Story By Michelle KARAMAN-JONES
Photos By Sebastian SERGI
There is so much to see in Delhi, the capital city of India. Presently referred to as New Delhi, it was declared the capital city of India by the British in 1911. A city with over 19 million residents and history dating back to 16th century. With many cultures stepping foot into the city over several centuries, such as the Ottomans, Byzantines and British the rich cultural history of the city is on show as you traverse through the city.
We landed in the Indria Ghandi airport and made our way to our beautiful hotel “Radisson Blue” located in the new business district Dwarka City Centre, where we called it home for two nights to discover the New Delhi and the Old Delhi before we commenced our ‘Golden Triangle” tour of India.
PLACES TO SEE:
The Red Fort – Delhi
The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperor for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal government and the setting for events critically impacting the region.
Constructed in 1648 by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort is named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone and is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). With the Salimgarh Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.
Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned construction of the Red Fort in 1638, when he decided to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Originally red and white, the Shah’s favourite colours, its design is credited to architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, who also constructed the Taj Mahal. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats surrounding most of the walls. Construction began in the sacred month of Muharram, on 13 May 1638. Supervised by Shah Jahan, it was completed in 1648. Unlike other Mughal forts, the Red Fort’s boundary walls are asymmetrical to contain the older Salimgarh Fort. The fortress-palace was a focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad, which is present-day Old Delhi. Its planning and aesthetics represent the zenith of Mughal creativity prevailing during Shah Jahan’s reign. His successor Aurangzeb added the Pearl Mosque to the emperor’s private quarters, constructing barbicans in front of the two main gates to make the entrance to the palace more circuitous.
Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
India’s largest mosque dominates a small hill in the heart of the oldest part of India’s capital. When it was completed in 1658, Jama Masjid was known as the “mosque commanding a view of the world”. More than 5000 artisans were employed to put together this vast edifice of marble and red sandstone.
Qutab Minar, Delhi
If look out towards the east of your aircraft as it makes the final approach into Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport you’ll catch a glimpse of this astonishing 73m-tall tower Qutab Minar. It was begun in 1193 C.E. to celebrate the defeat of the Hindus by the invading Muslims. After their victory, the 27 Hindu temples at the base of tower were converted into mosques.
Qutab Minaris the tallest brick minaret in the world. Qutab Minar, along with the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, form the Qutab Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower is located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India. The Minaret of Jam a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan is thought to have been a direct inspiration for the Qutab Minar in Delhi, which was also built by the Ghorid Dynasty. Made of red sandstone and marble, Qutab Minar is a 73-metre (240 feet) tall tapering tower with a diameter measuring 14.32 meters at the base and 2.75 meters at the peak. Inside the tower, a circular staircase with 379 steps leads to the top. Qutab Minar station is the closest station on the Delhi Metro.
In 1200 AD, Qutab al-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate started construction of the Qutab Minar. In 1220, Aibak’s successor and son-in-law Iltutmish added three storeys to the tower. In 1369, lightning struck the top storey, destroying it completely. So, Firoz Shah Tughlaq carried out restoration work replacing the damaged storey with two new storeys every year, made of red sandstone and white marble.
Qutab Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments, which are historically connected with the tower and are part of the Qutab Complex. These include the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Ala-ud-din’s Madrasa and Tomb, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. Other minor monuments include Major Smith’s Cupola and Sanderson’s Sundial.
Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi
India’s most stunning architecture has come out of mourning the dead. Humayun’s Tomb is a combination of beautiful Persian-influenced burial place and a delightful garden filled with flowers and water features. Several Mughal emperors are buried at the site. A century later, Humayun’s grandson, Shah Jahan, used the mausoleum for inspiration to build the Taj Mahal.
The Lotus Temple, New Delhi
The Lotus Temple, located in New Delhi, India, is a Bahá’í House of Worship completed in 1986. Notable for its flower like shape, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has become a prominent attraction in the city. The Lotus Temple has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. Like all Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion or any other qualification. The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad petals arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides with nine doors opening onto a central hall with height of slightly over 40 metres and a capacity of 2500 people. It is the most visited building in the world.
Like all other Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasised in Bahá’í texts. The Bahá’í laws emphasise that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. The Bahá’í laws also stipulate that not only the holy scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith but also those of other religions can be read and/or chanted inside the House of Worship regardless of language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside. Furthermore, no sermons can be delivered, and there can be no ritualistic ceremonies practised.
All Bahá’í Houses of Worship, including the Lotus Temple, share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Bahá’í scripture. `Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stipulated that an essential architectural character of a House of Worship is a nine-sided circular shape. While all current Bahá’í Houses of Worship have a dome, this is not regarded as an essential part of their architecture. Bahá’í scripture also states that no pictures, statues or images be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars be incorporated as an architectural feature (readers may stand behind simple portable lecture stands).
Model of the temple inspired by the lotus flower, the design for the House of Worship in New Delhi is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall slightly more than 40 metres tall that is capable of holding up to 2,500 people. The surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from Penteli mountain in Greece, the very same from which many ancient monuments and other Bahá’í Houses of Worship are built. Along with its nine surrounding ponds and the gardens, the Lotus Temple property comprises 26 acres (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha).
Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Bahá’í House of Worship in Delhi has, as of late 2001, attracted more than 70 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world
For more information contact India Tourism located in Sydney or visit www.incredibleindia.org
Direct flight from Sydney to Delhi with Air India. For flight information and bookings visit www.airindia.com.au
Michelle Karaman-Jones was a guest of Tourism India