The Grand Tour III-10: Monumental City… Delhi

1 - India Gate

India Gate is a memorial to soldiers of the British Indian Army who died in the First World War and other wars fought between 1914 – 1921. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1931.

From the glittering port city of Bombay, we wend our way inland, and commence our Grand Tour of the Princely Cities of the Subcontinent.

The first of these cities, is the grande dame of cities herself – Eternal Delhi.

It is said that Delhi is the historic site of seven mediaeval cities, with the eighth being the modern city of New Delhi, established by the British in the 1930s.

2 - Map_of_Lutyens'_projected_Imperial_Delhi,_from_the_Encyclopedia_Britannica,_11th_ed.,_1910-12 (1)

Map of Lutyen’s projected New Delhi from 1910-12. To the top right is Old Delhi. [Public Domain.]

Our sojourn in the city is too short, however, for us to delve deep into each and every layer of the palimpsest. We begin our journey rather late in time, in the 1200s, at what remains of the city of Lalkot, the seat of the Delhi Mamluk Sultanate.

Today, the area is known as Mehrauli, and is home to one of the most impressive monuments of all time – the Qutb Minar, the tallest free-standing brick tower in the world.

3 - Qutb Minar Full

The Qutb Minar was first established in 1192 by Qutb Al-Din Aibak, the first Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty. It was successfully added to in the ensuing centuries. The entire Qutb complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4 - Qutb Minar Detail

Visitors at the foot of the Qutb Minar, just to show its monumental scale.

5 - KAmali Jamali Tomb Mehrauli

Jamali and Kamali Mosque and Tomb, in the Mehrauli Archaeological Village. Completed in the 1530s.

7 - Lodi Tombs MEhrauli Gardens

Tomb from the Lodi Dynasty, Mehrauli Archaeological Gardens.

6 - Armenian Food Mehrauli

Lunch at Lavaash by Saby, an Armenian restaurant in Mehrauli.

From the Mamluks, we skip forward in time to the Sayyid and Lodi Dynasties, which held sway here in the early-to-mid 1400s and the mid 1400s to early 1500s respectively.

The tombs of their emperors are still scattered in the city today, primarily in Lodi Gardens, where the tombs of two of their emperors – Muhammad Saha (Sayyid) and Sikander Lodi – still stand today amongst others.

8 - Lodi Gardens Tomb I

The tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid, built in 1444. Lodi Gardens.

9 - Lodi Gardens Tomb II

Bara Gumbad and Mosque, 1490. Attributed to Sikander Lodi.

10 - Lodi Gardens Tomb Kids

Children in the Lodi Gardens.

Then come the Mughals, who rule from the 1500s to the 1800s. They were one of the greatest of India’s Empires.

Delhi is known for being the final resting place of one of the five great Mughal Emperors. Humayoun, son of Babur and father of Akbar, is buried here, in a great Mausoleum alongside other tombs, in Nizam-ud-din, a residential district named after a 13th century Sufi saint.

Elsewhere in the city sit other monuments that date to the Mughal period, such as Safdarjung’s Tomb at Lodhi Road, an example of late Mughal architecture; and the curious-magnificent Jantar Mantar, a complex of astronomical instruments built by the Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur, who was in turn, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah.

11 - Humayouns Tomb

Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayoun, completed in 1572. Nizam-ud-din, Delhi.

12 - Safdarjung Tomb

Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1754. Lodhi Road.

13 - JAntar Mantar

The Jantar Mantar complex of astronomical structures was built by the Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur and completed in 1724.

14 - Agrisen ki Baoli

The Agrasen ki Baoli is an ancient step-well believed to have been built in the 14th century.

In 1639, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan – he of the Taj Mahal – decided to move the capital of the empire back to Delhi (it had been briefly moved to Agra in Akbar’s time). He built a magnificent walled city, complete with a stupendous Red Fort and Friday Mosque (Jami Masjid), and called it Shajahanabad.

Shajahanabad is today known as Old Delhi, and it is here – in the expansive courtyard of the Jami Masjid and along the crowded sidewalks of the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, the great Chandni Chowk, that one gets a feel of real life in the city.

Of course, not stay in the city would be complete without a visit to the Red Fort itself, built by Shah Jahan, and home to the Mughal emperors for 200 years.

15 - JAmi Masjid Building

Jami Masjid was built by Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in 1656. It sits in the Old City of Shahjahanabad.

16 - Jami MAsjid Interior

Tourists at the Jami Masjid.

17 - Chandni Chowk

Resident peering out of an ornate facade along the historic Chandni Chowk.

