SIGHTS AND NEIGHBORHOODS OF DELHI

SIGHTS IN DELHI

The bustling old quarter of the capital, centered around Old Delhi, preserves its antiquity and awes with its vibrant food culture and winding by lanes lined with shops selling almost everything under the sun. In the midst of the maze-like Chandni Chowk (moonlight street), stands the glorious Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the country. A stone's throw away is the pride of Delhi, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Red Fort, a legacy of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. A smattering of old forts, the iconic Qutub Minar and ancient temples stand as archaeological gems of the capital, paying tribute to the great Mughal kings who ruled their empire from Delhi. Delhi Walks offers tours of Old Delhi’s bazaars and other sights. When visiting religious sites, remember to dress accordingly. Visitors may be asked to cover their heads, remove shoes, and/or wait until devotions are completed.

The more modern counterpart of the capital, New Delhi, is home to the powerseat of the world's largest democracy, speckled with iconic government structures, glitzy malls, sprawling residential complexes, plush restaurants and cafes, grand temples and lush gardens. A Union Territory, it is home to awe-inspiring structures like the Indian Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan or the President's residence, and Raj Ghat (the memorial of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi), along with neighbourhoods like Connaught Place and Lodhi Colony.

There are many sites that one can visit: Qutab Minar and the nearby mosque constructed from demolished Hindu and Jain temples; the Mughal Gardens of Rastrapati Bhavan, Parliament House and the Secretariat; the Red Fort with Shah Jahan's court, the Pearl Mosque, and the evening Sound and Light Show on its history; Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi's cremation memorial grounds; Chandni Chawk and the spice and silver bazaars; Hauz Khas village and Muslim ruins; Feroz Shah Kotla grounds with an Ashoka pillar on the Jamuna River bank;Humayun's tomb and gardens; Lodi Gardens with tombs and pathways; the huge 14th-century fortress city of Tughlakh; Suraj Kund, a pre-Islamic site; Purana Qila; the 1857 Mutiny Memorial on Delhi's Northern Ridge; the Jantar Mantar observatory; the Viceroy's Church; Safdarjang's Tomb; and Jama Masjid in old Delhi. Ancient and historic sites are everywhere. Once the home of viceroys and now the official residence of the President of India, Rashtrapati Bhawan overlooks a two-mile long mall down Rajpath to India Gate. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a January 1997 U.S. State Department Post report]

Historical Sights in Delhi

Feroz Shah Kotla Fort (Delhi Gate Metro station, Violet Line) is one of the oldest structures in Delhi, built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1354. According to historical sources, this fort was built when the ruler decided to shift his capital from Tughlaqabad to Firozabad due to the scarcity of water at the former capital. Hence, the fort was built on the banks of the holy Yamuna river to serve the purpose. The fort has some magnificent gardens, mosques, palaces etc., in its complex. The entrance of the fort has a gigantic iron gate with the name of the ruler and the boundary of the fort walls are as high as 15 meters. Though a number of structures in the fort are in ruins, the stepwell (baoli) is still in good condition. One of the interesting features of the fort is that it houses an Ashokan Pillar, which was brought by Feroz Shah from Ambala to Delhi. It is 13 meters high and bears the inscriptions of Ashoka's principles.

Parliament House (in New Delhi, Central Secretariat Metro station, Violet Line) is one of the most impressive buildings in Delhi and the governance centre of world's largest democracy, India. A fine specimen of symmetry and architecture, it is spherical in shape, and comprises three semicircular chambers that house the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and a central library. About 144 columns add to the beauty of the building, along with beautiful gardens and fountains. The boundary wall of the building features sandstone blocks carved in intricate geometric patterns. One can visit the house by obtaining an official permission. Parliament House was built in 1921, and its foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught and it was inaugurated in 1927 by Lord and Lady Irwin. It was designed by Herbert Baker. It is said that the Constitution of India was drafted in this building.

