Delhi Information

Delightful Delhi, the capital city of India, has traditionally been the seat of administrative power of India.  It is a bustling metropolis which is known to be devastated and rebuilt many a times in written history. Here several dynasties rose and fell, leaving monumental gifts to posterity.  The Quila Rai Pithora, bequeathed by a Rajput King’ the Qutb Minar, grand gesture of an Afghan king; the Red Fort that Shah Jahan, the great Mughal built; the ruined Old Fort where once the wise King Sher Shah lived; the glorious Jama Masjid, eloquent reminder of Mughal religious fervour, the tombs and mausolea in remembrance of ruling nobles and Kings.  It is all here to see, this slow march of history, carved in stone.

The old ‘Dilli’ is not one but the seven cities Hindu and Moghul emperors gave India.  In its great buildings, standing or in ruins, may be seen the glories of the empires of ages past.  The New Delhi, the eighth Delhi, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker gave India.  This is the Delhi of a world which plans its every move.  And Lutyens planned New Delhi, in all its geometrical symmetry, when city planning was still in its infancy.  But despite all the planning that has gone into it, Delhi still has a majestic beauty and an old world’s charm.  Far, away from New Delhi, a garden city that is one of the world’s most elegant capitals, old Delhi is ever present.  Today’s Delhi blends its historic past with a vibrant present.  Great monuments old and not so old lie side by side besides crisp new office and residential buildings, harmonising the past with the present.  Thus the city is a real delight for the tourists who wish to learn about the past and present of India and Indian people.  Mirza Ghalib the world renowned poet and son of Delhi, has rightly described the amazing city as “the soul in the body of the world”.

The capital of the world’s largest democracy has a truly fascinating history, but with a population of 14 million sprawling over some 1,500 sq. km (585 sq. miles), and plagued by the subcontinent’s highest levels of pollution, growth, and poverty, Delhi’s delights are not immediately apparent. Even Delhiites, the majority of whom have been born elsewhere, seldom show pride in the city they now call home, bemoaning its drab mixture of civil servants, aspiring politicians, and avaricious businesspeople; the ever-expanding slums and “unauthorized” colonies; the relatively high levels of crime; and the general demise of traditional ways. Yet Delhi is in many ways the essence of modern India, with its startling paradox of old and new, foreign and familiar. And it remains the best starting point for exploring North India, not only because of its excellent transport connections and relatively sophisticated infrastructure, but because the history of Delhi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is essentially the history of India (see “A Tale of Seven Cities,” below). The city is littered with crumbling tombs and ruins, most of which are not even on the tourist map. They—like the elephant trundling alongside a traffic-logged road, where handwritten posters for CUSTOM CONFISCATED GOODS SOLD HERE vie with glossy fashion billboards—are just part of the strange fabric of Delhi. It doesn’t have the vibrancy of Mumbai or the atmosphere of Kolkata, but in one day you can go from marveling at the sheer grace of the soaring Qutb Minar Tower, built in 1199 by the Turkish Slave King Qutb-ud-din Aibak to celebrate his victory over the Hindu Rajputs, to gawking at that 1920s British imperialist masterpiece, palatial Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can wander through the sculptural Jantar Mantar, a huge, open-air astronomy observatory built in 1725 by Jai Singh, creator and ruler of Jaipur, to the still-sacred atmosphere surrounding the tomb of the 14th-century Sufi saint, Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia, or the 16th-century garden tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun, precursor to the Taj. Or, after the chaos of exploring the crowded streets of 17th-century Shahjahanabad, Delhi’s oldest living city, you can escape to Rajghat, the park where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948; or to Lodi Gardens, where lawns and golfing greens are studded with the crumbling 15th-century tombs of oncepowerful dynasties. And still you haven’t covered the half of it. . . . But despite its host of attractions, unless you’re staying in one of its top hotels (of which The Imperial is almost a destination in its own right), Delhi is not a very relaxing destination, and it is as famous for its pollution (it was rated the fourth-most-polluted city in the world through the 1990s) as it is for its sights. Unless you’re a history buff or here on business, spend as much time as you need to recover from jet lag, choosing to view only a few of its many attractions (the best of which are listed below), and then move on. The rest of India, with its awesome array of experiences and beauty, awaits you.

