The capital of India, Delhi is also pronounced as the cultural capital with a spectacular architecture of monuments and an amalgamation of different cultures that is a product of a 5000 year old history. Delhi has always had a mysterious eternity that has witnessed empires rise to glory and fall to ashes.
The contemporary Delhi is a culmination of seven cities built by different emperors from time to time. The ruins of these ancient cities are found even today and are major tourist attraction. Among some spectacular historic sites the most prominent ones includes the Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, India Gate, Lotus temple, Humayun tomb and Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Cities of Delhi
Legend has it that any man or king who creates a new city in Delhi will not be able to last his rule. But legends have not stopped Delhi’s conquerors, who came, saw and named new cities through the centuries. Seven principal cities were chiefly created by different rulers – some of them are no more than villages today with splendid ruins and tales of valour while others have assimilated with the modernistic skyline. The ruins are also a telling tale of the evolution of architectural styles of the times and the synthesis of various cultures and influences.
QUILA RAI PITHORA
Although Delhi had been a thriving city for several centuries, the ‘ first city ‘ of Delhi dating to 10th century gets its recognition due to the availability of recorded historical facts. Qila Rai Pithora was created by Prithviraj Chauhan, also known as Rai Pithora, the popular hero of the stories of Hindu resistance against Muslim invaders. Prithviraj’s ancestors captured Delhi from the Tomar Rajputs who have been credited with founding Delhi. Anangpal, a Tomar ruler possibly created the first known regular defense – work in Delhi called Lal Kot – which Prithviraj took over and extended for his city Qila Rai Pithora.
Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated and killed in battle by Mohammed Ghori in 1192, who left his slave Qutubuddin Aibak as his viceroy in India. In 1193, Qutubuddin Aibak captured Delhi, which was still in the hands of the Chauhans. After the death of Mohammed Ghori in 1206, Qutubuddin enthroned himself as the first sultan of Delhi – Delhi thus became the capital of Mamluk or the Slave dynasty Much of this was in architecture, as Qutubuddin set about to create Mehrauli, by destroying Hindu temples and building Islamic structures in their place.
The ‘Slave’ dynasty of Qutubuddin was followed by the line of Khilji rulers . Among the six rulers of the Khilji dynasty, Allauddin Khilji is the most well – known -who extended his dominion down southern India too, and created the third city of Delhi, Siri.The Saljuqian influences are the most remarkable feature in the buildings from this period.This came about as craftsmen from the Saljuqian dynasty in west Asia reeling under Mongol invasions took refuge in the Delhi court and contributed to its architecture. A large reservoir called Hauz Khas was another accomplishment of city of Siri. A madrasa (college) was also created here by later rulers.
Fifteen kilometers southeast of Connaught Place on the Mehrauli – Badarpur road, a rocky escarpment holds the crumbling 6.5 kilometer long battlements of the third city of Delhi, Tughlakabad, built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq during a short reign from 1321 to 1325. Ghiyas-u-din Tughlaq, a Turk governor who invaded Delhi in 1320 and defeated Nasirudin Mohammed, a Pawar Rajput who adapted Islam. Tughlaq then created the third city of Tughlakabad. The ruined fort of Tughalkabad was built by Ghiyas -ud-din -Tughlaq. After king’s death the city was deserted, probably lack of clean water source nearby.
One of the Tughlak rulers,Firoze Tughlak created the fourth city of Delhi , Firozabad or Kotla Firoze Shah next to the river Yamuna. This was a large enclosure of high walls , containing palaces , pillared halls , mosques, a pigeon tower and a water tank. On the top of his palace, Firoze planted an Ashokan pillar from 1500 years ago. He also built several hunting lodges in and around Delhi, as well as mosques, some of which still remain. Apart from raising new buildings, Firoze Shah also repaired old ones,such as Sultan Ghori’s tomb,Qutub Minar,Suraj Kund and Hauz Khas. ( Firoze Shah’s tomb, a lofty structure, lies in Hauz – Khas. )
What is known as the Purana Qila today,was the creation of Sher Shah when he wrested Delhi from Humayun in 1540,the second Mughal king. It was originally being built by Humayun as his capital Dinpanah. Sher Shah razed Dinpanah to the ground and started building his own capital introducing ornate elements in architecture. Delhi was won back by Humayun not very many years later in 1555 and he completed parts of the Purana Qila left unfinished by Sher Shah.The ruins of Humayun and Sher Shah’s creations are today a big tourist attraction – a sound and light show is held here in the evenings and the well-laid parks are a delight to walk on.
