Delhi is the capital city of India. It is a sort of twin cities - Old Delhi and New Delhi.
Delhi has the distinction of being the capital city of India. It is the third largest city of India. Old Delhi was the capital city of India, during the Muslim rule in the 12th and 19th centuries. Hence, there are many mosques, monuments and forts relating to India is Muslim history. Successive dynasties have left their imprint in the form of relics, forts, palaces and other monuments in old Delhi.
The other Delhi, New Delhi has been a newly-created imperial city of the British rule. Naturally, New Delhi is spacious, with a large lung space and gardens, wide roads and bears an imperial majesty, with many embassies and government buildings. New Delhi is the gateway of entry into the Indian sub-continent with very good rail and air connections to all parts of India. Thus, New Delhi is the hub of all activity in India, whether political, social or historical. It is also the busiest entrance point to overseas airlines. There are hotels in Delhi to suit every pocket and every taste.
The city of Indraprasta of Mahabharatha fame, is said to be located at the very place where Delhi stands today. However, the history of Delhi is available to historians only after 11th century. Delhi was ruled mostly by Afghans and Muslims, except for one Hindu king, Prithvi Raj in the 12th century. Then came many dynasties who ruled Delhi, like the Tughluks, Mughuls, and Afghans until the extinction of the Moghul empire, with the advent of the British rule in India.
British power, which was centred at Calcutta in the beginning, came to be transferred to New Delhi around the year 1911. The new city of New Delhi, was formally inaugurated in the year 1931. The embassies and High Commissions are spread over large lawns of New Delhi. New Delhi also has great hotels of international repute, like the Ashoka, Taj Continental, Maurya-Sheraton, etc.
Other great hotels of national and international repute are: Oberoi Inter- continental; Hyatt Regency; Meridian; the two Siddharths, Qutub; Samrat; Kaniskha; Imperial; Claridges and Maidenis.
In a way, cities in and around Delhi, like Hastinapura, Agra and Indraprasta, have been the nucleus of power for many rulers for more than 2,000 years. However, at no point of time in Indiais history, the whole of Indiais history, the whole of Indiais territory was being ruled by one government as in the British period, more specifically since Independence. Even at the height of their power, the Moghuls did not have control over south India.
For the discerning tourist, Delhi is too wide and sprawling a place with many monuments, forts and remnants of the bygone era, to cover in a day. A minimum of four to five days will be necessary to see the whole of Delhi.
Roughly, there were at least eight cities in and around Delhi of the present day. Half of them, were near the Qutab Minar area. The earliest known. Delhi area, was located near the present-day Purana Qila area. At the beginning of the 12th century, the last Hindu kingdom of Delhi was ruled by Tomar and Chauthan dynasties and were located near the Qutab Minar and Suraj Khund, now in Haryana.
The other cities of yore are: Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah, Ferozabad, Shajahanabad, and the present New Delhi.
The story of Delhi is mainly a story of invasions and plunder suffered by it. The worst of the plunders was when in 1739, the Persian emperor, Nadir Shah carted off the Kohinoor diamond and the peacock throne to Iran.
Delhi is a well spread out city. New Delhi is a spaciously planned area while old Delhi is densely populated with tightly packed streets. Connaught place is the hub of New Delhi.
ITDC and Delhi Tourism (belonging to the New Delhi government) conduct city tours.
Things to buy:
Silk products, precious stones, leather and woodwork, brass work, paintings, furniture, carpets, jewellery, perfumes, oils, incense.
Places of tourist interest:-
Important landmarks to visit at New Delhi are: The Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Secretariat, the Parliament House, Cathedral Church. The Roman Catholic church, Teen Murti House (Nehru Museum). The Rail Transport Museum, Indira Gandhi Museum, Birla House, National Archives. National museum, Baroda House and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Some of the important places to visit in Old Delhi are: The Jama Masjid, Sisgang Gurdwara, Sonehri Masjid, Town Hall, Fatehpur mosque, Spices market, Digambar Jain temple and the Charity Bird Hospital.
