Delhi

  • Delhi
  • Delhi is a canvas that portrays the complexities, beauty and dynamism of a city. It is India's most historic city, with a past complex, grand, tragic and layered. And if it was gorgeous by day before, at last it's also buzzing by night-a slew of clubs, pubs, stylish lounge bars and discotheques are kept in business till the wee hours. In Delhi, old and new mix with ease- the historic past coexists with a vibrant present. Here is a melting pot of India's varied regional cultures. Come discover the many cities of Delhi.

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History of Delhi: Delhi is built on an ancient site. Mention is made in the Indian epic Mahabharata of a great city of the Pandava clan - Indraprastha. The site of this mythical city supposedly lies inside Delhi. But Delhi as we know it is primarily a Mughal creation. It is their labour of love, a city where, under their patronage, art and culture reached a zenith. Some of that earlier flavor can still be captured in the Old City. The earliest reference to Delhi is to the citadel of Lal Kot and the city of Dhilika (c.1052 AD). The Chauhans occupied it during 1153-64 AD, establishing the first proper city here - Qila Rai Pithora. A succession of rulers and cities followed- Qutub, Siri, Tughlaqbad, Jahanpanah, Firozabad and Dinpanah. Remains of all these can be admired to this day. Shahjahanabad is the eight historic city of Delhi and the only one inhabited even today.

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Old Delhi- Purani Delhi: Originally Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi was built by the most romantic of the Mughals, Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal). It contains wonders like the Red Fort, Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India) and the signature residences of Muslim nobility, the havelis. The Sonet Lumiere at the Red Fort is a must- watch. Roam around Chandni Chowk, a market with slim, winding lanes-one devoted to books, another to Parathas (fried Indian bread) and so on. The Sunday pavement book bazaar in Daryaganj is a Delhi institution.

New Delhi- The Garden City: he British built New Delhi in the early 20th century. Designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens, it was to be a symbol of the powerful British Empire. Ironically, the British didn't occupy it long. New Delhi was conceived as a garden city of tree-lined avenues and lime-washed bungalows designed to handle the assault of an Indian summer. And such it is even today, being one of the few urban settlements in the world where the central parts are cooler than the periphery. From Vijay Chowk, at the base of Raisina hill, one can see a slew of Raj edifices- Rashtrapati Bhavan (the erstwhile Viceroy's Palace, now the residence of the Indian President), the North and South Blocks (housing Ministries), Parliament and India Gate. The road connecting Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate is Rajpath, where the grand Republic Day parade is held.

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Monuments of Delhi: Monuments major and minor are scattered all over Delhi. Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) is a natural starting point with the most important cluster, described earlier. The Mehrauli area in the far south dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The exotic minaret - Qutub Minar - an enduring Delhi icon, is located here.

The tomb of the saint Nizamuddin Auliya is a great draw, especially during the annual Urs festival. Nearby is the world heritage Humayun's Tomb. Rajghat is a memorial to the Father of the Nation, the peace apostle Mahatma Gandhi. Jantar Mantar is an observatory that tracks the movements of heavenly bodies, a triumph of Indian astronomy.

Modern- day wonders include the Lotus Temple. Delhi is home to a large community of Sikhs, and they have built lovely gurdwaras here, like Bangla Sahib in Connaught Place (CP). Other sites include Safdarjung's Tomb, Lodhi Garden and the Tughlaqabad Fort.

Delhi is probably one of the richest capitals in the world having largest number of monuments of immense heritage and historical value. Red Fort, the most visited place made up of red sand stone, was built by Shah Jahan on the embankment of river Yamuna, which was completed in 1648. Here, Diwan-E-Aam, Diwan-E- Khas, its two gates- Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate, Moti Masjid, Mumtaz Mahal etc are some of the worth visiting places. The Red Fort is the site from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on Independence Day.

Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the last great architectural work of Shah Jahan, is a unique building made up of red-stone and white marble. It was built between 1644 and 1658. There are three huge gateways but only the north gate is used for public entrance. The massive courtyard can accommodate over 20,000 worshippers. On its wall, Shah Jahan had inscribed not only the passages from Quran or Sayings of Prophet Mohammed but also the saying extolling the virtues of the builder and the architect. The cabinet in the north gate of the Jama Masjid contains a collection of Muhammad's relics - the Koran written on deer-skin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals and his footprints, implanted in a marble block.