Delhi Tourism Information

India’s capital has more sights than any other city in India. It is the third largest city in the country, but they are concentrated in three distinct areas—Old Delhi, New Delhi, and South Delhi (known as the Qutb Minar Complex)—which can be tackled as separate tours or grouped together. Most organized tours spend a half-day covering the top attractions in New Delhi, and another half-day exploring the 17th-century capital, Shahjahanabad. Commonly referred to as “Old Delhi,” Shahjahanabad lies a mere 5km (3 miles) north of centrally located Connaught Place, the commercial heart of New Delhi, but it feels a hundred years away (400 to be exact). If you do only one sightseeing excursion, make it here, for this is most authentically India, where imposing Lal Qila (Red Fort) and Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, pay testament to the vision and power of Shah Jahan, and the chaos and pungent smells from the overcrowded and ancient streets are a heady reminder that you are far from home. Surrounding and immediately south of Connaught Place is New Delhi, built by British imperialist architects Baker and Lutyens. Its primary attractions are the architectural gems centered around Rajpath and Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of the president of India. Of Delhi’s remaining cities, all of which are today deserted and in ruins, only the 12th-century Qutb Minar, a World Heritage Site monument built in Delhi’s first city and surprisingly intact, is definitely worth inclusion in your itinerary. (Note: Most museums in Delhi close Mon.)

SHAHJAHANABAD (OLD DELHI)

Still surrounded by crumbling city walls and three surviving gates, the vibrant, bustling Shahjahanabad, built over a period of 10 years by Emperor Shah Jahan, is very much a separate city—predominantly a labyrinth of tiny lanes crowded with rickshaws, and lined with 17th-century havelis (Indian mansions), their balustrades broken and once-ornate facades defaced with rusted signs and sprouting satellite dishes. Old Delhi is inhabited by a predominantly Muslim population whose lives revolve around work and the local mosque, much as it was a century ago.

The best way to explore the area is to catch a taxi or auto-rickshaw to Red Fort (see below), then set off in a cycle-rickshaw (Rs 50–Rs 80/$1.15–$1.80 per hour), or on foot if it’s too congested. Head down the principal street, Chandni Chowk, which leads from the main entrance to Red Fort. Along this busy commercial street are mosques, a church, and a number of temples. First up, opposite the fort, is Digambar Jain Temple, the oldest Jain temple in Delhi and surprisingly simple compared with other Jain temples, which are renowned for the intricacy of their carvings. Attached is a bird hospital, which smells less charming than it sounds. If you’re pressed for time, skip these and proceed to vibrant Gauri Shankar Temple (look for the mounds of marigolds, sold to worshippers as they enter), which has an 800-yearold lingam. Or stop at Sisganj Gurudwara, an unassuming but superbly atmospheric and welcoming Sikh temple, which marks the spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, was beheaded by the fundamentalist Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan’s intolerant son). You will be expected to hand over your shoes at a super-efficient kiosk and wash your hands and feet at the cheap taps plumbed right at the temple entrance; on the way out you may be offered food—politely decline (it’s rich with ghee, clarified butter). Then, either turn left into Kinari Bazaar (see below) or head the length of Chandni Chowk to Fatehpuri Masjid, designed by one of Shah Jahan’s wives. Take a detour to the right into Church Mission Marg and then left into Khari Baoli— reputed to be Asia’s biggest spice market—the colors, textures, and aromas that literally spill out into the street are worth the side trip, but be careful with your belongings in these packed streets. Then double back down Chandni Chowk, turn right into jampacked Kinari Bazaar, and stop to admire the cheap gold (we’re talking mostly tinsel) and silver trinkets and accessories. Or keep going until the right turn into Dariba Kalan, “the jewelers’ lane,” where you can bargain hard for gorgeous baubles. Go south down Dariba Kalan to reach Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, keeping an eye out on the right for the tall spire of Shiv Temple. Having explored Jama Masjid (see below), you can head west down Chawri Bazaar for brass and copper icons and other souvenirs, then up Nai Sarak (which specializes in the most magnificent stationery, some bound into diaries). Or head south to Churiwali Galli, the “lane of bangle-sellers,” and make a final stop at Karim’s to sample the authentic Mughlai cooking that has kept patrons coming back for over 100 years. A little farther along is Sunehri Masjid, recognizable by its three gilt domes from where the Persian invader Nadir Shah enjoyed a bird’s-eye view as his men massacred some 3,000 of Shahjahanabad’s citizens in 1739. This done, you’ve pretty much covered Shahjahanabad’s top attractions by rickshaw. A few more sights of interest within the old city walls may attract the die-hard tourist. Pretty Zinat-ul Masjid (Daryaganj), or “Cloud Mosque,” built in 1710 by one of Aurangzeb’s daughters, lies south, but doesn’t see as much traffic as nearby Rajghat (Mahatma Gandhi Rd.; daily sunrise–sunset; leave shoes outside with attendant; Rs 5/10¢ tip), where Mahatma Gandhi, “Father of the Nation,” was cremated. There’s not much to see besides the black granite plinth inscribed with his last words, “Hé Ram!” (“Oh God!”), but it’s worth getting here at 5pm on Friday (the day of the week he was assassinated), when devotees gather to sing melancholic bhajans. Nearby, Gandhi Memorial Museum (& 011/2331-1793; Tues–Sun 9:30am–5:30pm) documents his life and last rites, which must have been immensely moving. Also within the old city walls is Feroze Shah Kotla (Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg), the ruins of the palace of the fifth city, Ferozabad. The principal attraction here is the pristine polished sandstone pillar from the 3rd century B.C. that rises from the palace’s crumbling remains. One of many pillars left by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka throughout North India, it was moved from the Punjab and erected here in 1356. North of Red Fort is St. James Church (Lothian Rd. near Kashmiri Gate; daily 8am–noon and 2–5pm). Consecrated in 1836, Delhi’s oldest church was built by Col. James Skinner—the son of a Scotsman and his Rajput wife, who became one of Delhi’s most flamboyant 19thcentury characters—to repay a promise made during battle.