Agrasen Ki Baoli Step Well (Janpath Metro station, Violet Line) is a quaint and serene spot amidst the bustle of Delhi, Agrasen-ki-baoli, gives a peek into the history of the capital. It is a 60-meter-long and a 15-meter-wide historical step well. Its heritage character, intricate structure and tranquil ambience have endeared it to film-makers as well and the monument has often been a cinematic backdrop, featured in movies like Sultan and PK. As you descend the deep stepwell, you can suddenly feel the cool embrace you. It might even send a chill down your spine as you recall that the monument was once believed to be haunted. Legend has it that the water in the baoli was said to be full of black magic and anyone who looked at it would get into a trance and jump to certain death. The baoli (step well) has 108 steps and three levels with arched niches on both sides. Today, it is a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). There are hardly any historical records to provide information about its creator but it is believed that it was built by legendary king Agrasen and rebuilt by the Agrawal community in the 14th century.

Quila Rai Pithora (IIT Bureau of Indian Standards Metro station, Magenta Line) is a historical gem in Delhiwas built by Rajput king Prithvi Raj Chauhan, who was fondly called Rai Pithora. Also known as Lal Kot, The ruins of the vast fort bear traces of its former grandeur, and can be seen around areas of Qutub Minar, Saket, Vasant Kunj, Mehrauli and Kishangarh. Earlier, Qila Rai Pithora was a city surrounded by fortifications. It is said to be an extension of Lal Kot, which was the first city of Delhi, built in the 8th century by Tomar kings. It is said that the fort came under the rule of Mamluk dynasty, when Prithvi Raj Chauhan was defeated by Qutb al-Din Aibak. Since then, the fort has had the same structure with no renovations. Today, it falls under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and makes for an interesting exploration.

Safdarjung Fort (Southern JorBagh Metro station, Yellow Line) stands elegantly framed against a picturesque backdrop. A beautiful architectural specimen made of marble and sandstone, it was built in 1754 in the memory of an able administrator and statesman, Muhammad Muqim in-Khurasan, who was honoured with the title of Safdarjung by the then emperor. Boasting a large central dome, the monument was designed by an Ethiopian architect. It is built on an elevated platform, which is further surrounded by huge square gardens that measure 280 meters on each side. The tomb has intricate designs on its facade and its backside houses several rooms and a library. There are a number of Arabic inscriptions on its surfaces. The burial chambers of Safdarjung and his wife, Amat Jahan Begum, are preserved in an underground chamber of the monument. The entire monument is under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Mehrauli

Mehrauli (Qutub Minar Metro station on the Yellow Line) is a neighborhood in South Delhi and part of “Delhi - A Heritage City,” which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Mehrauli zone includes the original extent of the walled city of Lai Kot extending south to include Mehrauli village which houses the dargah of the early 13th C sufi saint, Qutubuddin Baktiyar Kaki and the Mehrauli Archaeological Path. This precinct has seen more than 900 years of continuous habitation, leading to a layering of history which has resulted in a complex socio cultural mosaic. The surviving ensemble of buildings from the 1st city including structures like the Qutb Miner and Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, is evidence of an early stage in the development of a distinct Delhi style, characterized by an innovative mix of cultures, technologies, materials and decorative motifs. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The traditional dargah settlement of Mehrauli Village and the development around is representative of the living Sufi traditions that originated here. Mehraull Archaeological Park has numerous graves and tombs, mosques, gardens and other structures besides the hauz(tank). Jahaz Mahal, an impressive Lodi period building, exemplifies the mature Sultanate style, reflecting a harmonious mix of materials —grey quartzite, red sandstone, and glazed tiles; and forms — arches, domes, chhatris (domed kiosks) and corbelled doorways, that drew from both western and Indian traditions. The Mughal style is evident in the Jharna(18th century) — a waterfall created from an overflow of the tank, with a formal garden. This ensemble together with the dargah are the attributes of the living tradition of the Phoolwalon-kl-sair, which is celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims as an extraordinary evidence of communal harmony.

There are a substantial number of surviving monumental buildings within the 1st walled city that has retained its original form, design and materials providing coherent evidence of the character of Delhi's first urban settlement. The nominated area is an integral whole and includes the original extent of the Rajput fortification, though only traces of the fortifications remain. The morphology of Mehraull village with its original function and use, typical of traditional settlements remains unchanged and will continue to do so because of the high level of awareness and sense of reverence that prevails with regard to anything associated with the Sufi Saint. The structures In the Archaeological Park are now listed buildings and most of them have been linked through trails and interpretive signage allowing them to be read as a cognitive whole.

