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SIGHTSEEING IN DELHI
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  >> Delhi Travel    >>   General Information
HISTORY OF DELHI
 

Delhi is believed to be the site Indraprastha, capital of the Pandavas in the Indian epic Mahabharata, founded around 5000 BC. Hindu texts state that the city of Delhi used to be referred to in Sanskrit as Hastinapur, which means "elephant-city". Archaeological evidence suggests that Indraprastha once stood where the Old Fort is today. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya Period (c. 300 BC); since then, the site has seen continuous settlement. The famous Iron pillar near the Qutub Minar was commissioned by the emperor Kumara Gupta I of the Gupta dynasty (320-540) and transplanted to Delhi during the 10th century. Eight major cities have been situated in the Delhi area. The first four cities were in the southern part of present-day Delhi.

The Tomara Rajput dynasty founded the city of Lal Kot in 736 A.D. near the Qutub Minar. The epic Prithvirajaraso names the Rajput Anangpal as the founder of Delhi. The Chauhan Rajput kings of Ajmer conquered Lal Kot in 1180 A.D. and renamed it Qila Rai Pithora. The Chauhan king Prithviraj III was defeated in 1192 by the Afghan Muhammad Ghori. From 1206, Delhi became the capital of the Delhi Sultanate under the Slave Dynasty. The first Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aybak was a former slave who rose through the ranks to become a general, a governor and then Sultan of Delhi. Qutb-ud-din started the construction the Qutub Minar to commemorate his victory but died before its completion. In the Qutb complex he also constructed the Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam), which is the earliest extant mosque in India. After the end of the Slave dynasty, a succession of Turkic and Central Asian dynasties, the Khilji dynasty, the Tughluq dynasty, the Sayyid dynasty and the Lodhi dynasty held power in the late medieval period and built a sequence of forts and townships that are part of the seven cities of Delhi. In 1526, following the First Battle of Panipat, Zahiruddin Babur, the former ruler of Fergana, defeated the last Lodhi sultan and founded the Mughal dynasty which ruled from Delhi, Agra and Lahore.

In the mid-sixteenth century there was an interruption in the Mughal rule of India as Sher Shah Suri defeated Babur's son Humayun and forced him to flee to Afghanistan and Persia. Sher Shah Suri built the sixth city of Delhi, as well as the old fort known as Purana Qila and the Grand Trunk Road. After Sher Shah Suriís early death, Humayun recovered the throne with Persian help. The third and greatest Mughal emperor, Akbar, moved the capital to Agra resulting in a decline in the fortunes of Delhi. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658) built the seventh city of Delhi that sometimes bears his name (Shahjahanabad), and is more commonly known as the old city or old Delhi. The old city served as the capital of the later Mughal Empire from 1638 onwards, when Shah Jahan transferred the capital back from Agra. Aurangzeb (1658-1707) crowned himself as emperor in Delhi in 1658. In 1761, Delhi was raided by Ahmed Shah Abdali after the Third battle of Panipat.

During the Partition of India thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab and Sindh migrated to Delhi. In 1984, the assassination of then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, led to a violent backlash against the Sikh community, resulting in more than a thousand deaths[4]. In 1991, the Parliament of India passed the National Capital Territory Act which gave Delhi its own legislative assembly, though with limited powers.


The earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya Period (c. 300 BC); since then, the site has seen continuous settlement. In 1966, an inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273-236 BC) was discovered near Srinivaspuri. Two sandstone pillars inscribed with the edicts of Ashoka were later brought to the city by Firuz Shah Tughluq in the 14th century. The famous Iron pillar near the Qutub Minar was commissioned by the emperor Kumara Gupta I of the Gupta dynasty (320-540) and transplanted to Delhi during the 10th century. Eight major cities have been situated in the Delhi area. The first four cities were in the southern part of present-day Delhi.

