About Delhi


Delhi is about 5,000 years old. The other cities that are as old are Varanasi, in North India and Damacus, in Syria. For administrative purposes Delhi is divided into East, West, North, South and Central Delhi, with many mofusil and extended areas becoming part of this ever-expanding city. The satellite towns of Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon, of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, consist of residential and commercial enterprises to the west and south of New Delhi.

As a metro, Delhi, scores high on the list. It is a mix of cultures, traditions and lifestyles of different generations. And being India’s capital, New Delhi is a place where a lot of business takes place, many different peoples converge; where there’s basically many things happening at the same time. Delhi is a ground for India’s major political, cultural and religious conventions and events. It is also a stronghold for her military might. Talking in terms of travel, Delhi acts as a link between the northernmost part of the country to the rest of India.

Old Delhi has many mosques, historical monuments and buildings and forts. A cycle-rickshaw-ride through this part of the city is a must for tourists. You can see houses, shops and monuments crowded together, with humans jostling for space, too. The colourful and energetic souks and bazaars of Delhi’s street are filled with all sorts of shops selling high-quality goods as well as bargainable ones.

The origin of the name ‘Delhi’ has many theories attached to it. The most popular one is that its eponym is ‘Dhillu’ or ‘Dilu’, named after the Mauryan king, who built the city in 50 B.C. The Hindi/ Prakrit word ‘dhili’ (loose) was used by the Tuar Rajputs to refer to the city as the Iron Pillar built by Raja Dhava had a frail foundation and was replaced later. ‘Dehliwal’ was the name of the coins in circulation in the area under the Rajputs rule. Another group say that the name is derived from ‘Dilli’, a corruption of ‘dehleez’ or ‘dehali’ – Hindi for ‘threshold’. It represented the city being a gateway to the Indo-Gangetic plains.

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History of Delhi
The seven cities that Delhi consists are Quila Rai Pithora, Mehrauli, Siri, Tughlakabad, Firozabad, Shergarh and Shahjahanabad. During his reign, King Prithviraj Chauhan kept Rai Pithora as his capital. Also known as Qila Rai Pithora, it is one of the oldest cities of Hindustan and dates as far back as 10 A.D. Before Chauhan, his ancestors are said to have captured it from the Tomar Rajputs. The founding credit of Delhi goes to them. The first known fort, Lalkot, was built by Anangpal, a Tomar ruler. It was taken over by Prithviraj Chauhan, and extended to include parts of current Delhi. Qutab Minar and Mehrauli make the tourists a scene of the ruins of the fort battlements of Prithviraj Chauhan.

In 1192, Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Muhammad Ghori, and he left his slave Qutub-ud-din Aibak as his viceroy. With in subsequeht years he captured the rest of Delhi during his viceroy period. Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the founder of slave dynasty, proclaimed himself as the ruler of Delhi after the death of Muhammad Ghori.

We can undoubtedly say that the Contribution of Qutub-ud-din Aibak for the architectural construction of Delhi is so precious. Mehrauli construction and starting of Qutab Minar are examples. The 72.5m-tall Qutab Minar was built across three generations and was finally completed in 1220 A.D. the Mausoleum of Kaki, Shamsi Talao and some other mosques are also noticeable to the visitors to the Qutab Minar.

Afert the slave dynasty of Qutub-ud-din Aibak, it was followed by Allauddin who extended the empire to the south of the Narmada river, and also established the city of Siri. Allaudin is considered as the most illustrious rulers among other six rulers. Allaudin’s major contribution to Delhi was the madrasa at Hauz Khas, built in the West Asian architecture. Hauz Khas is now popular for the stylish boutiques and restaurants.

In the 1320s Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, a Turk governor, invaded Delhi and established the city of Tughlakabad. He is considered as the founder ofthe Tughlaq dynasty. The ruins of his large dynasty, including significant forts, are still found. Tughlakabad continued, however, to be the main capital city even after the structuring of another city called Jahapanah by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s descendent Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.

Firozabad or Firoze Shah Kotla was shaped by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq's son, Firoze. The enclosed city had many palaces, mosques, pillared halls and multi-floored water tanks. Firoze Shah placed the 1,500-year-old Asoka Pillar on the top of the palace. He reconstructed some portions of Ghori's tomb, Qutub Minar, Suraj Kund and Hauz Khas during his period.

During the first battle of Panipat, Lodhis were defeated by Babur and he continued to set up the Mughal dynasty. After the stretched running of Humayun’s (Babur’s son) mugal dyanasty, Sher Shah Suri (1540) conquered the the kingdom and established the new city Shergarh (on the ruins of Dinpanah, built by Humayun) towards the north and near the river.

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.

The next of the Mughal emperors decided to shift away from Delhi and established Agra as the center of their rule. At the same time, Shajahan established his monarchy Shahjehanabad, which included the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort and all that’s enclosed within the walls of Old Delhi. This wall is still around in many parts. The six gates were Delhi gate, Lahori Gate, Turkman Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Kashmiri Gate, and Mori Gate. Three of them still exist. New Delhi was expanded from the constructional pattern of and is credited to Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Architecture of Delhi
The architecture, much like its culture and history, can be classified into three – those from the Rajput and Sultanate, Mughal and British eras. Delhi’s conquerors and rulers initially stuck to their building styles, but merging into the local population, or, in some cases, to appease the local kings and people, they started bringing in local styles of architecture and decoration into their own. One typical example is of buildings during Akbar’s and Shah Jahan’s reigns. In order to please Hindu rulers and chieftains, he often used Hindu religious symbols of the lotus, lion, elephant and peacock in his style of architecture.

Some of the symbolism is quite subtle; one would need to look closely to see. While others, such as those on gates, arches and mosques, were vividly obvious. Even the way villages were built, streets designed and water tanks built were resembled closely to those in the Afghan villages. But once the topography and climate of the new place came into view, they, too, changed.