Chandani Chowk, the principal street of Shah Jahanabad extended from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid, was designed by Jahanara Begum, Shah Jahan's favourite daughter. Most of Shah Jahanabad's history played out here. Apart from its serpentine alleys having monuments at the stopping, Sis Ganj Gurudwara and Sunehri Masjid (where Nadir Shah's soldiers killed thousands of citizens) are also situated here. One of the most prominent whole sale and retail markets of India, Chandni Chowk is more than 300years old. It was established in 1650, when Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi, as an appendage to the Red Fort. Jahanara, the Shahjahan's favorite daughter, is credited with designing this market.

India Gate, situated at the eastern end of Raj Path, is a 43 meter high magnificent arch, which was designed by Sir Lutyens in memory of 70,000 soldiers died in First World War. Under the India Gate, is Amar Jawan Jyoti (the Martyrs' Memorial) and inverted rifle and helmet and an eternal flame, which honour the departed soldiers of Indo-Pak war of 1971. Hyderabad House and Baroda House are located to the northwest and National Museum to the south.

Lotus Temple, an architectural landmark of Bahai faith built in 1986, is situated in South Delhi. This modern monument looks like a lotus flower. It is about 40 meters tall surrounded by nine ponds and appears as if the temple is floating like a Lotus flower in water. Gracious use of marble is one of its hallmarks. The temple is open to visitors of all faiths and religions. It provides immaculate environment and peace for meditation. The Lotus Temple among the most visited monuments in India. The credit for building this beautiful structure goes to the Persian architect Fariborz Sahba from Canada.

Secretariat i.e. North Block & South Block and Rashtrapati Bhawan, located on the Raisina Hill (Vijay Chowk), are the long classical buildings having domes, which is decorated with lotus motifs and elephants. In the Great Court between the Secretariats are the four Dominion Columns.

Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the President of India, is a Lutyen's architectural masterpiece and was constructed in 1929, which combines western and eastern styles. The Durbar Hall, situated inside, has coloured marble from all parts of India.

Parliament House (Sansad Bhawan), located northeast of Rashtrapati Bhawan, has library and chambers for the Council of State and Legislative Assembly- the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. It is a 136 pillared circular and 228 metres high building.

Connaught Place and its outer ring Connaught Circus, designed by Robert Tor Russel, comprise two storeyed arcade buildings, which has now become the main commercial centers of the city.

Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory, was built by Sawai Jai Singh II in 1725. It has an amazing collection of large masonry instruments that was once used to measure the movements of the Sun and the Moon and calculate time.

Raj Ghat, a square platform situated near Red Fort, is the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. North of Raj Ghat is Shanti Van, where Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and her sons Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were cremated.

Humayun Tomb, a fine Mughal architecture showing combination of Indo-Islamic style, was built by Humayun's wife Hamida Bano in 1655. It was the first mature example of Mughal architecture in India. The tomb established a standard for all later Mughal monuments, which followed its design, most notably the Taj Mahal. It was eclipsed later by Taj Mahal and the Jama Masjid.

Kotla Firoz Shah, the citadel of Firozabad, was built by Firoz Shah Tughluq in 1351. It is situated at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, where stands the famous Ashoka Pillar.

Old Fort, a double storeyed octagonal fort, was built by Afghan Sher Shah Suri after defeating Humayun in 1540. It is located atop the original site of Indraprastha. Nearby, boating is also provided by Delhi Tourism. At the southwestern side of Old Fort is Zoo.

Lodhi Gardens & Tomb, situated 1 km southwest of Old Fort, is a preferred place for joggers, birdwatchers and relaxation. The beautiful gardens are surrounded by many tombs of Lodhi and Sayyid dynasties. Safdar Jung's Tomb, built by Nawab Shuja-ud Daulah, has high enclosure walls, gardens, fountain and central domed mausoleum. Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, situated at the east of Lodhi Road, is a shrine built in memory of Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia, a Chishti saint in 1325.

Swaminarayan Akshardham is constructed on the basis of ancient Indian architecture, craftsmanship, spiritual values, "vastu shastra" and grandeur. Akshardham means the abode of divine Almighty. In this sense, it is home of virtues and values of God as defined in immortal Hindu scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads. The gigantic structure of the temple is constructed with red sandstone and white marble that is 141 feet high, 316 feet wide and 370 feet long with 234 ornate pillars, spread over 100 acres, over20,000 sculptures and statues of deities, eleven 72-foot-high huge domes (mandapams) and decorative arches. A double-storied parikrama of red sandstone encircles the monuments like a necklace with over 155 small domes and 1,160 pillars. The whole monument rises on the shoulders of 148 huge elephants with 11-feet tall panchdhatu statue of Swaminarayan presiding over the structure.

