We reached Delhi by air from Kolkata and arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport at 5 pm in the evening. We had booked an SUV for our tour in and around Delhi to make the trip convenient and hassle free. For those who want to hire local taxis, being alert is advisable.
Let me tell you some historical facts regarding Delhi which will help you to understand the place better.
Delhi has been the capital city for numerous dynasties since the time of Mahabharata. It has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties over a period of five thousand years. The legend of Mahabharata talks of the beautiful city of Indraprastha, built by the Pandavas as their capital in the same region. However, according to the historical sources the city of Lal Kot was founded by the Tomara ruler Anangpal in 786 A.D. Prithviraj Chauhanruled over Delhi till 1192 when he was defeated by the Afghan warrior Muhammad Ghori. Muhammad Ghori left Delhi in the hands of his trusted servant and viceroy Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who founded the Slave Dynasty in 1206.
The last sultan Ibrahim Lodi was defeated by the First Mughal ruler Babur at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. While the early Mughal rulers, favoured Agra as their capital. Shah Jahan the great builder, built Shahjahanabad in 1638 which is now known as old Delhi. Mughal rulers- (Babur-Humayun-Akbar- Jahangir- Shah Jahan- Aurangzeb)
The Britishers occupied Delhi in 1803 A.D, and they shifted their capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. New Delhi was designed by Edward Lutyens. New Delhi became the capital of India after India’s independence in1947.
After checking in at Ramada plaza, formerly known as Ashok Yatri Nivas, in the evening. We decided to visit the Delhi haat, which offers an exotic blend of handicrafts, food, cultural and music performances from all over India. Small thatched roof cottages and the village atmosphere creates a great ambience.
The next morning we decided to visit the historical places in Delhi. We started from Old Delhi and then moved towards New Delhi which helped in managing our time efficiently.
The Red fort
We started our tour with a visit to the Red fort, which is made of red sand stone. Every Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India hoists the national Flag from the main gate of this fort.
Lal Qila or Red fort was built by Shah Jahan from 1638 – 1648. It was the royal residence of the Mughals till 1857 when Bahdur Shah Zafar was defeated by the Britishers.
The fort has various structures like the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Nhar –i-Behisht, Mumtaz mahal, Moti masjid and Hyat Baksh Bagh. Tourists can have tea and snacks in the Dawat Khana. There is also a provision of light and sound theatre in the evening which is immensely popular.
A visit to the Raj ghat is a must for those visiting Delhi. Situated behind the Red Fort it is a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The black marble platform marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation on 31 January, 1948 a day after his assassination. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns at one end. After paying homage to the great freedom fighter we moved on to our next destination.
Our next stop was Jama Masjid next to Chandni Chowk. Jama Masjid, also known as Masjid e Jahan Numa, was built by Shah Jahan from 1650-’56. It is one of the largest mosques of India and portrays indo-islamic architecture. Attire covering from head to legs is needed to visit this mosque. The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 devotees at one time. The architectural splendour consists of three gates, four towers and two minarets made from a combination of red sandstone and white marble. The numerous eateries around the masjid offering authentic Mughlai cuisine will leave your taste buds tingling.
Our next stop was the marvellous monument that houses the tomb of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun. It was the inspiration behind Taj Mahal and was built in the year 1570 by Haji Begum, widow of Humayun. The entire complex with its brilliant Persian architecture and beautiful gardens is one of the most popular tourist spots.
India Gate is one of the iconic monuments of New Delhi. It is a triumphal arch, 42 meters high, designed by Edward Lutyens. Located at the centre of Delhi the memorial was built to salute the sacrifices of the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1st World war as a part of the British army. An eternal flame burns in memory of the soldiers.
The Qutub Minar was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. The monument is the tallest minar in India (73 metres) and is made using indo-islamic architecture. The minar has five stories with beautiful carvings from the Quran. The first three storeys are made of red sand stone while the last two are made of marble and sandstone.
The Iron pillar near the Quwwat ul mosque in the Qutub complex, weighs more than 6 tons and is made of 98% wrought iron. It was forged 1,600 years ago and brought to Delhi about 1000 years ago. The iron pillar was possibly made for Chandragupta Maurya according to the Brahmi script on the pillar. The iron pillar has not rusted till date and as the saying goes, anyone who can touch the tips of fingers encircling the pillar will become a king or extremely powerful. The funny part is that everyone’s fingers almost seem to touch but does not touch the tip of the other finger.
It was exciting to visit Jantar Mantar, which is an observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur and forms a part of a collection of five observatories located in Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura. The observatory was made in 1724 to calculate time and movements of sun, moon and other planets. There are 13 architectural instruments of astronomy which can be used to compile astronomical tables. The precision of the instruments are amazing.
The Lotus Temple, The Akshardham temple, The Rashtrapati Bhavan, Lodhi gardens are also among the must sees in Delhi. The Delhi trip was one which transferred us to the past glory of medieval India. It was a lovely, enriching experience that will remain etched in our memory forever.