New Delhi, the capital of India, sprawled over the west bank of the river Yamuna is one of the fastest growing cities in India. Historically, the city has long since been the foremost in political importance with successive dynasties choosing it as their seat of power, between the 13th and the 17th centuries. Remnants of the glorious past survive as important monuments in different parts of the city.
The myriad faces of the city are simply fascinating. In some places it remains a garden city, tree lined with beautiful parks, but in some places it is crowded with heavy traffic. Turbaned Sikhs, colorfully dressed women from Rajasthan and Gujarat working in offices, Muslim shopkeepers along Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, Tibetans and Ladakhis in the street stalls along Janpath and Kashmiris in the handicraft emporia around Connaught Place, all add to the cosmopolitan feel of the city. Soaring skyscrapers, posh residential colonies and bustling commercial complexes can be seen along with the ancient historical monuments. Its boutiques and shopping arcades offer access to a wealth of traditional and contemporary crafts, from all over the country. Old Delhi looks entirely different from the more modern New Delhi and south Delhi areas.
Delhi, has seen the rise and fall of many empires which have left behind a plethora of monuments that the grandeur and glory of bygone ages. A city which traces its history to Mahabharata, the great epic tale of wars fought between estranged cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas for the city of Indraprastha.
Mughals ruled Delhi in succession starting from Qutab-ub-din to Khiljis, Tughlaqs . The city of Delhi passed on to the hands of the British in 1803 AD. It was in 1911, when the capital of British empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, that Delhi got its present prestige. After independence also, a kind of autonomy was conferred on the capital but it largely remained a chief commissioners regime. In 1956 Delhi was converted into a Union territory and the chief commissioner was replaced by a Lt. Governor. In 1991, the national capital territory Act was passed by the parliament and a system of diarchy was introduced under which, the elected Government was given wide powers; except law and order which remained with the central Government. The actual enforcement of the legislation came in 1993.
Monuments of Delhi
The Red Fort
The Red Fort: Also known as The Lal Quila (Lal = red Quila = fort), stands on the banks of Yamuna. It is surrounded by a perimeter wall of about 2.4 Kilometers and is built of Red Sandstone. The Mughal king Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal) transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and the fort was completed in 1648, nine years after the king shifted to this city. The fort has two main entrances, the Delhi Gate and the Lahori Gate which faces the famed Chandni Chowk market.
Pandavas had built their capital, Indraprastha at the place where the old fort stands today. This fort, now in ruins, was the seat for administration for many emperors. The legendary Prithviraj Chauhan ruled from here till he was defeated by Abdali in the battle of Panipat. A new light & sound show is held by the Department of Delhi Tourism every evening. Timings and Tickets are available from the tourist office.
It was built by a muslim king, Qutub - ud - din in 1199 AD and a part of which he could not finish was completed by Itutmish, another Muslim king. It is situated in the southern part of the capital. The height of the tower is about 72.5 meter high and there is a mosque at its base. In front the Qutub Minar there is an iron pillar which is believed that it was built in 5th century. The uniqueness part of the pillar is that it has not rusted ever since it was built. Due to some precaution the Tourists are not allowed to climb the Qutub Minar i.e. to the tower.
Primarily a memorial to the unknown soldier was designed by Lutyens. The 42 meter high structure is a war memorial in honor of the soldiers who died during the second world war. The imposing structure from where stretch massive lush green lawns has an eternal flame (Amar Jawan Jyoti) to honor the memory of the unknown soldiers. India Gate prominently located in the vicinity of Rashtrapati Bhavan is a major crowd puller during the hot summer evenings of Delhi by virtue of its lush green lawns.
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. The view of the temple is very spectacular just before dusk when the temple is flood lit.
The house that houses the President of India and the house that boasts of having welcomed the most powerful men in history. The Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed by Edwin Lutyens and built in 1931, to be the central point of the British power in Delhi. Originally called the Viceroy's House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan covers an area of 4.5 acres of land. It has 340 rooms, 37 salons, 74 lobbies and loggias, 18 staircases and 37 fountains. The most magnificent room in the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the Durbar Hall, which lies directly beneath the main dome. All important Indian State and Official ceremonies are held here. To the west, is the famous and beautifully landscaped Mughal Gardens, designed after the terraced gardens the Mughals built in Kashmir. The garden is famous as the 'Butterfly Garden' for the numerous butterflies that visit the varied flowers. The garden is open to the public in February.
