A Drive through History: Delhi

You’ll love this city, you’ll hate it at times (we all do), but you can never ignore Dilli. The supposed Land of the Mahabharata has had a lot going on since time immemorial. It’s stood by and watched empires rise and fall, invaders conquer and disappear like their predecessors. It’s been reduced to rubbles and emerged stronger each time, ‘The City of Djinns’. Every nook and cranny of this city tells a tale of years gone by. Each street and corner has some untold story. Each monument has borne witness to history. And it is all there, waiting to be experienced. Let us take you on a ride through the lanes of the vast and varied history of the magical city of Delhi.

 1) Jama Masjid (Masjid-i Jahan-Numa):

[espro-slider id=1462]

India’s largest mosque, the Masjid can hold a whopping 25,000 people. Built by Shahjahan between 1644 and 1658, the mosque has three great gates, four towers and two tall minarets constructed of alternating strips of red sandstone and white marble. Three domes, surrounded by two minarets, mark the silhouette of the Jama Masjid. The 121 step climb up the narrow southern minaret is well worth the effort.The view from the top is mesmerising, with the entire old Delhi in view. On the floor, a total of 899 black borders is marked for worshippers. If you want to attend a prayer(you must not miss it), be there at 7:45 for the only session where non – muslims can be present.There is no word to describe that feeling, the immense rush of contentment and peace – it’s an overwhelming experience. 

 2)Red Fort  

[espro-slider id=1451]

The Red Fort was the palace of Shahjahan’s fortified capital of Shajahananbad, named after the massive red sandstone walls that enclose it. The residence of the Mughal emperor of India, also the ceremonial and political centre of the golden era; it still gives a glimpse of the Mughal Delhi and its splendour. The fort complex housed the emperor’s imperial apartments with rows of pavilions by the east bank, buildings of political importance – Diwan-I-Aam, Diwan-I-Khas to name a few, Moti masjid(the pearl mosque) and awe-inspiring gardens. There are three entry gates, the main gate- Lahori gate, Delhi gate -the southern gate formerly used by the public and the Watergate that was at southeastern walls. Take your time to stroll through the zenith of Mughal architecture, the monuments that encountered the peak of the powerful dynasty that shaped & molded the present day Delhi. 

Every evening, except Monday, the fort holds a sound & light show narrating the history of the Red fort. Amitabh Bachchan’s deep baritone carefully guiding you through every tiny detail of the saga, the trotting of horses, the clashing of swords and the colourful lights accentuating the spectacle.

3)Chandni chowk

[espro-slider id=1690]

Chandni Chowk or the infamous Moonlit Square, the oldest and busiest market of Delhi, was designed by Jahan Ara ( Shahjahan’s beloved daughter). It was shaped as a square and divided by canals that reflected moonlight falling on them. The shimmery central pool was surrounded by shops in the shape of a crescent moon. The knowledge and in-depth description of this dreamy market can be only found in documents of that era. The Chandni Chowk that Ahmed Ali talked about doesn’t hold any resemblance to today’s narrow gullies crowded with vendors and cramped shops. But, from here you can venture on a journey to discover the old markets of Delhi. Take a trip about the circumference,stroll down the lanes among the ancient ruins  and you will encounter dusty, broken memoirs and maybe, maybe be able to fathom the incredible change that has come upon it. You’ll be surprised by the variety of things you’ll find there among the chaos and madness.

4) Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah:

[espro-slider id=1664]

The mausoleum of the Muslim Sufi saint, Nizam-Ud-din-Auliya has become a place of pilgrimage for Muslims across the world. The Nizam-Ud-din died in 1325 at the ripe age of 92 and later many nobles were buried around the same area. The tombs of Jahan Ara Begum, Amir Khusro & Inayat Khan are located here.  At sunset,especially on thursdays, the ramparts echo of the anthemic qawwali sung by Sufis. You must not miss the extraordinary pleasure of such incredible music.

Take a tour with the Hope Project to delve deeper into the richness hidden in the gullies of the Nizamuddin basti; mosques,dargahs,tombstones,the ruins of barakhamba & chausath khamba,qawwalis & lip smacking culinary jouissance. The youth of the basti started shan-e-nizam (this tour) to give the visitors a glimpse of the curtained world for a small sum of money in return.

