Delhi is a rainbow that adds color to the land's unique diversifiable image and strings the entire sub-continent into a nation called India.
The city of Delhi throughout India's history has been the epicenter of power struggle, with kingdoms and empires created and ravaged by successive waves of indigenous and foreign rulers in India. This attributes to Delhi's exotic amalgam of cultures. Delhi presents a vivid portrait of the cultural riches, the intricacy and dynamism of India. The third largest city of India, Delhi comprises of two distinct yet harmonious parts - Muslim India's Old Delhi and British India's New Delhi. Beautifully entangled in a sea of chaotic ambience, Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi is simply beyond any categorization of travel book idioms. Chandni Chowk, the heart of Old Delhi, itself is a history lesson. The place still retains the mystic aura of the past, exhibiting some of the best monumental heritage of Delhi. The majestic Lal Qila (Red Fort) seems to serenade the ancient beauty of the 'moonlit square'. You will willingly entrap yourself in the grandeur of the past mingling silently with the melee of the present. Here the ring of the temple bells, the azan from the Jama Masjid, the sublime Gurubani from the Sisganj Guruduwara and the church bell chime in sync with the cultural and ethnical collage of the place
New Delhi, on the other hand, is a paradigm shift from the chaotic semblance of Old Delhi. New Delhi is a graceful embodiment of British charm reflecting Victorian-style architectural grandeur with an ambience of openness. This luxuriously planned region of imperial Delhi is a fusion of colossal 19th century visualization fused with 20th century architecture.
The British certainly did a profound job in conceiving their imperial seat. The magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, India Gate, the North and South Blocks, the quaint white bungalows with lush gardens around and the commercial hub Connaught Place stand testimony to the minuscule planning that went into creating New Delhi.
Today, New Delhi is the seat of the Government of India that houses beautiful government vistas and various administrative buildings cushioned along spacious streets, adorned with beautiful tree lined avenues. New Delhi is one of the greenest cities in the world. Simply, the heart and lungs of Delhi.
Locally pronounced as Dilli, meaning 'straight from the heart', Delhi is a city where dreams come true and has something for everyone, whether to satiate the senses, amuse the muses, or just tickle the taste buds. The cosmopolitan character reflects in Delhi's cultural heritage, its mosaic of religions and faiths, historical monuments and ruins juxtaposed with 21st century attractions, and its sundry demographical canvass.
Urbanization has made rapid strides but the classical charm of the city of Delhi has not lost its allure. Commercialization runs deep but Delhi has also retained its place as the art and cultural center of India. The city's repertoire of tourism delights has placed Delhi as one of the best travel destinations in India. Delhi's educational horizon has spread globally, spearheaded by its highly respected educational entities: IIT-Delhi, Delhi University, Jawharlal Nehru University, Jamia Milia Islamia, AIIMS& Of late it has also become a global hotspot for fashion, IT, sports, business and services industry.
Land and Location of Delhi
The landscape of Delhi can geographically be divided into three major regions - the low-lying Yamuna flood plain, the Aravalli Ridge region and the great Gangetic Plains that cover most parts of the city. The Yamuna River is the only river flowing through Delhi and most parts of the city lie west of the Yamuna River.
Spread in an area of 1,483 sq km, Delhi lies in the northern part of India and is located at latitude 28.38°N and longitude 77.12°E. It borders the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on its east and surrounded by the state of Haryana on its other three sides.
To present a definite boundary of Delhi is as difficult as accounting the exact volume of water in the Indian Ocean. This metropolitan city with ever expanding boundaries is a combination of the National Capital Territory (NCT) and the National Capital Region (NCR). NCT (Delhi, New Delhi and Delhi Cantonment area) is collectively governed by the Central Government, elected government of National Capital Territory and the three Municipal Corporations. The NCR region of Delhi includes the whole of NCT along with neighboring satellite towns of Faridabad and Gurgaon in Haryana, and Noida and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Climate of Delhi
The climate of Delhi is extreme in nature. Summers can be unbearable with temperatures hovering around 25°C to 46°C. April beckons the heat of summer that last till August. The monsoon brings a bit of respite with temperature dropping a few degrees from July to September but tends to be humid. Delhi receives 75% of rainfall during these three months. October is somewhat tolerable with temperatures averaging 33°C and minimal rainfall and humidity. Cottons are the best bet to beat the Delhi heat.
November to end of March is the best time to tour or holiday in Delhi with temperatures averaging around 21°C to 30°C during the day and can fall to 2°C to 5°C minimums during the night. If you are planning to celebrate your Christmas and New Year in Delhi expect no snow but it can be quite chilly with the cold wave from the Himalayan region that hits the region. Plenty of woolens and warm clothing are advisable.
History of Delhi
The history of Delhi is entwined with most historical happenings in and around the Indian sub-continent. The strategic location of Delhi has had multitudes of indigenous and foreign rulers raging successive waves of wars and battles that pertained mainly to the dominance of India. These acts of eloquent might, down the passage of time, have not only scarred the land, but also created the metamorphic collage that Delhi is today. This historical city has had always risen from the ravages of time.
