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New Delhi - Archaeological excavations in the greater Delhi region have unearthed stone-age tools and implements from Paleolithic to Microlithic periods. The Old Fort in New Delhi is the site of perhaps the most fascinating archaeological excavations in northern India, showing a continuous habitation of this site dating back to the Mahabharata period. During its long, tumultuous history the capital cities that were established in greater Delhi area are:
INDRAPRASTH (circa 1000 BCE): The legendary Pandavs of the Mahabharat period around 1000 BCE founded the oldest city in Delhi area. It was called Indraprasth. The Pandavs were the five sons of the Raja Pandu – Yudhister, Bhim Dev, Arjun, Nakul and Sahdev. The Mahabharat is one of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of Hinduism, the other being the Ramayan.
LAL KOT/QILA RAI PITHORA (late tenth to twelfth century CE): Anangpal II is regarded as the founder of the Lal Kot fortified city in the middle of the eleventh century. King Vigraharaja IV of the Chahaman (Chauhan) dynasty who is also named Vilasadev or Bilasdeo of the Sakambhari (present day Sambhar) conquered Lal Kot in 1163/64. Prithviraj III Chauhan, also known as Rai Pithora, grandson of Vigraharaja IV, ruled over the areas surrounding Lal Kot and up to Ajmer in Rajasthan. He extended the Lal Kot to include the fortification of Qila Rai Pithora. He won the first battle of Taraori against Muizuddin Mohammad bin Sam of Ghur. But Raja Jai Chand of Kannauj betrayed him and invited the Afghan invader to attack India once again. This time he came prepared, defeated and killed Prithviraj Chauhan and left his former slave, Qutbuddin Aibak, to govern the conquered territories. Qutbuddin Aibak established the first Islamic capital in India at Qila Rai Pithora in January 1193. He built the Qutb Minar and Qutb Jami Mosque by destroying 27 Hindu and Jain temples. Many elements of the destroyed temples were used in the Islamic constructions in this area. The mosque is 141.7 feet x 108.27 feet in area. The Qutb Minar is about 230 feet high with a spiral staircase that has 379 steps. The diameter at the base is 49.25 feet but reduces gradually to only 8.25 feet at the top. It was planned to be the highest minaret in the Islamic world. Qutbuddin Aibak died in 1210 without completing the minaret. Later Islamic rulers completed, renovated and repaired it. The Iron Pillar in the center of the mosque’s courtyard was originally a flagpole from a Hindu temple built by Chandragupta II (375 to 413 CE). It probably had a Garuda (mythical bird associated with Lord Vishnu) on top that is now missing. This pillar is from its bottom under the ground to its top 23.62 feet in length of which 3.05 feet is underground. The pillar is made out of almost pure malleable iron with high phosphorus and low carbon, sulfur and manganese content so that it has not rusted since hundreds of years. This shows that the metallurgical knowledge in Gupta dynasty period was highly developed.
SIRI (early fourteenth century CE): Siri, near Hauz Khas, was another capital city in Delhi area. Alauddin Khalji built it in about 1303. Only a few derelict structures, including some public baths survive today, giving the area its present name of Hauz Khas.
TUGHLAKABAD (1321 – 1325 CE): Sultan Ghiasuddin, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty ordered the construction of this fort in 1321 on top of the desolate Aravali ridge south of Delhi. Its ramparts are about 4 ½ miles long. It was ready for use in just 3 years. Vijay Mandal is the tallest structure in the fort. Water reservoir in the fort is 45 feet deep. Ghiyasuddin’s mausoleum, made out of red sandstone with a white dome, is located south of the fort. A small fortress south of Tughlakabad is called Nai ka Kot or barber’s fortress. Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq built another fort further south called Adilabad Fort.