Humayun’s son Akbar is known as one of the greatest Mughal emperors . However, he concentrated his construction feats in Agra and the later abandoned city Fatehpur Sikri. It was his grandson Shahjehan, the man who gave the Taj Mahal to the world, who created the city of Shahjehanabad, the seventh city of Delhi – in the area that is now known as Old Delhi. The Jama Masjid and the Red Fort are two excellent examples of the architectural splendour of the 17th c. The intricate lanes of the ‘walled city’, its bazaars and way of living seem to exist in a time warp. Indeed, the remains of Shahjehanabad are a must-do for tourists.
Pilgrimages in Delhi
Delhi temples count amongst the finest in the country. Be it in the terms of reverence or in the terms of architecture, the temples in Delhi can match with the best. The temples in Delhi consist of Hindu temples, Jain temples, Bahai temple, Sai Baba temple, etc.
BAHAI TEMPLE (LOTUS TEMPLE )
The temple represents the Bahai faith which is broad in its outlook, scientific in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. It signifies the purity and the universality of the lord and equality of all religions. Visited by over four million people, annually, this gleaming lotus- like marble structure is located on Bahapur Hills (South Delhi) and it is the seventh and most recent Bahai houses of worship in the world. The temple is a must visit for every tourist who comes to Delhi. This structure, completed in 1986, is a marvel of modern architecture.
Built by Shah Jahan in 1658, it is one of the largest mosques in India with a seating capacity of more than 20,000. The mosque is situated near the Red Fort in old Delhi. This is the area that still retains the traditional charm of markets in Mughal times. The bulbous domes and tapering minarets built with marble stand strong and beautiful even to this day. This mosque has three gateways, four angle towers and two 40 m. high minarets. You can even go to the top of minarets and have a bird’s eye view of Delhi.
Also known as the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, it is ideally located in central Delhi (Mandir Marg). This temple dedicated to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and Lord Narayana (Lord Vishnu) was built in 1938 by the prominent Indian industrialist Raja Baldev Das Birla and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. The temple, built in Orissan style, has a large number of idols representing various gods of Indian pantheon. The well-grafted gardens need a special mention.
This is the tomb of the famous sufi saint, Nizam-ud-din Auliya. Built on the way from Humayun’s tomb, the premise of the shrine is a tank, which is surrounded by many other tombs. It is said that there was an argument between the rulers of Tughlakabad and the saint over building this tank. The saint had said that the city of Tughlakabad will never prosper and so did it happen. The tomb has been through several renovations ever since it was built. The complex of the shrine includes several other tombs, including that of the noted poet Mirza Ghalib (1786-1869), Amir Khusru and the grave of Jahanara, the daughter of Shah Jahan.
Built on a hilly place in 1998, the ISKCON Temple is a complex of temples. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this elegant temple is one of the largest temple complexes in India. It has a large number of Hare-Rama Hare-Krishna cult followers.
Chattarpur Mandir is located beyond the Qutb Minar in Mehrauli. The temple dedicated to Goddess Durga, is built in South Indian style. The temple complex is spread over a large area with beautiful lawns and gardens. Though devotees visit these temples throughout the year, the main attraction comes during the Navarathri festival, when devotees come from far and near. During this time, there are special bus services provided to the devotees.
BALA HANUMAN TEMPLE
This elegant temple stands on the south-eastern side of Ranmal Lake. The 24-hour chanting of the mantra ‘Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram’, which has been going on in the temple since August 1, 1964, has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
ST. JAMES CHURCH
Located very close to Kashmere Gate in north Delhi, St. James Church is the oldest church in the capital. It was built by James Skinner and consecrated in 1836. It is designed in a cruciform plan with the entrance towards the west and the altar towards the east (the standard norm in most churches the world over). The dome interestingly is very similar to the dome of Florence Cathedral in Italy that was the first renaissance structure built in the world. Porches on the north, south and the west provide the building with three entrances. The central portion of the church is an octagon with circular columns supporting the dome.
Again in the south of Delhi near the Indian Institute of Technology on the road to Meharauli it has literature on the life of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and has an ashram where devotees can come to meditate. There is also some accommodation available for devotees of Sri Aurobindo. The sanctuary owes its origins to Maharaja Suraj Mahl of Bharatpur.
Museums in Delhi
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NATIONAL RAIL MUSEUM
National Rail Museum is located In Chanakya Puri. It is unique in its collection of rail engines and locomotives. India was among the countries which had railway lines since 19th century. The locomotives in the museums are displayed in open. But they also have a small in house museum which gives the details of the progress and development in the history of railway in India. This structure, completed in 1986, is a marvel of modern architecture.
NEHRU MUSEUM & PLANETORIUM
The Teen Murti house was the residence of India’s first Prime minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. After his death the house was converted into a memorial. The Nehru memorial has a collection of gifts and many other items which he possessed. Nehru Planetorium is within the compound of Teen Murti. This planetorium gives a overview of the Indian Space program. There are daily film shows which are screened in a specially designed auditorium. These films are meant to give information about the Universe or any other topic related to that. The Capsule in which Rakesh Sharma went into space is also kept here.