18 - REd Fort Entrance

The Red Fort, completed in 1639 by Emperor Shah Jahan. This was the Palace of the Mughals in Delhi. It was constructed of red sandstone. The Fort is accessed through the Lahori Gate, so-named because it faces the city of Lahore.

19 - Red Fort Interior I

Visitors to the Red Fort.

20 - Red Fort Interior II

The many repeating arches of the Diwan-i-Aam, or the Hall of Public Audience.

21 - Red Fort Gardens

Young couple enjoying the gardens of the Red Fort. In the background are the military barracks built by the British in the Red Fort.

The British first arrived in Delhi in the 1800s, as officials of the Honourable East India Company. By 1857, they had removed the last Mughal Shah on a pretext, and imposed direct, colonial rule upon India.

The capital of the British Raj being Calcutta, the British kept initially to the outskirts of Old Delhi, in what was then and still known as Civil Lines.

Today, in this quarter situated to the northeast of Old Delhi, one still finds significant monuments of the time, including St James Church, one of the oldest churches in Delhi, and the historic Maiden’s Hotel – once the grande dame of Delhi’s hospitality scene.

22- St JAmes church Civil Lines

St James’ Church, built in 1836, is one of the oldest churches in Delhi.

23 - Civil Lines Building

Delhi Legislative Assembly Building, 1912. Unfortunately obscured by foliage from my vantage point.

24 - MAidens Hotel

Maiden’s Hotel in Civil Lines opened in 1902, and was the grande dame of the Delhi hospitality scene up until the establishment of New Delhi.

In 1911, in a great show of Imperial power, the Delhi Durbar was organised to commemorate the coronation of King George V as the Emperor of India. During the Durbar, it was declared that the Capital of British India would move to Delhi from Calcutta.

Over the next two decades, a gargantuan exercise would be undertaken to build a brand new, thoroughly modern European city in the outskirts of Old Delhi. The architect of the exercise was one Edwin Lutyens, who with his team of architects, designed the urban plan of New Delhi, as well as many of its major monuments.

The most imposing of these monuments was Kingsway (todays Rajpath), with the monumental Viceroy’s House standing like a palace on Raisina Hill to the west, and mighty India Gate to its eastern end.

The Nizam of Hyderabad pays hommage at the Delhi Durbar, 1911, (1935).

The Delhi Durbar, December 1911. The Nizam of Hyderabad pays homage to George V, Emperor of India, and Queen Mary. [Public Domain.]

26 - SEcretariat Building North Block

The Secretariat Building, North Block. Designed by Herbert Baker – Edwin Lutyens’ colleague – and completed in the 1910s.

27 - Rashtrapati Bhawan

Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan), designed by Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1929.

28 - India Gate - Canopy

The Canopy, behind India Gate, was constructed in 1936. It used to house a statue of King George V. This was removed in 1968 and relocated to Coronation Park.

Elsewhere in the centre of New Delhi, there were rather more modest forms of architecture, including Connaught Place – a large circular “square” that was designed to be the commercial heart of the city; and the many residential bungalows in Neo-classical style, that constitute what is today known as the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone.

Many of these bungalows continue to be the residences of government officials, while others house Embassies and High Commissions.

31 - Connaught Place Curve

Connaught Place, completed in 1933, was New Delhi’s commercial centre. It is still a bustling commercial centre today.

30 - Connaught Place

The flag of the Republic of India, flying at Connaught Place.

29 - Lutyens Bungalow

One of the many Lutyens Bungalows in the LBZ.

Contemporary Delhi retains much of that which is historical, even as it has developed a youthful dynamism as India’s new economic capital (having surpassed Mumbai some years back).

Nowhere is this dynamism more evident than in the vicinity of Khan Market, a bustling quarter of boutique shops, restaurants, bars and bookshops in the city centre.

Nearby sits genteel Sujan Singh Park, a cluster of Art Deco-style apartments erected in 1945, and founded and named after the father of Sir Sobha Singh, the eminent Builder of much of New Delhi.

32 - Sujan Singh Park

Sujan Singh Park, 1945.

33 - Khan MArket Street Art I

Street Art around Khan Market.

34 - Khan MArket Street Art III

Street Art around Khan Market.

35 - Soda Bottle Opener Wallah Khan MArket

The delightful SodaBottleOpenerWala, a Parsi restaurant at Khan Market.

36 - Soda Bottle Opener Wallh Parsi Bhonu

Having a Parsi bhonu (the equivalent of an Indian thali) at SodaBottleOpenerWala.

Here at Khan Market, in one of its many cafes, is a good place to settle down to a cup of tea, and to ponder the many cities of Eternal Delhi.

37 - DELHI

A glance back at India Gate, Kingsway (today’s Rajpath).

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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