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Historical Places in Delhi


The capital city of India, Delhi is dotted with historical places in india. Amongst the most often visited historical places in Delhi are the Forts, Indraprashtha, Ferozshah kotla and other lesser-known monuments of Delhi.

Historical Places in Delhi: Forts in Delhi

Historical Places in Delhi: Forts in Delhi In fact, the best way to know about the glorious heritage of Delhi is to know its monuments, to travel through time back into centuries of history filled with the rise and fall of dynasties that ruled the land. These monuments stretch from Wazirabad in the north to the Qutab and beyond in the south of Delhi. Between these two points, lies scattered the history of this ancient city.


Historical Places in Delhi: Indraprashtha

According to the Mahabharata, Indraprashtha was the most flourishing city, capital of the Pandavas, with gigantic forts and magnificent palaces. Excavations at the Purana Qila, identified as the site of Indraprashtha, have yielded proofs of the site having remained under continuous occupation up to 1000 bc. The Mauryas, Sungas, Kushans, Guptas, Rajputs, and Mughals held it under their sway. However, of its fabled epic glory no evidence has yet been unearthed. With the decline of Buddhism, Delhi fell into oblivion and for centuries remained an inconsequential adjunct of great contemporary cities like Mathura and Kannauj.

Historical Places in Delhi: Indraprashtha We hear of Delhi again, after a gap of countless centuries, when the Tomar Rajputs came to power, first settled at Indraprashtha before moving to the rocky terrain beyond Tughlaqabad. It is also said that a king called Delu founded Delhi but history is silent about him. Tomar history is verifiable. The water tank called Surajkund, ruins of fortifications, and a bund can still be visited at the stone-strewn site, mysterious as the Stonehenge. The dates are uncertain, but the architectural evidence is incontrovertible. When the Tomars shifted to Mehrauli in the eleventh century and Anang Pal II built a formidable fort to ward off the growing fear of invasions, Delhi got Lal Kot, the first fort strengthened with magnificent ramparts and numerous gates.

The Chauhan Rajputs defeated the Tomar and occupied Lal Kot. It was Prithvi Raj III who enlarged the Lal Kot area by extending it on the eastern, western and the southern sides and named it after himself-Qila Rai Pithora, the second fort of Delhi. With rampart walls, 10 feet in width at places, this fort had numerous gates, some of which can still be identified as giant gaps in the long stretching walls. Hauz Rani and Budayuni Gates were two most prominent gates. At Budayuni Gate, the guilty were tortured and beheaded in full public view. The gate was under constant watch for fear of Mongol invasions. Ranjit Gate on the northern ramparts was the grandest but weakest gate. The Turks had entered Lal Kot through this gate and had it immediately re-strengthened to prevent a recurrence of invasion. Qila Rai Pithora continued to be used as the stronghold of the Turkish Slave dynasty Sultans who had replaced the Rajput rulers in 1193. Ruins of Rajput and Mamluk palaces can be seen behind Balban's tomb near the Qutab Minar.

In 1303, the Mongols under Taraghai plundered Delhi and almost captured it when, quite inexplicably, they rushed back. Back from his Deccan campaigns, Alauddin Khilji decided to build a defense fortress at Siri with strong battlement ramparts and impregnable bastions. It was Delhi's third fort. It was never attacked by enemies but destroyed by succeeding rulers who plundered it for the free building material for their forts. Timur, who sacked Delhi in 1398, found Siri a magnificent fortress. Only some portions of the Siri walls can be seen today, all else has been destroyed and stones removed.

When Ghazi Malik founded the Tughlaq Dynasty in 1321, he built the strongest fort in Delhi at Tughlaqabad, completed with great speed within four years of his rule. It is said that Ghazi Malik, when only a slave to Mubarak Khilji, had suggested this rocky prominence as an ideal site for a fort. The Khilji Sultan laughed and suggested that the slave build a fort there when he became a Sultan. Ghazi Malik as Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq did just that-Tughlaqabad is Delhi's most colossal and awesome fort, even in its ruined state. Within its sky-touching walls, double-storied bastions, and gigantic towers were housed grand palaces, splendid mosques, and audience halls.

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, who is accused of having murdered his sire, built Adilabad and Nai-ka-Kot-two small fortresses adjacent to Tughlaqabad fort, Adilabad, the fourth fort of Delhi, contained a grand palace of thousand pillars and splendid halls. Later he enclosed the city lying between Siri, Tughlaqabad, and the Qutab and called it Jahanpanah. Ruins of gigantic ramparts of his two fortresses and some portions of the Jahanpanah walls have survived the ravages of time. A small portion of his Jahanpanah watchtower Vijai Mandal still stands in ruins dominating the landscape. But Muhammad Tughlaq himself brought about the ruins of his city by transferring the capital to Devagiri in the Deccan, compelling the entire population including the sick, old and children to move on foot. A few years later, he ordered them back to Delhi. However, the splendor and the soul of the city had been killed.

