Cities of Delhi
Delhi dates back to the era of Mahabharta and is proven to be the third oldest city
of India after Varanasi and Ujjain. From the historic city of Indrapatta (Indraprastha)
to the present day National Capital Territory of Delhi, the city underwent many
facelifts. Delhi was built in phases. Following is the timeline, that gave Delhi
its present look...
- Khandava Forest, later Indrapatta (or Indraprastha) by Pandavas
- Lal Kot by Tomars and Qila Rai Pithora by Prithvi Raj Chauhan
- Siri by Alauddin Khilji
- Tughlaqabad by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq
- Jahanpanah by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq
- Ferozabad by Firuz Shah Tughlaq
- Deenpanah by Humayun and Dilli Sher Shahi (or Shergarh) by Sher Shah Suri
- Shahjahanabad by Shah Jahan
- Lutyen's Delhi by the British and the New Delhi
The legend of Mahabharta tells that Pandavas got five villages from their brothers,
the Kauravas. These five villages were in the forest of Khandva (or Khandavprastha).
The Pandavas built their empire, as beautiful as the city of Lord Indra, and hence
it got its name "Indraprastha". This ancient city was situated at the banks of river
Though the city is nowhere to be found in present time, the archaeological excavations
have proved that it was around the area, where later Humayun built Dinpanah and
Sher Shah built Shergarh. In present time, this area lies around Old Fort, Pragati
Maidan, Indraprastha park and nearby colonies.
It is said that Raja Dhillu
, from the lineage of Karna (another brother of
Pandavas, who joined Kaurvas and was killed in Mahabharta Battle) later formed Dhilli
around Indraprastha and promoted several small villages to form a big city. His
descendants still exist with surnames Dhillon, Dhull, Dhill, Dhilwal and Dhaliwal
etc. and are popular castes in Jatt clan of Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
They are also called Raja Jatts, because of numerous ancestor kings and warriors.
Quick Specs - Indraprastha
Year of Establishment: circa 1450 B.C.
Built By: Pandavas
Present Location: Around Old Fort of Delhi
Remains: None. Only excavations from the neighbourhood proved the fact of
Raja Anangpal Tomar re-founded "Dhilli" in 736 A.D. Later, to fortify their establishment,
the Lal Kot (meaning: Red Fort) was built. Excavations show that this fort might
be built around 1060 A.D.
In 1180 A.D. Maharaja Prithvi Raj Chauhan captured this fort and extended its boundries.
He created a bigger and more powerful fortification called Quila Rai Pithora. Originally,
this Qila (Fort) was having 13 gates, but now only 3 are remaining. The remains
of Lal Kot can be seen behind
Adam Khan's Tomb
. The wall of Rai Pithora is present around Mehrauli and
can be seen in Rai Pithora Cultural Complex at Lado Sarai. The Lado Sarai Golf Course
is also situated within the remaining walls of Rai Pithora Fort. The Rai Pithora
Cultural Complex is a well maintained park, administered by Delhi administration
and is a common place for morning walks.
Although Hindu mythology suggests and the Archaeological excavations confirm Indraprastha
to be the first establishment in this area, the fortifications of Lal Kot and Quila
Rai Pithora are popularly known as the 1st
city of Delhi. Both these
establishments are counted as one city because Rai Pithora was actually an extension
of Lal Kot and not a separate city.
Quick Specs - Lal Kot and Qila Rai Pithora
Year of Establishment: circa 736-1060 A.D.
Built By: Tomars and Rajputs
Present Location: From Lado Sarai to Mehrauli
Remains: Remains of Walls in Mehrauli and Lado Sarai
In the begining of 14th Century, Alauddin Khilji built his new capital with a strong
fortification around it. The city was called Dar-ul-Khilafat
, or 'the seat
of Califate'. It had seven gates, none of which is present today. This fort was
later named as Siri (or Siri Fort), and helped Khiljis stronghold thier empire.
This fort faced many unsuccesful attacks from Mongols, and established Alauddin
Khilji as the first 'real' emperor of India, as from here, he spread his empire
across the length and breadth of the subcontinent.
As per the legend, Siri got its names because heads of 8000 Mongol soldiers were
burried in the foundation of its walls. According to another legend, the heads were
actually hung from the wall. A huge water tank, called Hauz Khas, was built to provide
water to this oval city. Later rulers, espacially Sher Shah Suri demolished a major
portion of Siri to build their own cities. Alauddin also made additions to the then
'Old Delhi', Mehrauli, and started Alai-Minar opposite to Qutub Minar. Several other
constructions were done outside the walls of Siri to establish the mightyness of
the great emperor. This was the first complete Muslim city of Indian Subcontinent.
