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Delhi City Guide

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Delhi is the capital of India since old times. Delhi's history dates back to the first millenium BC, when it was known as Indraprastha. The Tomar Rajputs built Lal Kot, the core of the first of Delhi's seven cities. It is the epicenter of the nation's politics, economy and culture. History is alive and throbbing in Delhi, the capital of India.

It is often said that the history of India is the history of Delhi. New Delhi, the capital of India, has always occupied a strategic position in the country's history, as Hindu and Islamic dynasties have ruled from here, leaving their imprint in the form of relics, which recapture those bygonetimes. Delhi, is today, one of the fastest growing cities of India.
Delhi City GuideDelhi City Guide


Red Fort Humayun's Tomb Purana Qila Safdarjung's Tomb Qutab Minar Iron Pillar
Sultan Ghari's Tomb India Gate Rashtrapati Bhavan Jantar Mantar Firoz Shah Kotla Tughlaqabad Fort
Coronation Durbar
Ghazi-ud-Din's Madrasa Teen Murti Bhavan Khuni Darwaza Jamali Kamali Hauz Khas

 Red Fort

Red Fort of DelhiThe 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 (Welcome Room), where once drums loudly heralded the arrival of the emperor and the Diwan-e-Am (Hall of Public Audience) resounded with the incantations of the people. Amazing, isn't it? There's more to see - Mumtaz Mahal, Rang Mahal (Palace of Colours), Khas Mahal (Emperor's Palace), Diwan-e Khas (Hall of Private Audience), the Hammam (bathing area) and Shah Burj.

The fort has two main entrances - Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate. The latter get its name from the fact that it faces Lahore in Pakistan. It's entrance leads to Delhi's most crowded bazaar, Chandni Chowk. A must see!

There is a Light and Sound Show every evening.

Summer timing:
Hindi - 7 pm to 8 pm, English - 8 pm to 9 pm

Winter timing
Hindi - 6 pm to 7 pm, English - 7 pm to 8 pm

 Humayun's Tomb

Humayun Tomb of DelhiHumayun's Tomb is probably one of the most innovative and experimental monuments of its time, incorporating within it Indo-Islamic architectural styles. Hamida Bhanu Begum (Haji Begum), Humayun's grieving widow built it in 1565-66. She is said to have spent 15 lakh rupees on it. Humayun's Tomb shows a very remarkable Persian influence, and art historians conjecture that this influence could probably have its origin in Humayun's exile in Persia. The tomb, typical of a Persian design, is a square building cut off at its corners to make it octagonal. It started a whole new form of architecture, where tombs were built in the centre of a four-portioned garden.

Another fact that is interesting is the double dome of the tomb. The tomb has two domes, one below the other. This is yet another example of the engineering brilliancy of the Mughals. To have a huge, inspiring dome from the exterior would mean a much too large dome for the inside of the building. So there's a lower, interior ceiling. And it makes any visitor very comfortable, who does not have to deal with an intimidating hall.

There is an entrance in the south of the complex. It leads to the emperor's tomb, which lies in the centre of a serene chamber. However, the actual resting place of Humayun is directly beneath, in an underground chamber. Several royalties of the Mughal family are buried in the mausoleum.

The tomb is open on all days of the week.

 Purana Qila

Purana Qila of DelhiIn 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 Purana Qila has three gates - Humayun Darwaza, Talaqi Darwaza and Bara Darwaza. The present entrance is the Bara Darwaza, an imposing red sandstone gate on the western wall. Inside the Purana Qila is the Sher Mandal, a two-storied octagonal pavilion in red sandstone, built by Sher Shah. Humayun used it as a library after he captured the fort. However, the Mandal is tragic, since it was here where the emperor is said to have tripped on its tortuous stairs and tumbled to his death in 1556.

 Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung Tomb of DelhiSafdarjung's Tomb is the last of the enclosed garden tombs in the tradition of Humayun's tomb. It was built in 1753-54, for Safdarjung, the Prime Minister of Muhammad Shah, the Mughal emperor between 1719-48. Marble was allegedly stripped from other tombs to build Safdarjung's tomb. Now that speaks volumes for the kind of power Safdarjung must have wielded during his rule! The tomb has several smaller pavilions - Jangli Mahal (Palace in the Woods), Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) and Badshah Pasand (King's Favourite) - the interiors of which have been beautifully ornamented in the typical Mughal style. The Archaeological Survey of India maintains a library over the main gateway, and it is a haven for all bookworms and history buffs.

 Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar of DelhiThe 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. Within the complex, is the famous Iron Pillar which has stood for millennia without rusting, Quwwat-ul-Islam, the first mosque built in India, and the Alai Darwaza, the gateway to the complex erected by Alauddin Khilji. The entry to the Minar has been closed, after the tower became infamous for the several suicides that were committed here. Qutb Minar is a successful tribute to architecture, as it captures one's attention by its sheer mass appeal. Even on close encounter, the attention lingers, owing to the delicate and almost ethereal carvings.

 Iron Pillar

Iron Pillar of DelhiThe 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! Another thing one has to do after laying one's sight on this pillar is, to go and give it a bear hug. Besides the metallurgic excellence, it is believed that hugging the pillar will make all of one's wishes come true. So… go, see and hug!

 Sultan Ghari's Tomb

Sultan Ghari's Tomb is the first Islamic tomb built in India. It was built by emperor Iltumush, in 1231, as a tomb for his son and heir Nasiruddin Muhammad after he was slain in battle. The tomb is more like a fortress with huge walls and bastions. Characteristic of the architecture of the Slave dynasty, the tomb as such was made of pillars and stones taken from the temples nearby. The tomb is an octagonal platform standing on a raised courtyard and forms the roof of the crypt. The tomb is situated bang in the middle of Vasant Kunj. It is located on the road from Andheri to Delhi Airport.

 India Gate

India Gate of DelhiThis 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.

 Rashtrapati Bhavan

Rashtrapati Bhavan of DelhiThe house that houses the President of India and the house that boasts of having welcomed the most powerful men in history. The Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed by Edwin Lutyens and built in 1931, to be the central point of the British power in Delhi. Originally called the Viceroy's House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan covers an area of 4.5 acres of land. It has 340 rooms, 37 salons, 74 lobbies and loggias, 18 staircases and 37 fountains. The most magnificent room in the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the Durbar Hall, which lies directly beneath the main dome. All important Indian State and Official ceremonies are held here. To the west, is the famous and beautifully landscaped Mughal Gardens, designed after the terraced gardens the Mughals built in Kashmir. The garden is famous as the 'Butterfly Garden' for the numerous butterflies that visit the varied flowers. The garden is open to the public in February.

 Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar of DelhiIf you are an astronomy buff then Delhi has something for you. Jantar Mantar - the 18th century observatory. Sawai Jai Singh II built it in 1724 when commissioned by the then Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. The Jantar Mantar in Delhi is one of the five observatories that Jai Singh built in Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura. A keen astronomer the Maharaja felt that the existing observatories did not provide accurate information and so he built the larger and more accurate instruments. And this is a piece of engineering and scientific brilliance. The Jantar Mantar, however today, is a popular place for staging dharnas and protests. One is sure to come across at least one group of protestors while visiting the magnificent monument. Well, they are worth a visit too! There are buses, auto rickshaws and taxis, which can take one to the monument from any part of the city. And if one feels more comfortable in a conducted tour then there are several tourism offices that conduct them.

 Firoz Shah Kotla

Firoz Shah Kotla of DelhiFiroz Shah Kotla was the citadel of the city Firozabad, that Firoz Shah Tuglaq built in 1354. Within the complex of the Firoz Shah Kotla complex is the spectacular Ashoka Pillar and the Jama Masjid. The Ashoka Pillar was erected by emperor Ashoka. The monolith is over 12.8 metres high and weighs around 27 tonnes. The inscriptions on the pillar helped in deciphering the ancient Brahmi script. The Jama Masjid was at one time Delhi's largest mosque. Legend has it that Tamburlaine, the Mongol conqueror who ransacked Delhi in 1398, came for his Friday prayers here. So the mosque is definitely a must see for all those who want a rendezvous with the great conqueror!

 Tughlaqabad Fort

Tughlaqabad Fort of DelhiThe spectacular fort of Tughlaqabad was built by Ghiyasuddin Tuglaq and was completed in four years. It was built to guard the city against the attacks of the Mongols from Central Asia. It was so sturdy that it has withstood the ravages of time and still stands today, all along the 6.5 km perimeter. To the right of the main entrance are the ruins of Vijay Mandal (Tower of Victory). Towards the west of the citadel, is a 15.5 metre deep water tank nicknamed Jahannum ka Rasta or the Road to Hell. Even the monkeys that inhabit the fort keep away from the tank. Soon after its construction, Tughlaqabad was destined to be abandoned. Legend has it that Nizamuddin Auliya, a Sufi saint, cursed Ghiyasuddin that Tughlaqabad would never prosper after the emperor quarreled with the saint. The curse did come true with Ghiyasuddin's alleged murder, when a pavilion erected in his honour crashed on him. With Ghiyasuddin's death came the tragic end of a city, which could have otherwise prospered.

