Capital of India
CAPITAL OF INDIA, is also its third largest city, with a population of about 12 million. Its strategic location along the north-south, east-west route has given it a focal position in Indian history, and many great empires have been ruled from here. The monuments and ruins of these are scattered throughout the city, often cheek by jowl with modern structures and highrise towers.
The vast urban sprawl of contemporary Delhi is, in fact, a conglomeration of several distinct enclaves, chief among which are Old Delhi, with its 16th and 17th century Mughal built monuments and congested souk-like bazaars; and New Delhi with its wide avenues, grand vistas and colonial mansions, built by the British in the 1930s as their imperial capital. New Delhi has government buildings and also houses the Diplomatic Enclave where all the embassies are located. The picturesque 12th century ruins of citadels built by the first Islamic rulers can be seen in the Qutb Mehrauli area, and the affluent new middle class suburbs of South Delhi lie close by.
The base of Raisina Hill, was planned as a commanding approach to the Viceroy's House, now the Indian President's residence. This is where the "Beating of the Retreat" ceremony takes place each year on 29 January. Vijay Chowk is flanked by two long, classical Secretariat buildings (the North and South Blocks), which house several ministries as well as the Prime Minister's Office. Ministers and government officials live in spacious bungalows on the tree-shaded avenues nearby. From Vijay Chowk, Lutyens's grand Central Vista lies ahead. Large trees and fountains line the lawns of Rajpath up to India Gate, the Statue Canopy and the national stadium at the far end.
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as the British Viceroy's Palace, Rashtrapati Bhavan, situated at the crest of Raisina Hill, is now the official residence of the President of India. A vast, copper clad cupola soars over this elegant beige and red sandstone building which covers an area of 2 ha (5 acres). Inside is the circular Durbar Hall, situated directly beneath the dome, where all important state ceremonies and functions are held.
To the west, the beautifully landscaped grounds include Rashtrapati Bhavan's famed Mughal Gardens. These terraced gardens with watercourses and fountains built on three levels, are open to visitors in the spring months.
Humayun, the second Mughal emperor, is buried in this tomb, the first great example of a Mughal garden tomb, and inspiration for several later monuments, such as the incomparable Taj Mahal. Built in 1565 by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, it was commissioned by Humayun's senior widow, Haji Begum. Often called “a dormitory of the House of Timur”, the graves in its chambers include Humayun’s wives and Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s scholarly son. Also in the complex are the octagonal tomb and mosque of Isa Khan, a 16th-century nobleman, and the tomb of Humayun’s favourite barber. The Arab ki Sarai was a rest house for the Persian masons who built the tomb.
This grand mosque, with three imposing black and white marble domes, and twin minarets framing its great central arch, was built in 1656 by the Emperor Shah Jahan, on a natural mound. It took six years and 5,000 workers to construct, at a cost of nearly a million rupees. A magnificent flight of sandstone steps leads to the great arched entrances. In Aurangzeb’s time, the area attracted horse sellers and jugglers; today, shoe minders and beggars mill around. The huge 28-m (92-ft) square courtyard can accommodate up to 20,000 people at Friday prayer sessions and at Id, when it looks like a sea of worshippers. Next to the dukka (water tank) for the ritual ablutions, is the platform where, before loudspeakers took over, a second prayer leader echoed the imam’s words and actions for worshippers too far from the pulpit for a clear view.
Red sandstone battlements give this imperial citadel its name, Lal (“Red”) Qila (“Fort”). Commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1639, it took nine years to build and was the seat of Mughal power until 1857 when the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was dethroned and exiled. Today, the Red Fort remains a powerful symbol of Indian nationhood. It was here that the national flag was hoisted for the first time when India became an independent nation on 15 August 1947.
Entry is through Lahore Gate . One of the fort’s six gateways, this leads on to the covered bazaar of Chatta Chowk , where jewels and brocades were once sold. Beyond this lies the Naqqar Khana , a pavilion where ceremonial music was played three times a day.
MEHRAULI: THE QUTB COMPLEX
The Qutb Minar towers over this historic area where Qutbuddin Aibak laid the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate. In 1193, he built the Quwwat-ul-Islam (“Might of Islam”) Mosque and the Qutb Minar to announce the advent of the Muslim sultans. The mosque is a patchwork fusion of decorative Hindu panels, salvaged from razed temples around the site, and Islamic domes and arches. Later, Iltutmish, Alauddin Khilji and Feroze Shah Tughluq added more structures, heralding a new architectural style.
SUNEHRI BAGH MOSQUE
This simple 18th-century mosque, built by a saint called Sayyid Sahib, makes for a picturesque roundabout. The adjoining Sunehri Bagb Road is lined with shady trees- afeature of all Lutyens's avenues.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART
JAIPUR HOUSE, the former residence of the maharaja of Jaipur, IS one of India's largest museums of modern art covering the period from the mid-19th century to the present day. Its excellent collections include works by leading modern Indian painters such as J. Roy, Rabindranath Tagore; Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Shergill, as well as contem porary artists such as Ram Kumar and Anjolie Ela Menon. Also on display are works by British artists such as Thomas Daniell an is nephew William Damell, and an interesting group of "Company Paintings" - 18th and 19th-century works by Indian artists commissioned specially for the British market.