Lal Qila (Red Fort)

Lal Qila (Red Fort) Built by Shah Jahan, the most prolific architect and builder of the Mughal empire, Lal Qila must have been a very modern departure from labyrinthine Agra Fort (which is older but a great deal better preserved and atmospheric). It was the seat of Mughal power from 1639 to 1857. Named after the red sandstone used in its construction, Red Fort covers an area of almost 2km (1 mile). Visitors enter via three-story Lahore Gate, one of six impressive gateways. You’ll pass through Chatta Chowk, which has quaint shops selling cheap souvenirs (some rather nice handbags). You’ll arrive at Naqqar Khana, where the emperor’s musicians used to play. From here you look up into Diwan-I-Am, the 60-pillared “hall of public audience,” from where Emperor Shah Jahan used to listen to his subjects’ queries and complaints as he sat cross-legged upon the beautifully carved throne (an age-old custom that his nasty son, Aurangzeb, discontinued). Behind this lie Rang Mahal, the royal quarters of the wives and mistresses, and Mumtaz Mahal, probably used by a favored wife or by Princess Jahanara, who evoked such envy in her sister’s heart (see “Agra” introduction, later in this chapter). Next up are Khas Mahal, which housed the emperor’s personal quarters (he would greet his subjects across the Yamuna River from the balcony); gilded Diwan-I-Khas, where the emperor would hold court with his inner circle from the famous jewel-encrusted Peacock Throne (taken by Persian invader Nadir Shah in 1739 and still in Iran); and finally the Hamams, or royal baths, whose fountains of rose-scented water would give modern-day spas a run for their money. In front of the hamams is Moti Masjid, built by Aurangzeb exclusively for his own use—a far cry from the huge Jama Masjid his father built to celebrate the faith together with thousands of his subjects. A few examples of beautiful carving, inlay, and gilding remain, particularly in Diwan-I-Khas, but after so many years of successive plunder it takes some contemplation (and a guide) to imagine just how plush and glorious the palaces and gardens must have been in their heyday; they were ruined when the British ripped up the gardens and built their ugly barracks (the fort is incidentally still a military stronghold, with much of it off-limits). Consider hiring a guide at the entrance, but negotiate the fee upfront and don’t expect much by way of dialogue (guides often speak English by rote and don’t understand queries); do expect to be hassled for more money. If you’re staying in an upmarket hotel, arrange a guide through the concierge.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid Commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1656, this mosque took 5,000 laborers 6 years to complete and is still the largest in Asia, accommodating up to 25,000 worshippers during holy festivals such as Id. Sadly, non-Muslims are not allowed in during prayers, but photographs (sold elsewhere) of the thousands of supplicant worshippers provide some idea of the atmosphere as you wander the huge expanse within. The central pool is for washing hands, face, and feet; to the west (facing Mecca) is the main prayer hall with the traditional mihrab for the prayer leader. You can ascend to the top of the southern minaret to enjoy fantastic views from Old Delhi to the distinctly different rooftops and high-rises of New Delhi—the climb is pretty stiff, but worth it. Note: If your knees or shoulders are bare, you’ll have to rent a scarf or lungi (sarong or cloth) at the entrance to cover up.