Qutub Minar, a 73 meter high five-storeyed glorious tower of victory, was constructed by Qutub-ud-din-Aibak in 1193 and completed by Iltutmish in 1236 which salutes the air passengers who come to Delhi. It was constructed to serve as the minaret attached to the Might of Islam Mosque and considered to be one among the tallest towers in the world.

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Museums in Delhi: Delhi, the capital of India, is home to many museums, built around various themes. These museums not only shed light on evolutionary phases of our ancestors but also our thousands of years old cultural continuum. Delhi boasts of varied kinds of museums which reflect upon the rich cultural and civilizational existence of Delhi since the time of legendry Mahabharata. Like any proud capital, Delhi has its share of excellent and unusual museums. Do visit the National Museum, Rail Museum, International Dolls Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art. The Crafts Museum, with its mud architecture, is striking.

National Museum of India is a rich, well chronicled and sophisticatedly preserved artefacts, sculptures, manuscripts, paintings, art and music instruments. National Museum keeps a visitor mesmerized and portrays proud past and ancestral gift. The Royal Academy's winter exhibition at Burlington House, London (1947-48) was the inspiration for India's National Museum, which opened on its present site in 1960. National Museum consists of three floors. The first (ground) floor is dedicated to sculptures and prehistoric artefacts. Second floor houses manuscripts, miniature paintings and antiquities. The third floor displays a surprise, pre-Columbian art from America, and a musical instrument collection. Most groups of exhibits are arranged chronologically.

There are many items deserving special interest and attention but few like massive carved elephant from the Sunga period, relics of the Buddha which were discovered only in 1972; a bust of Lord Vishnu found at Lal Kot (the first Delhi); the Babur Nama manuscript, written by the first Mogul emperor himself; the memoirs of Jahangir; an illuminated Mahabharata; the collection of miniature paintings, particularly the jewel-like examples from the Mughal period; Mayan terracotta from Mexico; and Inca metalwork from Peru cannot be missed.

International Museum of Dolls, an excellent and unique museum, lies on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg ('Fleet Street of Delhi'), nearby the corporate office of The Times of India. Nehru House accommodates the International Doll's Museum. This is an amusing, as well as an instructive display of dolls, dressed in around 500 local costumes from the Indian sub-continent. However, the collection is, as implied, international, and the museum claims to possess over 6,000 dolls from eighty- five countries. Although the sources are named, the periods of the dolls and their costumes are not. Particularly appealing are the examples from Japan.

In front of Raj Ghat, the shrine of Mahatma Gandhi, lies Gandhi Memorial Museum. of greatest interest to most visitors are the meagre personal belongings of the Mahatma Gandhi. The collection includes his stick, sandals, spectacles and watch. Also displayed, a grisly exhibit, is the bullet that killed him.

The earlier Naubat Khana of Red Fort has now been converted into the Indian War Memorial Museum where weapons, uniforms and badges from ancient times are displayed. It is a nice collection of weapons used by the Mughal and the British. It clearly demarcates the technological difference and gap between the two sides.

The superb Crafts Museum occupies part of Pragati Maidan Village Complex. The central exhibition hall is surrounded by many buildings named after various regions of India. Many of them have been transferred here from their original locations. As a result, there is a strong sense of authenticity, enhanced by praiseworthy reticence in the use of caption boards. Charles Correa, the internationally renowned Goan architect, designed the museum, which was founded in 1951 with the aim of encouraging and maintaining the traditional skills of Indian craftsmen. Over 20,000 individual items are exhibited, many of them antique. These items include textiles, ceramics, enamels, jewellery, masks, toys and carvings. Musicians and dancers in traditional dress perform throughout the day free of charge and craftsmen may be observed at work. Several shops and a nice restaurant create a very good environment and facility. No hassling of visitors is permitted .

Purana Qila (Old Fort) Museum is a small museum in Purana Qila compound that exhibits archaeological discoveries made during excavations within the complex in 1955.

