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Delhi

Delhi is truly a symbol of the old and the new; a blend of ancient well preserved monuments and temples along with jam-packed burger joints and up market shopping malls.The city is lushed with a plethora of temples, forts, mosques as well as parks, gardens and beautiful colonial mansions. Delhi may seem daunting to a first time visitor but as a national capital and the gateway to the North, it is a must visit city on any travelers itinerary. Impressive museums and interesting nightlife, Delhi has a lot to offer for everyone. The Capital of India & its Administrative Center English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Delhi is no fairytale city but a city where dreams come to reality. Its strategic location was one of the prime reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power. Location: North India.

Historical Perspective

The earliest reference to a settlement at Delhi is found in the epic Mahabharata, which mentions a city called Indraprastha, built about 1400 BC under the direction of 'Yudhistra', a 'Pandava' king, on a huge mound somewhere between the sites where the historic Old Fort and Humayun's Tomb were later to be located. Although nothing remains of Indraprastha, according to legend it was a thriving city.The first reference to the place-name Delhi seems to have been made in the 1st century BC, when Raja Dhilu built a city near the site of the future Qutub Minar and named it after him.

A Conglomerate of Seven Cities

One of the most fascinating aspects of Delhi is the visibility of its historic past. Some of the large portions of the city could be well earmarked as archeological parks because the rulers of successive dynasties between the 13th and the 17th centuries established seven cities in different parts of Delhi. A chronological review of these cities fortunately also serves as suitable itinerary for tourists and highlights the important monuments amongst the 1300's. Delhi's History goes much further back in time than the 13th century. Anagpal Tomar who is said to have built LAL KOT, which is the first known regular defence work in Delhi, created the core of the first of the seven cities. The Chauhan Rajput's later captured Delhi from the Tomars. Prithviraj III, also known as Rai Pithora, extended Lal Kot, adding massive ramparts and gates and made Quila Rai Pithora the first city of Delhi. Today only, the ramparts are visible near the Qutub Minar, though the city is known to have had several Hindu and Jain temples.

Soon afterwards, in two successive battles of Tarain 1191, the Rajputs first managed to hold off an invading force from Afghanistan, led by Muhammad Ghuri but surrendered a few months later. Unlike other invaders of Central Asia who swept into the northern plains, Muhammad Ghuri came to stay and not only plunder.

After Ghuri's assassination in 1206, his provinces, forts and monuments were kept intact in the hands of his Turkish general, Qutub-ud-din-Aibak. Qutub-ud-din was the founder of the Slave or Mamulak dynasty also known as Delhi Sultanate and became the first Muslim ruler of Delhi. He also raised the construction of Qutub Minar. His successor, Iltutmish, was arguably the greatest of the early Delhi Sultans. The Slave Dynasty (1211-1227) was followed by the Khalji dynasty (1296-1316) and during the rule of Ala-ud-din Khalji, the second city of Delhi was built - "SIRI". Today Sir is situated where the Siri Fort and the modern day Asiad Village Complex are located. The third city of Delhi - TUGHLUQABAD was founded by the Tughluq dynasty soon after in 1320 AD but very little remains of this can be seen in present day Delhi. The fourth city of Delhi - JAHANPANAH was built between Lal Kot and Siri in 1327 AD. The next Sultan Firoz Shah built the fifth city of Delhi - FIROZABAD in 1354 AD.

The Central Asian Turk

Timur, who was later succeeded by the Sayyid dynasty, followed the Tughlaq’s. The Lodi dynasty soon followed and the only interesting architectural features added by them were the tombs, the best of which may be seen at the Lodi Gardens. The famous battle of Panipat fought in 1526 AD marked the beginning of Mughal rule in India, a period in history that was very significant.Babur and Humayun were the early Mughal rulers followed by a 15-year break in Mughal rule when Sher Shah Suri an Afghan king ruled over Delhi. He built the fort DIN-PANAH - the 6th city on the banks of the Yamuna, which in present day Delhi is known as the Purana Qila. When Emperor Akbar took over, the capital was shifted to Agra. However in 1628 AD, Delhi was once again made the capital of the Mughal Empire under Emperor Shah Jahan. In Shah Jahan's rule, Delhi witnessed the construction of some of the finest pieces of Mughal architecture. There was the new walled capital of SHAHJAHANBAD - the 7th city of Delhi, which is now Old Delhi with the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid.

The Colonial Era

For the next many decades, Delhi witnessed tumultuous times, different rulers and dynasties and finally in 1803 AD, the British who had already established their presence in India, took over power in Delhi. Delhi was the focal point for the first war of independence in 1857. Though the revolt did not reach its desired conclusion, Delhi became a thorn in the eyes of the British.