Nizamuddin

Nizamuddin (Hazart Nizamuddin Metro station, Pink Line) is a district around Humayun's Tomb and is part of “Delhi - A Heritage City,” which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Nizamuddin is largely associated with Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a revered 14th century Sufi saint and his disciple Hazrat Amir Khusrau (1253 AD - 1325 AD) for over seven hundred years. The area proposed for nomination comprises of 1) the traditional settlement that developed around the dargah of the Sufi saint and 2) the Nizamuddin precinct which saw considerable building activity in the form of tombs and mosques, built in this area because of the aura of the Sufi saint. The scale and nature of development in this precinct (impressive complexes Iike Humayun's Tomb) adds to its coherence demonstrating the level at which the saint was venerated and continues to be, till today. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Justin Bergman wrote in the New York Times, “Dive into the Delhi experience with a visit to one of the capital’s most atmospheric corners, the shrine to Nizamuddin Auliya, a Sufi saint who lived more than 700 years ago. Set amid a maze of perfume shops, butchers and flower vendors, the complex draws legions of worshipers to toss rose petals on the saint’s shrine (or dargah) and listen to entrancing, devotional Sufi music called qawwali, performed by singers sitting on the marble floor. Guests (and cameras) are welcome, though you should dress conservatively and offer a donation (500 to 1,000 rupees, or about $7.50 to $15). On Friday evenings, the nearby Inayat Khan dargah also hosts qawwali singers in a shady courtyard, minus the crowds. The Hope Project charity leads guided tours of the neighborhood (300 rupees) ending at either dargah and can provide up-to-date details on qawwali performances. [Source: Justin Bergman, New York Times, November 24, 2016]

“The enduring prominence of Nizamuddin Auliya also ensured that many ruling dynasties, the II Bari Turks (Slave dynasty), Khaljis, Tughlaqs Lodis, Surs and of course the Mughals, all built in this small geographic area. The resulting ensemble differs in material, visual and spatial aspects yet possess a homogenous cohesiveness. The dargah settlement and the adjacent precinct is a unique representation of a historic settlement that developed around a religious shrine, over a long period of time. In the Nizamuddin dargah settlement, houses line narrow streets and are interspersed with many historic burial places. Though most of the houses have been periodically rebuilt, the settlement itself is a very old one. Sufism has played an important role in the creation of values of religious tolerance in the culture of the sub-continent; and continues to do so even today.

Nizamuddin the main structures within the Nizamuddin precinct have retained their authenticity and integrity to a large extent. The traditional dargah settlement still retains its original urban morphology and street pattern. Most palpable in this settlement is the spirit of religious fervour and feeling of reverence for the Sufi saint and all associated traditions

Sufism and its unique composite culture developed along independent lines and gained immense popularity in Delhi even with the non-Muslim population. In the practices of the Sufis, who have been a cultural, and at times even political force, there was common ground with the ideas of bhakti or personal devotion to God that existed in the Hindu tradition, Many characteristics of the typically Indian variant of Sufism, have a history of beginnings in Delhi where there are believed to be 22 important shrines. The city was known as 'Hazrat Dehli'; hazrat being the respectful title used for a saint. The saints, with their liberal religious practice attracted not only converts and devotees in large numbers; they also provided the political power with a model of governance that was based on a tolerance of non-Muslim populations. Mehrauli and Nizamuddin contain the shrines of two of the most influential saints of the Chishti order — Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Nizamuddin Aullya; while Shahjahanabad has several shrines of only slightly less well known saints such Shah Turkman, Sarmad Shaheed and Hare Bhare Shah. Sama, or qawwali is an important part of the legacy of the Sufis, particularly of the Chishti order, as is the evolution of forms which incorporated indigenous Indian musical traditions and the Hindavi language with Persian traditions.

The link between the dargah of Qutub Sahib and the Hauz-e-Shamsi that had existed since the early years of the Sultanate was further reinforced in the 1810s with the birth of a new tradition, the Phoolwalon ki sair or `festival of the flower sellers'. This celebration of Hindu-Muslim amity is a tradition that has survived to the present time, and is an annual festival at Mehrauli. Language and literature were not unaffected by the cultural melting pot of Delhi, Farsi (Persian) became the language of the state and of high culture In the early days of the Sultanate and attempts at blending It with the local dialect spoken around Delhi were seen in the poetry of Amir Khusro. Slowly Urdu developed — blending a number of words from different sources including Persian and Turki, into the local language or Khari boll. Zaban-e urdu-e mu'alla-e Shahjahanabad (the language of the exalted city/court of Shahjahanabad) underlined its close connection with the city. Urdu soon spread over much of the sub-continent, and its literature, (much of it produced in Delhi) is counted among the great literatures of the world.