5) Humayun’s Tomb:

[espro-slider id=1454]

The tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun was commissioned by his first wife Bega Begum in 1569-70 and designed by a Persian architect, it blends together elements of Mughal and Persian architecture. In the middle of Nizamuddin, surrounded by beautiful gardens stands the first garden tomb of India.

As you enter, you’ll find Isa khan’s tomb to your right. The complex also houses Khan-i-Khanan’s tomb, Bu Halima’s tomb and a few more architectural geniuses. At the centre of the char bagh garden, stands the tomb of Humayun. A flight of stairs take you out to the courtyard overlooking the old city. The entire area has been ornamented with beguiling gardens.Walking about the complex, you’ll find yourself gasping for breath; less because of fatigue and more due to the beauty surrounding you. 

6) Qutub Complex

[espro-slider id=1657]

The Qutub Minar, Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, the Iron pillar & the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khilji and Imam Zamin, surrounded by Jain temple ruins’ comprise the qutub complex.  

The domineering Qutub minar is the best known monument in the complex, constructed by Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak on vanquishing the city of Delhi. The Minar still stands tall & proud, reminding us of the Bravado and glory that it signifies. The five distinct stories with projecting balconies was earlier open to public ; the affair up the spiral staircases which opened to the balconies, offering a magnificent sight of the city. After an accident involving school children, entry to the Qutub Minar has been closed to public since 1981.

The Qutub archeological complex also hosts the annual Qutub festival – Sehra , in the months of  November–December to commemorate the historical importance of Qutub Minar. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Qutub Minar itself, this annual cultural extravaganza is an endeavor to present a cross section of performances by various Indian artistes.

The Two Astounding Heritage Hotels

It’s not the honour that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind – Branch Rickey.

These two hotels will hold you under the spell of their rich historical past, their majestic existence and ofcourse, the bittersweet heritage of the bygone colonial era.

7)The Imperial

[espro-slider id=1677]

Positioned on the prestigious Queensway, now called Janpath, The Imperial is indeed an Imperial facade. The 24 king palms that lead up to the porch hold witness to the very creation of the Imperial Capital New Delhi. It was this hotel where Pandit Jwaharlal Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met to discuss the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan.

Silver tea service, tableware from London, Italian marble floors, Burma teak furniture, original Daniells and Frasers on the walls, a vision of undulating green lawns, turbaned
waiters in red, all create the aura of an early 19th century English Manor in the heart of Imperial Delhi.

The hotel boasts an array of spectacular restaurants which hold as much importance to the history:
1911 Restaurant & Bar: (commemorating the ceremony at the Durbar in 1911),
The Spice route: (depicting the journey of spices from the Malabar Coast in Kerala through Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia to Thailand and Vietnam),
Nostalgia: This dinner restaurant showcases all time western favourites and definitely lives up to its name. A spectacular fusion of old world continental cuisine paired with new and age old wines, while the pioneers of jazz play in the background. Talk about Romantic! 

Patiala Peg: Quite literally, they serve Patiala pegs (75 ml pegs instead of the usual 60 ml). No wonder its one among the most popular bars in delhi.There’s an interesting anecdote, that the bar commemorates a tent pegging encounter between the Viceroy’s team and team of the Maharaja of Patiala.

So {if you’re up} for some historical extravaganza packed with breathtaking, lavish ambience and mouthwatering delicacies, head straight to Janpath.

8)The Maidens

[espro-slider id=1678]

Maidens Hotel was established in 1903 to host the attending dignitaries during the 1903 Durbar, held to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India. Back in that day, Maidens was the most luxurious and grand hotel; it was immensely popular among the glitterati. Today, it still retains the style, charm and the colonial elegance that the British raj was renowned for; the beautiful colonial architecture and decor exudes rich heritage and grandeur.

The Restaurants and Bar at Maidens Hotel showcase the same. Especially, The Curzon Room (named after the British Viceroy Lord Curzon).The amalgam of the best of the Indian cuisine with delicacies inspired by the British Raj along with all worldly dishes is just exquisite.

The city’s historic past is just one of the many aspects that contribute to Delhi’s charm. For all it’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, Delhi has stood the test of time and to experience it all in one day is just not enough. Following this day guide, though, will get you the essence of this great, historic city.