Cradling civilizations since times immemorial, Delhi's history goes back to the first millennium B.C. Delhi is said to be the combination of eight cities that rose and fell in the labyrinth of time but created what modern Delhi is today. The first four cities were in the southern part of present-day Delhi, around the area where the Qutab Minar stands.
Mythology and history are too closely intertwined regarding the genesis of Delhi. The earliest mention of a settlement is found in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, which mentions a city called Indraprastha. An opulent and idyllic haven built by the Pandavas in 1400 B.C, the settlement was centered near present-day Purana Qila (Old Fort).
Recorded history that exists from the 11th century mentions that the last of the Hindu kingdom of Delhi was ruled by the Tomars and the Chauhans. The first city was said to be built by the Tomar king Raja Anangpal of Kanauj in the vicinity of the Qutab Minar called Lal Kot. The most famous ruler of this line of Tomars was called Prithvi Raj Chauhan who built many temples and a huge fort called Qila Rai Pithora.
With the invasion by Mohammed Ghori from Afghanistan in the 12th century, the 200-year rule of the Hindu kingdom of Delhi crumbled and paved the way for the establishment of the Slave Dynasty. One of the rulers of this dynasty, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, built the tallest brick minaret in the world - the majestic Qutab Minar. Lal Kot continued to be the capital until 1303 when Alauddin Khilji defeated the invading Rajputs at Siri and built Delhi's second city in the present-day Hauz Khas area.
The third and fourth cities of Delhi were founded during the Tughlak rule from 1320 to 1412. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Alauddin Khilji's successor, founded Tughlakabad (1321-1325), which stood 10kms southeast of the Qutab Minar but now entirely in ruins. It is perhaps the most beautiful ruin in the country. Mohammad-bin-Tughlak built Jahanpanah (1325-1351), Delhi's fourth city, which stood a few yards away from the Qutab Minar.
The fifth Delhi, Firozabad (1351-1388), built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, included three palaces and a citadel, today known as Firoz Shah Kotla in New Delhi. Its ruins include two Ashokan pillars transported from Topra (in Punjab) and Meerut, which the Sultan had them planted in Delhi, and a mosque.
And near the speculated site of the legendary ancient city of Indraprastha, stood the sixth Delhi - the Purana Qila (Old Fort) (1538-1545). This imposing structure was built by the Mughal Emperor Humayun and acted as the citadel of the city of Dinapanah. However, the fort fell into the hands of the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri, who wrested the throne of Delhi from Humayun and built his own Dilli Sher Shahi or Shergarh. Although feared as a merciless warrior, Sher Shah left his artistic impression on the Purana Qila. He built a magnificent hall, Sher Mandal, and a remarkable mosque, Qila Kuhna Masjid, inside the fort. Sher Shah ruled from her till 1555 when Humayun returned to power and recaptured the fort. Legend goes that Humayun accidentally fell from a tower in Purana Qila and died.
Shahjahanabad, roughly comprising the areas of present-day Old Delhi, is the seventh city and living legacy of Delhi. Shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi in the 17th century, Shah Jahan started the construction of Shahjahanabad around 1638 to 1649. The majestic The Red Fort and the Jama Masjid showcases some fine examples of Mughal architecture. Shah Jahan also created a fairy-tale like bazaar to shine under the light of the moon and is aptly called Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Boulevard).
Finally, Delhi's eight city, New Delhi, was the outcome of shifting the capital of British India from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Delhi in 1911. But due to delay in construction, New Delhi could only be formally inaugurated in 1931. Two British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker were commissioned to design a city in sync with the architectural grandeur of London. New Delhi was born.
The emergence of the Indian freedom struggle against the British rule also saw Delhi at the helm of the freedom movement. Even before the British shifted their capital from Kolkata, Delhi was the deciding point for the first war of independence in 1857, also termed as Sepoy Mutiny. The mutiny failed to attain its desired ending, but Delhi became a thorn in the eyes of the British. By that time the call for liberation had gained rapid ground and Delhi witnessed the famous Siege of Delhi campaign in June 8, 1857. The pensioned descendant of the Mughal dynasty Bahadur Shah II, crowned as the leader of resistance, was captured and exiled to Burma.
And with the shift of the imperial capital, all the activities during the freedom struggle were moved towards Delhi. The Netaji Subash Chandra Bose led Azad Hind Fauz (Indian National Army) was formed with the motto to capture Delhi and established Swaraj (self-rule). Their slogan 'Dilli Chalo' is still today the cry of disparagement by leaders and political parties when they organize any rally or demonstration.
Time has stood witness to Delhi's numerous episodes of rejuvenation, anarchy, rise and fall of empires. There has been eight cities around modern Delhi, and true to an old saying - whoever founds a new city at Delhi will lose it - has come true every time. The mighty British who founded New Delhi in 1911 had to close its long Indian innings in August 15, 1947. And it was the hosting of the tricolor at the majestic Red Fort in Delhi, which marked a new chapter in the history of India.
Today, Delhi is a cosmopolitan city that echoes the emergence of a modern India standing firmly on a foundation that was created by the onslaught of time itself. The history of Delhi still rolls on as the city silently absorbs the joy, blood, sweat and tears of the times&
Demography of Delhi
True to the cosmopolitan essence of the city, Delhi's demographic pattern is an interesting evolution. The demography of Delhi has been a wheel of constant change. Being an ancient city Delhi still lingers with the shadows of its past.
