Delhi, the former capital of India (today: New Delhi) is the second largest city in India after Mumbai (Bombay). However, Delhi and New Delhi are a coherent urban unit.
Delhi probably has the most sights thanks to its millennial history. Discover the mega-city on the west bank of the Yamuna River, on the edge of the Ganges plain. Especially impressive are the magnificent buildings from the Mughal period, the numerous galleries, museums, theaters and universities.
Typical oriental quarters with narrow streets, bazaars, temples and mosques characterize Old Delhi. New Delhi (New Delhi) was symmetrically designed as a garden city by British architects. Wide boulevards, gardens, colonial-style summer villas and shady avenues characterize New Delhi.
Tip 1: Red Fort
The Red Fort is located on the eastern edge of the old city of New Delhi. The Great Mogul Shah Jahan had the Red Fort built as an imperial residence from 1638. According to history books, the foundation stone was laid on May 23, 1638. 10 years later, the building was completed. The building looks rather massive from the outside, as if it were an impregnable fortress. From the inside, however, it is a well thought-out fort with pavilions, houses, chambers, bazaar streets and audience hall. Shah Jahan’s successor, Aurangzeb (1658-1707), added a mosque to the Red Fort. He also strengthened the two entrance gates.
In 1737, the Persians conquered the residence and plundered it. During these raids, the legendary Peacock Throne was also stolen. Allegedly, the throne was adorned with 26,733 precious stones. After several renewed conquests and looting, the British took over the fort in 1858, after the deposition of Grand Mogul, Bahadur Shah II. This takeover with the conversion to barracks, led to the final act of destruction of all the furniture of the residence.
Today, only the buildings in the fort can be visited. Meanwhile, the fort is one of the most visited sights in India. In 2007 it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Tip 2: Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun was the second Mughal emperor (1508-1556). His tomb – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – became a landmark for the architectural concept of tomb complexes in the Mughal era, as it was the first time that a mausoleum and gardens were combined into a single complex. It also served as a model for the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra. Humayun’s widow had it built by Persian master builders in 9 years after the death of her husband. She constantly supervised the work on the tomb and even set up camp on site.
The very well preserved mausoleum made of red sandstone and its brilliant white onion dome is the oldest Mughal tomb in Delhi and is one of the most magnificent historical buildings in the city.
The facades have been elaborately decorated with marble inlays and four large arched portals lead into the plain interior, under which lies the actual burial chamber.
The beautiful garden with its numerous small watercourses and fountains is home to vast numbers of playful chipmunks. The large area was later also used for the burial of other Moguls.
Tip 3: Jama Masjid
The Jama Masjid is located in Old Delhi, in Shahjanabad. It was built by Shah Jehan on one of the hills of his new capital Shahjanabad, the Bho Jahla. The actual name of the mosque, Masjid-i-Jahan Numa therefore means mosque overlooking the world. From here, one can overlook the entire old city. Some important Muslim relics, such as a hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad, are kept here.
The layout of the Friday Mosque is modeled after the Moti Mosque in Agra. However, the Jama Masijid is larger than its model. Supposedly, the Jama Masjid is even the third largest mosque in the world. The stairs to the west-facing prayer hall are crowded with merchants and market traders. The east entrance used to be reserved exclusively for the Great Mogul.
The mosque is made of red sandstone and black and white marble. More than 20,000 people can be seated for prayer in the courtyard, which is almost 100 square meters in size. In the center of the courtyard is a water basin for ritual purification. Besides the 40 m high towers of the two minarets, one can already see from afar the black and white striped marble domes rising on the roof of the mosque. Chwari Bazaar or Chandni Chowk, one of the most colorful markets in the city.
Tip 4: Akshardham Temple
Akshardham is a huge Hindu temple complex from modern times in the Indian capital Delhi. Besides the uniquely ornate central temple building, this large temple complex also offers an IMAX cinema (!?), a boat tour, botanical gardens and a vegetarian restaurant. After sunset, light & sound show are offered. The complex is located away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi and is very spacious and well maintained. This impressive resort was built in only 5 years (2000-2005). Meanwhile, this complex is considered the world’s largest comprehensive Hindu temple. Over 10000 workers have handcrafted everything from red sandstone and Carrara marble this incredible work. The temple offers its visitors since 2005 to admire detailed figures from Indian mythology.
The accuracy of every detail is perfect. The splendor in the center of the building with the gilded figure gives a noble feeling. The deities are also fantastically honored. One notices that with great attention to detail, the individual parts of this large Hindu temple complex have been designed and decorated.
The fantastic gardens & beautiful gates of this temple are probably unique in the world. Countless statues line the facade from inside & outside. Beautiful, finely crafted elephant statues are attached to the base. The interior is made of the white marble and quite elaborately decorated. The view of the ceiling is very impressive. In the center of this large complex stands almost a 3 meter high gilded statue of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (The Guru & Guide), to whom this complex is dedicated.
Tip 5: Qutab Minar
The Qutab Minar complex is located about 15 km away from Delhi. All the buildings date from the early period of Muslim rule over India and are very good examples of Afghan architecture. The Qutab Minar itself is a lofty victory column whose construction began immediately after the subjugation of the last Hindu kingdom of Delhi in 1193. This tower rises a proud 73 meters. It tapers from 15 m in diameter at the bottom to only 2.5 m at the top.
The tower consists of five characteristic floors, each clearly identifiable by a projecting balcony. The first three floors are built of red sandstone, the fourth and fifth floors of marble and sandstone. Qutb-ud-din started the construction, but only saw the completion of the second floor. His successors completed the project. In 1368, Feroz Shah Tughlaq renovated the top floors and added the domed roof. An earthquake caused the dome to fall down in 1803. However, it was replaced in 1829. Other changes were made at the same time.
In the meantime, this tower, so exquisitely designed, stands a bit crooked, but has survived all these centuries amazingly well. Currently, the Qutab Minar may be closed because there was once a panic and deaths when a school class visited. So better inquire before making a side trip here. The view is rewarding from this height.