The Gandhi memorial museum is located in Eastern part of New Delhi. Other places of tourist interest in the area are: Feroz Shah Kotla city ruins, The National Rose Garden, International Dolls Museum, Crafts Museum, Purana Qila City ruins, Humayunis tomb, and many other mosques and tombs of Muslim rulers.
In South Delhi, are located the tombs of Sikandar Lodi, Safdar Jang, Majaf Khan, Darya Khan, Mubarak Khan, among others.
Among the places of tourist attraction in North Delhi are: British Magazine and Telegraph Memorial, Old Secretariat building, Ashoka Pillar, Mutiny Memorial, etc.
Qutb Minar: The Qutb Minar, in a way, is the epitome of the entry of Islamic culture into India. The area around Qutb Minar marks the place where the many dynasties of Muslim rule in India, centred from the 12th century till the end of Moghul dynastyis rule. The Qutb Minar also represents the rich heritage of Delhi of the bygone era. They also contain the rich and most impressive ruins of the old city of Delhi. It is about 238 feet tall and has five stories. Its construction began in the year 1199.
Symbolically, it unites the earth and the heavens.
The story of Old Delhi is the story of the seven cities built around it, at the end of the 12th century. In the year 1192, an Afghan invader, Mohammud Ghori led his troops into India, defeated and killed the last of the Hindu rulers then, Prithviraj of Tomar dynasty and returned to Afghanistan. He left his slave behind - Qutubuddin Aibak - as his Viceroy in India. Qutubuddin captured Delhi the next year and celebrated his victory by raising the first Muslim city in Indian empire. This was called the iQila Rai Pithorai - now known as Qutb Minar complex. This was built on the ruins of Lal Kot, a fort that had been built by the Tomar Rajputs in the 10th century.
When Mohammed Ghori died in the year 1206, Qutubuddin declared himself as the Sultan of Delhi and inaugurated the first five Delhi sultanates that were to rule most part of northern India until the advent of Moghuls, three centuries later.
The Siri fort was built by Allauddin Khilji in the early 14th century. He also founded the Khilji dynasty which ruled between 1290-132l.
Tughluqabad was built by Ghiyathbuddin Tughluq, who rose to power under Alauddin Khilji, Ghiyathbuddin had led Khiljiis forces in 29 victorious campaigns against the would be Mongolian invaders. His dynasty lasted from 1321 to 1414. The thick walls of his citadel, like his tomb, still exist. For some time, he was also the Governor of Punjab.
Ghiyathbuddin Tughlukis son, Muhammud-bin-Tughluk is otherwise called the ernad Tughlukf for his mad acts of shifting the whole populace from his own capital of Jahanpanah down to south, a distance of 800 miles, because he wanted to establish his power in the south, where he could plunder a rich harvest of money and gold. He also wanted to win the Hindu war class of Rajputs and Marathas. He had a grandiose plan to rule the entire world. He called himself the eshadow of Codi and literally marched the whole populace southwards to Daulathabad, near Ellora. In the process, thousands died on way to their forced new home. However, Daulathabad had not enough infrastructure for the large population and after a few years, ran out of water. He then ordered the whole population back to his earlier capital, then also forcing many thousands to die on way. No wonder, the shadow of God gained reputation as a mad king.
However, after the death of ethe shadow of Godi in the year 1351, who left no heir, his cousin ruled and there was a period of golden rule when people were most happy and contented. He built the Ferozabad.
A little later, factions arose in his dynasty and there was a power struggle. This led to the entry of the Mongol invader, Timur, the Lame, in the year 1398, who plundered the capital of Delhi in a devastating way and political instability continued for quite a few years later.