Every era, every invader, every empire that came and went left its mark in the demographical canvass of Delhi. There has been dramatic movement of population change in every era.
Delhi predominantly had a Hindu population who where mainly traders, who used the Yamuna route to trade with ancient cities like Varanasi and Allahabad, and also administrators as Delhi had always been the seat of power. The demography of Delhi saw a change in its pattern with the Muslim invasion of India during the 12th century. The tyrannical attitude of the Muslim rulers witnessed a gradual change in India's demographic character when a significant part of the Indian population submitted to the invaders by giving up their ancestral faith and embracing Islam. Being the focal point for all invasions Delhi too was caught in the 'change faith, save your skin (and throne)' hubbub.
Another major turning point in demographical canvass of Delhi was during the partition of India in 1947. Delhi, more than other parts of India, witnessed a hue influx of migrants, especially from Sind and Punjab region of Pakistan. Post independence gave Delhi a cosmopolitan character after it became the capital of India and a major business and political nerve center. The city saw a continuous inflow of people from all parts of the country. The economic debacle of some neighboring state also added to rise in Delhi's population.
According to a UN study Delhi's population has more than doubled between 1970 (3.53 million) and 1990 (8.62 million) and seen a rapid increase to make Delhi the seventh most populous metropolis in the world. In 2005 Delhi's population figure stood at 15.3 million. If Delhi's metropolitan area or NCR, which comprises the NCT, the neighboring satellite towns of Noida and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, and Faridabad and Gurgaon in Haryana, is taken into account, the NCR is the world's sixth most populous with a population of 19.7 million.
Economy in Delhi Delhi is also an important trading and commerce center of India and the focal point of economy for northern India. Top Indian and foreign companies are headquartered in Delhi and the NCR region. At the helm of Delhi's economy is the Government of India and its various ministerial headquarters.
Traveling in Delhi
Delhi is the air, rail and road hub of India. Delhi Transport and travel is organized to the level of most developed countries. The capital city is well connected with the rest of India and the world.
Delhi has three airports but only the domestic and international terminals of the Indira Gandhi International Airport operate commercial flights. Delhi is India's major point for international flights with almost all leading international airlines operating in and out of Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. Domestic flights from Delhi connects all major destinations of India and one can find readily available local airlines operating in and out of the domestic airport. From the city center the domestic airport of Delhi is roughly about 7 km away and the Delhi international airport is 11 km. The third airport of Delhi located next to the Safdarjung Tomb, unsurprisingly also called Safdarjung Airport, has no commercial operations and operates only as a flying club.
India's rail network is the largest in the world and Delhi's three major railway stations at New Delhi, Old Delhi, and Nizamuddin are connected to all major rail routes of the country. The New Delhi Railway Station is located half a kilometer from Connaught Place and the budget hotels center of New Delhi is just a stone throw away. Long-distance trains heads to all corners of the country from here. Old Delhi Railway Station is located near the heart of old Delhi, Chandni Chowk. Long-distance trains run from here to major destinations of India. The Nizamuddin Railway Station is located near the holy shrine of Hazarat Nizamuddin. This is a major railhead for trains connecting the western and southern states of India. And the Delhi Cantonment Railway Station at the Delhi Cantonment area is the starting point for some of the luxury trains of India such as the Palace-on-Wheels, Fairy Queen and Royal Orient Express.
Delhi is well connected to all the major cities of India by a network of highways and roads. There are three Inter State Bus Terminals (ISBT) at Kashmere Gate, Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar, as well as many starting points in and around the city, from which various state-managed and privately run transport facilities operate air-conditioned, deluxe and ordinary coaches. Popular bus routes head into various destinations of Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, hill stations of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal (click to see road distance guides/maps from Delhi).
There are various options available for city travel in Delhi. Delhi University Corporation (DTC) runs a large fleet of buses covering all areas of the city and is the cheapest mode of transport. There are also private city bus operators, auto-rickshaws and cycle- rickshaws for Delhi city travel.And auto repairs are also easily available. Tourist taxis ply interstate while the yellow and black taxis can be used to commute anywhere within the city and are safe but relatively expensive. Luxurious special tourist buses are also available with packaged tours to all the tourist attractions in Delhi. Delhi Metro railway is the most recent addition to Delhi's transportation options and is a convenient and efficient mode of transport connecting all major places within the city.
Places to Explore in Delhi
When you talk about an anciently enigmatic place like Delhi (http://travel.mapsofindia.com/travel-delhi/) and its tourism aspect, you can expect a treasure house of myriad historical and exciting significance waiting to be explored and savored. Delhi tourism is a palate full of paradoxical delights, where ancientness seems to conduct the evolving present in a harmonious medley. There are very few cities in the world that offers travelers, tourists, businessmen, politicians, artists and students everything in one place. Delhi's eventful past and evolving present offers unique portrait of a land that needs to be studied in phases to understand the true essence of its magnificent hues. To feel the pulse of Delhi, one has to understand the various expressions of Delhi.
Tourism in Delhi, to put it simply, is more than just a must-see tourist destination. It's a living museum that has witnessed and experienced time in all its phases. And the best examples of time's different phases are the ancient and historical monuments of Delhi.