The modern city contains the remnants of seven successive ancient cities including:


Qila Rai Pithora built by Prithvi Raj Chauhan, near the oldest Rajput settlement in Lal-Kot;
Siri, built by Alauddin Khilji in 1303;
Tughluqabad, built by Ghiyasuddin Tughluq (1321-1325);
Jahanpanah, built by Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325-1351);
Kotla Firoz Shah, built by Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-1388);
Purana Qila, built by Sher Shah Suri and Dinpanah built by Humayun, both in the area near the speculated site of the legendary Indraprastha (1538-1545); and
Shahjahanabad, built by Shah Jahan from 1638 to 1649, containing the Lal Qila and the Chandni Chowk.


8th century to 16th century

The Qutub Minar is the world's tallest brick minaret at 72.5 metres.
The Tomara Rajput dynasty founded Lal Kot in 736 near the Qutub Minar. The Prithviraj Raso names the Rajput Anangpal as the founder of Delhi. The Chauhan Rajput kings of Ajmer conquered Lal Kot in 1180 and renamed it Qila Rai Pithora. The Chauhan king Prithviraj III was defeated in 1192 by the Afghan Muhammad Ghori. From 1206, Delhi became the capital of the Delhi Sultanate under the Slave Dynasty (so named because several rulers of this dynasty were former slaves). The first Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aybak was a former slave who rose through the ranks to become a general, a governor and then Sultan of Delhi. Qutb-ud-din started the construction the Qutub Minar, a recognisable symbol of Delhi, to commemorate his victory but died before its completion. In the Qutb complex he also constructed the Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam), which is the earliest extant mosque in India. He was said to have pillaged exquisitely carved pillars from 27 temples for this mosque, many of which can still be seen. After the end of the Slave dynasty, a succession of Turkic and Central Asian dynasties, the Khilji dynasty, the Tughluq dynasty, the Sayyid dynasty and the Lodhi dynasty held power in the late medieval period and built a sequence of forts and townships that are part of the seven cities of Delhi. In 1526, following the First Battle of Panipat, Zahiruddin Babur, the former ruler of Fergana, defeated the last Lodhi sultan and founded the Mughal dynasty which ruled from Delhi, Agra and Lahore.


16th century to Present


In the mid-sixteenth century there was an interruption in the Mughal rule of India as Sher Shah Suri defeated Babur's son Humayun and forced him to flee to Afghanistan and Persia. Sher Shah Suri built the sixth city of Delhi, as well as the old fort known as Purana Qila and the Grand Trunk Road. After Sher Shah Suriís early death, Humayun recovered the throne with Persian help. The third and greatest Mughal emperor, Akbar, moved the capital to Agra resulting in a decline in the fortunes of Delhi. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658) built the city that sometimes bears his name (Shahjahanabad), the seventh city of Delhi that is more commonly known as the old city or old Delhi. This city contains a number of significant architectural features, including the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and the Jama Masjid. The old city served as the capital of the later Mughal Empire from 1638 onwards, when Shah Jahan transferred the capital back from Agra. Aurangzeb (1658-1707) crowned himself as emperor in Delhi in 1658 at the Shalimar garden ('Aizzabad-Bagh) with a second coronation in 1659. In 1761, Delhi was raided by Ahmed Shah Abdali after the Third battle of Panipat.


The Raj Ghat is the site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
Shortly after the First War of Independence, Calcutta was declared the capital of British India but in 1911 the capital was again moved to Delhi. Parts of the old city were pulled down to create New Delhi, a monumental new quarter of the city designed by the British architect Edwin Lutyens to house the government buildings. A brief but fascinating account of the Indian contractors behind this construction can be found in Khushwant Singh's autobiography Truth, Love and a Little Malice. New Delhi was officially declared as the seat of the Government of India after independence in 1947.

During the Partition of India thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab migrated to Delhi. In 1984, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to a violent backlash against the Sikh community, resulting in the deaths of 5,000 people

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