Shahjahanabad

Shahjahanabad( Lal Qila Metro station,on the violet Line) is the original name of Old Delhi. Embracing the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Chandi Chowk market, it is part of “Delhi - A Heritage City,” which was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The walled city Shahjahanabad is the imperial capital city established in the mid-seventeenth century by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. The core of the city was the palace fortress now called the Red Fort with the central ceremonial pathway, Chandni Chowk with Fatehpuri Masjid at its other end. Though the pattern of land use is totally urban, it was still essentially a pedestrian city retaining a human scale. The residential areas are introvert spaces and independent social and environmental entities, while commercial activities are located along the spines, closer to areas of administrative or institutional importance. Shahjahanabad, as the seat of the Mughal court saw a flowering of multiple artistic and cultural traditions that persist till today-arts and crafts, Urdu Language and poetic forms, Deihl Gharana of music that extended its artistry to also include dance. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The various cities within Delhi were built as capitals of the ruling dynasty at different times in response to very specific social, political and cultural catalysts. Two of these, the walled city of Shajahanabad and New Delhi remain intact as traditional human settlements of outstanding universal significance. The town planning of Shahjahanabad was no doubt influenced by Iranian ideas — as expressed in texts like the Rasail Ikhwan al Safa, and the examples of West Asian cities, such as Isfahan. But scholars believe that the plan of Shahjahanabad was equally influenced by the ancient Indian texts on architecture —the Vastu Shastra. Moreover, the organic growth of the city in the centuries following its establishment has reflected the assimilative tendencies in Indian society— with various religious sects, occupational and ethnic groups finding space within the city without any one being privileged over the others.

“Shahjahanabad In the walled city of Shahjahanabad, the physical form of the walled city and some gates have survived. The city has evolved with time, most significantly as a result of the aftermath of historical events like the Uprising of 1857, which has changed the spatial character of parts of the walled city. However, in most parts of the city, the urban morphology and monumental buildings of the Mughal period remain intact and the residential structures have been rebuilt on the original footprint. In certain areas commercial developments have replaced the residents in the original buildings, adding considerably to the load on its infrastructure.”

India Gate

India Gate (Khan Markey Metro station, Violet Line) is regarded as the Arc de Triomphe of Delhi. Located in the heart of the wide avenues and built by the British, it is 42 meters (137 feet) high and was raised in honor of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died during World War I and the Afghan wars.

A drive to the India Gate is a good way to get a sense of monumental Delhi. The drive down the Rajpath leads to Rashtrapatai Bhawan, the official residence of the Indian president. Nearby is a famous statue by Prasad Roy Chaudhary that depicts Gandhi in his 1931 Salt March against British taxes.

India Gate is one of the main landmarks of Delhi. Built with sandstone, it was the first of its kind in the national capital. The walls of the gateway have been inscribed with the names of 13,516 soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919, and 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in World War I. The base of the monument is made of red Bharatpur stones.

India Gate is fringed by lush well-maintained lawns that act as a popular picnic venue for families. The best time to visit this monument is at night when it is bathed in soft golden lights and glistens in the dark star-less sky. The foundation stone of this grand monument was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and it was designed by Edwin Lutyens. A decade later, the monument was dedicated to India by the then viceroy, Lord Irwin.

Amar Jawan Jyoti, made of marble, is located in front of India Gate and was constructed in the year 1971. It was built to pay tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the Indo-Pak War in December 1971. The flame is guarded by uniformed soldiers and a shining rifle crowned by an army helmet has also been kept near it. India Gate also plays host to the awe-inspiring Republic Day Parade, when the President lays a wreath on the Amar Jawan Jyoti. After this, a grand parade is held along Rajpath and you can see contingents, tanks, vibrant floats, weapons all being conducted in a neat file. School children and folk dancers join the parade and add a cultural touch to the whole affair.

