Edwin Lutyens, the world famous architect, would have neverset his mind on designing New Delhi and the famed Connaught Place shopping centre in the heart of India’s capital, had it not been for the glorious past that it could boast of. The British Empire had termed India as the land” where the sun never sets” and to add flavour to this phrase Lutyen called his creation as the “Rome of Hindoostan”.
Lutyen perhaps could have drawn inspiration from the Persian inscription on the ceiling of the Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Nobles) at the glorious Red Fort which says” If there be a paradise on Earth; it is this, oh it is this, oh it is this”. The couplet was rendered into such beautiful verse by the noted poet, Firdaus, in the court of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan. What could have made him weave such a magical extract must surely have been the trance and magnetism that the city of Delhi had for the lovers of good things.
As much as it can boast of its chequered present, Delhi has an equally if not better past. The ancient history of Delhi manifested in the landmarks and memorials still stands testimony to the present history. The times when the epic Mahabharata was written refers to Delhi as Indraprastha and was supposed to have been founded by the Pandavas in as early as 1450 B.C. whose remains have been excavated within the ramparts of the Old Fort (Purana Qila) .
The Gupta and the Maurya dynasties, around 320 A.D. when India was known as the Golden Bird, were mesmerised by the elegant vistas of Delhi and made their presence felt for a long time while ruling from Indraprastha. This was followed by the Muslim Kings in the latter half of the 12th century and then by the slave Kings and the Khaljis who ruled for over a century and built a new capital Siri, in 1302 A.D. where today stands the imposing Siri Fort area and the Asian Games Village. After the Khaljis came the Tughlaks in the early 15th century who gave an additional impetus to the building activity in Indraprastha with the shaping of the Tughlakabad Fort built by Ghyias-ud-din Tughlak. This was not the end of the new revival initiated by the Tughlaks and was followed by the setting up of the cities of Jahanpanah( asylum of the world) and Firozabad (Kotla Ferozeshah) by the successors of Ghyias-ud-din.
The first Mughal conqueror and emperor , Babar, had a liking for Agra where he set up his capital, although his son, Humayun, returned to Delhi and built the Purana Qila as his fort and seat of governance. Then came the Suri dynasty wherein Sher Shah Suri opted yet again for Dilli as the capital which he built in 1542 A.D. And it had its epicentre as the very same Purana Qila. For the first time then the capital got its name Dilli, though some historians say that the brain behind giving this name was Raja Dillu who was supposed to have ruled in this area as far back as 100 B.C. Although the next Mughal emperor, Akbar, preferred to shift to Agra and Fathepur Sikri, his son, derived an affable penchant for Delhi and began work on building the historic Red Fort (Lal Qila) in 1638 A.D. Much before all this during the 11th century A.D., a Hindu King, Anangpal is said to have built the first city, Lal Kot and much after the Lodi dynasty was said to have been credited with the setting up of the sixth of the seven cities in the form of the Lodi tombs.
The seven cities, each with a unique characteristic of its own were Lal Kot, Siri, Tughlakabad, the ruined fortress east of the imposing Qutab Minar. Tughlakabad was said to have become a ghost city 15 years after it was built following a supposed curse from the Sufi saint, Azam-ud-din. The other cities were Jahanpanah, Ferozeshah Kotla, Lodi Tombs and the Purana Qila.
In 1911, the British asked Lutyens to give a new meaning to city development which is reflected in the architectural designs and sophistication that buildings in New Delhi like Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, Connaught Place and various administrative buildings like the South and North blocks along the breathtaking view available from Raj Path.
Modern Delhi has something for everyone and that is amply reflected in the cosmopolitan culture that nurtures festivals of all faiths and religions, places of worship. You can take a stroll at your own leisurely pace, or a jog or a run and move faster than the common man. This is also reflected in the market places, the dhabas and restaurants or the gorgeous five-star hotels. Theatre, drama and entertainment of all sorts including the best of discotheques are all there. Delhi is one city from where you can branch off to any corner of the country either by a well-connected system of railways or by road and air. The rest is for you to explore.