One of the largest cities in population in the world, Delhi must be seen to be believed. Metropolitan Delhi is a vast tapestry of many cities and towns that are collectively known as the National Capital Region, or NCR. Within the NCR, Delhi proper is equally impressive with its monuments to past empires and deep spirituality. Discovery Tours reveals the history and legends of both New and Old Delhi.
When India was ruled by Great Britain, King George V – who was also the Emperor of India – moved the capital here from Calcutta in 1911. The municipality of New Delhi was subsequently designed by British city planners to be a grand symbol of England’s supremacy. Its grandiosity still stands, and today New Delhi is home to the offices of the NCR, the government of India and a vivid and vibrant culture. Here are some of New Delhi’s highlights:
Qutab Minar Victory Tower. The second tallest minaret in India, the Qutab Minar stands 239 feet. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed from red sandstone and marble over a 175-year period beginning in 1193. It is the focal point of a fascinating archaeological area known as the Qutab complex once home to 27 Hindu and Jain temples.
Gandhi Smriti. A sobering visit to this museum dedicated to the life and death of Mahatma Gandhi enhances any visit to New Delhi. The spiritual leader spent the final 144 days of his life here before being assassinated on these grounds in 1948.
India Gate War Memorial. Though it resembles a triumphal arch much more than a somber memorial, the India Gate nevertheless commemorates the 82,000 soldiers of the united British India Army who were killed in World War I. The names of 13,300 are etched in the stone.
Presidential Palace. With its main palace building of 340 rooms, expansive gardens, staff residences, stables and more, this 320-acre site is the second largest residence of a Head of State in the world.
Parliament House. Home to India’s government, this magnificent and sprawling building, built in the shape of a perfect circle, covers six acres.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Northwest of New Delhi, the province of Pujab is the world’s only state that boasts a majority Sikh population. The religion is also well represented here in Delhi, perhaps no place as dramatically as Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a glorious, gold-domed house of worship with a revered sarovar, or reflecting pool.
Zooming in closer to the heart of New Delhi, Old Delhi is the original city of the Mughal Empire, once lined with elegant mosques and mansions of noblemen. It was founded in 1639 by Shah Jahan, the Mughal leader who ushered India into a Golden Age of prosperity and commissioner of the Taj Mahal. Back then, he named his new walled city for himself – Shahjahanabad. Here’s a sample of what you’ll experience in Old Delhi:
Chandni Chowk. The only way to explore one of Delhi’s oldest and busiest market areas is by cyclo-rickshaw. We’ll climb aboard one for the ride of our lives along ancient lanes and past colorful bazaars. Though the market was built by Shah Jahan, it was his daughter Jahan Ara who designed it. Back in the 17th century, it got its name (meaning “Moonlight Market”) from the canals that once divided its streets and reflected the lunar light.
Red Fort. This red sandstone citadel at one end of Chandni Chowk was the residence of the Mughal emperor for 200 years. The complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a massive collection of elaborate gates, residences, imperial baths, pavilions, gardens and mosques.
Jama Masjid. The “world-reflecting mosque,” as one of its names translates, is the best known in India. Another masterwork built under Shah Jahan in the mid-1600s, its courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers. Its two minarets flanking three towering domes strike a dramatic pose, and its graceful entrance archway dwarfs all who walk through it.