Then came the Afghan invasions. In 1526, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi who was a treacherous and unpopular ruler, sent an invitation to Babar, king of Kabul in Afghanistan, to invade India and take over the throne of Delhi. Babar, who marched his army into India, promptly defeated Ibrahim Lodi and killed him at the historic battle at Panipat and usurped the Delhi throne. Thus started the Moghul dynasty in India, who ruled in the north for about 300 years. However, the Moghuls gave India such treasures like the Taj Mahal and ushered in a renaissance of Indian art and architecture. The greatest of the Moghul Emperors was Akbar the Great and his grandson. Shah Jahan who created not only Shajahanabad, but also the Taj Mahal.
One of the pieces of great historical and archaeological importance near the Qutb Minar is an iron pillar which dates back to the 4th century AD and bears a Sanskrit inscription in the contemporary Gupta script. The pillar must have been erected as a flagstaff (dwaja sthamba) for Lord Vishnu, in memory of Chandra Gupta II who ruled between 375-413 AD. It was brought here by Anang Pal, the Tomar king, who built Lal Kot, the nucleus of the first city of Delhi, in the 10th century.
What is of great scientific interest is that the pillar, made of wrought iron, is 98 per cent pure and contains no manganese and was evidently char- coal fired. It has withstood 1600 years of life without rusting or decomposing a bit, which speak of the metallurgical skill of the ancient Indians.
The Purana QuiIa (meaning old fort), was built in the 15th century and is the remnant of the first Moghul capital to be built in Delhi. Although it is merely 460 years old, belonging to the second Moghul Emperor, Humayun, the site itself goes back to the venue of the great epic, Mahabharatha, then called Indraprastha.
The Red Fort, represents the might of the Moghuls, particularly, when it reached the zenith during the reign of Shah Jahan who ruled between 1627-1658.
The Red Fort has 14 gates in all, but the most important one are: The Ajmeri gate, the Turkman gate, the Kashmiri gate and the Delhi gate. The construction of the Red Fort (La I Quila) was started by Shah jahan in the year 1639 and completed in 1648. Yudhisthira of Mahabharatha fame, is said to have performed the Aswamedha (Royal horse sacrifice) near here, to celebrate the victory of Panda vas over the Kauravas.
Just to the south of Chandni Chowk, which is one of the busiest business centres in Delhi, is the jama Masjid, another monumental creation of Shah Jahan, built between 1650 and 1656. It is grand in its architectural conception.
As the most important and popular entry point to the Indian sub-continent, Delhi has much to offer to the visitor. Successive dynasties have left their imprint in monuments all over the city. New Delhi is a modern city with wide roads, sprawling gardens, large hotels, and well-planned buildings depicting their architectural splendour. However, the roads are sparsely used, but neatly maintained. New Delhi area makes a pleasant walk during the day. After dark, the lawns are a favourite picnic spot for local families, especially in the summer months when finding a parking space becomes difficult. The Raj Path and the Jan Path of New Delhi are the cynosures of all eyes. The Royal splendour, whether of the Raj days or the present days, is evident in everywhere in New Delhi.
Other important places of tourist importance in the New Delhi area are: Pragati Maidan: Appu Garh: Connaught Place: Lotus Mahal: Laxminarayan Temple: Teen Murti Bhavan: Jantar Mantar: the Zoo: Raj Ghat: Birla House: Gandhi Memorial Museum: Fort Archaeological Museum: Chandni Chowk: India Gate: Indira Gandhi Memorial: Nehru Memorial: Dolls! Museum: Rail Museum: National Stadium: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium: Chanakyapuri (Diplomatic Enclave) and Buddha Jayanti Park among others.
A trip on the iPalace on Wheels (for Foreign Tourists only) and another on the Ring Railway will be of great benefit from the touristis point of view.
Pragati Maidan: This is a sprawling exhibition ground on Mathura Road and draws very big gatherings of people during trade fairs, book fairs, etc., both national and international. Even otherwise, during normal days also, it is a great place with many entertainments, with cinema halls, parks, hotels, shopping centres etc.,
Major Permanent Exhibitions at Pragati Maidan include: the Nehru Pavilion, Son of India Pavilion, Atomic Energy Pavilion and Defence Pavilion.