NEW DELHI

Almost all of New Delhi’s attractions lie south of Connaught Place, which you will no doubt visit to make onward bookings, get cash, eat, or shop. Built on concentric circles surrounding a central park, the retail heart of New Delhi was designed by Robert Tor Russell in the late 1920s. With its deep colonnaded verandas, gleaming banks, and host of burger joints and pizzerias, it’s a far cry from Chandni Chowk but is still quite chaotic, crawling with touts and hucksters whose aim is to part you from your money as quickly and seductively as possible. From here, the closest attraction well worth visiting (unless you’re moving on to Jaipur) is Jantar Mantar (daily sunrise– sunset), which lies on Sansad Marg, on the way to Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s one of five open-air observatories built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II, the eccentric genius who built Jaipur. The sculptural qualities of the huge instruments he designed are worth a visit alone, but note that Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, built by the same king, is both bigger and better preserved. The easiest way to take in central New Delhi’s imperial architecture—for many the chief attraction—is to drive to India Gate, built to commemorate those who died in World War I. There an eternal flame burns in memory of those who gave their lives in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, their names inscribed on the memorial. Set off on foot west along Rajpath (the 3.2km/2-mile boulevard once known as King’s Way) to the beautifully ornate gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan, flanked by the two almost identical Secretariat buildings. Having covered the architectural attractions of New Delhi, you can double back to The National Museum (see below) or catch a ride to the National Gallery of Modern Art, which lies near India Gate (Jaipur House; & 011/2338- 2835; Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; Rs 150/$3.40). Farther west lies The Crafts Museum (see below). Although the National Gallery is one of India’s largest museums of modern art, it’s pretty staid fare and unlikely to thrill those used to such Western shrines as London’s Tate Modern or New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Other museums you may consider in the area include Gandhi Smriti (Tees January Marg; & 011/2301-2843; daily 10am–5pm). The colonial bungalow where Gandhi stayed when he was in Delhi, and where he was assassinated, it’s more atmospheric than the museum near Raj Ghat in Old Delhi. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (Teen Murti Marg; & 011/2301-6734; Tues–Sun 9:30am–5pm; free admission) was the grand home of India’s own “Kennedy clan”: Nehru was India’s first prime minister, a role his daughter and grandson, Indira and Rajiv respectively, were also to play before both were assassinated. Those interested in contemporary Indian history may wish to visit Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum (1 Safdarjung Rd.; & 011/ 2301-0094; Tues–Sun 9:30am–4:45pm; free admission). A huge force in post-independence India (see “India Past to Present,” in the appendix), Indira Gandhi was murdered here by her Sikh bodyguards. Among the displays (which provide a real sense of the woman) is her blood-soaked sari, as well as the clothes worn by her son Rajiv when he was killed in 1991.

