Let’s face it — India can be overwhelming and chaotic as much as it can be beautiful and awe-inspiring. India is a test of your travel adrenalin and at the same time, one of the most beautiful destinations to visit in Asia. New Delhi is one of its massive cities that you can’t miss and is full of significant history. There is so much to see and do, that it can be daunting to choose if you have a short period of time. Here are five top places to hit when you’re in New Delhi, all of which will be a marvel for the architecture, historical buffs, photography lovers and culture enthusiast readers.
Chandni Chowk & Other Market Gems
To really get the feel of what old India would have been like, then put some time aside to visit the historic Chandi Chowk market located in the heart of old Delhi. The Chandi Chowk is till today one of the busiest open air markets in New Delhi and is close to a lot of beautiful temples and monuments, making it a great place to start your journey through New Delhi. If you’re feeling really adventurous then you should try some of the well-known local delicacies for sale. Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi and is located close to Old Delhi Railway Station. The Chhatta Chowk Bazaar, which dates back to the 17th century, was meant for ladies in veil. In this covered thoroughfare leading up to the Red Fort, the caravan traders would lay out their wares and move away. The ladies could then come and make their choice without being observed. Today, the market has 40-odd shops selling artificial and semi-precious jewellery, embroidered bags, hand-painted wall hangings and ‘antiques’ with dubious authenticity.
This densely populated market has been around for more than three centuries and was once visited by merchants from Turkey, China and even Holland. Dariba Kalan is known for its pearl, gold and silver jewellery and attar (natural perfumes). Gulab Singh Johri Mal, established in 1819, are well-known manufacturers and exporters of attar. A visit to Khari Baoli is a must for the spice-lover — don’t forget spices are what connected India to the West. Kinari Bazaar is the best place to look for zari and zardozi trimmings and tinsel. The cloth bazaar of Katra Neel offers all kinds of fabrics such as silks, satin, crepe, cotton and muslin. Bhagirath Palace is Asia’s largest market for electrical goods and also offers medical equipment and allopathic medicines. Moti Bazaar is famous for shawls and pearls and Tilak Bazaar for chemicals. Nai Sarak: A popular book-shopping destination in Old Delhi is Nai Sarak. Connecting the main Chandni Chowk Road with Chawri Bazaar, Nai Sarak has numerous wholesale and retail shops selling college and school textbooks. Just a left turn from the famous Paranthewali Gali will take you to Nai Sarak. Chor Bazaar: Located near the Red Fort and Lajpat Rai Market, Chor Bazaar literally means “Thieves’ Market”. From electronic items to designer clothes, you can find everything here.
Another word to note: the Red Fort monument which is also on this list, is located within the Chandni Chowk.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.org.
Arguably one of the most famous places to visit in the area, the Red Fort is a testament to the medieval Indian engineers’ design capabilities. The name comes from the red sandstone that the enclosing walls are constructed from, and has been and is still is today the site of important events in the Indian history. If you have some time while visiting, make sure to check the one hour sound and light show that recounts some of the fort’s colorful history. The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperor for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the center of Delhi and houses a number of museums as well.
It is definitely worth a meander and spending time to reflect and feel the history and all that it represents and has represented for Indian culture.
Photo credit: www.aliengrove.com
What I love most about the Red Fort is the way the light hits it during different times of day!!
Photo credit: Wikipedia.org.
The Lotus Temple
The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship that was completed in 1986. Notable for its flowerlike shape, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has become a prominent attraction in the city. East of Nehru place, this temple is built in the shape of a lotus flower and is the last of seven Major Bahai’s temples built around the world. This beautiful piece of architecture is set among the lush green landscaped gardens and the structure is made up of pure white marble.