JAHANPANAH (1325 – 1351 CE): Jahanpanah, comprising of a walled enclosure between Qila-I-Raipithora and Siri, was another capital city built by Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
FIROZABAD (late fourteenth century CE): Firozabad, now known as Firozshah Kotla, was built by Sultan Firoz bin Rajab, the Tughlaq dynasty Sultan from 1351 to 1388. The city extended from Hauz Khas to Pir Ghalib on the ridge. It is famous for the Ashoka Pillar (250 BCE), that was placed on it by Firoz Tughlaq. Sultan Firoz Shah was fascinated by this and one other pillar that he noticed while hunting in neighboring areas in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. He undertook elaborate steps to transport the 2 pillars to Delhi. The 42 feet 7 inches high Ashok pillar was installed at the highest point in his fort. Another 32 feet high Ashok pillar is now at the entrance of Bara Hindu Rao Hospital near University of Delhi campus. This area had the Sultan’s hunting lodge originally.
DINPANAH (circa sixteenth century CE): In 1533, when Agra was the Mughal capital, Emperor Humayun laid the foundations of Dinpahah, a new city in the area near old fort of Delhi. Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Humayun, also built his citadel here by adding to the older buildings and called it Shergarh. Emperor Akbar had his father, Humayun’s mausoleum constructed near this fort under supervision of his widow, Hamida Bano Begum.
SHAHJAHANABAD (mid seventeenth century): Before the construction of Taj Mahal at Agra, the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan, started the construction of the Red Fort of Delhi and Jama Masjid as the focal points of his new capital, Shahjahanabad. His daughter, Jahanara Begum, patronized the construction of Chandni Chowk Bazaar. It was the Mughal aristocratic shopping mall. This was a walled city with many gates piercing it. Only a few of the original gates and some portions of the wall around this city still exist. During the reign of his successors, Raja Jai Singh II of Amber and Jaipur, had the first of his five astronomical observatories constructed in the area south of the walled Shahjahanabad City. This observatory is now opposite the Park Hotel in Connaught Place market.
NEW DELHI (Constructed between 1911 and 1931): King George V and Queen Mary decided to move the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi and laid the foundation of New Delhi in the Kingsway Camp (near Delhi University) during the period of Lord Hardinge, the Governor General and Viceroy of India. Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens and his assistant, Herbert Baker, were chosen to design and construct the new imperial capital of India in 1912. The construction was interrupted by the First World War and was completed in 1929. The official inauguration was two years later in 1931. A majestic, tree-lined and broad avenue was placed in the center of new capital. At its eastern end a royal and raised pedestal with an Imperial Canopy covering the statue of King Emperor George V was installed. At the western end was the impressive Viceroy’s mansion that now serves as the official residence of the President of India. To the east of the Viceroy’s mansion were the south block (now Prime Minister’s office) and north block (now Home Minister’s office) of the central secretariat on either side of this avenue that was originally called the Kingsway. Its name was changed to Raj Path after independence of India. The circular building of the council chamber was built in the northeast of the central secretariat. It serves as the Parliament of India now.
When the construction of New Delhi started, the memories of the First World War were still lingering. On February 10, 1921, the Duke of Connaught, laid the foundation of a war memorial. Sir Edwin L. Lutyens designed this memorial in the form of a triumphal, 160.8 feet high, arched Gateway at a short distance from the Imperial canopy with the statue of George V. It was designed to commemorate the 13'516 Indian and British soldiers of Imperial India who died in the First World War. Another memorial to honor the soldiers of Indo-Pakistan war of December 1971 was added to this memorial in the form of a raised platform with a reversed rifle with a helmet hanging on it. On 4 corners of the platform are four eternal flames. On top of the India Gate a 4 feet high flame burns from 7 to 11 PM every night.
The area around the India Gate was called Princes Park. Some of India's most important Maharajas & Nawabs of the states like Jaipur, Bikaner, Patiala, Baroda and Hyderabad built imposing mansions in this area. The Hyderabad House built by Luytens for the Nizam of Hyderabad is the most imposing of all these former royal residences. The Indian government owns them all now. The most important privately owned area of the new capital was the shopping district of Connaught Place. This is a circular market with spacious shops, restaurants and offices lined with a pillared verandah. After the independence of India on 15 August 1947, the new government of independent India decided to retain New Delhi as its capital.
Monuments of Delhi:
Qutb Minar Complex: Please see information mentioned in Lalkot / Qila Rai Pithora above.