Rajput and Sultanate Era
The pre-Islamic Rajput architecture is known as trabeate – post and beam. Interiors of buildings and their openings were decorated with carved posts, or columns and beams.

The eighth-century Suraj Kund, located in Anangpur village, is widely accepted as the oldest construction in Delhi. It consists of a huge quartzite dame and a circular water tank constructed with the same building material. It is said that quite a number of temples existed within Lal Kot, built in the 11th century. In 1192, when Mohammed Ghori invaded the city, he is believed to have smashed down more than 25 Hindu temples and religious shrines.

We can see that the structures of the early Sultanate period – the Qutb Minar and its neighbours – have a very striking resemblance to indigenous buildings and building methods. The mosque itself has reused several temple columns, all intricately carved. The flamboyant Islamic arches, too, are built in the trabeate style: flat stones one above each other. The domes of mosques bear similarity to those of the Jain and Hindu temples in India.

The usage of local artisans and mason, and the availability of fine red sandstone brought a lot of changes. The carvings and floral patterns on the underside of the Qutb Minar’s domes are seen in temple domes as well. It was during Illtutmish’s reign that flower motifs and lotus designs gained popularity. The calligraphy used in the mosques and on columns was definitely in the Islamic script, but their decoration and patterns suggested Hindu influences.

The Tughlaks, from 14th century on, were famous for their forts and fortifications. But their heavily decorated mosques and tombs did bear Indian doorways and arches. Marble was discovered by the Tughlaks as a fine and sturdy decoration and building material. It was the scene of the Indo-Islamic architecture. From 1451 to 1526, during the Lodi period, Indo-Islamic architecture in Delhi and around reached its climax. They also revived geometric designs, tile work and stucco work.

Mughal Era
The Mughals ruled India from 1526 to 1803. After the Rajputs and the Turks, the Mughals influenced the architecture of north India. They, too, built a few buildings and mosques in pure Mughal style, but moved on to incorporate indigenous styles by and by. In fact, quite a number of Indian forts and temples impressed them a lot.
The most known of the lot is Shah Jahan. His three Red Forts (Agra, Delhi and Lahore) and the world-famous Taj Mahal are stalwarts of architecture itself as it is of Mughal architecture. He was so fond of the white marble that he razed down many red sandstone structures, including many in the Agra Fort, to build marble ones.

Applied decoration such as inlaid work and relief carvings became more important than building methods themselves. Arch netting and net vaulting became very prominent in palaces, tombs and archways. The former refers to ribs, or raised lines, extending upward in domes to meet the framing of other arches to form a net-like pattern.

The Onion Dome gained importance – they are bulbous domes with heavy work on them. Such domes, minus the artwork, are seen on mosques throughout India now. As can be seen Mughals were sticklers of symmetry. Look at any dome, pillar, minaret, façade or arch, symmetry abounds.

British and Post-Independence Era
Since the British were quite unlike from their other European counterparts – indifferent to local customs and stubborn in their mindset – their architecture and lifestyle took a long time to be ‘Indianised’. Instead, they brought tremendous changes to the way people constructed buildings, houses and railways. Now, that’s something totally new. The British were known to have built the railway system in India only to facilitate their travel and for the transport of their looted goods and material. But, it soon caught up.

The most transformational feature was that they gave a face to the houses, literally. Till then houses in India prided in verandahs and central courtyards. The house simply faced towards the inside, and looking at it from outside, it was a very dull and boring-looking building. The British, with their bungalows, began to build expansive houses that faced towards the street.

Churches were other new features. New, only for north India. Churches had been in existence from 1503. The Portuguese and Dutch were gloriously known for their churches. But this existed only in the western and eastern coastal cities of the south of India. The St James Church is a classic example of the British period.

A series of government buildings, secretariats, commercial buildings sprawled up in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially after British India’s capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi. School building and institutions also took a different look.

Heritage of Delhi
The capital of India has many monuments and historical sites that breathe culture. You can learn about Delhi’s past, its peoples, conquerors and rulers. The Archaeological Survey of India mentions 1,200 heritage buildings and 175 monuments in Delhi as national heritage sites. The city has been abundantly influenced by the Mughals and the Turks.

Delhi has many architectural marvels. The Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Humayun's Tomb are they city’s three World Heritage Sites. Delhi is also home to India’s largest mosque – the Jama Masjid. Here, you can also find the India Gate; an 18th century astronomical observatory, the Jantar Mantar; the Lotus Temple; a 16th century fortress, the Purana Qila; and many memorials of famous politicians, martyrs and heroes.

As regards social communities, the capital abounds in it. You can find people from all other states here. Bengalis, Punjabis, Malayalees, Tamilians, and many such communities have made it their home. Also, it is second only to Mumbai in terms of population.

Important national events such as Independence Day and Republic Day are celebrated here amid great pomp. Festivals of all religions are celebrated here. Diwali, Durga Puja, Lohri, Holi, Sivarathri, Onam, Eid and Buddha Jayanti are some of the most famous ones. Delhi also hosts many cultural and musical festivals, exhibitions, trade shows and fairs.

There are as many cuisines here as there are different ethnic groups. Biriyanis and kababs are quite famous in small and big eateries here. International cuisine, too, is very popular. The city has many bazaars and market areas from where you can purchase anything from jewellery, textiles and handicrafts to electronic goods and seasonal fruits! The old city is such an example. The multiplicity of cultures gives Delhi and unique charm unto itself.

Delhi is sandwiched between the hot Rajasthan deserts and the chilling Himalayas. July and August are the rainy months. From April to October is the summer. It can go above 40°C during then. It is best to visit during February-April and September-November.