The best temples to visit in central New Delhi are Lakshmi Narayan Mandir (west of Connaught Place, on Mandir Marg; leave cameras and cellphones at counter outside), an ornate yet contemporary Hindu temple built by the wealthy industrialist B. D. Birla in 1938; and Bangla Sahib Gurudwara (off Ashoka Rd.), Delhi’s principal Sikh temple. If you aren’t heading north to the Golden Temple at Amritsar (see chapter 11 for more on Sikhism), a visit to the gurudwara is highly recommended, if only to experience the warm and welcoming atmosphere that seems to pervade all Sikh places of worship—evident in details like the efficient shoe deposit, a scarf to cover your head (both free), genuinely devoted guides who expect no recompense (available at the entrance), devotional hymns (sung constantly sunrise–9pm), free food (served three times daily), and prasad (communion) offered as you leave—be warned that it’s very oily and you won’t give offense if you decline. The gurudwara is certainly an interesting contrast to Lakshmi Narayan Mandir; a visit to one of the first Hindu temples to open its doors to all castes (including “outcasts” like the foreign Britishers) makes you feel very much like a tourist, whereas the more embracing atmosphere of the gurudwaras has you feeling rather humbled. If all this sightseeing has you beat, you can retreat to Lodi Gardens (5km/3 miles south of Connaught Place), where green lawns surround the crumbling tombs of the 15th-century Sayyid and Lodi dynasties—the tombs are not well-preserved, but the green, shaded oasis may suffice as a break from the hectic traffic or shopping at nearby Khan Market (though I’d opt for a hotel pool). The 18th-century Safdarjang’s Tomb lies just south of Lodi Gardens, but more impressive by far is Humayun’s Tomb (a short rickshaw ride west) and, across the street, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (both discussed below). Finally, for the special-interest traveler, you can view India’s largest collection of rare stamps free of charge at the National Philatelic Museum, located at the post office at Dak Bhavan (Sansad Marg; enter at back of post office; Mon–Fri 9:30am–4:30pm, closed 12:30–2:30pm).

New Delhi’s Imperial Architecture

New Delhi’s Imperial Architecture Nehru wrote that “New Delhi is the visible symbol of British power, with all its ostentation and wasteful extravagance,” but no one with any design interest fails to be impressed by the sheer scale and beauty of these buildings and the subtle blending of Indian influence on an otherwise strippeddown Western classicism—a far cry from the ornate Indo-Saracenic style so deplored by chief architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens, known for his racist views, in fact despised all Indian architecture (he conveniently convinced himself that the Taj was actually the work of an Italian designer), but he was forced to include some “native” elements in his designs. Clearly, at first glance the Lutyens buildings of Central Delhi are symbols of imperial power intended to utterly dwarf and humble the individual, yet the Indian influences, such as the neo-Buddhist dome, tiny helmetlike chattris (cenotaphs), and filigree stonework, add a great deal to their stately beauty. Once the home of the viceroy of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is today the official residence of the president of India and is closed to the public (though the Mughal Gardens, which are among the best in India, are open to the public in Feb). Note the slender column near the entrance gates, donated by the Maharaja of Jaipur. The two Secretariat buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, show a similar subtle blend of colonial and Mughal influences and today house the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Home and Finance ministries. Northeast, at the end of Sansad Marg, is Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House), also designed by Baker, from where the country is managed (or not, as Booker Prize–winner Arundhati Roy argues so succinctly in The Algebra of Injustice—a recommended but somewhat depressing read). Take a drive around the roads that lie just south of here (Krishna Menon Marg, for instance) to view the lovely bungalows, also designed by Lutyens, that line the tree-lined avenues.

The National Museum

The National Museum Okay, so this museum boasts 150,000 pieces covering some 5 millennia, but it is frustratingly hard for the layperson to traverse these hallowed corridors, some of which lie boarded up and empty, and all of which have displays with little or no information. That said, you can still find gems, like the 12th-century statue of the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva (South Indian bronzes), which is almost an Indian archetype; and the truly wonderful collection of miniature paintings—this is one area (second floor) where you could easily spend a few hours. And if you have any interest in history, the sheer antiquity of many of the pieces will amaze you—here lies the country’s finest collection of Indus Valley relics (ca. 2700 B.C.), as well as those garnered from central Asia’s “Silk Route,” but again very little is displayed in an accessible manner. This means that it takes time and effort (and preferably a guide) to appreciate the wealth of history that lies throughout the 30-odd galleries spread over three floors. If your visit coincides with one of the free tours offered, join in for a bit.

