Road Map of Delhi
Delhi, India's capital and a major gateway to the country, is a bustling metropolis which successfully combines in its fold the ancient and the modern. Cobbled lanes meandering to shadowed havelis, winding drives leading to colonial mansions, cramped shops tucked away in dark corners, glass-fronted emporiums opening onto shaded corridors __ and above all, a vibrancy in the air as people from all over the country employ their native enterprise in heralding the 21st century.Built on the ruins of seven (some claim 15) cities whose fortunes rose and fell with time, India's capital in its eighth avataar is just as clearly the seat of government as Washington is. First impressions yield snapshots of imposing, even monumental, buildings; serried rows of bungalows; huge, tree-lined avenues; and a succession of official white Ambassadors that have not quite been displaced by the influx of newer, shinier cars. Delhi is fiercely hot in summer, surprisingly cold in winter (especially for those accustomed to central heating in their home countries) and moody in between.
The British intended New Delhi to be the architectural jewel in the imperial crown when they made the decision to shift the capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. Byron described New Delhi, particularly the Rajpath-Raisina Hill area, as "the shout of the imperial suggestion - a slap in the face of the average man with his second-hand ideals". Between 1911 and 1931, Sir Edwin Lutyens, supported by Herbert Baker and a cohort of architects, worked to build a monument to British India's organisational skills that was destined to house the British for only the next 16 years. Lutyens' contempt for Indian architecture, which he regarded as an oxymoron, dictated his architectural style, replete with columns and domes, and employing much pink sandstone from Rajasthan.
Planned as an imperial Champs-Elysee, Rajpath's vastness and breadth dwarfed its inspiration and turned into an interesting, unique hybrid. Lined with ornamental canals and lawns that are now increasingly pressed into use for political and other meetings, Rajpath, formerly known as King's Way, is an impressive 4½ km long avenue. It sweeps from the Indira Gandhi National Sports Stadium at one end to Rashtrapati Bhavan at the other. Rajpath plays host to the annual Republic Day Parade; on less ceremonial days, the lawns are usually crowded in the evenings with families out on a stroll. Along its length are dotted various buildings and monuments of interest. The National Museum and National Gallery of Modern Art are both located in this area.
The National Museum
A day spent in the National Museum -- with Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India in hand, perhaps -- is as good an introduction to the history of India as you are going to get in eight hours. There's a whole range of stuff here from the Neolithic stuff that came out of India's first urban civilisations at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Lothal among other sites. (This period is roughly described as the Indus Valley Civilisation.) The collection of Pahari minatures in breath-taking; so is the collection of Naga masks, Gupat terra cotta scultptures, Chola bronzes, and Buddhist images. Not to be missed. (Tel: 3019272)
The National Gallery of Modern Art
All too often Indian art ends with the Chola bronze and the Mughal miniature. The National Gallery is a good place to rediscover the 20th century Indian's contribution to art. The works of Abanindranath Tagore (father of the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore), Jamini Roy and Nandalal Bose are well represented. So are other greats of this century. For a romanticised, Orientalist view of India, check out the works of the English artist Thomas Daniell and his nephew William Daniell.
King George V's canopy
At the far end of Rajpath away from Rasthrapati Bhavan is the sandstone canopy that once protected a statue of King George V. Installed in 1936, the statue was transferred in the 1960s to Coronation Park. The empty canopy has incited some controversy, most recently when nationalists suggested that a statue of Mahatma Gandhi should take up residence in that spot. Others have suggested breaking down or modifying the canopy rather than allowing to stand as a symbol of Imperialist rule, while their opponents argue for letting it remain untouched on grounds of architectural sanctity and historical correctness.
Approximately one-third of the way up Rajpath is the 42 m high, 30 foot wide India Gate. Originally called the All India War Memorial, it was built in honour of the soldiers (British and Indian) who died in World War I and in the Third Afghan War. The eternal flame inside, the Amar Jawan Jyoti ('The Flame of the Immortal Soldier'), was added after the 1971 Indo-Pak war and burns in memory of the unknown soldiers who died in that conflict. The three chiefs of staff pay homage here every Republic Day and on Army Day, to the strains of the Last Post.
square where Rajpath broadens as it meets Raisina Hill is called Vijay Chowk,
and this is where the Beating The Retreat ceremony is held every year on January
29, with massed bands gathering in the gloaming to honour an unforgettable tradition.