As the British’s shifted their capital from Calcutta to Delhi, all the activities during the freedom struggle were directed towards Delhi. Thus, Delhi also bears the marks of the freedom struggle. The ultimate goal of the Azad Hind Fauz during the freedom struggle was to capture Delhi and established Swaraj. The slogan 'Dilli Chalo' is still used by leaders and political parties when they organize any rally or demonstration. It was the hosting of the tricolor at Red Fort in Delhi, which marked a chapter in the history of India. In 1950, Delhi was made the capital of Independent India and in 1992 it was declared a state.

Architecture in Delhi

Delhi comprises of some of the most exquisite examples of architectural splendors. The conquest of Muslims made an effective and distinct impact on the indigenous manifestations of life and culture, which also gave rise among other expressions of art, a new style in architecture. This new style incorporated certain new modes and principles of construction, beautifully reflecting the religious and social needs of the adherents of Islam. The systematically planned architecture of the British brought with them a colonial trend of having gardens and lawns within the premises, creating a natural ambience around a building.

Prime Attractions

Bangla Sahib Gurdwara Travel: Built in the memory of the 8th Sikh Guru Sri Harkishen Sahib, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is one of the important historical Gurdwara in Delhi. The Gurdwara is located next to Gol Dak Khana; on the north of Gurdwara is Baba Kharag Singh Marg while on south is the Ashoka road, near Connaught Place.

Church Of The Sacred Heart Travel: Further north, at the south end of Bhai Vir Singh Marg, is one of Medd's more ambitious projects, the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart.

Humayun's Tomb Travel: Humayun's tomb lies on the Mathura road near its crossing with the Lodi Road. High rubble-built walls enclose here a square garden divided initially into four large squares separated by causeways and channels, each square divided again into smaller squares by pathways ('Chaharbagh') as in a typical Mughal garden.

India Gate: At the center of New Delhi stands the 42m high India Gate, an "Arc-de-Triomphe" like Archway in the middle of a crossroad. Almost similar to its French counterpart war memorial. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War and bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919.

Jantar Mantar: A unique structure raised in 1724, now lies in the heart of Delhi's commercial centre near Connaught place. This is the Jantar Mantar, one of several astronomical observatories raised by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. The various abstract structures within the Jantar Mantar are, in fact, instruments that were used for keeping track of celestial bodies. Yet, Jantar Mantar is not only a timekeeper of celestial bodies, it also tells a lot about the technological achievements under the Rajput kings and their attempt to resolve the mysteries regarding astronomy.

Purana Qila (Old Fort): The Purana-Qila (Purana-Qal's) occupies the ancient mound, which conceals perhaps the ruins of the city of Indraprastha of Mahabharata story. Sher Shah Suri demolished the city of Dinpanah built by Humayun and on the same site raised this citadel.

It is irregularly oblong on plan, with bastions on the corners and in the Western Wall. Its ramparts cover a perimeter of nearly 2-km.and has three main gates on the north, south and west, the last one functioning as the entrance now. The gates are double storeyed, built with red sandstone and surmounted by chhatris. On the inside, against the enclosure wall run cells in two-bay depth. Among the three main gates, the northern one is called the 'Talaqi-Darwaza' or the forbidden gate. Why and when the entrance through it was forbidden is not known. Above the oriel windows on its front are carved marble leogryphs engaged in combat with a man. The exterior of the gate was originally decorated with colored tiles, and the rooms with incised plasterwork.

Qal'A-I-Kuhna-Masjid: Among the few buildings still extant within the Purana-Qila is the 'Qal'a-i-Kuhna-Masjid' (mosque of the Old Fort), built by Sher Shah in 1541. Its prayer-hall measures 51.20m by 14.90m, and is fronted by five openings with horseshoe-shaped arches. Narrow fluted pilasters flank the central arch, higher than the others and framed within a projection.The recessed surface of the arch, through which there is an opening, is beautifully decorated with inlay of marble and other stones and contains a small oriel window at its apex. The two arches on either side are similarly treated but with less of ornamentation. In the arches at the ends plain grey stone is used instead of the red stone.The minhrabs inside the hall are richly decorated with concentric arches, which enhance the scope for ornamentation. The rear-corners rise with double-storeyed towers and oriel windows. From both the ends in the hall staircases lead to a narrow passage on the second storey running right round the rectangular hall. The central Bay of the hall is surmounted by a beautiful dome, with traces of chhatris on either side. In the courtyard originally existed a shallow tank provided with a fountain.