There is a seven-acre Village Complex, which is a model village with ten different kinds of rural dwellings. Here is also a Crafts Museum depicting a magnificent collection of Indian crafts dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries of Indian crafts dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries comprising more than 20,000 pieces of works of art. There are also States pavilions, each displaying the arts, crafts and achievements of the particular state it represents.
The latest addition to Pragati Maidan is the Appu Garh, which can be called a mini-Disneyland. It is a childrenis playground with some of the most sophisticated equipment for children at play.
Chanakyapuri is the Diplomatic Enclave which is one of the most architecturally fascinating places in Delhi. The largest of the ITDC hotels, Ashoka Hotel, is in this area. It offers everything from restaurants, coffee shops, bars, discos, conference rooms and swimming pools to full air- conditioning.
The area of post- Independent India, has been named after the great Emperor, Chandra Gupta Mauryais great diplomat. Chanakya, who also wrote the worldis first guide to statecraft, Artha sastrai.
Each Embassy building here is in a different architectural style. Visitors are not allowed to enter this area, unless they are on business.
New Delhi area abounds in great hotels of world-renown. They are a class by themselves in architecture, style and splendour.
Connaught Place is the business and commercial centre of New Delhi. It is also a big tourist centre. It is a vast traffic circle with an architecturally uniform series of buildings around the edge-mainly devoted to shops, airline offices and banks. There are several shops exclusively dealing in jewellery, clothing and domestic appliances etc., The Janpath market is a crowded, colourful bazaar which is not an expensive market. There is also an underground market here-the Palika Bazaar which has over 300 shops. The other markets here are the Shankar market and a co-op. venture, the Super Bazaar.
Jantar Mantar, is an Observatory. Located on the Parliament Street. It is a small distance away from Connaught Place. This strange collection of salmon-coloured structures, is another of Maharajah Jai Singh II's observatories constructed in 1725. Jai Singh was a keen astronomer, who built five ob- servatories in the country. Jan- tar Mantar is dominated by a huge sun-dial called the 'Prince of Dials'. Other instruments here plot the course of heavenly bodies and the paths of stars, and predict eclipses.
There are six huge masonary instruments here: The Samrat Yantra, Jai Prakash; Ram Yantra; Misra Yantra; Niyata Chakra; Dakshinottara Bhitti Yantra and the Karka Rasi Valaya.
Raj Ghat, north-east of Feroz Shah Kotla, on the banks of the Yamuna, is where the mortal remains of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, were cremated. It is a simple and serene place with a square platform of black marble, with lush greenery all round. Just two words are engraved on the marble: "Hey Ram" which were the words uttered by the Mahatma when an assassin shot him while going to a prayer meeting on January 30, 1948.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, was also cremated here in 1964. The samadhi is called Shanti Van. Vijay Ghat is the place where Lal Bahadur Shastri was cremated, while Shakti Sthal is the samadhi where Indira Gandhi, was cremated.
Directly opposite the Raj Ghat, is the Gandhi Memorial Museum where the personal belongings of Gandhiji are kept. There is also a library where books on Gandhian thought and also books he him- self wrote, are exhibited.
Birla House was the home of well-known in- dustrialist, G.D. Birla, which he placed at the disposal of Gandhiji whenever he visited Delhi. Gandhiji used this house for his daily evening prayers and it was while proceeding to this place, that he fell to an assassin's bullet. Birla House is now called Gandhi Sadan, and converted into a museum. There is a 9-metre high stone memorial in the backyard of the house, marking the exact place where Gandhiji breathed his last.