It is capped by Rashtrapati Bhavan, rising up on the crest of Raisina Hill.
To the left and the right on the Hill are the impressive and practically identical Secretariat buildings-North and South Blocks-designed by Herbert Baker. The Imperial touch is evident, as Dalrymple records, in the inscription that Lutyens ordered to be set above the gateway of the Secretariats: "Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing which must be earned before it can be enjoyed."
This is where several of the more important ministries are housed, including the Prime Minister's Office, the Home and Finance Ministries and the Ministry of External Affairs. Monkeys appear to have made themselves at home within the corridors of power as well, and apocryphal stories abound of files rendered missing by simian agency, or of peons feeding sick monkeys cups of tea. They do not, however, interfere with the running of official business. Central Hall, in North Block, is open to the public.
Though Rashtrapati Bhavan disappears suddenly from sight as you walk up Raisina Hill, thanks to an architectural mishap that Lutyens always referred to as his "Bakerloo" and that Baker's acolytes denied he was responsible for, the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge is still an impressive sight. Though the official residence of the President of India is not open to the public, visiting permits are issued on occasion by the Deputy Military Secretary to the President.
The Iron Gates in front were copies by Lutyens from a pair he saw and liked in Chiswick. Lutyens designed a large court in front-the Durbar Hall, which was intended to be the Throne Room and which still plays host to the two gold and crimson thrones that were designed for the Viceroy and the Vicereine. The Hall hosts most important state and ceremonial occasions, and its central position, right under the copper and sandstone dome, highlights its importance. At the back are the terraced Mughal Gardens, built on three levels, with the third level planted with flowers that were intended specifically to attract butterflies. The Mughal Gardens are open to the public every February; an announcement of the exact dates is usually made in the local newspapers.
The rest of the four-and-a-half-acre sprawl is occupied by other gardens, courtyards, official residences and buildings, and banqueting halls. Collectively, the buildings and gardens that make up Rashtrapati Bhavan occupy more space than Versailles.
With a fleeting resemblance to a giant sandstone birthday cake, Sansad Bhavan is where the two upper and lower houses of Parliament are lodged. It was not part of the original scheme of things, added after the 1919 Montague-Chelmsford reforms to house the Legislative history. Designed by Baker, the three chambers inside are surrounded by a verandah dotted with 144 symmetrical columns. The halls that house the Lok Sabha (the Lower House) and the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House) have witnessed much history, including the drafting of India's constitution, and are now witness to the rambunctious proceedings of the current crop of politicians who grace the Lok Sabha.
Cathedral Church of the Redemption, Church Road
Visitors to Venice are not mistaken: this church, consecrated in 1931, derives both name and inspiration from Palladio's Church of Il Redentore. Intended to be the centre of Anglican worship for the British officials of the day, it is today the diocese of the Bishop of the Church of Northern India. The memorial tablets and plaques within the church include one to the architect, Henry Medd.
(Tel: 3015390, 3015360).
Jantar Mantar, Sansad Marg
The observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1724 has a wonderful story attached to it. Muhammad Shah 'Rangila', the emperor at the time, was also a keen astronomer who was dissatisfied with the inaccuracies existing instruments of measurement. He commissioned Sawai Jai Singh II to build five observatories-in Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi, aside from Delhi-with instruments that were so large and so completely fixed in position that the readings from them would be error-free.
A competent guide will show you the Ram Yantra, which reads the altitude of the sun, the complicated and multi-functional Jai Prakash Yantra (Jai Singh II's invention) and the giant-sized sundial called the Samrat Yantra. The observatory is rarely used these days; though the instruments are in working order, the high-rises that surround the structure stand in the way of accurate observations and readings. Office workers can be spotted relaxing on their lunch breaks in the grounds; and it is a popular spot for protestors of various persuasions. The observatory in Jaipur is in far better order, but the Jantar Mantar is still well worth a visit.
Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, GBS Road
One of the most important sites of worship for Delhi's thriving Sikh community, this is an imposing structure in white with gilt-topped domes. The Sikhs are renowned for their charity; the langars (free servings of food) held here during festivals and on days sacred to the Sikhs are legendary. It is built on the spot where the eight Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Harkrishan Dev, stayed when he visited Delhi in 1664. The nearby tank is said to have been blessed by him, and is treated with reverence even today.