The Lotus Temple derives its name from its design. Like every other Bahāʾīmashriq, it is characterized by a nine-sided construction, in keeping with the Bahāʾī belief in the mystical properties of the number nine. Set on an elevated plinth in a 26-acre expanse of landscaped gardens and surrounded by nine pools bordered by red sandstone walkways, the white marble edifice rises to a height of more than 130 feet. The temple complex comprises 27 independent marble “petals,” which are clustered into groups of three to form nine sides (through which open nine entrances into a central space) and into groups of nine to form three concentric rings. Petals in the first ring face outward, forming canopies over the nine entrances. The second ring covers the outer hall. In the innermost ring, the petals curve inward to partially enclose the central prayer hall, which accommodates about 2,500 people. The top of the structure appears open but actually contains a glass-and-steel roof that admits natural daylight. The overall effect is that of a floating lotus flower—a Bahāʾī symbol of purity, beauty, and divinity—on the verge of blooming and surrounded by its leaves.
The architect Furiburz Sabha chose the lotus as the symbol common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Adherents of any faith are free to visit the temple and pray or meditate. Around the blooming petals, the nine pools of water light up in natural light. It looks spectacular at dusk when it is flood lit and of course at night when it almost seems as if it is glowing in the dark.
Photo credit: wikipedia.org.
A lot of people say that the Humayan’s Tomb looks very familiar when they see it and that is because the Humayun’s Tomb was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Beyond that, the tomb was built in 1570 and marked the first successful execution of this type of architecture that using red sandstone as its primary component. Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and was commissioned by Humayun’s son Akbar in 1569-70, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by Bega Begum. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum itself stands on a high, wide terraced platform with two bay deep vaulted cells on all four sides. It has an irregular octagon plan with four long sides and chamfered edges. It is surmounted by a 42.5 meters high double dome clad with marble flanked by pillared kiosks (chhatris) and the domes of the central chhatris are adorned with glazed ceramic tiles. The middle of each side is deeply recessed by large arched vaults with a series of smaller ones set into the facade.
Located in the eastern part of Dehli, Humayun’s tomb is one of the best preserved Mughal monuments. This spellbinding mausoleum is the first example of Mughal architecture in India. This building is the unique connecting link between the Gur Emir, where Humayun’s ancestor Tamerlane is buried, and the mausoleum of his grandson Shah Jahan, i.e. Taj Mahal.
Humayun’s Tomb was built thanks to the initiative of his widow Hamida Banu Begum, who commenced the construction of a mausoleum for her deceased husband in 1565, nine years after his death. The construction was finished in 1572. The architecture of the tomb is strongly influenced by Persian architecture; the architect himself Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, was of Persian origin. Ghiyas constructed the tomb in the center of a Persian-style chaharbagh garden (translated from Farsi – four gardens) with quadrilateral form. The garden, divided in four main parts by walkways or flowing water is created to resemble the paradise garden described in the Quran. This structure is oh so stunning, is on the U NESCO World Heritage List, and is a wonderful place to spend a day.
Photo credit: www.travelkhana.com
This 73 meter high tower is the second tallest minar in India. It’s truly an awe-inspiring sight to see. Qutab Minar was built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India. An inscription over its eastern gate provocatively informs that it was built with material obtained from demolishing ’27 Hindu temples and a 7 meter high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque. It is said that if you can encircle it with your hands while standing with your back to it your wish will be fulfilled.
The origins of Qutab Minar are shrouded in controversy. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. Others say it served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer. No one can, however, dispute that the tower is not only one of the finest monuments in India, but also in the world. Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey.The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughlak is quite evident in the minar. The relief work and even the materials used for construction differ. The 238 feet Qutab Minar is 47 feet at the base and tapers to nine feet at the apex. The tower is ornamented by bands of inscriptions and by four projecting balconies supported by elaborately decorated brackets. Even though in ruins, the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque in the Qutab complex is one of the most magnificent structures in the world. The main mosque comprises of an inner and outer courtyard,decorated with shafts and surrounded by piller. Most of these shafts are from the 27 Hindu temples, which were plundered to construct the mosque. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Muslim mosque has typical Hindu ornamentation. There is so much WOW here!
Photo credit: www.thousandwonders.net
Below, just look at the intricacy of the Arabic characters close up — this is every historians, language guru and lover and architecture’s dream stop.
Photo credit: Caught my Sight.com.