The Crafts Museum

The Crafts Museum If you plan to shop for crafts in India, this serves as an excellent introduction to what’s out there, though when it comes to the antiques, like the 200-year-old life-size Bhuta figures from Karnataka or the Charrake bowls from Kerala, picking up anything nearly as beautiful is akin to winning a lottery. Some 20,000 artifacts—some more art than craft—are housed in five separate galleries, showcasing the creativity that has thrived here for centuries, not to mention the numerous ways in which it’s expressed, depending on where you travel. The Crafts Museum Shop is also worth your time, at the very least to again familiarize yourself with the best crafts and textiles.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb This tomb, built for the second Mughal emperor, launched a great Mughal architectural legacy—even the Taj, which was built by Humayun’s great-grandson, was inspired by it. Though the Taj’s beauty (and the money spent) eclipsed this magnificent example of a garden tomb, it’s well worth a visit, even if your intention is to visit its progeny. Paid for by Humayun’s “senior” wife, Haji Begum, and designed by the Persian (Iranian) architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, it’s another grand testimony to love. Set in peaceful surrounds, the tomb features an artful combination of red sandstone and white marble, which plays with the wonderful symmetry and scale used by the makers of the Mughal empire. Though it doesn’t have the fine detailing of the Taj, aspects such as the intricately carved stone trellis windows are lovely. If you’re traveling on to Agra, it is interesting to see how the Mughals’ prolonged stay in India started to influence design elements (the Persian finial that mounts the central marble dome was, for instance, later supplanted by the lotus). There are a number of outlying tombs, and if you want to do more than simply wander through the beautifully restored gardens and walkways and marvel at the sheer generosity of scale, this is again one place where the services of a guide are worthwhile. Hire one through your hotel or the central tourism office.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia

Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Originally built in 1325, but added to during the following 2 centuries, the tomb of the saint Sheikh Nizamuddin Aulia (along with a few prominent others, including the favorite daughter of Shah Jahan) is one of the holiest Muslim pilgrimages in India. It is certainly one of Delhi’s most fascinating attractions, not least because the only way to get here is to traverse the tiny, narrow medieval lanes of old Nizamuddin on foot. The entire experience will transport you back even further than a foray into Shahjahanabad. This is not for the fainthearted (or perhaps the recently arrived), however—the lanes are claustrophobic, you will be hassled by hawkers (perhaps best to purchase some flowers as sign of your good intentions upfront), and the smells are almost as assaulting as the hawkers who bar your way. Once there, you may be pressured into making a heftier donation (Rs 50/$1.15 is fair) than is necessary. This would in fact be a three-star attraction if it weren’t for the sense that outsiders are not really welcome (though many have reported otherwise)— note that the main structure is a mosque, Jam-at Khana Masjid, and is closed to women. Best to dress decorously (women should consider covering their heads), pick up some flowers along the way, get here on a Thursday evening when qawwals gather to sing the most spiritually evocative devotional songs, take a seat, and soak up the medieval atmosphere.

SOUTH DELHI

Delhi’s sprawling suburbs keep expanding southward, impervious of the remnants of the ancient cities they surround. Die-hard historians may feel impelled to visit the ruins of Siri (the second city), Tughlaqabad (the third) and Jahanpanah (the fourth), but the principal attraction here is the Qutb Complex (see below), built in the area that comprised the first city of Delhi. Located in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, it has a number of historic sites centered around the Dargah of Qutb Sahib, as well as a number of cafes and boutiques frequented by Delhi’s well-heeled. Nearby is Hauz Khas on the Delhi–Mehrauli road. Once a village, Haus Khas is now a gentrified upmarket suburb known more for its glossy boutiques and restaurants than for its 14th-century reservoir and ruins, including the tomb of Feroze Shah Tughlaq (Rs 100/$2.30). Rail enthusiasts shouldn’t miss The National Railway Museum (& 011/2688-1816; Tues–Sun 9:30am–1:30pm and 2:30–5pm; closes at 7pm Apr–Sept; Rs 10/25¢), said to be one of the world’s most impressive—hardly surprising given India’s huge network. It is situated southwest of Lodi Gardens, on Chanakyapuri. If you’ve traveled this far south, you may want to head a little east to the Bahá’i House of Worship, or “Lotus Temple,” where 27 huge and beautiful marble “petals” create the lotus-shaped dome. Often likened to a mini-version of the Sydney Opera House, this contemporary temple invites people of all faiths for worship. It’s sometimes described as a modern counterpoint to the Taj, but unlike the Taj, it’s more photogenic than it appears in real life, with a lack of detailing and a drab interior (Bahapur, Kalkaji; & 011/2644-4029; Tues–Sun: 9am–7pm Apr–Oct, 9:30am–5:30pm Nov–Mar).