NATIONAL SCIENCE CENTRE
National Science center is located near Pragati Maidan. This center is famous for the models which can be operated by the visitor himself. Children are particularly fascinated by the mysteries of science. Open through out the week except on Mondays. Delhi is spread out, and it is advisable to take organised tours, as the distances are long. The ITDC, operating under the name Ashoka Travels & Tours (tel no: 332 2336), has tours which include guides and luxury coaches. Delhi Tourism (tel no:331 4229).
A unique museum of Dolls is located near the ITO crossing on the Bahadur Shah Jafar Marg . These dolls are collected from different parts of India as well as from other countries of the world. These dolls reflect the tradition and culture of the region from where they come. Children Book Trust of India is In the same building. This is an organisation which is committed to provide quality books for the little ones. The complex of the shrine includes several other tombs, including that of the noted poet Mirza Ghalib (1786-1869), Amir Khusru and the grave of Jahanara, the daughter of Shah Jahan.
GANDHI DARSHAN & GANDHI NATIONAL MUSEUM
Gandhi Darshan & Gandhi National Museum is across Rajghat and Gandhi smriti is on Tees January Marg. The Gandhi National Museum also called as ‘National Gandhi Museum’ and ‘Gandhi Memorial Museum’ is located in Rajghat in New Delhi very close to the Memorial site of the great Mahatma Gandhi Ji where he was cremated on 31st January 1948 and it is easily accessible by local transport. The Museum was formerly known as the ‘Gandhi Memorial Museum’ or the ‘Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya’ but now is renamed as ‘Rashtriya Gandhi Sangrahalaya’ or the ‘National Gandhi Museum’ .
DARA SHIKOH LIBRARY
Dara Shikoh Library is an archaeological museum in Civil Lines and is open from 10am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. The Dara Shikoh Library is the library of the Archeological Department of Delhi Administration. It was built by Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh and later became the first British Residency of Delhi through several hands. For example, it was also the residence of Mughul Viceroy of Punjab and also served as college and school. The original building of Dara Shikoh was renovated and pillars and verandah added to it by the British. This is a majestic building and one of the many significant landmarks in Delhi.
Forts & Monuments in Delhi
Delhi, being the capital of many empires for centuries – especially of Mughal India, has a number of forts and monuments to boast of. The city has blended the past and the present beautifully. There are strong citadels, such as Red Fort, Old Fort, Jantar Mantar, Tombs of the royal personages and Qutub Minar, which are counted amongst some of the most luring monuments of the capital city of India.
The highest stone tower in India, the Qutub Minar was built by Qutbuddin Aibak, the viceroy of Mohammed Ghori in 1192. It was built to celebrate Ghori’s victory over the Rajputs. The tower and the victory are very significant, because both heralded the birth of a new dynasty – Slave Dynasty. And it laid the foundations of the Delhi Sultanate. And the rest, as one would put it after witnessing this monumental tower, was history. The Minar is a five-storey building with a height of 72.5 metres. The first storey of the Qutb Minar was completed in the lifetime of Qutbuddin. His son-in-law and successor, Iltumush, added the next three storeys.
THE RED FORT, DELHI
The Red Fort, with a circumference of over 2.2 kilometers, was laid out by the banks of the Yamuna river in the 17th century. The Mughal emperor Shajahan built it with the ambition of concentrating the Mughal power in one monument. Monument is perhaps not the right word. A mini-city is more like it. Unfortunately for the emperor, before he could move his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad in Delhi, he was taken a political prisoner by his son Aurangazeb. The fort is a delight to one’s imagination. Imagine the Naqqar Khana (Drum room) also called Naubat Khana .
PURANA QUILA, DELHI
In 1538, the Mughal emperor Humayun laid the foundations of his city named Dinpanah, or the Refuge of the Faithful. The inner citadel of this city is today called Purana Qila or the Old Fort. An old fort, it is! One can almost smell the ancient stories oozing from the corners of the fort. The site of the fort was also Indraprasta, the capital of the famed warriors of the Mahabharata, the Pandavas. Excavations near the eastern wall of the fort reveal that the site had been occupied since 1000 B.C. Archaeologists found painted grey ware pottery and other remains, which date back to the Mahabharata.
The 7.2 metre high pillar, standing within the Qutb Minar complex, is a proof of India’s advanced knowledge of metallurgy 2000 years ago. For it continues to stand, even today, rust-free. The pillar was erected sometime between the 4th and 5th century AD as a Dhavaja-stambha (flagpole) of a Vishnu temple. It was erected in memory of King Chandragupta Vikramamditya who ruled from 375 to 413 AD. The Sanskrit inscriptions on the pillar record these facts. Unbelievable, considering today, even the spoons in our kitchens cannot guarantee this kind of an immortality after centuries of scientific progress!