Rashtrapi Bhawan

Rashtrapi Bhawan (near India Gate) is a domed 340-room palace once used as the imperial residence of the British viceroys. Now the official residence of the Indian president, it was where Nehru, Gandhi, Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten ironed out the terms of the independence and partition of India and Pakistan. Gandhi visited Rashtrapati Bhawan in 1931, when he was invited by Lord Irwin wherein he took a pinch of salt with him as a mark of protest against the British. The meeting finally ended in the Gandhi-Irwin Pact of 1931. America president Dwight D. Eisenhower slept here when he visited India in 1959.

Part of the government complex on Raisana Hill, Rashtrapi Bhawan means "Presidential Palace." From mid-February to mid-March the splendid Mughal gardens, among the best in India, are open to the public. On the right side of the Indian "White House" is the circular Parliament House, the home of the Indian legislature. Nearby is the Secretariat. In front of the government buildings is a park with rows of trees, long reflecting pools and India Gate, the Arc-de Triumph-like monument.

Built in the Edwardian baroque style of architecture, Rashtrapati Bhawan is adorned with classical motifs that symbolise legacy and authority. It spreads over an area of 321 acres and boasts 340 rooms, including guest rooms, reception halls, offices, stables and residences for staff and bodyguards. Rashtrapati Bhawan was constructed in 1929 and is also called Presidential Residence and Viceroy's House. Earlier, it was the residence of British viceroy. This architectural marvel was constructed in 17 years. Rashtrapati Bhawan was designed by Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker. The famous Mughal Gardens of the Bhawan are spread over 15 acre of land and has 159 varieties of roses, 60 varieties of bougainvillea and many other varieties of flowers.

The Rashtrapati Bhawan Museum Complex (RBMC) also makes for an interesting visit. A major highlight is an old Presidential buggy that can be seen drawn by life-size horses. You can also admire a Mercedes car gifted to the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the king of Jordan. To get a closer look at history, tourists can see rare photographs of the Bhawan and the freedom movement that have been displayed on a table. A Gift's Counter in the premises shows the presents received by the President from different parts of the world. Tourists would be particularly entranced by a special square box that has 3-D holographic images, which are played alongside the speeches of various Presidents. Several windows in the museum show personal belongings of the Presidents.

Connaught Place

Connaught Place (Barakhama Road Metro station, Blue Line) is a heritage neighbourhood that has been modeled after the Georgian style of architecture. Lined with a host of eateries, high-end stores, parlours, theatres and book stores, the market is the hub of most activities in Delhi. Spread in two concentric circles, Connaught Place holds a vintage character that is vividly contrasted by various cosmopolitan shops and cafes that are crowned with blaring neon signs. On any good day, you can see a number of students and office workers spilling out on the streets and enjoying the pleasant weather while relishing a plate of chaat from a vendor.

Before stalls and stores took over Connaught Place, it used to be a cinema centre. In the 1920s, Russian ballets, Urdu plays and silent films were hosted at various theatres here. Its heritage cinemas like Rivoli and Odeon still preserve their antiquity and it is an enchanting experience to catch a movie in one of the sprawling movie theatres.

One attraction in Connaught Place is the Hanuman Temple that is believed to be as old as the neighbourhood itself. Inviting devotees from far and wide, the temple finds mention in the epic Mahabharata as well. It also holds the Guinness World Record for the worshippers having chanted the mantra "Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Ram" continuously for 24 hours.

A quiet and serene spot amid the bustling marketplace, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is possibly the most popular attraction of Connaught Place. You can spot it from a mile away as its high golden dome glistens in the sun. As you enter the premises you will be enveloped in a sense of peace. After paying homage at the sanctum, you can stroll along the tranquil pond in the Gurudwara. A sweeping expanse of pristine white adorned with intricate carvings, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is a must-visit spot.

Tourists can also head to Jantar Mantar, which is one of the five astronomical observatories in Northern India. Its striking combinations of geometric forms have caught the attention of architects, artists and art historians from around the world. Central Park in Connaught Place is another attraction that holds a variety of cultural events. A lush garden dotted with fountains, it also has one of the highest hoisted flags in the country. The grand ivory white structure of Connaught Place was made by the British in 1929 to relocate to Lutyen's Delhi. It has been named after the first Duke of Connaught, who was the son of Queen Victoria. It is one of the most expensive office spaces in the world and offers a unique blend of diversity to its visitors. From a historical structure to a shopper's paradise, the place is a must-visit on one's trip to Delhi.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar (South of Connaught Place, Janpath Metro station, Violet Line) was built in 1724 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. It is one of the five astronomical observatories built by the king in Northern India. Its striking combinations of geometric forms have caught the attention of architects, artists and art historians from around the world. It was designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye. It is a part of the tradition of the Ptolemaic positional astronomy, which was common in a lot of civilisations.