If you consult a tourist map of Delhi you'll notice that most of famous monuments in Delhi are concentrated mainly around the central and southern parts of the city. The Archaeological Survey of India has listed 1300 monuments in the Delhi area.
Old Delhi is a mesmerizing place to start your sightseeing in Delhi. The most alluring place in the Old Delhi region is the Lal Qila or the Red Fort, the former bastion of the Mughal power and the symbol of freedom of modern India. The fort is a solid example of Mughal architectural grandeur. Construction for red sandstone fort started in 1639 when the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan decided to shift his capital from Agra, the city of the mesmerizing Taj Mahal, to Delhi to establish the city of Shahjahanabad. Within eight years, Shahjahanabad was created with the Red Fort - Qila-i-Mubarak (fortunate citadel).
Chandni Chowk is the nucleus of the Old City, the erstwhile Shahjahanabad. Once a wide shady boulevard, with a canal-like water stretch that simmered in the moonlight, giving it the name 'Moonlight Square'. Today it's a bustling commercial hub representing the blatant heart of the walled city. Chandni Chowk is a labyrinth of everything and anything - from galis (lanes), havelis (ancient houses) and shops to a mixed ethnic population. Absorb the ancient essence of the place; hear the mystic couplets of the famous Persian poet Mirza Ghalib as you walk past his haveli; go shopping for an array of traditional wares to cheap electronic goods; savor the delectable cuisine at century-old eating joints, known for their specialties worldwide; or visit the many historical sites that adorn Old Delhi.
As you navigate through the commotion down the shop laden street you'll notice the symbols of religious diversity existing side by sides in the 2 km stretch between Fatehpuri Masjid to the Red Fort. Excluding the numerous smaller shrines that exist in the remoter parts of Chandni Chowk, one can find more than seven Hindu and Jain temples, two Churches, three Mosques and two Gurudwaraas.
Opposite the Red Fort and to the west of Chandni Chowk stands the largest mosque in India - the Jama Masjid (the mosque of Friday). Also known as 'Masjid-i-Jahan Numa' (Mosque commanding view of the world), Jama Masjid is an epitome of the Mughal Empire's religious and architectural fervor. Another of Shah Jahan's numerous architectural gifts, Jama Masjid was built between1644-1655 in the typical Mughal style with two minarets and three domes and placed on a high platform so that it's magnificent facade would be visible far and wide.
Shah Jahan is said have built Jama Masjid at the cost of Rs. 10 crore and is a replica of the Moti Masjid in Agra but much larger in size. The courtyard is capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Like other structures in Shahjahanabad, Jama Masjid has extensive use of red sandstone fused with white marble. The mosque has three gateways and eastern gate entrance is said to have been reserved for the Emperor's Friday prayers.
At the mouth of Chandni Chowk is the ancient Dighambara Jain Temple, which also houses the largest bird hospital in Asia. And adjacent to it is the Hindu marble temple of Gauri Shankar. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is said to have existed even before Shahjahanbad was established. And as you push further down the hurly burly street is the Sisganj Gurdwara, the site where Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb beheaded the Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur in 1675, when the guru refused to convert to Islam.
The Old Delhi Railway station and the Interstate Bus Terminus are on the eastern side of Chandni Chowk. Nearby are the Nickelsons Cemetery, the St. James Church and the earliest colleges of Delhi University - St. Stephens College and Hindu College.
New Delhi stands in total contrast to the melee-induced portrait that Old Delhi reflects. New Delhi is Victorian-style architectural grandeur with an ambience of openness. This luxuriously planned region of imperial Delhi was conceived by famous architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker. New Delhi is also referred to as Lutyens' Delhi.
Situated on the erstwhile Raisina village, Lutyens' Delhi is a fusion of colossal 19th century visualization fused with 20th century architecture. The architectural plan is simply profound if one takes into account the details that were given importance to - from various building locations, the gardens in delhi, the streets and the connecting points to the walled city of Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi.
New Delhi portrays affluent London-style vistas along wide, tree-lined avenues, parks and palaces built for important Indian princes. Lutyens' Delhi is one of the city's most visited tourist center for its array of attractions:
At the center of New Delhi stands the grand India Gate, the 42 m high stone arch of victory that commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War. It bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919.
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, India Gate has a lot of similarity with the "Arc-de-Triomphe" in Paris. The 42 metres high arch's foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and was dedicated to the nation in 1931 by the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin. In the year 1971, another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti was added in the form of an eternal flame under the arch to honor the brave unknown, soldier.
Set at the eastern end of Rajpath, India Gate is perhaps the most beautiful area of New Delhi with lush green lawns in the backdrop. The best time to visit India Gate is at sunset, when the whole palace is illuminated and creates a carnival like atmosphere with tourists, picnickers and hawkers thronging the place. Boating in the water bodies alongside the lawns adds to the gaiety. From the red sandstone roofed canopy nearby one can have a wonderful view of the entire stretch of Rajpath Avenue. The marble statue of George V once stood beneath the canopy but was removed after independence. The emptiness of the canopy symbolizes the end of British rule in India.