Jaipur House, built for the Maharajas of Jaipur, has been converted to accommodate the National Gallery of Modern Art. Exhibits, on two floors, are primarily by Indian artists, or foreigners who have worked in India, such as Thomas and William Daniell. Influences from other countries are apparent. Few Western visitors will find the museum of overwhelming interest.

Vintage train enthusiasts may wish to visit the Rail Transport Museum. Many tourists visit India primarily to experience travelling on the country's vintage, steam-powered trains which still operate in parts of the country. For those and others of a nostalgic disposition, a visit to the Rail Transport Museum is a must. The museum, laid out to resemble a station yard, was opened in 1977. It is spread in a 10 acre site which is toured by the non-stopping Joy Express, a miniature steam train, throughout the day (except1-1.30pm). India's first train departed from Mumbai on April 16'1853 at a time when only eight other countries in the world had introduced a rail system. A network evolved very quickly, partly owned by individual states and partly by private companies. Even at the time of partition, forty-eight separate operators existed but now the entire system is controlled by the national government. Most exhibits, but not all, were made in the industrial centres of northern England and shipped to India in component parts for local assembly. Fairy Queen (Leeds), of 1855, is the oldest steam engine in India still in working order. Adjacent, the Rail- bus was converted from a bus made by the American Dodge motor company. Rangotty was built in Paris in 1877 to run on a unique 4 foot gauge track. Its brakes are wooden. The Maharaja of Patiala commissioned this monorail train in 1907. Initially, mules pulled the coaches but were later replaced by four German steam engines. Garraty, weighing 253 tons, was the most powerful steam engine ever to operate in India. Equally fascinating is the collection of beautifully restored coaches, owned by and luxuriously fitted-out for Indian princes. The white saloon was specially prepared for use by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) during his visit to India in 1876. The country's railway history is related in a permanent exhibition, housed in the octagonal building near the entrance. On display is the tusk-less skull of an elephant that inadvisably charged a mail train in 1894- and lost the confrontation.

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Dining Out In Delhi: Delightful dining at local fare, this is the order of the day. Delhi has some of the best restaurants offering every major international cuisine from across the globe. For visitors flying into Delhi, Radisson Hotel Delhi is the perfect choice. A five- star deluxe hotel, with a fine selection of restaurants and just minutes from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Radisson is sure to suit your needs. The Great Kabab Factory, truly a Mecca for all Kabab lovers, offers the largest variety of Kababs complimented by a wide selection of Indian breads, lentils and biryanis. Open, for dinner only, from 7pm to 1pm. At I'Ching, treat your taste buds to some authentic Chinese cuisine. Enjoy the view of a landscaped Chinese Garden while relishing the widest selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes prepared just for you. Italianni's, famous for its Italian cuisine, features an array of regional Italian dishes with a unique wine list to compliment the food. Other equally excellent restaurants at the hotel are the NYC-the 24 hour Fun Café, the Coffee Shop, the Savannah Bar and the Tea Lounge. For ethnic Punjabi cuisine step into Punjabi By Nature, a restaurant cum bar located both in Vasant Vihar and Noida which serves many delightful culinary adventures. For Delhi's definitive culinary experience head for Karim's, in a narrow lane south of Jama Masjid. Bukhara of Maurya Sheraton and Pindi are other highly admired restaurants to taste Indian delicacies.

Shopping in Delhi: Delhi is a city devoted to shopping. There are markets everywhere- some are hundreds of years old-like Chandni Chowk. Designed as a set of concentric circles, Connaught Place (C.P.) is located in the heart of the city. The colossal white colonial- style buildings house fancy shops and restaurants. The ever-popular Dilli Haat is a six- acre retreat of landscaped brick and terracotta, displaying various crafts, cuisine and cultures of ethnic rural India. There's good news for shopaholics. A state government directive now allows shops to stay open till 11pm. Many markets have welcomed the move. A Night Bazaar – just for tourists- is also on the cards.

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Fairs & Festivals in Delhi: A range of festivals held in Delhi encapsulate not just the delights of this city but the flavours of an entire nation. Look out for Folk Music, Kite, Theatre, Jahn-e-Khusrau, Chandni Chowk , Qutub and – yes- Mango festivals. There's even a Sherbet Mela and a pageant of the flower-sellers called Phoolwalon- ki- Sair. The Trade Fair and Auto Expo are events on a massive scale.

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