Humayun’s Tomb: The literal meaning of the word “Humayun” is lucky, a very inappropriate name for the second Mughal emperor. Humayun was struck by one misfortune after another throughout his life. He spent almost 10 years in exile followed by his enemies until he reached the court of Shah Tahmasp of the Safawid Dynasty of Persia. Humayun spent many years in Persia and only with assistance of the Persian army did he manage to re-conquer Delhi and empire of Hindustan in 1555. Just six months after regaining the throne of Delhi, he slipped on a staircase in a library in old fort of Delhi and succumbed to his injuries. His memorial was the first big mausoleum of the Mughal period. His widow Haji Begum built it in the reign of third Mughal emperor Akbar. The mausoleum was laid in the center of ‘Char Bagh’ – ‘the Garden divided in 4 parts’ style that was later used in slight variations in the later Mughal mausoleums. Many not very prominent descendents of the Mughal Emperor Humayun are also buried in this mausoleum.
Shahjahanabad (mid 17th century): While work was still going on at the site of Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra and before his son, Aurangzeb arrested him in 1658, Shahjahan the fifth Mughal Emperor moved his capital back to Delhi. He built the Red Fort of Delhi, the grand Jama Mosque complete with a residential city around the Chandni Chowk Bazaar. This was a walled city. Only a five of the original gates and some portions of the wall around this city still exist.
Red Fort of Delhi: Shahjahan wished to move his capital back to Delhi in 1639. The "Mir-i-Imarat" went to Delhi to search for a suitable site for the Fort with Palaces as well as a whole new city. Saiyyad Ahmed Khan Asur-us-Sanadid of Delhi (1847) found among the old documents a horoscope that was especially made for the Red Fort of Delhi. According to that the work on foundations was started in the night of Friday, the ninth day of Muharram of the Islamic year 1049 corresponding to May 12, 1639. At the time of completion of the Red Fort Shahjahan was in Kabul. It was the twentieth year of reign. He was overjoyed to hear the good news, immediately returned to Delhi and entered the fort through its river entrance - Khizri Gate.
Chandni Chowk: Princess Jahanara, popularly known as Begum Sahiba, had a large square with a canal of water in its center built between two parallel roads leading from the Red Fort. Ali Mardan Khan Canal was built along the middle of the two roads to feed water to this pool. On moonlit nights the water in this pool used to shine like Silver. Chandni literally means moon light shining like Silver. Later traders from all over the empire and even from foreign lands established their shops on either side of the roads and soon it became the most affluent trading center of Mughal India. Today the Chandni Chowk Bazaar serves as whole sellers market.
Jama Masjid: The grand mosque of Delhi was originally called "Masjid-i-Jahan Numa" - the mosque commanding the view of the entire world! On October 6, 1650 the foundation stone of was laid. Contemporary chroniclers have written an interesting episode about this ceremony. The Emperor offered the privilege of laying the first stone to anyone present who had never missed a single mid-night prayer in his/her entire life. No one came forward to take the offer. Finally the Emperor modestly regretted that no one took up his offer and decided to lay the stone himself. Its construction was finished in 1656.
Jantar Mantar – the astronomical observatory of Sawai Maharaja Jai Singh of Amber who planned and constructed the walled city of Jaipur. This is the first of a series of five observatories built by the founder of Jaipur City. There is some confusion about its date of construction. According to some chroniclers it was built in 1710 while others believe that it was constructed in 1724. The Maharaja was very interested in astronomy and was not satisfied with the accuracy of astronomical tables available at that time. For calculating a more precise table he invited the scholars from all over India and even abroad. He studied the astrological instruments used in the Arab, central Asian and European countries. Later he built similar observatories in Varanasi, Mathura, Ujjain and Jaipur to confirm the table he made on the basis of this first astronomical observatory. The one in Jaipur has 17 instruments, of which only one was never completed and is consequently not functional. The Brihad Samrat Yantra or big sun dial in Jaipur has an accuracy of 2 seconds.
