Delhi Tour

New Delhi, home to an exquisite array of ancient, crumbling Mughal monuments and leafy gardens, is now sprouting ultra-chic 21st-century galleries, boutiques and restaurants, and is hosting some of the region’s biggest sporting events. Many of India’s top artists, fashion designers and musicians are purposefully injecting a ‘cool’ factor into the city’s heart, while luxury hotels are setting new standards (and prices) here, too. Zip around in the convenient Metro and discover the new (and old) treasures of the National Capital Region, especially Gurgaon. This is truly the time for a new, New Delhi.
 
MONUMENTS
 
Qutb Minar
It took three generations to build the towering Qutb Minar. Work on the triumphal minaret began in 1193 when Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, decided to make a tower that would rival the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. His successor continued his work and in 1368, the five-tiered structure was finally completed during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq. The surface of Qutb Minar is adorned with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an. In the Qutb complex, you can also see the famous Iron Pillar, which was erected in the fourth century and has miraculously not rusted despite being open to the elements for more than a thousand years. The Iron Pillar is said to have originally been part of a Jain temple complex that was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
 
Humayun’s Tomb 
Humayun was the second Mughal emperor and reigned from 1530-1540, and again briefly in 1556. In his first ten years as emperor, he lost many of his Indian territories to the Pashtun noble Sher Shah Suri but regained them fifteen years later when he returned with a large Persian army. The emperor died as a result of tripping over his robes but you’d never guess how ignominious his death was from the grandeur of his tomb. It’s mostly thanks to Humayun that Persian culture was introduced to India. Humayun’s Tomb, in the heart of central Delhi, was designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyath and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set in the middle of the Persian-style Char Bagh (Four Gardens), the red sandstone structure is a wonderful example of early Mughal architecture in India. The Humayun’s Tomb complex is also home to a number of other minor tombs worth exploring.
 
Red Fort
In the 17th century, emperor Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to what we today call Lal Qilla or Red Fort. He called the new city that he built, in and around the fortification, Shahjahanabad. It would serve as the seat of power for the Mughals up until 1857 when the British unseated them and exiled the last emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The Red Fort is another of Delhi's famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, boasting sophisticated architecture and fine craftsmanship. It’s an imposing structure that stands on the bank of the Yamuna river in Old Delhi. Inside the fort you can see the Diwan-i-Aam that was used for public audiences, the Diwan-i-Khas with its extensive inlay work using semi-precious stones, which was used for private meetings and the Moti Masjid that was the private mosque of Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb. 
 
Jama Masjid
Built by emperor Shah Jahan, this is India’s largest mosque. Its official name is Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, which means ‘the mosque that reflects the world’. Built over six years in the 17th century, approximately 5,000 labourers were involved in its construction, costing the emperor Rs 10 lakh. Modelled on the Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra, this mosque was built using red sandstone and white marble. It has three domes and the main courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers. You can spot the pale domes and minarets of the Jama Masjid from afar and the closer you get, the more magnificent it looks.
 
Lotus Temple
Designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and built in 1986, the Lotus Temple is the main shrine of the Bahá’i sect and is one of the most visited buildings in the world. Surprisingly, according to a study conducted in 2003, more people come to see this Bahá’i house of worship than the Taj Mahal in Agra. The Lotus Temple is made of 27 marble ‘petals’ that cluster to create a nine-sided building. According to the Bahá’i faith, all are welcome in this temple, where no rituals or ceremonies are allowed. Standing in the enormous, serene central hall, is an unforgettable experience. Also, no matter what time of the day you visit, the Lotus Temple makes for some spectacular photos.
 
 


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