Jantar Mantar comprises 13 astronomy instruments that were used to predict the movements and timings of the planets, the sun and the moon. Astronomical tables and charts were compiled to get an accurate idea of the celestial bodies. The major attractions of Jantar Mantar are Misra Yantra, Samrat Yantra, and Jayaprakash Yantra.

The Samrat Yantra is a large sundial that stands parallel to the earth s axis and helps to check the time. The Jayaprakash Yantra is shaped like a hemisphere and is used to align the position of stars to markings. Meanwhile, the Misra Yantra is used to find the shortest and the longest days of the year. All of these instruments have been built with brick and rubble and have been plastered with lime. Tourists can also visit a small Bhairava temple that is located towards the east of Jantar Mantar. Legend has it that Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II was fascinated by the movement of celestial bodies and thus commissioned the construction of Jantar Mantar so the distance, location and speed of these could be calculated.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid (in Old Delhi, Jama Masjid Metro station, Violet Line) is one of the largest mosques in India. Built in 1644-1648 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it is a handsome structure with striped domes, a sweeping plain-white courtyard and soaring minarets that is still used as a house of worship. The mosque houses many relics of Prophet Mohammad and draws devotees from far and wide. Some of these relics include a Quran written on deerskin, sandals and a footprint of the Prophet embedded in a marble slab, and a red hair, which is said to have been from his beard.

Justin Bergman wrote in the New York Times, “Jama Masjid is the last of the three marvels built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century, following the Taj Mahal and Red Fort. It’s as impressive, too, particularly when the courtyard — large enough to hold 25,000 people — is filled with worshipers and picnicking families. For those not fearful of heights, the climb to the top of the minaret is worth the effort to take in the mosque’s white marble domes, as well as the streets of Old Delhi and the modern city beyond. From 130 feet in the air, India’s capital, with its regal architecture, boundless energy and striking contradictions, feels as if it finally comes into view.” [Source: Justin Bergman, New York Times, November 24, 2016]

Made of red sandstone and marble, this gorgeous mosque is also called Masjid-I-Jahanuma, meaning the mosque commanding the view of the world. The courtyard of the mosque has been built with red sandstone and can be accessed from the north, the south and the east, via flights of stairs that were once venues for house markets, food stalls and entertainers. Jama Masjid has been built on an elevation of 10 meters and has three gates, two 40-meter-high minarets and four towers. From the tower, one can get a splendid view of bustling streets of Old Delhi.

Beggars gather outside the mosque. The neighborhood around the mosque is one quarter Muslim. Jama Masjid was designed by Ostad Khalil, a renowned Mughal architect. Legend has it that the eastern gate of the mosque was meant for the royal family in the olden days. It is said that Lutyens incorporated the mosque into his design in such a way that the mosque along with Connaught Place and the Parliament House falls in direct line of sight.

Tourists are not allowed in the mosque during prayers and while the entry is free, one will have to pay for carrying a camera into the premises. Signs are in Urdu as well as Hindi and English. The best time to visit the mosque is during the festivities of Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zoha, when it is resplendent as a bride and is thronged by devotees from all over the country.

Tughlaqabad Fort

Tughlaqabad Fort (16 kilometers south of Delhi) was established by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320-1321. The fort is located on the hills of the Aravalli range and its walls are as long as 6 kilometers. The main purpose of building the fort was to defend it against the frequent Mongol attacks. Other attractions in the city include a large artificial water reservoir and fortress of Adilabad

Tughlaqabad is a huge complex containing a third of Delhi's seven ancient cities. In the heart of the city is Jantar Mantar, a stone astronomical observatory ordered by the builder of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh. The Huaz Khas ruins, in another part of town, contain an old water tanks and school. Beautiful tombs include Safdarjung's and Lodhi Gardens where the remains of an imperial dynasty are beautifully landscaped.