Hanuman Mandir, State Emporium Road
Just opposite the state emporiums is a temple devoted to one of Hindu mythology's best-loved figures-Hanuman, the monkey-king who befriended Rama, went to Sita's rescue when he was kidnapped by Ravana, and set Lanka on fire with his tail according to myth. Outside the temple, the pavements are crowded with sellers who hawk a variety of goods from perfectly legal offerings of flowers for the devout to offer inside and perfectly illegal offerings of ganja, or marijuana, which is officially banned in India.
Ugrasen ki Baoli, off Hailey Road
Just before the embassy of Malta, turn left on Hailey road into a little, unmarked lane. The remains on an old stone wall can be spied; the baoli, or stepwell, lies behind. Legend has it that Raja Ugrasen built it in the 14th century to provide water and shelter for travellers, but the construction appears to be from the 15th century.
Laxmi Narayan Mandir, Mandir Marg
Due west from Connaught Place is the somewhat eye-watering opulence of the Laxmi Narayan Mandir, built by industrial B D Birla in 1938. It has historical importance, being the first temple in modern India that does not observe caste restrictions, and for that reason, Mahatma Gandhi attended the first puja within its precincts. The main shrine honours Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi; the walls of the temple are adorned with scenes from India's two great epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Adjacent to it is one of Delhi's older temples, the New Delhi Kali Bari, where Durga is worshipped in one of her most terrifying aspects, as Kali, the goddess of destruction. Kali Bari is worth visiting especially during the Dussehra/ Durga Puja festival in October-November.
Literally the Common or People's Way, as opposed to King's Way, Janpath plays host to Eastern Court, which houses the Central Telegraph Office, and a huge array of shops. Particularly famous is the line of Tibetan shops, and the alleys where women sell brightly coloured mirrorwork cushions, tablecloths and items of clothing. This is one of the main approaches to Connaught Place.
Named after the Duke of Connaught, Connaught Place was designed in a deliberate attempt to resuscitate memories of Bath. It's essentially a series of white concentric structures that culminate in a central garden. Once one of the largest shopping and tourist complexes in Delhi, CP has lost much of its lustre. But it still attracts many tourists, and hosts several airlines offices, the Cottage Industries Emporium and the state emporia in addition to other places of business. Though Connaught Place has officially been Rajiv Chowk and Connaught Circus Indira Chowk since 1995, in memory of the mother-son Prime Ministerial duo, locals still refer to it as CP.
Safdarjung's Tomb, Race Course Road
the Nawab of Oudh towards the end of the 17th century, made his bid for the
Delhi throne after the death of Muhammad Shah Rangila. He succeeded, but for
a short while, and was driven out during the Maratha Wars. His tomb, one of
the most baroque monuments in Delhi, was built by his son and is one of the
last great monuments to come out of the Mughal period. The central feature is
the huge onion-shaped dome and the profusion of plasterwork that adorns the
interior. It is advisable to visit Safdarjung's overblown, but unforgettable,
tomb before you visit the Taj Mahal.
just after Safdarjung's tomb, takes you within the heart of one of Delhi's most
exclusive residential areas. Lodi Gardens is to the left. Originally the site
of the village of Khairpur, the inhabitants were relocated by Lady Willingdon,
who decreed that lawns should be laid out around the tombs of the 15th century
Lodi dynasty, in 1936. The oldest of the tombs is the one of Muhammad Shah-not
Rangila, but that of the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. The cluster of chhatris
surrounding the main dome is a feature repeated in the structure of Humayun's
tomb elsewhere in Delhi and the Taj Mahal.
The most imposing of the tombs are to the south of the tomb of Sikandar Lodi-the Bara Gumbad and Sheesh Gumbad ("big dome" and "mirrored dome" respectively). The Athpula, or eight-piered, bridge near the South end road entrance is supposed to have been constructed in the 17th century. It's one of the most attractive and one of the safest parks in Delhi and is frequented by joggers, walkers and random enthusiasts.