Qutb Complex

Qutb Complex Originally built by Qutbuddin Aibak, first of the Delhi Sultanates who were to rule for some 4 centuries, the complex surrounds Qutb Minar, the sandstone Victory Tower that he started in 1193. The Minar was added to by his successor, Iltutmish (whose tomb lies in one corner); and the topmost stories, reaching 70m (234 ft.), were built in 1368 by Feroze Shah Tughlag. It is remarkably well preserved,and photographs don’t really do the tower justice—not in scale, nor in the detail of its carving. The surrounding buildings show some of the earliest Islamic construction techniques used in India, as well as the first mingling of Islamic and Hindu decorative styles—Koranic texts are inscribed in the Minar and Alai Darwaza (old gateway to the complex), while Hindu motifs embellish the pillars of Quwwat-ul-Islam (“Might of Islam”) mosque. The iron pillar in the courtyard dates back to the 4th century.

Location

Delhi is located in the northern part of the India and extends between 28.38°N latitude and longitude 77.12°E.  It is encircled by the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the east an by the state of Haryana in the other three sides.

Climate

Delhi is a city of great climatic extremes.  Summer, from April till the end of June is scorching hot with day temperatures rising beyond 45°C.  Monsoon showers bring some respite, though in recent years, rainfall has become erratic.  Rainfall varies between 400-600mm. Cold waves from the Himalayas make delhi very chilly and foggy during the Winter stretches from the end of November till March.  Temperatures fall substantially down to about 3°C at the peak of winter.

History

Delhi, the capital of India before and after independence ha perhaps seen, more of history than any other city in India.  The Tomars in 736AD first created it as the capital of an independent kingdom.  Delhi changed hands at the end of the 12th century and passed on to the Muslim conquerors.  The city of Delhi went under the British in 1803 AD.  In 1956, Delhi was converted into a union territory.  However, in 1991, the national capital territory Act was passed by the parliament, and the actual enforcement of the legislation came in 1993.

India Gate

India Gate is a 42mhigh stone arch of triumph.  It bears the name of the 85,000 Indian Army soldiers who died in the campaigns of the First World War, the North-West Frontiers operations and the 1919 Afghan Fiasco.  Below the arch is the memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

Red Fort

The Red Fort or the Lal Quila, situated on the western bank of the river, Yamuna forms the majestic centerpiece of Mughal Emperor Shahajahan's medieval walled city, 'Shah Jahanabad' (Old Delhi).  This sandstone citadel encompasses grand audience halls, marble palace ornamented with exquisite pietra dura, once embedded with precious stones, a market place where the royalty used to shop, a mosque, and gardens with marbled fountains, plazas, baths, etc.  The Red Fort is enclosed by nearly 2.5 km of battlement walls which vary in height from 18.5m (60ft) at its highest watch towers on the river side to 33m on the city side, and is surrounded by a 9m deep moat.  It was here that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, unfurled the Indian flag on 15th August, 1947 commemorating the end of the British colonial rule.

Qutab Minar

In 1199, Qutubuddin Aibak raised the Qutab Minar either as a victory tower or as a minaret to the adjacent mosque.  From a base of 14.32m, it tapers to 2.75m at a height of 72.5m.  It is still the highest stone tower in India.  The Sulthan's successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish, completed it.

Jantar Mantar

Few minutes' walk from Connaught Place is a strange collection of Solomon colored structures.  This was built by Maharaja Jai Singh and is actually an observatory.  Though not as large as its compatriot in Jaipur, Jantar Mantar at Delhi is also an attraction for the tourists.

Jama Masjid

One of the architectural gift given by Shahjahan, Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosque not only in Delhi but in India.  Completed in 1658, this mosque has three gateways, four angle towers and two 40m high minarets.

The Bahai Temple

Completed in 1986, the Bahai temple is set amidst pools and gardens, and adherents of any faith are free to visit the temple and pray or meditate silently according to their own religion.  The structure is in lotus shape so it often called the lotus temple.

Akshardham

Akshardham is a Hindu temple complex in Delhi, India.  The President of India, Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the leader of the organization responsible for the creation of Akshardham, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, inaugurated it in November 2005.  Build over an area of 100 acres on the banks of the Yamuna River, it took more than two years for construction, coasted around Rs. 2 billion, funded by millions of Bochasanvasi Aksharpurushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha followers worldwide.  The temple has 234 ornate pillars, 20,000 statues and many arches.