Parliament House accommodates the two Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha (House of the People) and Rajya Sabha (Council of States). Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, the architects of New Delhi, designed this building. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught, laid the foundation stone of Parliament House in the year 1921. It took six years to complete the Delhi Parliament House and its was inaugurated in the year 1927 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Irwin. A circular building, it also houses ministerial offices, a number of committee rooms and a brilliant library.
The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha meetings are held in the domed circular central hall and the three semi-circular buildings. Sansad Bhavan of New is adorned with an open verandah with 144 columns and a 28 m central dome. Made up of blocks of sandstone, it has a diameter of approximately 174 m. Enclosing the Parliament House Estate is an attractive red sandstone wall or iron grill with iron gates. It is necessary to take prior permission before visiting the Parliament House of Delhi. Indians need to get permission by applying at the Parliament Secretariat and foreigners through their Embassies or High Commissions
Built by the wife of Humayun, Haji Begum in the mid 16th century, this red sand stone structure is considered to be the predecessor of Taj Mahal. The structure is one of the best example of Mughal Architecture. Humayun's wife is also buried in the red and white sandstone, black and yellow marble tomb. The entry in the complex is free on Fridays.
The simple square platform of black marble on the banks of the river Yamuna marks the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. His last words 'Hey Ram' are inscribed on this platform which is surrounded by a serene garden.
One of the Architectural gift given by Shah Jahan (who built Taj Mahal), Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques not only in Delhi but in India. Completed in 1658 this Mosque has three gateways, Four angle towers and two 40 m high minarets. You can enter the mosque but take precaution to take off your shoes and make sure that you are properly dressed before entering. One can also go to the top of minarets. From here you can have a birds eye view of Delhi.
Set within the a garden of stately palms, it was built by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur in 1719. He had been entrusted with the task of revising the calendar and correcting the astronomical tables then in use. He made daily astral observation for seven years before embarking on these stone constructions. He discarded the usual instruments of brass and built these massive ones in masonry which are used to the movements of stars. This observatory, together with the one at Jaipur, are the finest examples anywhere of observatories modeled on the general pattern laid down by Ulugh Baigh of Samarkand in the 14th century. The observatory is conceived with perfect stability and is adjusted to the meridian and latitude of the location.
Safdarjung's Tomb Safdarjung tomb is besides the Safdarjung airport. This tomb was built by the Nawab of Avadh for his father. The structure is one of the finest example of architecture of its time and tells the saga of a dying empire
Museums of Delhi
Timing: 9 am - 5 pm Closed: Government holidays Location: Red Fort, Old Delhi. Attractions: Paintings, textiles, costumes. Situated in the historic Red Fort, the museum exhibits objects that date to the Mughal period. On view are manuscripts and firemans' that demonstrate the fine art of calligraphy. One section concentrates on relics of the 1857 war (First war of Independence) like maps and weapons.
Timing: Jul to Sep: 9.30 am - 5 pm; Oct to Jun: 9.30 am - 6 pm Closed: Monday Location: Bhairon Road, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The crafts museum complex is a charming oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Delhi. Mud huts with painted walls and thatched roofs, courtyards, terracotta horses recreating village shrines, craftsmen at work are some of the elements that add to the rural ambience of the place. Within the museum itself are examples of traditional Indian crafts, wooden carvings and images, metalware, especially ewe Perdue objects from Bastar, West Bengal and Bihar, clay and terracotta pots, toys and images, folk and tribal paintings, jewellery and textiles.
Timing: 10.00 am - 5:30 pm Closed: Monday Location: Opposite Raj Ghat, Ring Road, Delhi. Personal belongings of Gandhiji. Situated opposite to Raj Ghat is the Gandhi Museum. Dedicated to the Father of the Nation, the museum contains some of his personal belongings. There are five pavilions one can go through that comprise of sculpture, photographs and paintings of Gandhiji and the history of the satyagraha movement as well as the philosophy of 'ahimsa' (non-violence).