Historical Places in Delhi: Ferozshah kotla

Ferozshah, Muhammad Tughlaq's successor, built his new city northward on the banks of Yamuna. Kotla was the inner citadel of Ferozabad, built like Windsor. It had great palaces and a magnificent mosque that inspired Timur's envy. Destroyed by the Mughals, Kotla palaces were reduced to mere ruins, exposing to view the subterranean passages and covered cloisters. One can still see the pyramidal structure topped by the Ashokan Pillar brought from Topra (near Ambala), ruins of the mosque, and a three-tiered baoli. Ferozabad stretched between Wazirabad and the Qutab with countless serais and schools and mosques in between. Timur's invasion of Delhi in 1398 reduced the city to a city of ruins. He took away with him elephants loaded with treasures and costly building material, artists, masons and skilled workers as prisoners. No wonder that the Saiyyads and Lodis who succeeded the Tughlaqs only inherited a depleted empire and empty treasures. No new forts or palaces were built, only tombs. The Saiyyads and Lodis used Kotla as their citadel. In fact, the Lodis had moved the capital to Agra, and Delhi once again fell into neglect.

The Mongols who had set their eyes on Delhi since the founding of the Turkish rule in 1193, and had, in fact, invaded it on 12 occasions between 1245 and 1329 finally descended on the city in 1526 led as an invincible force by Zahir-ud-din Babur who vanquished the Lodis to establish the Mughal Empire. Babur chose Agra as his capital but his successor decided in favor of Delhi. His city Dinpanah was built on the site of Indraprashtha where then existed a village of that name to revive its claim to antiquity. Dinpanah was the sixth fort of Delhi. Within five years, massive gateways and lofty ramparts were completed but unfortunately, Humayun lost his kingdom to the Afghan chieftain Shershah, who destroyed much of Humayun's buildings in the fort. He called his city Shergarh. Two gateways of his city, Lal Darwaza and Khooni Darwaza, can still be seen in their original grandeur. Within the fort, Shershah built a grand mosque and an octagonal tower called Sher Mandal. When Humayun regained his kingdom with Persian help, he hardly built any new structures. Humayun fell down from the roof of Sher Mandal. As the muezzin called for the prayer, Humayun kneeled down to pray when his foot got entangled in the dress and he tumbled down the steps, fatally injured to die within three days. This was the end of a lovable Mughal emperor. Akbar went back to Agra. Jahangir and Shahjahan also made architectural contributions to Agra fort.

In 1639, Shahjahan decided to shift his capital to Delhi. Within eight years, Shahjahanabad was completed with the Red Fort-Qila-i-Mubarak (fortunate citadel)-Delhi's seventh fort, ready in all its magnificence to receive Shahjahan. Though much has changed now because of large-scale demolitions during the British occupation of the fort, its important structures have survived, the glory faded with age but still impressive. Passing under the grand Gothic arch and the octagonal open space of the market place-the Chatta Chowk, and the Naubat Khana-a double-storied structure where court musicians played five times a day, we see Diwan-i-Aam. Here is the fabulously crafted baldachino-the marble canopy decorated with the most exquisite pietra dura work. Diwan-i-Aam witnessed scenes of unexcelled splendor when it used to be decorated with golden curtains, gorgeous carpets, and gold and silver railings below dazzling chandeliers. Ministers, Rajas, and ambassadors stood in mute awe of the Emperor in court.

Behind the Diwan-i-Aam are the Zenana quarters with such grand palaces as the Rang Mahal and Mumtaz Mahal. The marble lotus, a fountain in the center of Rang Mahal, carved out of a single slab, is a piece of sheer beauty. In its sculptured grandeur, the lotus is matched only by the trellis wall under the scales of justice in the Khwab Gah. The pavilion in white marble-Diwan-i-Khas-has lost much of its splendor. Here, under the original silver ceiling, stood the world famous Peacock Throne studded with the costliest gems of the Mughal Empire, costing nearly 12,637,500 sterlings as per a contemporary account. On the ceiling slab is inscribed the line, 'if there is a paradise on the face of the earth, it is here, it is here, it is here'. Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali, Ghulam Qadir, the Marathas, and finally the British looted and plundered the Mughal treasures and destroyed many structures of immense beauty. Still the Shah Burjan octagonal tower at the corner, and the two marble pavilions, Sawan and Bhadon, named after the Indian months of rain, have withstood forces of destruction. The gardens-Mahtab Bagh and Hayat Baksh-have vanished. A later-day pavilion in red sandstone stands at the center of a dried up pool. It was built by Bahadur Shah II. Moti Masjid, the mosque built by Aurangzeb, is a gem of architecture despite the sickly marble of the new domes-original copper casing having been removed long back.

The Fort still retains some of its lost glory. It is the only fort with some well-preserved royal structures to give an idea of the glory of the Mughal Empire. The Red Fort was the last fort built in Delhi and it witnessed the vicissitudes of fortune, the splendor and the fall of the Mughals, British rule, and finally the dawn of Indian Independence.

Historical Places in Delhi: Lesser Known Monuments of Delhi

Located between Uday Park and South Extension in South Delhi, Masjid Moth was built by Wazir Miyan Bhoiya, the minister of Sikandar Lodi, in the 16th century.

The Khirki Masjid is located in Khirki village in South Delhi and was built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, the prime minister of Ferozshah, in the early 15th century. This building is a link between Lodi style of architecture and the ornate Mughal architecture that was to follow.

Located near Hauz Khas village, the Hauz Khas Pond was probably built by Alauddin Khilji in ad 1295. Delhi Tourism holds various entertainment programs here and Alauddin's tank now serves as an excellent backdrop to cultural events.