Nizamuddin Dargah, Mathura Road
Nizamuddin Auliya, who gave his name to the dargah, the complex and the residential
area here, was one of the best known of the Sufi saints. Though he died in 1325,
the disciples who flocked to him during his lifetime dubbed him a "zinda
pir" or living spirit. The dargah is alive and vibrant to this day; a narrow
alley leads to the saint's grave. Every Thursday, devotees gather at the marble
pavilion near the grave after 6 pm to sing devotional songs and qawwalis.
Women are not permitted to go beyond the outer verandah, but may watch the proceedings from behind a lattice screen. The graves of Jahanara Begum and the poet Amir Khusrau are also located here, as is the legendary baoli (stepwell) constructed by the saint. The basti located here ensures that the monument is never desolate, and that the hubbub of daily life continues among the prayers. In April, for three days that shift according to the lunar calendar, the birth and death anniversary of Nizamuddin Auliya is celebrated, attracting pilgrims from all over India.
Humayun's Tomb, off Mathura Road
The second of the great Mughal emperors, father to Akbar, is said to have knelt on the library steps as he heard the muezzin's call, slipped and broken his neck. His tomb, built in 1565, is one of the finest of the Mughal structures, set in the centre of a square and typically Mughal garden enclosed by high walls on three sides. The tomb itself is surmounted by a white marble double dome and featuring intricate and detailed trelliswork. The gardens surrounding it are still reasonably maintained, though the Yamuna that formed their fourth boundary no longer flows this side. The graves include those of Humayun's wives and that of Dara Shikoh, one of Shah Jahan's sons: but in the place of honour is the unadorned white marble sarcophagus that marks the spot where Humayun's body is buried in the basement underneath.
Purana Qila, off Mathura Road
of sudden and surprising calm amid the din of traffic on the Mathura road and
the bustle of crowds at nearby Pragati Maidan, the Purana Qila is one of Delhi's
most impressive and oldest ruins. The Old Fort is believed to have been under
near-continous occupation since 1000 BC. In that time, it has witnessed the
construction, abandonment and destruction of several of Delhi's avataars -- some say that the Purana
Qila will outlast modern Delhi as well. Indraprastha, the mythical capital of
the Pandavas in the Mahabharatha, was said to have stood here; this is where
Humayun planned the building of Dinpanah, only to be ousted by Sher Shah Suri;
Sher Shah, in turn, added new structures, strengthened the citadel and called
Like Humayun's tomb, the Purana Qila originally stood alongside the Yamuna, but the river has changed course ever since. Its three gates -- the Humayun Darwaza, Talaqi Darwaza and Bara Darwaza -- still form the main entrances to the fort today. Buildings of interest include the Sher Mandal, used by Humayun as a library where he tripped on the staircase and fell to his death and the Qila Kuhna Masjid, built by Sher Shah, which fills in the gaps between Lodi architecture and Mughal architecture.
Matka Pir, Mathura Road
One of the quaintest and best-loved shrines in Delhi is dedicated to a holy man who answered the prayers of a man and his wife. Matka Pir was a Sufi saint who is reputed to have listened to the woes of a couple who wanted a son, but could not offer anything, being poor, besides a pot of dal and jaggery. He accepted the offering and placed the pot in the courtyard. A year later, the couple returned-they had their son, and in gratitude, brought another pot, starting a tradition. The colourful shrine is located on a ridge above Mathura road, and is recognisable from the rows of earthenware pots or matkas that lead all the way up the steps into the dargah.
Pragati Maidan, Mathura Road
The nerve centre for India's exhibitions covers a stupendous 150 acres and features pavilions from all the Indian states. Trade fairs, auto expos and exhibitions are a regular feature here all year round; two theatres, somewhat run down, screen Indian and foreign films; and of late, food centres ranging from a Food Court to Domino's Pizzas have sprung up here.
Kalkaji Temple, Nehru Place
Busier than the Kali temple in Mandir Marg, this is one of the most active temples in the city. The legend goes that a farmer built the temple after discovering that his cow wasn't yielding enough milk because she was offering it to Ma Kali, or the goddess Kalka. Historians say the temple was built in the mid-18th century by Raja Kedarnath, though it has been added to and refurbished several times since by rich merchants and traders. The approach is crowded and bustling with edge-to-edge stalls; the 12-domed temple is always crowded during the daily services and on festival days. The image of Kali here, sheltered by silver umbrellas, is more abstract than usual, and it is worth contrasting this later image with the older and less prettified icon in the Kali Bari.
