Delhi is a rough triangle formed by the Aravallis in the west and river Yamuna in the east. Settlements dating back to Stone Age has been uncovered. Its magnificent monuments span a period of almost a thousand years. Different dynasties built their capitals here. Archaeological evidence points to between 8 to 12 sites in and around Delhi, where a new city was built. Some of them are Lal Kot and Quila Rai Pithora in the early medieval period; Tughlaqabad and Kotla by the Sultanate rulers, the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad and New Delhi, by the British. Many heritage historians have mentioned that Delhi was also the site of the capital of the Pandavas of Mahabharata – Indraprastha. Folklore goes that the present Purana Quila or Old fort of Delhi stands over the site that was once Indraprastha.
The Tughlakabad fort built by Ghyasuddin Tughlak was once an imposing structure. The last ruler of the Tughlak dynasty Feroze Shah ruled for 37 years. He built a fort Ferozeshah Kotla, a fort which has no remnants today. The Ferozeshah Kotla – scene of many major cricketing duels stadium stands today on the erstwhile site of the fort. Feroze Shah is also credited with building the top two floors of the Qutab Minar when lightning destroyed in 1368. There are three World Heritage Sites in Delhi.
• Red Fort: Built by Shah Jahan, between 1638 and 1648. It houses the Diwan-i-Khas and the Diwan-i-Am, the Rang Mahal, Moti Masjid etc.
• Humayun’s Tomb: Built in 1570 AD by Humayun’s wife Haji Begum. It is a standout example of Mughal architecture.
• Jama Masjid: Constructed in 1656 AD under the guidance of the Prime Minster of Shah Jahan, Saadullah Khan.
Besides these, the Qutub Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam (Might of Islam), the earliest extant mosque in India graces Delhi. The Jantar Mantar – an astronomical observatory was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the year 1724. Safdarjung’s tomb and Madrasa enrich Delhi’s heritage.
There are many hidden gems of historic monuments here. The Khirki Masjid (Mosque) in Saket is a small but uniquely designed mosque. The Dargah of Sufi saint Qutubddin Bakhtiyar Kaki near the Qutab and ‘Agrasen ki Baoli’ in the middle of Connaught Place.
The capital is one of the greenest capitals and the gardens here reflect the eclectic taste of its erstwhile rulers. “Mughal Gardens” inside the President’s estate is one of the best laid out, the beautifully landscaped “Lodi Gardens” encloses the tombs of an imperial dynasty. The Old city has “Begam Ka Bagh” – appointed by the eldest daughter of emperor Shah Jahan – Jahan Ara – the last remnants of it are now parts of the Gandhi park near Chandhi Chowk, “Roshnara Gardens” was laid out by Jahanara’s younger sister Roshnara in 1650 – the garden would be later infamous for her amorous exploits and would bear the pathos of her slow, painful death by poisoning in 1671. “Shalimar Bagh” was appointed by Akbarbadi Begum – the favourite wife of Shah Jahan after Mumtaz Mahal. “Qudsia Garden” was named after begum Qudsia and Tees Hazari was named after the number of trees in the garden appointed by the builder emperor Shah Jahan.
Each place has its unique historic significance – “Gurdwara Sheesh Ganj” remembers a martyred Sikh Guru while “Khooni Darwaza” is where Bahadur Shah’s sons were executed.
Every nook and corner of the old city has a tale to tell. In the walled city the “Neharwali Haveli” at Darya Ganj is where Gen. Parvez Musharraf was born, the “Churiwali Haveli” of Begum Samroo (Begum Sombre actually) who rose from a courtesan to a Zamindar, or around the corner in Ballimaran, the haveli which saw the last days of the unparalled Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.
Cutting to modern times the India Gate, Lotus temple, Akshardham stand out as landmarks.
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