INDIA GATE, DELHI
This solemn monument was built in memory of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died in World War I. It was built in 1931, designed by Lutyens, and was originally called the All India War Memorial. The names of the soldiers are inscribed on the walls of the arc of the gate. Later in 1971, an eternal flame was lit here in memory of the unknown soldiers who died in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. India Gate stands at the end of Rajpath, and is a popular picnic site especially during hot summer evenings. At night, the Gate is brightly lit and the fountains near the Gate are lit with coloured lights. The sight is delightful.
Parks & Wildlife in Delhi
The famous Mughal Gardens is located in the premises of the Rashtrapati Bhavan – the official residence of the President of India. The building and gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens span an area of about 320 acres that include colourful flowering shrubs and European flowerbeds.
THE MUGHAL GARDEN
The famous Mughal Gardens is located in the premises of the Rashtrapati Bhavan – the official residence of the President of India. The building and gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens span an area of about 320 acres that include colourful flowering shrubs and European flowerbeds. The gardens comprise of the Rectangular Garden, Long Garden and the Circular Garden. The Rectangular Garden is the formal garden, which derived its treatment from the water-gardens, which the Mughals brought into Delhi. The small flowerbeds, the four waterways and mown lawns produce a virtual paradise.
In these well-maintained gardens are the domed tombs of Sayyid and Lodi rulers. This garden is known for its fountains, ponds, flowering trees, blossoming shrubs and artificial streams. In the middle of the garden is Bara Gumbad (Big Dome), a mosque built in 1494. The garden has Sheesh Gumbad (Glass Dome), Mohammad Shah’s Tomb and Sikander Lodi’s tomb. These tombs boast of excellent architecture, and this style was later used in the construction of Taj Mahal. These gardens are ideal for joggers and for those who seek solitude.
NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK
The Delhi zoo, close to Purana Qila, near ITO, was established in 1959 and is spread over a massive area of 214 acres. Is regarded as one of the finest zoos in Asia and efforts have been made to provide an almost natural habitat to the animals and birds. There are more than 2,000 animals and bird species from places like Africa, America, Australia and even Asia. There is a lot of greenery around the zoo and it is an ideal picnic spot especially in winter. Timings summer 0800 to 1800 hours, winter 0900 to 1700 hours. Closed on Friday.
BUDDHA JAYANTI PARK
At Palam-bound Sardar Patel Marg via Karol Bagh opp. Assam House is Buddha Jayanti Park founded on the auspicious eve of 2500 years of completion of Buddhas Great Salvation. A plant of Bodhi-Briksha was brought from Sri Lanka and planted in the commemorating park. The park is full of flowers and the garden is pleasant and charming for rest and walk. Ideal for picnic.
Famous Fairs in Delhi
Delhi attracts foreign and domestic business traffic every year by doing many important International and Domestic trade fairs like IITF, Plast India, Auto Expo, Book Fair, Fashion week, etc.
The Delhi’s rich consumer market, coupled with advanced physical infrastructure and high rate of urbanization forms its foreign investment strength.
As a resourceful city, Delhi has a high migration rate that makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Last year report showing that Delhi has amongst the top 10 most expensive city to live.
Pragati Maidan is the best known for Trade Fair Ground. This exhibition complex has four gates at different sides is one of its kind in India. It has 18 halls, 22 permanent pavilions, 130,000 sq. meters covered space and 180,000 sq. meters open area, this massive complex hosts series of high-quality international trade fairs. It is the most comprehensive and economical complex with separate pavilion for all the states of the country, scientifically designed exhibition hall in a lush green setting, air-conditioned auditorium, conference room, a press lounge, a business information center, restaurants, banks, post offices etc.
INDIAN HABITAT CENTER (IHC)
It is established by the joint effort of several leading corporate entities and non-profit organizations like Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) & HUDCO, IHC’s main objective is “to maximize the effectiveness in the holistic support of the ‘habitat’.” It is located at Lodhi Road, IHC today has an extensive complex housing various offices, research organizations, a club, India’s most comprehensive convention center, several restaurants and performance venues for cultural activities.
NATIONAL SMALL INDUSTRIES CORPORATION (NSIC), OKHLA
NSIC has been working to fulfill its mission of ‘promoting, aiding and fostering the growth of small-scale industries and industry related small-scale services / business enterprises in the country’. For this it not only organizes various Exhibitions and Technology Fairs to showcase the competencies of Indian SSIs and to capture market opportunities but also participates in selected International and National Exhibitions and Trade Fairs every year. The corporation is also an important Export House for handicrafts, leather items, hand tools and other small-scale industrial goods.
CGO Complex is not only an important commercial nucleus but it also hosts events of high strategical significance as it bags various public/private offices and ministries like MTNL, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Disinvestments, National Afforestation & Eco-development Board and many more.