From India Gate towards Rajpath's western end is the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan atop Raisina Hill, the official residence of the President of India. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the Rashtrapati Bhawan was originally built as the residence of the Viceroy of India. Larger than any other palace in India, the former Viceregal Lodge covers an area of over 200,000-sq-feet and has 340-rooms, 37 salons, 74 lobbies and loggias, 18 staircases and 37 fountains. The artistic Jaipur Column, a gift from the Maharaja of Jaipur, stands at the center of the main court in front of Rashtrapati Bhavan. A remarkable feature of Rashtrapati Bhavan is the huge neo-Buddhist copper dome, beneath which lies the most magnificent room and is the venue for all official functions of the President of India.
At the rear of Rashtrapati Bhawan is the grandiose Mughal Gardens. Terraced at three levels in Kashmiri garden style, the 130 hectares is beautified with an amazing variety of roses and ornamented with fountains, gazebos and scores of trees and shrubs. The garden is only open to the public during February.
At the foot of the Rashtrapati Bhawan is the spacious plaza - Vijay Chowk. The mesmerizing Beating the Retreat ceremony is held here during January 29 annually. The impressive state office buildings - North and South Blocks - flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan on either side of the Rajpath. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, North and South Blocks houses most ministerial offices today and are among the most impressive state office buildings of in world. The circular Legislative Assembly, presently known as Parliament House, is another creation of Sir Herbert Baker. Inaugurated in 1921, Parliament House was designed to house a dome, a circular hall and three semi-circular structures originally meant to accommodate the Chamber of Princes, the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly. Presently, they are the chambers of Lok Sabha (Lower House), Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and the Parliament Library. The 144 imposing pillars surrounding the corridor of the three semi-circular chambers enhance the royal look of this 'Symbol of Democracy'. In the central hall of this building the transfer of power took place in the midnight of 14th August 1947.
On the eastern side of India Gate stands the mighty citadel - Purana Qila or Old Fort. Purana Qila, according to archeological evidence, is said to have been founded on the ancient mound that conceals the ruins of the city of Indraprastha of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata in 1534. Considered the sixth city of Delhi, Humayun built a city named Dinpanah or 'Refuge of the Faithful' here and the inner citadel of this city is the Purana Qila. However, the city into the hands of the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri, who wrested the throne of Delhi from Humayun and built his own Dilli Sher Shahi or Shergarh. Although feared as a merciless warrior, Sher Shah left his artistic impression on the Purana Qila. He built a magnificent hall, Sher Mandal, and a remarkable mosque, Qila Kuhna Masjid, inside the fort. Sher Shah ruled from her till 1555 when Humayun returned to power and recaptured the fort. Legend goes that Humayun accidentally fell from a tower in Purana Qila and died. The National Zoological Park of Delhi or Delhi Zoo is located next to Purana Qila on its southern side.
Situated south of the Purana Qila, Humayun Tomb is one of the earliest and the first important example of Mughal architecture in India. Commissioned by Humayun's wife Hamida Banu Begum in 1562, the Humayun tomb's design is attributed to Persian architects and poets Sayyid Muhammad and his father Mirak Sayyid Ghiyath. The tomb introduced the Persian style of garden structure and is also the first 'garden-tomb' on the Indian sub-continent. The garden is divided into four parts by two bisecting water channels with paved walkways, which terminate at two gates. The complex is also the resting place of many different tombs. This tomb for the Mughal emperor in Delhi is also said to have inspired Shahjahan in his choice of design for the Taj Mahal in Agra. UNESCO has listed this magnificent monument in Delhi as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Another monument and probably the last model of the garden-tomb layout like the Humayun tomb is the Safdarjang's Tomb. This tomb was built in 1753-54 by Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh for his father Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, who was known as Safdarjang. Located near the Safdarjang Airport on Aurobindo Marg in Delhi, the tomb stands on a high terrace in an extensive garden with high enclosure walls and central domed mausoleum. South of the tomb is the battlefield where Timur and his Mongol army defeated Mohammed Tughlaq in the battle of 1398.
Roughly a mile away from the political hub of India is the biggest commercial area of New Delhi, Connaught Place. Designed by Robert Tor Russell and W. H. Nicholls, Connaught Place was named after the Duke of Connaught, a British royal. Built as early as 1931, Connaught Place is shaped like a horseshoe to bring luck for both shoppers and shopkeepers. This premier shopping destination in Delhi can be largely be divided into two sections - Inner Circle and Janpath. Inner Circle is lined with showrooms of almost all international brands, finest restaurants, bars, pubs, excellent bookshops and movie halls. Janpath resembles more like a flea market selling export surplus garments at throwaway prices. The row of small Tibetan shops lined up along Janpath is a great place to pick up curios such as silver and artificial jewelry. For Indian handicrafts the Central Cottage Industries Emporium at Janpath and Jawahar Vyapar Bhavan across the road, and the state run emporia at Baba Kharak Singh Marg offers the best handicrafts from all over India. The underground supermarket, Palika Bazaar at Connaught Place, sells about everything but only shoppers with bargaining skills are advised to go on a spree here.