Ghalib ki Haveli: This late medieval mansion in the narrow lane called Gali Qasim Jan in the Ballimaran locality near Chandni Chowk in Shahjahanabad (old Delhi), was the residence of the famous Urdu and Persian poet, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan who used the pseudonym of Ghalib for his poetry. He was born in Kala Mahal locality in Agra on December 27, 1797 in to a family of Aibak Turks who moved to Samarkand after the fall of Seljuk Dynasty. His grandfather moved to India from Samarkand. Mirza Ghalib's father died when he was only five years of age and he was raised by his first uncle, Mirza Nasarullah Baig Khan. In 1850 the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah who also wrote poetry under the pseudonym of Zafar, bestowed on him the royal titles of Dabir-ul-Mulk, Najm-ud-Daulah and Mirza Nosha. In 1854 he was appointed as the tutor of the Mughal Emperor. During his long literary life, despite a series of adversities, he produced a vast amount of poetry and prose writings apart from his famous letters. The Haveli in old Delh is now a museum displaying a collection of his literary works. Mirza Ghalib passed away on February 15, 1869 and was buried near the shrine of the famous Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia.
Laxmi Narayan Temple, also known as Birla Mandir: This temple was built between 1933 and 1939 by industrialists and philanthropists, Baldeo Das Birla and his son, Jugal Kishore Birla. It was constructed under the guidance of Pandit Vishwanath Shastri and its architecture is based on Nagara style of temple design. A Yagna was performed by Swami Keshavanandji as part of its completion ceremony and it was finally inaugurated by the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who agreed to head this ritual on the condition that this temple would be open to all castes of Hindus and people of all religions. The main deity in the temple is Vishnu (also known as Laxmi Narayan when appearing with consort goddess Laxmi). The peripheral shrines are dedicated to Lord Shiva and his son, Ganesh as well as the goddess Durga. One shrine is dedicated to Lord Buddha.
Baha'i Lotus Temple: The Baha'i Religion was established by its prophet, Baha'ullah (1817 to 1892) and the religion's followers believe him to be the latest in the lineage of Zarathustra and all the prophets of Judio/Christian/Islamic religions. The religion offers the belief that in the unity of entire humanity and their endeavors are for its betterment through individual and social transformation. People of all faiths are allowed to enter the Baha'i Temples but prayers held inside the temples are of Baha'i faith. Singing is allowed but musical instruments are not allowed. The architect of the Baha'i Lotus Temple in New Delhi was Fariborz Sahba, a Persian living in Canada. He designed it in 1976 and its construction was completed in 1986. The main hall inside the temple can seat about 2500 persons. Between 8,000 to 10,000 people visit the temple each day and it is one of New Delhi's most visited and photographed monuments.
Swami Narayan Akshardham Temple: This temple on the eastern bank of Yamuna River in Delhi is a complex that endeavors to highlight the ancient art, culture, scientific achievements, religious philosophy and history of the Indian nation. Apart from the main temple there is a vast museum showing various exhibitions. The entire structure is surrounded by a beautifully laid out garden with waterways and fountains. The entry into the temple is free of charge but there is an entry ticket of Rs. 170 for adults and Rs. 125 for seniors, for the entry into the exhibitions. About 11,000 artisans and volunteers of BAPS Swami Narayan Organization worked for five years to complete its construction on November 6, 2005.
National Museum: This is India's largest art and culture museum. It is located on Janpath Avenue near Connaught Place in New Delhi. It was inaugurated on India's independence day, August 15, 1949 by India's first and last Indian Governor-General, Chakravarti Rajagoplachari in Rashtrapati Bhawan. The foundation stone of present building was laid by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on May 12, 1955 and was formally opened to public by India's first Vice-President, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan on December 18, 1960. It was further extended in 1989. The museum has extensive collections of artifacts in following sections: Archaeology, Anthropology, Arms & Armor, Central Asian Antiques, Decorative Arts, Manuscripts, Numismatic and Epigraphy, Paintings, Pre-Columbian & Western Art and Pre-History & related Archaeology. In the Archaeology sectiojn, the Buddhist Art Gallery is very popular with followers of the religion. It contains art objects relating to all three schools of Buddhism - Hinayana, Mahayana & Vajrayana. The most popular part of this section is the hall featuring the Kapilavastu relics from Piprahwa, the state capital of Siddhartha Gautam Buddha's father, Raja Suddodhana.