Qutub Minar: In 1199, Qutub-ud-Din raised the Qutub Minar either as a victory tower or as a minaret to the adjacent mosque. From a base of 14.32m it tapers to 2.75m at a height of 72.5m and a valid reason why it took two decades to complete this monument. Its a red sandstone tower covered with beautiful and striking carvings and is inscribed with verses from the holy Quran. Qutub Minar is still the highest stone tower in India as well as one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised and Delhi's recognized landmark. The sultan's successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish, completed it. In 1303, Ala-ud-Din established the second city of Delhi, called Siri, of which nothing remains but the embattlements. He also had dug a vast reservoir, Hauz Khas, to supply water to his city. Contemporary historians describe the Delhi of that time as being the "envy of Baghdad, the rival of Cairo and equal to Constantinople". For the sake of convenience, tourists visiting the Qutub Complex could also see the Tomb of Adham Khan and Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli and the Tomb of Jamali-Kamali behind the Qutub Minar. These however, belong to a later date.

Red Fort: After transferring his capital to Delhi from Agra in 1638 Shah Jahan commenced the construction of Shahjahanabad, and a little later, on the 16th April 1639, he also laid the foundation of his citadel, Lal-Qila (Lal-Qal'a) or Red Fort, known also by other names in contemporary accounts. It was completed after nine years on the 16th April 1648. The entire fort is said to have cost about one crore of rupees, half of it on the palaces.The Red Fort, so called because of the red colour of the stone largely used in it, is octagonal on plan, with two longer sides on the east and west. On the north a bridge with Salimgarh connects the fort. It measures about 900m by 550m, with its rampart walls covering a perimeter of 2.41-km and rising to a height of 33.5m on the town side and 18m along the river. Outside the ramparts runs a moat, originally connected with the river. The places lie along the eastern side of the fort, while two imposing three-storeyed main gateways flanked by semi-octagonal towers and consisting of several apartments are located in the center of the western and southern sides and are known as the Lahori and Delhi Gates respectively. On the outside, the Delhi Gate is flanked by the statues of two elephants renewed in 1903 by Lord Curzon in place of the ones, which had been demolished long ago by Aurangzeb.

Iskcon Temple-Delhi: A Complex Of Elegant Temple Architecture: Built in 1998, the temple complex of Isckon stands at Hari Krishna Hill, Sant Nagar Main Road, East of Kailash. The magnificent temple has 'Shikharas' at a height of 90-feet above the ground level. The hall of the temple is centrally air-conditioned with a capacity to accommodate about 1,500 people.This complex is elegantly built There are beautiful paintings of Russian artists on the different past times of Radha Krishna, Sita, Ram, Laxman, Hanuman and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Special programs like kirtan, aarti, pravachan and prasadam are held every Sunday between noons to 3.00pm. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and was built by the Hare-Rama Hare-Krishna cult followers. and is one of the largest temple complexes in India. Currently the main attraction of the temple is the Robot who enacts and preaches the Gita. For many this is just a temple, for finding solace, peace and quiet. Sitting amongst Lord Krishna and his devotees with Hare Krishna chants going around is indeed an experience. But for those who are seeking more, there is so much to learn and see, than what meets the eye.

Jama Masjid: Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India and the final architectural extravagance of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It's also known as 'Masjid-I-Jahan Numa', 'Jahan' means 'World' and Numa means 'Visible'. It is situated some quarter of a mile from the Red Fort. It was designed as Emperor Shahjahan's principal mosque. The sprawling esplanade, which separates it from the arterial road, is a fascinating leisure ground.

Lakshmi Narayan Mandir: This enchanting temple is located west of Connaught Place and was build by Raja Baldev Das in 1938. The temple is dedicated to the goddess of prosperity and good fortune & is commonly known as the Birla Mandir. It is modern in concept and construction and attracts several devotees and international tourists. The presiding deity here is Lakshmi Narayan, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu. The walls of the temple are decorated with various Hindu symbols and quotes from the Gita and the Upanishads.

Lotus Temple Baha'i Temple is known as one of the most beautiful architectural temples in India. Popularly called Lotus Temple as it is built in the shape of a Lotus flower and reaches a height of more than 40m. It was completed in 1986 and one can enjoy its exquisite beauty even from a kilometer distance, at night.

Tughlaqabad The massive strong walls of Tughluqabad, the third city of Delhi, are located east of the Qutab Minar. The citadel frowns down ominously like some Gothic palace all over the Qutub-Badarpur road and seems to prefer its splendid isolation.