Tughlaqabad is speckled with ancient monuments, seeing that it was the capital of the Tughlaq dynasty that ruled over Delhi in the 14th century. The city houses fascinating stone fortifications, which surround it in an irregular manner. The typical feature of the monuments of Tughlaq dynasty are the sloping, rubble-filled city walls, which are 10-15 meters in height and are further topped by battlement parapets and strengthened by circular bastions of up to two storeys.

Sights Associated with Gandhi and Nehru

Gandhi Smriti (Tees January Marg, Lok Kalyan Marg Metro station, Yellow Line) is where Gandhi lived after independence in 1947. A former industrialist's mansion and formerly known as Birla House, it is now a museum containing a the spartan room where he slept and the garden where Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 after leading a prayer meeting. Footprints carved on the red sandstone mark the path that Gandhi followed to a platform where he was shot three times. A pillar, hung with marigolds and inscribed with his last words, "He Ram—O God," marks the spot where he fell. Nearby is the Gandhi Memorial Museum.

Teen Murti Bhavan (one kilometer west of Gandhi Smriti, Lok Kalyan Marg Metro station, Yellow Line) is where the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, lived here for 16 years, until his death in the year 1964, with his daughter Indira Gandhi. The bedroom where he slept is almost as spartan as Gandhi's. It too is now a museum, memorial library and planetarium. The library contains phonographs, newspaper front pages and notes written by Nehru. Many of the historical displays feature a lot of people that non-Indians are not familiar with unless they are historians.

The house is now a memorial dedicated to Nehru. The building is called ‘Teen Murti’ owing to the statues of three soldiers standing in the premises. These represent the lancers of Mysore, Jodhpur and Hyderabad. These were installed in 1922 as a mark of respect for the brave soldiers who lost their lives in World War I, in Sinai, Palestine and Syria. Teen Murti House was designed by British architect Robert Torr Russel in 1930 as the residence of the commander-in-chief of the British army. Tourists can also visit the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Here, you can find displays of Nehru’s old office that has been recreated using the same artefacts and furniture. The library has a large number of books that trace the history of modern India. Another attraction is the Nehru Planetarium that attracts tourists from all over the area. You can catch interesting shows and presentations in the sky theatre of the planetarium.

Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum (No. 1 Safdarjung Road, near Teen Murti Bhavan, Lok Kalyan Marg Metro station, Yellow Line) is where the Nehru's daughter lived the 15 years she was prime minister. Two non Sikh soldiers stand by the site where she was assassinated. Her bloodstained, bullet-shredded sari is on display in a museum that honors the prime minister and her son Rajiv Gandhi. . Many Indians consider Gandhi, her father Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi to be "modern gods."

Shadipur Depot

Shadipur Depot (Shadipur Metro Station, the Blue Line) in Delhi is an empty lot of land that has been taken over by India's folk artists. I am not sure what is going on there now. As of 2010 the entertainer community was still there but was threatened by developers.

At least at one time, a forth of the 3,500 families that live in tents, mud-and-thatch huts and village-style houses—among large rats and water buffalo paddies—are entertainers. They include fire breathers, singers, musicians who play traditional instruments, drummers, dancers, men who stage fights between mongooses and cobras, puppeteers, magicians, dancing bear, balladeers, jugglers, folk dancers, street musicians, impersonators, snake charmers, acrobats, sword swallowers, trained monkeys and dogs, and women that can fry an egg on their while balancing on a teeter board. [Source: Veenu Sandal, Smithsonian]

Describing the scene at Shadipur Depot in the 1980s, journalist Veenu Sandal wrote: "Outside a ragged tent beside a bridge in New Delhi, a man was floating in the air, about seven feet above the ground. In the shade under a mango tree, a rat was learning arithmetic while a Himalayan black bear danced and clapped happily. A pretty young girl picked up coins with her eyes." In the 1960s about dozen performing families lived in Shadipur Depot. By 1975, 150 were living there. Many of he performers were traveling performers from Rajasthan whose way of life was dying out.

Shapidur depot began to take its present form in 1976 when 35 artist agreed to participate in an organization called the "Cooperative of Forgotten and Neglected Artists," a cooperative of nomadic performers in India as established here. After being threatened by bulldozers and developers they were officially granted cooperative status and given identity cards which protected them from police and poorhouse workers. "We danced, feasted and rejoiced that day," one resident said. "residents around thought everyone had gone mad."

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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