National Gallery of Modern Art: This premier modern art museum is located in Jaipur House near India Gate in New Delhi. The idea of building the gallery was nurtured initially by India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the famous freedom fighter & first education minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. On March 29, 1954, it was inaugurated by India's first Vice-President, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan in Jaipur House, the former official residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur in New Delhi. The building was designed by the British architect, Sir Arthur Bloomfield. The gallery is repository of Indian modern art of the period starting from 1857. The gallery has two other branches in Mumbai and Bangalore.
Crafts Museum: This is a large museum showcasing India's tribal, folk and regional arts and crafts. It is located on Bhairon Marg near Pragati Maidan (Exhibition Grounds) in New Delhi and faces the ramparts of Purana Qila, the old fort of Delhi. The museum was envisaged by renowned freedom fighter, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and designed between 1975 and 1990 by the famous architect, Charles Correa, who liberally incorporated aspects of various regional architectural elements. The museum's collection includes rare and distinctive artifacts of tribal & rural crafts, courtly crafts of various former royal kingdoms, textiles,
Apart from the collection, the museum houses Research and Documentation facilities, a reference library, a conservation laboratory, a photo laboratory and an auditorium. It is open from 9.30 am to 5 pm, except on Mondays. It is accessible through Pragati Maidan Exhibition Metro Station.
- Taj Mahal Hotel – 296 rooms
Oberoi Hotel – 300 rooms
- Taj Palace Hotel – 462 rooms
- Leela Palace Hotel - 254 rooms
Le Meridien Hotel – 355 rooms
- ITC Maurya Sheraton & Towers – 440 rooms
- The Taj Ambassador Hotel – 88 rooms
- The Claridges Hotel - 162 rooms
- The Imperial Hotel – 274 rooms
- Oberoi Maidens Hotel – 56 rooms
- Nikko Metropolitan Hotel – 178 rooms
- The Grand Hotel (Vasantkunj) - 390 rooms
- The Grand Intercontinental Hotel – 444 rooms
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel – 256 rooms and suites
- Hyatt Regency Hotel 518 rooms
- Intercontinental Nehru Place Hotel – 218 rooms
- JW Marriott Aerocity New Delhi - 523 rooms
- The Park Hotel – 220 rooms
- Shangri-La Hotel – 362 rooms
- New Delhi Marriott – 220 rooms
- Crown Plaza Surya Hotel – 220 rooms
- Sheraton New Delhi (Saket) – 220 rooms
- The Qutub Hotel – 122 rooms
- Uppal’s Orchid An Ecotel Hotel – 84 rooms
- Palace Heights in Connaught Place - 14 rooms
- Justa the Residence Panchsheel Park - 24 rooms
- Justa the Residence Greater Kailash - 24 rooms
- Lemon Tree Hotel Delhi Airport - 277 rooms
- Holiday Inn New Delhi Int. Airport - 265 rooms
- The Visaya Hotel Panchsheel Park - 34 rooms
- The Amber Hotel - 209 rooms
- Bloomrooms @ Link Road - 39 rooms
- Bloomrooms @ New Delhi Railway Station - 49 rooms
- Sun Court Hotel Yatri @ Channa Market, Karolbagh - 26 rooms
- Hotel Sun Star Residency, Karol Bagh - 19 rooms
- Hotel Sun Star Grand, Karol Bagh - 24 rooms
- Wood Castle, Karol Bagh - 6 rooms
- La Sagrita Sunder Nagar - 19 rooms
- Red Fox Hotel Delhi Airport - 209 rooms
- Hotel Bright in Connaught Place - 10 rooms
- Le Roi Hotel Paharganj - 53 rooms
Distance from New Delhi:
City Kilometers Miles
- Agra 203 126 (via Faridabad & Mathura)
- Agra 165 103 (via Yamuna Expressway)
- Mathura 145 90
- Jaipur 258 160
- Ajmer 389 242
- Chandigarh 238 148
- Dehradun 235 146
- Haridwar 214 132
- Bikaner 460 286
- Mandawa 242 150
- Amritsar 447 278