Bahai Temple, Kalkaji
The Lotus Temple, designed by Iranian architect Fariburz Sahba, is one of the most fascinating structures built since the Sydney Opera House.
Completed in 1986, it derives its more popular name from the white marble structure in the shape of an opening lotus. It is sacred to members of the Bahai sect of Persia, who have a strong following in India, but is open to general members of the public during hours of worship as well providing they keep the peace. The surrounding 25-odd acres of greenery add to the serenity; the 1,300-seater auditorium dwarfs worshippers and curious tourists alike. Though it's possible to make a flying visit here, it's recommended that you spend a while here just to get the feel of the atmosphere.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from April to September from 9 am to 7 pm, and from October to March from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Moth ki Masjid, South Extension, Part II
Miyan Bhuwa, Sikander Lodi's Prime Minister in the 15th century, is said to have built this delicate, gracious mosque after Sikander gave him a moth, or lentil grain. The grain was planted and the crops that sprouted from it were so plentous that they funded the mosque. Or so legend says. The moth could not preserve him from the ire of Sikander's successor, Ibrahim; Miyan Bhuwa ran afoul of Ibrahim and was put to death a few years after his masjid came up.
Hauz Khas, Aurobindo Marg
The glitzy row of boutiques and restaurants that followed a brief period of fashionable ethnic slumming in Delhi hog the attention at the Hauz Khas complex. The discerning visitor is advised to skip the faux-pastoral arches that decorate the shops and explore the ruins of the former village and tank of Hauz Khas, which dates back to the reign of Feroze Shah Tughlaq.
The huge tank that had been built by Alaudin Khilji was resurrected by Feroze Shah, who constructed many buildings on the banks of the tank. His tomb, a madrasa where scholars debated once upon a time, and a ruined mosque still stand; and from the balconies of some of the more fashionable restaurants, you can view the now-dry tank that once provided enough water for a small town. On the approach road to Hauz Khas is the Chor Minar, a tower that has now collapsed into rubble. The holes in the wall are not all caused by the depredations of nature -- they were built for the specific purpose of housing the heads of thieves, the beheadings employed as a deterrent to other would-be criminals.
Siri Fort, Siri Fort RoadLittle is left of what was once the 14th century of Siri, planned by Allaudin Khilji as a city that would return Delhi to its former grandeur. It was the second, but not the last, city to crumble into relative nothingness. The ramparts of Siri Fort are visible on the road, but most people today associate Siri not with the old city, but with the new auditorium-restaurant complex.
century dargah of the Sufi sant Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar is at the heart of a complex
that was added to several times after his death. It now lies right in the middle
of the Mehrauli bazaar, and includes several supplementary structures such as
the Jogmaya Temple, from where the flower-sellers embark on the annual procession
known as the Phoolwalon ki Sair. Nearby are the graves of several later
Mughal emperors-the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah I and Akbar II, for instance,
are interred here.
The last, and threatened, remnants of Delhi's green lungs, the Ridge is split into two parts -- the Northern and the rest, known simply as the Ridge. The Northern end straggles up towards Delhi University and is a reasonably dense park that is bisected by Rani Jhansi road. Ajitgarh, the Mutiny Memorial, is situated here -- a red sandstone spire built by the British to commemorate the siege and capture of the city. A newer plaque, unveiled on 28 August 1972, irritably notes that the "enemy" of the inscriptions were those who "rose against colonial rule and fought bravely for national liberation".
Nearby in the grounds of the Hindu Rao Hospital is another kind of memorial -- a double-storeyed house built in the time of Feroze Shah Tughlaq and known as Pir Ghaib. The pir or holy man who meditated on the premises is reported to have unaccountably disappeared, or become ghaib, one day, hence the name!
Both the Northern Ridge and The Ridge itself are still beautiful, but increasingly suffering from encroachments. A large chunk of it has been preserved as the Buddha Jayanti Park and is a pleasant, if secluded, place. Within the park, an ornamental island hosts a large, gilt-layered statue of the Buddha; every May, Buddhists gather here to celebrate Buddha Jayanti.