 Coronation Durbar

Coronation Durbar of DelhiSituated in the north of Old Delhi, the Coronation Durbar site is of historical significance. It was here that King George V was declared the emperor of India in 1911. Imagine the Maharajas, the elephants and the royal women in their fineries. It must have been a grand sight! An obelisk stands significantly on the field. It marks the site where the royal durbars were held between 1877 and 1903. The pride of this place is a 15 metre high statue of King George V that rises above the Acacia trees. Several marble statues of Imperial dignitaries lie in the field. Visiting the site of the Durbar is definitely a nostalgic journey especially for all the fans of the Raj.

 Ghazi-ud-Din's Madrasa

Ghazi-ud-Din's Madrasa of DelhiThe imposing red sandstone Madrasa was built in 1692. It was Delhi's famous and most sought after Madrasa. In 1824, it came to be known as Anglo-Arabic School after the British introduced English in the syllabus of the Madrasa. Though part of Shahjanabad, the Madrasa lies beyond its walls, near Ajmeri Gate. Ghazi-ud-Din's tomb and mosque lie beside the Madrasa. Ghazi-ud-Din Khan was a prominent courtier during the reign of the sixth Mughal emperor Aurangazeb. The two-storey building still serves as a college. Earlier called the Delhi College, now it is the Zakir Hussain College. To get to the Madrasa one has to go through crowded narrow alleys. But it is exciting especially on a cycle rickshaw, the one way to taste the flavour of Delhi. The Madrasa is definitely worth seeing, especially since it is one of the few surviving Madrasas in the capital.

 Teen Murti Bhavan

Teen Murti Bhavan of DelhiThe Teen Murti Bhavan housed the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. It was designed by Robert Tor Russel, the architect of Connaught Place, and the Eastern and Western Courts on Janpath. The Bhavan was originally the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in India. However, after independence the house was taken over as the residence of Jawaharlal Nehru. And on his death, the house was converted into a national memorial comprising a library and a museum. The library is one of the finest ones for information on modern Indian history. The house gets its name after the Teen Murti (three statues) Memorial, which stands on its extensive grounds. The memorial was built in memory of the Indian soldiers who perished in World War I. The Bhavan is closed to public on Mondays and on all public holidays.

 Khuni Darwaza

Khuni Darwaza of DelhiKhuni Darwaza (blood soaked gate), is a huge gateway on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. It was built by Sher Shah Suri as one of the gates to his city. If you are wondering about the rather gruesome name, it is because the Gate has a bloody history to it. In the battle to the throne of Delhi, the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb, beheaded his brother Dara Shikoh. And as a grand finale he had the dismembered head hung on the gate. And it is also here that the British assassinated the two sons and the grandson of Bahadhur Shah Zafar. Their bodies were hung on the gateway, to be displayed to the public as a warning against any kind of a mutiny. And since horror is in itself fascinating, the gate is worth a see!

 Jamali Kamali

Jamali Kamaliof DelhiA gravelled path, little away from Qutb Minar leads to Jamlai Kamali Masjid and Tomb. It is set within a beautiful park, where one can find numerous birds, especially peacocks, in the mornings. The tomb is enclosed within a ten feet wall. The mosque has a quiet air of elegance and simplicity, with the simple lines that mark its exterior. It is a flat roofed chamber, with a highly decorative ceiling, characteristic of Mughal architecture. Jamali is the pseudonym of Sheik Fazullah, a saint and poet, who was the favourite of Sultan Sikander Lodi and Emperor Humayun. His tomb lies beside the mosque, which was built under his guidance. However, no one really knows who Kamali was. Interestingly, the tomb is first of the historical monuments that has been restored in the capital. The tomb is usually closed to the public. However, the park surrounding the tomb is definitely worth a visit for its serene atmosphere.

 Hauz Khas

Huaz Khas (Royal Tank), is a village by itself, with several boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. At the core of the village is the tank which was made by Alauddin Khilji in 1300, to supply water to his city, Siri. Later, Firoz Shah Tuglaq repaired it and built a Madrasa or college along its bank. The buildings definitely worth a visit are the Madrasa, Feroze Shah's tomb and the ruins of a small mosque. The two-storey Madrasa is fascinating for its clever architecture. The lower floor is at the same level as the tank, and the first floor was at the ground level, promising cool breezes throughout the year. Hot afternoons may not have been so sleepy afterall for the scholars!

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