Quick Specs - Siri
Year of Establishment: circa 1297-1307 A.D.
Built By: Alauddin Khilji
Present Location: Around Shahpur Jat, SiriFort, Hauz Khas and Green Park
Remains: Remains of Walls, Hauz Khas complex and Tohfewala Gumbad
Ghazi Malik, a general in Khilji Empire once asked his Khilji master to build a
bigger fort on hills towards the south of his empire. The master jokingly told him
to build one himself, when he was a king. Later, Ghazi Malik took over the Khilji
throne at Siri and gave himself the title of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluk, thus starting
the Tughlaq Dynasty. He soon started Tughlaqabad on the hill, he proposed. He was
so obsessed with his dream, that he had put entire labor force of nearby areas for
the construction of this fort. Legend says that Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a renowned
sufi mystic of the era was not happy with this descision as the work of his baoli
stopped due to unavailability of labour. He then cursed the fort of Tughlaqabad
with "Ya rahey hissar, ya bassey gujjar" (may it remain unoccupied/infertile, or
else the herdsmen may live here). While the fort was about to complete, Ghiyas-ud-din
had to leave for a Bengal. Hazrat Nizamuddin's another curse was "Hunuz Dilli Door
Ast" (hindi: Abhi dilli door hai
, english: Dilli is still far away
Emperor was crushed to death on his way back to Dilli.
Quick Specs - Tughlaqabad
Year of Establishment: circa 1321 A.D.
Built By: Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq
Present Location: Tughlaqabad
Remains: Remains of the main Fort, Tombs and small neighbouring fortifications
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, the son of Giyas-ud-Din Tughlaq (Founder of Tughlaqabad),
moved ahead to populate the vacant land between Old Delhi (Mehrauli), Siri and Tughlaqabad.
His intention was to fortify all cities of Delhi and save from Mongolian invasions.
He named this fort Jahanpanah, meaning the shelter for entire world The new city
was created within 2 years, but the emperor took a decision, which later proved
to be a disater. He shifted his entire capital to Daulatabad (Maharashtra). The
big mistake he did was to shift everything, including the citizens and cattle. During
this shift, many people died of thirst and due to lack of aminities, the capital
had to be shifted back to the city of Jahanpanah. This resulted in more life loss.
Some prominent structure built inside walls of Jahanpanah were the majestic Begumpur
Mosque, Bijai Mandal and adjoining the fortification was the Adilabad Fort, a minor
version of Tughlaqabad. The 13 gated wall of Jahanpanah is nowhere to be traced
today. Only few tombs and mosques stand witness to the era. Famous traveller Ibn-Batuta
visited this place during the regeim and said, Delhi appeared to be a desert. But
when the capital came back to Delhi from Daulatabad, he met the emperor and described
Jahanpanah and its buildings and architectural marvel.
Quick Specs - Jahanpanah
Year of Establishment: 1326-1327 A.D.
Built By: Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq
Present Location: Entire stretch from IIT-Delhi to Tughlaqabad
Remains: Adilabad Fort, Begumpur Mosque, Bijai Mandal, Lal Gumbad, Satpula,
Khirki Mosque and few other tombs
Firuz Shah Tughlaq joined the race of his cousin Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq and uncle
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq and built another city, towards the east of the existing Delhi.
He called it Ferozabad. He established this fortified city on the banks of river
Yamuna in 1354 and bought a 3rd century Sandstone pillar, attributed to the Legendary
Mauryan ruler, Samrat Ashoka. This pillar is also called Ashok ki Laat
the Ashoka Pillar
Not much of this city remains today and the palace walls are nowhere to be found.
However, the Ashokan Pillar still stands on a three story arcaded pavillion located
near to the main royal residences and congregational mosque at heart of the once
fortified area. Few traces of wall are also available within the area.
The are today hosts the famous Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. This stadium holds many
world records and is very famous for cricket games.
Quick Specs - Ferozabad
Year of Establishment: 1354 A.D.
Built By: Firuz Shah Tughlaq
Present Location: Feroz Shah Kotla
Remains: Few ruins of the old fort and Ashokan Pillar
Humayun sat on the throne of India after his father Babur's demise in 1530. Four
years later, he established the city, which he called the refuge of the world
or the Deen Panah
. In 1540, while he was marching to Gujrat, a mughal general
of Afghan origin, Sher Shah Suri took over the throne of Agra and established himself
as the emperor of India. He had to defeat a major part mughal army to prove himself.