A few meters away from Janpath, on Parliament Street, is the symbol of India's scientific heritage, the Jantar Mantar. Situated between Connaught Place and Rashtrapati Bhavan, Jantar Mantar is a remarkable piece of scientific importance built by the astronomer king and the founder of the Pink city of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh in 1724. The Jantar Mantar in Delhi is the first of his five astronomical observatories across India. More of like a piece of abstract art, the Jantar Mantar is a unique astronomical observatory where the movements of sun, moon and planets could be observed and calculated accurately.
West of Connaught Place is the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, also known as the Birla Mandir. Built in 1938 by the industrialist B.D. Birla, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu - the preserver of the Hindu Trinity and enshrines almost all the deities of the Hindu Pantheon. One of the major tourist and pilgrim destinations of Delhi, the Birla Mandir attracts a lot of devotees as well as tourists. Built in the Nagara style of architecture of Orissa, the temple has traces of modern influences interspersed in its design. The artificial landscape and the miniature rock temples that dot the premises exemplify the aesthetic design of the Birla Mandir in New Delhi. The temple was inaugurated by the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and is open to people of all religions and casts.
Like colossal meadows of green expanse along the river Yamuna stands several memorials dedicated to leaders of modern India. Located at a distance of 3.5 km east of Connaught Place, these memorial landmarks in Delhi provide an introspective ambiance where visitors can reflect on the life, work and visions of the leaders of modern India. Raj Ghat (King's Court) is a beautiful landscaped memorial garden dedicated to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The ceramic simplicity harmonizing with the elements of nature reflects the ideals of life the Mahatma stood for. A 12x12 black marble platform marks the place where he was cremated on January 31, 1948. The reflection of the moving clouds on the marble platform and the eternal flame at one end add to the purity of the samadhi (cremation spot) and its surroundings. In the vicinity of Raj Ghat are several other memorials of other famous leaders enclosed by beautifully laid gardens and caressed by the Yamuna River. Vijay Ghat (Victory Platform) is dedicated to the former Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri; Shakti Sthal (Place of Power) is dedicated to the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; Samta Sthal (Place of Equality) is dedicated to the former Deputy Prime Minister of India Jagjivan Ram; Kisan Ghat (Farmer's Platform) is dedicated to the former Prime Minister Choudhary Charan Singh; Veer Bhumi (Land of Brave) is dedicated to the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; and Ekta Sthal (Place of Unity) is dedicated to the former President of India Giani Zail Singh.
The southern part of Delhi, which boasts of some of the best residential areas, shopping centers, and bars & restaurants in Delhi, has some of the early heritage sites that contributed to the creation of the city.
Mehrauli in southern Delhi, 15 kilometers from Connaught Place, houses some of the most visited monumental sites in Delhi. Here lies the Qutab Minar complex that symbolizes a major turning point in the history of India - the establishment of Muslim rule in India. Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the successor of Mohammed Ghori who ended the rule of the Hindu kingdom in Delhi, laid the foundation of Qutab Minar to celebrate the victory of Ghori over the Rajputs in 1192. This 72.5 m high tower of victory in red sandstone and marble has a 15m-diametere base to just 2.5m at the top. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Qutab Minar in Delhi is tallest brick minaret in the world. Although Qutub-ud-din could only see the minaret rise to the first storey, his successor Iltutmish completed it. In 1368 Firoz Shah Tughlaq added two more storeys and topped it with a cupola. An English engineer replaced the cupola in 1829 when the original came crashing down during an earthquake in 1803.
The Qutab Minar complex also houses the first mosque to be built in India, Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid. Standing at the foot of the Qutab Minar, Qutub-ud-din began the construction of in 1192 but had number of additions over the centuries. The mosque is said to have been erected on the foundations of a Hindu temple and inscriptions in some parts of the mosque suggests building materials to be from Hindu and Jain temples. The intriguing Iron Pillar stands at the courtyard of the mosque. The mystery of Iron Pillar of Qutab Minar is its ability to remain rust-free even after 1600 years. The Sanskrit inscription in Brahmi script of 4th century AD also indicates the pillar to be centuries older than the Qutab complex.
Lying west of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid in the Qutab Minar complex is the tomb of Iltutmish. Built in 1235, the tomb is a plain square chamber of red sandstone and shows much less Hindu influence than other structures in the complex. And to the north of the Qutab Minar and the mosque lies the ambitious but incomplete dream of Alauddin Khilji - the Alai Minar victory tower. Alauddin's Alai Minar was conceived to be similar to the Qutab Minar but twice in height. Other relics in the Qutab Minar complex include tombs, mosque, madrasa, and architectural members. The nearby Mehrauli village area is dotted with a number of monuments dating from the 12th to the 17th century.
A few kilometers southeast of the Qutab Minar complex stands the ruins of the once formidable Tuglaqabad Fort (1321-1325). This was the third city of Delhi founded during the Tughlak rule by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Alauddin Khilji's successor. Tughlakabad is perhaps the most beautiful ruin in the country. North of Mehrauli is another important monumental treasure and also the second city of Delhi, the Siri Fort. Little remains of what was built by Alauddin Khilji in about 1303. Its ruins can be seen at the Siri Fort complex near the Asian Games Village area, east of Hauz Khas. There are some interesting monuments in Hauz Khas.