NATIONAL RAIL MUSEUM
Timing: Apr-Sep 9.30 am - 7.00 pm Oct-Mar 9:30 am - 5 pm Closed: Monday Location: Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The Rail Transport Museum is a must for rail buffs. There are models of train engines and coaches and it is a train-lovers delight. Its pride is a model of India's very first train, a steam engine that made its journey from Mumbai to Thane in 1853. The locomotives here are all displayed in the open although there is a museum as well, which is a storehouse of information on the history of railways in India.
Its vintage displays include the oldest locomotive in the world-still working; the Viceregal Dining Car (1889) and the Prince of Wales Saloon (1875), Maharaja of Mysore's Saloon (1899), Maharaja of Baroda's Saloon (1886). The royal saloons are definitely worth a look for the elaborate interior design. To enter the royal saloons one has to buy a ticket. The star attraction is the Fairy Queen, built in 1855, and considered to be the best preserved steam locomotive engines of her age. Children can enjoy a ride on the miniature rail track.
NEHRU MUSEUM & PLANETARIUM
Spl. School Programs: 9:30 am to 10:30 pm Location: Teen Murti Bhavan, Teen Murti Marg, New Delhi. Additional shows on Sundays and holidays in Hindi- 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. Hindi Shows- 10 am to 5 pm. The residence of Late Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India was converted into a museum after his death. The museum is a fascinating place to learn about the history of the Independence Movement.
There are several photographs of the erstwhile Prime Minister, giving an account of his life. Besides this, the colonial building is also equally interesting, with its teak paneled rooms with high ceilings, spacious verandas and well kept gardens.
Temples of Delhi
LAXMINARAYAN TEMPLE (Birla Temple)
Laxminarayan Temple as viewed from the street The Laxminarayan Temple, (also called the Birla Mandir), in Delhi, India, is a temple built in honor of the Hindu goddess of wealth, Laxmi, and of her consort, Lord Vishnu – the Preserver of the Hindu Trinity. It is a temple with many shrines, fountains, and a large garden . The temple attracts thousands of devotees on Janmashtami day, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
The famous Birla temple patronized by Mahatma Gandhi, who inaugurated this temple in 1938 after Raja Baldev Birla constructed it, is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. It is close to Connaught Place and is frequented by many devotees regularly. The temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on the condition that people of all strata of society be allowed to offer prayers there on account of the large scale prevalence of untouchability at that time. One of the most important festivals of the Hindus Janamashtami coinciding with the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great fervour in the temple with more.
Built as recently as 1998, the ISKCON temple complex at Hari Krishna Hill in East of Kailash is one of the most lavish and grand temples of Delhi. A fine example of architecture, it sports 'Shikharas' rising to a height of 90-ft above ground level and centrally air-conditioned hall that can hold as many as 1,500 people at once. The fine art paintings by Russian artists here depict lives and events related to Hindu mythological characters such as Radha-Krishna, Sita-Ram, Laxman, Hanuman and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Special sermons and prayer meeting are held in the temple, every Sunday afternoon. Dedicated mainly to Lord Krishna, the elegant temple was built by the followers of 'Hare-Rama Hare-Krishna' cult. One of the largest temple complexes in India, it also boasts of a Robot, which was built especially to enact and preach 'Gita'. The temple remains opened every day from 4.30 am to noontime and from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm
Akshardham means the eternal, divine abode of the supreme God, the abode of eternal values and virtues of Akshar as defined in the Vedas and Upanishads where divine bhakti, purity and peace forever pervades.
Swaminarayan Akshardham reflects the essence and magnitude of India's ancient architecture, traditions and timeless spirituality. The beautiful monument built without steel, consists of 234 ornately carved pillars, 9 ornate domes, 20 quadrangled shikhars, a spectacular Gajendra Pith (plinth of stone elephants) and 20,000 murtis and statues of India's great sadhus, devotees, acharyas and divine personalities.
The monument is a fusion of pink stone and pure white marble, where pink stone symbolizes bhakti in eternal bloom and white marble that of absolute purity and eternal peace. Akshardham was created by HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj in fulfillment to the wish of his guru, Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj, the fourth successor in the spiritual hierarchy of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. In only a short timespan of five years Swaminarayan Akshardham became a reality through the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, 300 million man hours of epic services rendered by 11,000 volunteers, sadhus and artisans and the immense sacrifice, austerities, prayers of hundreds of thousands of young and old devotees of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.