History lives in Delhi, the capital of India. The ancient and the modern, the old and the new are in constant juxtaposition here, not only in the remains of a succession of empires, but equally in present social structure and lifestyles.
The name Delhi, is derived from Dhillika, the name of the first medieval township of Delhi. There was, however, an ancient urban settlement in Delhi known as Indraprastha on the bank of river Yamuna which is traditionally believed to have been founded by the Pandava brothers, the mythical heroes of the Mahabharta.
Delhi stands at the western end of the Gangetic Plain, bordered on the eastern side by the state of Uttar Pradesh, and on the other three sides by the state of Haryana.
Travellers to Delhi get two cities for the price of one. 'Old' Delhi, the capital of Muslim India between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries, is full of formidable mosques, monuments and forts. It's a lively area of colorful bazaars, narrow streets and barely controlled chaos. In contrast, New Delhi, the imperial city created by the British Raj, is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings, and has a sense of order absent in other parts of the city.
Area: 3,287,590 sq km
Languages: Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu . English widely spoken
Per Sq. km 9,294
Best Season: September to March
How to get there
Delhi is major gateway to India and connected by air with most of the countries as well as with almost all cities / towns of this sub continent.
Delhi is the headquarters of the Northern Railway and is the most well connected railhead both on broad gauge (New Delhi) and meter gauge (Delhi Main) railway line with all of the major places in India.
Delhi is at the intersection of several national highways and is well connected by regular bus services. Some important distances are: Agra-203 km, Allahabad-603 km, Almora-373 km, Amritsar -447 km, Bhakra-354 km, Bharatpur-190 km, Chandigarh -238 km, Corbet National Park-297 km, Jaipur-258 km, Khajuraho-596 km, Kulu-502 km, Mathura-147 km, Mussoorie-269 km, Nainital-318 km, Shimla -343 km, Srinagar-891 km, Udaipur-663 km, Varanasi-738 km.
In and around
The red sandstone walls of the massive Red Fort (Lal Qila) rise 33m (108ft) above the clamor of 'Old' Delhi as a reminder of the magnificent power and pomp of the Moghul emperors. The walls, built in 1638, may have been designed to keep out invaders, but today they mainly keep out the noise and confusion of the city, making the fort and its gardens and pavilions a peaceful haven from the surrounding chaos. The fort's main gate, the Lahore Gate, is one of the emotional and symbolic focal points of the modern Indian nation and attracts a major crowd each Independence Day.
The vaulted arcade of Chatta Chowk, an impressive covered bazaar now dedicated to selling tourist junk, leads into the huge fort compound. Inside is a veritable treasure trove of buildings, including the Drum House, the Hall of Public Audiences, the white marble Hall of Private Audiences, the Pearl Mosque, Royal Baths and Palace of Color. An evening sound and light show re-creates events in India's history connected with the fort. It's well worth seeing the show, but make sure you bring that modern self-defence system - mosquito repellent.
The great mosque of 'Old' Delhi, largest in India, with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. It was commenced in 1644 and was the last in the series of architectural indulgences of Shah Jahan, the Moghul emperor who built the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. The highly decorative mosque has three great gateways, four towers and two 40m (135ft) high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble.
The main street of 'Old' Delhi is a magnificent bazaar and as fine as a monument to congestion, colour and chaos as you'll find in India today. In Shah Jahan's day, it was endowed with fine mansions, had a tree-lined canal flowing down its centre and was renowned throughout Asia. There's a Jain temple at the street's eastern end, near the Red Fort; at the western end is the Fatehpuri Mosque, built by one of Shah Jahan's wives in 1650.
New Delhi is a monument to British Imperial ambitions solidly set in a city so fluid and chaotic that it took less than 20 years for the entire planned municipality to be historically obsolete. Under the leadership of architect Edward Lutyens, New Delhi was to encapsulate the spirit of British sovereignty in marble, stone and grandeur. The scale of the city and its wide ceremonial avenues echoed Moghul architecture, but the buildings are classical in design and play only the merest lip service to Indian styles. The result is indeed spacious and palatial and, compared to many planned cities of the 20th century. The major landmarks include the Rashtrapati Bhavan (once the Viceroy's House, but now the official residence of the President of India), Parliament House, the north and south Secretariat buildings. The 40m (135ft) stone war memorial known as India Gate and the broad Rajpath, which is flanked with ornamental ponds Connaught Place is the day-to-day hub of New Delhi, a good place to shop, and the scene of some fantastic traffic accidents.
This grand tomb is the best-preserved example of early Moghul architecture in Delhi and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, wife of Humayun, the second Moghul emperor, it displays elements of Moghul design, which were eventually refined and incorporated into the Taj Mahal in Agra. It comprises a squat building with high arched entrances topped by a bulbous dome and surrounded by formal gardens. The gardens also contain the red-and-white sandstone and black-and-yellow marble tomb of Humayun's wife.
Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73m high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom. It symbolises Islamic rule of the city. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony, and it tapers, like something out of a fairy tale, from a 15m (50ft) diameter at the base to just 2.5m (8ft) at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone, the fourth and fifth storeys of marble and sandstone. The stairs inside the tower coil so steeply that they're enough to make the hardiest climber dizzy and claustrophobic.
At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India. An inscription over its eastern gate provocatively informs that it was built with material obtained from demolishing '27 idolatrous (read Hindu) temples'. A 7m (23ft) high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque and it's said that if you can encircle it with your hands whilst standing with your back to it, your wish will be fulfilled.
Fairs and Festivals
In February or March, is one of the most exuberant Hindu festivals. To mark the end of winter, people chuck large quantities of colored water and powder at one another.
In April or May, Sikhs have a similar celebration, Baisakhi where the holy book, the Granth Sahib is read, followed by feasting and dancing.
International Mango Festival
When Talkatora Stadium hosts hundreds of varieties of the heavenly fruit.
Krishna's birth is celebrated with plenty of mischief-making.
Art and Handicraft
Carpet weaving came into prominence during the Mughal era, when Akbar brought Persian weavers to India. Known for their harmonious colors, the design of these carpets was kind of standard.
Gems, Kundan & Meenakari Jewelry
The meeting of Hindu and Muslim cultures during the Mughal rule created a rich variety of designs and during this time the art of Kundan was introduced to India. Western influences during the British rule prompted the use of open-claw settings in preference to the traditional kundan gulband (choker), dastband (bracelet) and karnaphul (earrings) settings.
Kundan is the Mughal-inspired art of setting of stones in gold and silver. Gems are bedded in a surround of gold leaf rather than secured by a rim or claw. Hindu Punjabis brought
Meenakari, or the skill of enameling, from Lahore to Delhi. This is a traditional skill practiced by Muslim craftsmen called
'saadegars' who settled in Delhi during Shahjahan's reign.
Sarafs, traditional Hindu jewelers who have been around for centuries, are still present and doing good business too.