statistics to the Government of India, 1871; edited the Imperial Gazeteer of India; author of A Brief Account of the Indian Peoples, A Statistical Account of Bengal and Assam, and Life of the Marquis of Dalhousie.

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