MANDI HOUSE COMPLEX
MANDI HOUSE, today the offices of the state owned television centre, lends its name to this cultural complex encircling the roundabout. Triveni Kala Sangam has contemporary art galleries, an open air amphitheatre for concem a plays, a popular cafe and a bookshop speciallising in Indian arts publications. The state-sponsored Rabindra Bhavan arts complex holds the national academies of literature (Sahitya Akademy) fine arts and sculpture (Lalit Kala Akademi), and the performing arts (Sangeet Natak Akademi) in separate wings. All three have libraries and display galleries that sell reproductions and postcards. Regular exhibitions of photography, graphics and ceramics are also held here. Kamani Auditorium, the Shri Ram Centre and the National School of Drama are vibrant centres for theatre, music and dance performances.
OPENED IN 1931 and named after the Duke of Connaught, this shopping complex, with its Palladian archways and stuccoed colonnades, was designed by Robert Tor Russell as a deliberate contrast to the noise, smells and chaos of an Indian bazaar. The central circle of Connaught Place has now been renamed Rajiv Chowk, and the outer circle Indira Chowk.
NEHRU MEMORIAL LIBRARY
THE RESIDENCE OF Jawaharlal Nehru. India's first prime minister, Teen Murti Bhavan was converted into a museum and library for research scholars after Nehru's death in 1964. This house has a special place in modern Indian history because it was also the home of two future prime ministers - Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi and his grandson Rajiv Gandhi, both of whom were assassinated. Nehru's bedroom and study, still exactly as he left them, reflect his austere yet elegant personality and his eclectic taste in books. The extensive grounds are home to the Nehru Planetarium and the square, three arched Kushak Mahal, a 14th century hunting lodge built by Sultan Feroze Shah Tughluq.
LAKSHMI NARAYAN MANDIR
BUILT IN 1938 by the industrialist BD Birla, this was one of the earliest Indian temples without caste restrictions, and Mahatma Gandhi attended its first puja. A fairly typical example of modern Indian temple architecture, with its marble entrance and ochre and maroon shikhams (spires), the Birla Mandir, as it is popularly known, has images of Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi in its main shrine. Subsidiary shrines set around the courtyard, are inscribed with verses from sacred Hindu texts and are decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
LODI GARDEN is one of Delhi's most picturesque parks, and a favourite haunt of joggers, yoga enthusiasts, political bigwigs accompanied by their bodyguards, and families who come to picnic on weekends. Landscaped at the behest of Lady Willingdon, the vicereine, in 1936, the park acts as a "green lung" for the people of Delhi. Its tree lined pathways and well-kept lawns and flowerbeds are laid out around the imposing 15th-century tombs of the Sayyid and Lodhi dynasties, Delhi's last sultans. Many of them still have traces of the original turquoise tilework and calligraphy. The elegantly proportioned octagonal Tomb of Muhammad Shah (r 1434-44), the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty, is said to be the oldest in the garden.
PURANA QILA, literally "Old Fort", stands on an ancient site that has been continuously occupied since 1000 BD as archaeological excavations have revealed. The brooding ramparts of the fort now enclose the remains of the sixth city of Delhi, Dinpanah, which was begun by the second Mughal emperor, Humayun. His reign, however, was short and in 1540 he was overthrown by the Afghan chieftain Sher Shah Suri. Sher Shah added several new structures and renamed the citadel Shergarh ("Lion's Fort"). After Sher Shah's death Humayun regained his throne. Of the many palaces, barracks and other edifices built by these two rulers, only Sher Shah's mosque and a building that was probably Humayun's library remain standing today, The Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque, built in 1541, is a superbly proportioned structure with fine decorative inlay work in Red and white marble and slate. To the south of the mosque is Humayun's library, known as Sher Mandai. A double-storeyed octagonal tower of red sandstone, it is crowned by an elaborate chhatri (open pavilion) supported by eight pillars
THIS MEDIEVAl settlement, or basti, is named after Sheikh Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, whose grave and hospice are located here. Nizamuddin belonged to a fraternity of Sufi mystics, the Chishtis, respected for their austerity, piety and disdain for material desires, and was a spiritual descendant of Moinuddin Chishti. His daily assemblies drew both the rich and the poor, who believed that he was a "friend of God" who would intercede on their behalf on Judgement Day. He died in 1325 but his disciples call him a zinda pir (living spirit) who continues to heed their pleas. A three-day Urs is obselved, with qawwalis sung, on the anniversary of his death, and another on the death of his disciple Amir Khusrau. A winding alley leads to the saint's grave. It is crowded with medicant and lined with stalls selling flowers and chadars (ceremonial cloths), polychrome clocks and prints of Mecca.
ONCE SHAHJAHANABAD'S most elegant boulevard, Chandni Chowk ("Silvery, Moonlit Square"), laid out in 1648, had a canal running through it, and was lined with grand shops and mansions. Today, it is still the heart of Old Delhi, where religious and commercial activity mix easily. At the entrance to Chandni Chowk is the Digambar Jain Temple, the first of many shrines along its length. Built in 1656, it also houses a unique hospital for birds.
INDIA'S MOST POTENT symbol of nationhood, Rajghat is the site of Mahatma Gandhi's cremation. A sombre, black granite platform inscribed with his last words, He Ram! ("Oh God") now stands here. The only splash of colour comes from the garlands of orange marigolds that are draped over the platform. All visiting heads of state are taken to this samadhi (memorial) to lay wreaths in memory of the "Father of the Nation". On Gandhi's birthday (2nd Oct) and death anniversaly (30th Jan), the nation's leaders gather here for prayer meetings.