Post independence, modern edifices have also added to repertoire of tourist attractions of Delhi city. The Baha'i Mashriqu'l-Adhkar is one attraction in the city of Delhi that has blossomed in silent resonance. Neighboring the ancient Kalkaji Temple in southern Delhi, this Bahai house of worship, better known as Lotus Temple, is one of the most visited edifices in India. Blooming like a giant, heavenly lotus among pools and gardens covering an area of 26 acres of land, the Lotus Temple in Delhi is the only center for Bahai faith in the whole of Asia. There are only seven other Bahai centers in the world. There are large number of other religious places in delhi.
The architect Fariburz Sabha conceptualized the design of the temple keeping in mind the symbolic importance of the lotus in a multi-religious nation like India. Construction for the Lotus Temple in New Delhi started in 1980 and was opened to public worship in December 1986. The Lotus Temple has a soothingly quiet prayer hall devoid of any idols or rituals and its daily public services include sections from the holy books of all religions. The temple's tranquil ambience evokes a sense of peacefulness within and the saying rightly describes this mother temple of the Indian sub-continent: "Architecturally, artistically, ethically, the edifice is a paragon of perfection".
Referred to as the 'Taj Mahal of the 20th century', the Lotus Temple in Delhi is a rare combination of ancient concept, modern engineering skill and architectural inspiration. Not surprisingly, Lotus Temple has been showered with accolades, worldwide acclaim and numerous international awards. One can also visit the nearby tourist attractions like the Kalkaji Temple, Khirki Masjid, Satpula, Nizamuddin's Shrine and Chirag-i-Delhi-Dargah.
Nearby, in East of Kailash area of New Delhi stands another recently added must-see attraction of Delhi, the ISKON Temple. A beautiful specimen of modern architecture in classical style, the ISKON temple stands tall on the Hare Krishna Hill at a height of 90 feet above ground level. The ISKON Temple is a complex of temples dedicated to Lord Krishna decorated with attractive paintings of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, Radha Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu made by Russian artists. The centrally air-conditioned hall of the temple can accommodate more than a thousand people at a time comfortably. One of the main attractions of the temple is the state-of-the-art multi media show that illustrates the epic stories of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and about the Hare Krishna sect. Religious programs like the Kirtan (singing of religious hymns), Aarti (the lighting of lamps to worship God), Pravachan (sermons) and Prasadam (the preparing and offering of food to God), are held regularly. During Janmasthami, the festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna in the months of August or September, the temple is at it's brightest and choc-a-block with visitors. The ISKON Temple in New Delhi remains open from 4.30am to 12pm and from 4pm to 9pm in the evening.
Neighboring Indian's premier medical institute AIIMS and the Sajdarjung Hospital, and opposite to the INA market is the model ethnic shopping center for Indian arts & handicrafts, Dilli Haat Food and Craft Bazaar. Spread over six acres with rural architectural design, the center is a joint project of Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTDC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) in the 1990s. The haat (weekly market) was conceived with the intent to promote traditional crafts of India and bring it directly to the masses. One can pick up artifacts from different states of India at the various stalls. The not too large but diverse food court presents authentic regional cuisines of India. The haat also organizes cultural activities like dances, dramas, fashion shows and food festivals. The success of the INA Delhi Haat has paved the way for a more improvised and larger center for showcasing the rich Indian folk culture, cuisine and crafts in Pritampura, northwest part of Delhi.
The most recent addition in the list of tourist spots in Delhi is the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple. Sprawled out in a huge area of sixty acres of lush lawns and beautifully laid out gardens, the Akshardham complex is located on the eastern bank of the river Yamuna, 5 km from Connaught Place. The Akshardham temple in New Delhi has been specifically created to spread the essence and intricacy of India's ancient architecture, traditions and timeless spirituality. The magnificent, ancient-styled Swaminarayan Akshardham complex is an enlightening trip showcasing India's glorious art and culture, tradition and values that contributed for the progress, happiness and harmony in the world. Opened to the public in November 6, 2005, the temple complex was built in only five years by the combined effort of 11,000 artisans and volunteers. The Akshardham temple in Delhi is the biggest hand carved edifice in the world, today.
Experiencing Delhi and Beyond
Delhi offers varied and exciting avenues to tourists and travelers to unravel.
Shopping in Delhi is excellent with variety being the USP. Delhi offers anything and everything from all parts of India. Traditional to modern, regional to international, Delhi is a colorful market of almost everything money can buy. From the bustling, crowded markets of Old Delhi to the up-market Connaught Place, the hip shopping centers mostly in southern Delhi, and from the haats to the malls, Delhi is a shopaholic's playground.
Delhi is also turning out to be the entertainment capital of India. The city is dotted with numerous fine performing arts centers that regularly hosts classical and modern drama, dance and music shows. The capital has also witnessed a growing number of art aficionados and art galleries. There has also been a recent surge in the number of bars, pubs and discotheques allover the city, which otherwise was only confined to the five-star hotels of Delhi. One can also visit the many cinemas in Delhi, from state-of-the-art multiplexes to huge single screen halls, to view the latest Bollywood and Hollywood blockbusters. The National Film Festival is hosted by Delhi every year in July. Other places like British Council, Max Muller Bhavan, French Cultural Center and Habitat World in New Delhi regularly screens good Indian and foreign films.