Laxmi Narayan Temple is another place of pilgrimage to devout Hindus. It was built in the year 1938 by Raja Baldev Birla, a prominent Indian in- dustrialist of the Birla family. Built in Orissan sty le, the presiding deities there are Narayana (The Preserver), and Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth). Gita Bhavan and a Buddhist temple are situated on either side of the main temple.
India Gate, is a 42-metre high stone arch of triumph that stands at the eastern end of the Raj Path. The foundation for this structure was laid in the year 1921, by the Duke of Con- naught, as the All India War Memorial now Known as the India Gate. It bears the names of 90,000 Indian Army soldiers, who died in many wars. Atop the arch is a stone bowl, where burns the eternal flame to honour the unknown soldier.
Teen Murti Bhavan, which was built earlier by the Britishers as the official residence of the British commander-in-chief, became the official residence of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru lived here for 14 long years as Prime Minister, and after his death, it was decided to convert it into a memorial to him. It has a museum and a library, providing glimpses of Nehru's life and personality. Some of his personal living rooms have been preserved as they were at the time of his death. Audio-visual shows in Hindi and English, titled 'Tryst with Destiny' recount the events in India's struggle for freedom.
Indira Gandhi Memorial:
This is at No.1, Safdarjung Road, the house in which Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, lived for 17 years, from 1964 to 1977 and then again from 1980 to 1984, until she fell to the bullets of one of her own security guards.
Indira Gandhi's office, her study, and all that she so much loved and preserved, have been kept just as. they were. The whole complex here is a fascinating view of the private life of Indira Gandhi as well as a poignant reminder of the perils her public life entailed. A solemn relic here is the blood that oozed out of her body after a volley of bullets were fired at her in the assassination that occurred on 31.10.1984.
National Museum: This museum is at the junction of Raj Path and Jan Path. The foundation for this museum was laid by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, on May, 12, 1955. It has an excellent collection of paintings, sculptures and manuscripts relating to India and its culture. Films on Indian culture and history are shown everyday here.
Dolls' Museum: World- famous cartoonist, Shankar, who had been collecting dolls from the various parts of the world, found that in 1954, he had a collection of over 2,000 dolls. He founded the Shankar's International Dolls' Museum in Nehru House, which now has a collection of over 6,000 dolls from all over the world. There is also a dolls designing centre in. the campus, in addition to a children's library. Membership is open to children only.
Rail Transport Museum: This is situated on a 10-acre plot near the Diplomatic Enclave, and is the first of its kind in India. It was opened in the year 1977, to commemorate 125 years of the Indian Rail- ways. It contains railway carriages of vintage, used by the Maharajas, Princes and British VIPs in India. It throws light on the luxury, splendour and life style of the Maharajas and Maharanis of yore during their journeys on rails.
Chandni Chowk: Chandni Chowk, meaning "Silver Street", was once supposed to have been the richest street in the world. Now, this is the most fashionable business and shopping centre in Delhi, thronging with people and traffic. It was made wide enough to accommodate Shah Jahan's great processions. It is also the most historically important thoroughfare in the world.
It has, in its chequered history, witnessed the pomp and splendour of the Moghuls, the plunder and massacre of Nadir Shaw's soldiers, the grandeur of the 1911 Durbar, the attempt on the life of Lord Hardinge in the year 1912, and the joyous and surging crowds celebrating their independence on August, 15, 1947. Still, however, even today, the vestiges of its vibrant personality are evident in its flourishing silver jewellery shops, the bustle of business that seems to go on round the clock and in the many monuments ranged down the central avenue.
Among historically most important places in this are the Sikh Shrine, Gurdwara Sisganj, in which is a banyan tree under which Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded by Emperor Aurangzeb's soldiers for refusing to convert himself into Islam.
Another very poignant place situated here is the Kotwali police station area around which occurred the grim events that followed the rebellion of 1857. From gallows erected in this area, sympathizers of those who rebelled against the British rule in India, were hanged daily. The bodies of three Moghul princes shot by Captain Hodson, were also exhibited here.