Karol Bagh

Karol Bagh is a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood in West-Central Delhi. It is primarily known today as a shopping area, originally centred around the main street, called Ajmal Khan Road.  In recent years, commercial activity has expanded into the lanes that lead off it, swallowing once-residential areas, which now house, along with a variety of shops, a large concentration of mid-range hotels catering to mixture of domestic businesspersons and foreign tourists.

Shish Ganj Gurudwara

This Gurudwara was built on the land where the Mughals in 1675AD martyred the Sikh Guu Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur.  It is believed that the night he was murdered along with three of his disciples, it was raining very heavily.  Because of the fear of the Mughals, nobody came to pick the bodies up that night.  The next day, he head was taken to Anandpur Sahib and the body to where the Gurudwara Rakab Ganj is now situated.  A century later, a devotee named Baba Bagel Singh searched and found this place, and had this place of worship constructed here.

Birla Mandir

The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir (temple) built by B.D. Birla is a modern Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and Narayana (the preserver). The highest tower in the temple reaches a height of 165 feet while the ancillary towers reach 116feet.  The Geeta Bhavan, a hall is adorned with beautiful paintings depicting scenes from Indian mythology.  There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Buddha in this complex with fresco painting paintings describing his life and work.  The entire complex, especially the walls and the upper gallery are full of paintings carried out by artists from Jaipur in Rajasthan.  This temple was built over a six - year period (1933 - 1939), and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi.

Chandni Chowk

The favorite daughter of Shahjahan, Jahanara laid the foundation of today's Chandni Chowk which is the largest trading centre of North India.  Also known as the moonlit square, it is located in the main street of Old Delhi.  Situated opposite the Red Fort, the bazaar has several galis (lanes).  Each of these galis represent a specialty of this market, for example the parathawali gali is famous for its parathas.  Similarly, there is the jewellery lane, textile lane and so on.  The market place has historical landmarks  like the Sunheri Masjid which stands next to the Kotwali (old police station).  The Fatehpur Mosque, is located at the west end of Chandni Chowk, and the famous Jumma Masjid is also situated nearby.

How to get there

By Air

Delhi is well connected with domestic and nternational flight, to all major cities within and outside India, Almost all major airliness operate flights from the Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi.

By Rail

The Indian Railways connect Delhi with almost all major and minor destinations in India. The three major railway stations of Delhi are the New Delhi, old Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin stations. Luxuary trains like the Palace-on-Wheels, Fairy Queen, and the Royal Orient Express touch the New Delhi Cantonment station. Rajdhani Express trains connect New Delhi to state capitals and Shatabdis link New elhi to neighouring cities.

By Road

Delhi is well-connected, by road with all the major cities of India. The Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) at Kashmiri Gate, the Sarai Kale-Khan Bus Terminus and teh Anand Vihar Bus Terminus are the three main bus stands in Delhi. Both the government and private transport providers operate frequent bus services. Travellers can also use teh metro train, government/private taxis, autorickshaws and cycle-richaws for local travel.

Festivals

The major festiavals are Holi, Dussehra, Lohri, Diwali, Qutub Festival, Ohoolwalon-ki-sair, Roshnara and Shalimar Bagh festivals and the Mango Festival.

Republic Day

This is a national festival in India observed throughout the country to mark the inauguration of the Republic of India on January 26, 1950. In Delhi, the celebrations include a magnificent parade of the Armed Forces, folk dances.

Independence Day

The Independence Day of India is celebrated on August 15 at the ramparts of the Red Fort built by the great Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan.  Processions and flag hoisting on the Red Fort mark the celebration, with the speech of the Prime Minister addressing the nation.

Diwali

In Delhi, Diwali festivities start at Dussehra.  On Diwali day, sops in Delhi remain open till the afternoon, believing that good sales on Diwali day predict a prosperous year ahead.  Houses are decorated and on Diwali evening Lakshmi puja is organized.  Often the women of the house do "aarti" to their husbands praying for his long life.

Holi

Holi, the festival of color is celebrated in the capital with great joy on the day of the full moon in the month of 'Phalguna'. From morning till noontime people smear 'Gulal' or color powder often mixed with water on one another and dance to the beats of the drums.  The night before Holi, bonfires are lit at street corners, symbolically burning the demon 'Holika' and celebrating the triumph of good over evil.

India Gate
Bahai Temple