Also referred to as one of the greenest cities in the world, Delhi boasts of some of the best parks in India. One can find many a park in Delhi adorned with ancient monuments and an array of exotic flora. And not to forget children, the city also has a few interesting amusement parks. The National Zoological Park of Delhi or Delhi Zoo, located next to the Purana Qila on its southern side, is popular with children and grown-ups alike.
The cosmopolitan image of Delhi is further boosted by the sporting tradition of the city. The NCR is home to some of the best golf courses in India. Delhi's annual Vintage Car Rally and Delhi Marathon are hugely popular. Delhi was the proud host of the 1st Asian Games in 1951 and the 9th in 1982. Events like these has given birth to some of the best sporting facilities in India. And with the 2010 Commonwealth Games just round the corner, the numerous sporting centers and Stadiums in Delhi are all being geared-up to meet the required standard to host the games.
Delhi has some of the finest Museums in Delhi in India. Like its explicit history and monuments, the museums of Delhi present an amazing repertoire of the city's heritage. One can visit some of many museums like: Air force museum, National Museum Of Natural History, Archaeological Museum, National Philatelic Museum, Crafts Museum, National Police Museum, Gandhi Museum, National Science Center Museum, Gandhi Smriti Museum, National Rail Museum, Ghalib Museum & Library, Nehru Museum & Planetarium, Indian War Memorial Museum, Sangeet Natak Academy, Indira Gandhi Memorial, Sanskriti Kendra, Terracotta & Metal Museum, Malliah Memorial Threatre, Craft Museum, Shankar's International Dolls Museum, National Gallery Of Modern Art, Tibet House Museum, National Children's Museum, Zakir Hussain Museum.
And for booklovers there are quite a few well-stocked libraries in Delhi. The National Archives of India in Janpath, New Delhi is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of India and also houses the Museum of National Archives of India that presents the heritage of India through a portrayal of a glimpse of the multi-faceted collections of documents. Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, IIT-Delhi house a few of the best libraries in New Delhi. The American Centre Library, British Council Library, Max Muller Bhavan, Delhi Public Libraries, Russian Centre, Indian Council of Historical Research, Maharaja Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad Library and Documentation Centre, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute are some of the notable archival centers in Delhi.
Apart from the myriad tourist attractions, Delhi is also the travel hub for all tourist destinations of northern India. Travel from Delhi to some of the major tourist destinations of India: Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh etc. Explore some exciting weekend destinations from Delhi: wildlife sanctuaries, historical places, palaces and forts, hill stations. Delhi, along with Agra and Jaipur also forms the exquisite travel and tour package of India - the Golden Triangle tour package. The Golden Triangle India tour circuit traverses through some of the most captivating destinations in India: monumental and cosmopolitan Delhi; the land of the Taj Mahal - Agra; and the pink city of Rajasthan - Jaipur. >From Delhi one can also add glitter to one's vacation in Delhi, India by experiencing the Golden triangle destinations with aboard India's royal offering - the Palace on Wheels luxury train. The Palace on Wheels offers a royal retreat along side the cultural, architectural, natural and traditional richness of India, a royal odyssey that begins from dashing Delhi to amazing Agra, through rustic Rajasthan. The Palace on Wheels starts its weeklong royal tour of India every Wednesday night from the Delhi Cantonment Railway Station and returns early morning for next Wednesday. This journey can be enjoyed only during the months of September to April.
Hotels in Delhi
Hostility and hospitality have been two paradoxical characteristics of the city of Delhi that arrested the attention of many down the centuries. The hostility aspect, which came with the invaders, has long been erased with the dawn of British rule in India. And hospitality is an essence of Indian culture that can never be erased. To experience this essence of Indian culture Delhi is a city that presents it in all its hues. The tradition of service with a smile has been the hallmark of this bustling metropolis. Delhi offers a unique blend of cosmopolitan ambiance and unpretentious hospitality.
Given its status, as the capital of the country and also for its standing as an important travel hub of India, accommodation in Delhi is naturally top class. Hotels in Delhi are a long list catering to all types of visitors, travelers and tourists. From five-star deluxe to budget hotels, government guesthouses to homestays with Indian families, and student hostels to serene resorts, Delhi offers varied options. Some of the best hotel chains like Hilton, Taj Group of Hotels, Le Meridien Group of Hotels, Oberoi Group, Welcomgroup, Park Group of Hotels etc., have properties that are listed among the best hotels in New Delhi.
The different categorized Hotels in New Delhi offer the option to choose according to one's budget. For backpackers and economy travelers there are a number of budget hotels as well as bed and breakfast hotels in Delhi. Most of the hotels of New Delhi are centered around the business areas, tourist attractions and the transportation hubs like the airport hotels near the New Delhi Airport, the budget hotel hub near the railway station. There is also an option of staying in cheap hotels in Delhi. There are also a number of resorts in and around Delhi that provides an ambiance of tranquil repose to guests looking for respite from chaotic city life. These resorts also serve as perfect picnic spots or weekend destinations from Delhi, which can be found at nearby destinations like Bharatpur, Behror, Sariska, Neemrana.