Soon, he marched to Delhi and turned the city of Dinpanah into Dilli-Sher-Shahi.
He created the famous Old Fort
of Delhi and the Sher Mandal
it. He is known for some very architectural contributions and is also known for
the most famous road of India, the Grand Trunk Road, a.k.a. Shaher Rah-e-Azam, a.k.a.
Sher Shah Suri Marg, a.k.a. National Highway 1, which stretches from Sonargaon in
Bangladesh to Peshawar in Pakistan and connecting important cities like Calcutta,
Agra, Delhi and Lahore. The city of Dinpanah also contains Qila-e-Kuhna mosque and
the Sher Mandal. Humayun took the throne back after the death of Sher Shah Suri
and Islam Shah in 1555 but before completing his 1 year, he died after falling from
the Sher Mandal at Old Fort in Dinpanah. The famous Humayun's Tomb was built by
his son Akbar in the same city, that his father established. This tomb is said to
be the basis of architecture for the famous Taj Mahal
Quick Specs - Dinpanah
Year of Establishment: 1534 A.D.
Built By: Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Humayun and Sher Shah Suri
Present Location: Old Fort and Humayun's Tomb
Remains: Ruins of the old fort, Qila-e-Kohna Mosque, Sher Mandal, Lal Darwaza and Kos Minar in Zoo
Poplarly known as 'Purani Dilli', it is the original Delhi to most of the people.
In 1639, Mughal Emperor Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram Shah Jahan built a magnificent
walled city with 13 gates and 16 windows next to the banks of Yamuna and moved the
Mughal capital of India from Agra to Delhi. The 13 gates were The gates were known
as Dilli Darwaza, Kabuli Darwaza, Raj Ghat Darwaza, Khizri
Darwaza, Nigambodh Darwaza, Kela ke Ghat ka Darwaza, Lal Darwaza, Kashmiri Darwaza,
Badar Darwaza, Patthar Khati Darwaza, Lahori Darwaza, Ajmeri Darwaza and Turkuman Darwaza. The windows were known
as Zeenatul Masajid Khirkee, Nawab Ahmad Bakhsh ki Khirkee, Nawab Ghaziuddin ki
Khirkee, Musamman Burj ki Khirkee, Muslim Garh ki Khirkee, Naseer Ganj ki Khirkee,
Nai Khirkee, Shah Ganj Khirkee, Ajmeri Darwaza ki Khirkee, Sayyad Bhole ki Khirkee,
Buland Bagh ki Khirkee, Farash Khana ki Khirkee, Ameer Khan ki Khirkee, Khalil Khan
ki Khirkee, Bahadur Ali Khan ki Khirkee and Nigambodh ki Khirkee. The walled city
was filled with mansions of nobles and members from the mughal court. Most of these
mansions (Havelis) are present even till date. Few famous havelis are, Mirza Ghalib's
Haveli, Begum Samru's Palace (Bhagirath Palace), Chunnamal Haveli, Zinat Mahal's
Haveli, Haksar Haveli (Where Pt. Nehru was married) and Naharwali Haveli (Where
President Pervez Musharraf was born). During British rule, this part was known as the Modern Delhi
Quick Specs - Shahjahanabad
Year of Establishment: 1639 A.D.
Built By: Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram Shah Jahan I
Present Location: Old Delhi
Remains:Few traces of walls and few gates, Red Fort, several mosques and mansions.
After Britishers took over India officially, Sir Edwin Lutyens were assigned the
task to architect the new colony of the empire. He laid out the central administrative
area of the city. Herbert Baker was assigned the task to design the Viceroy's House
on Raisina Hill (now Rashtrapati Bhawan) and the India Gate. He also designed the
Parliament House and bunglows of several Members of Parliament. The area was later
named after the main architect as Lutyen's Delhi
. Today, the entire spread
is called New Delhi
and the area of Shahjahanabad, then called the Modern
, is now the Old Delhi
. It's foundation was laid on 15th
December, 1911 and it was inaugrated on February 13th
, 1931. During the
Coronation Durbar in 1911, the formal announcement was made to move the seat of
empire from Calcutta to Delhi. It took 20 years for these designers to complete
the buildings, but since then, this has been the Seat of then British Empire and
now the Republic of India.
Quick Specs - New Delhi
Year of Establishment: 1931 A.D.
Built By: British Empire
Present Location: Area between Delhi Ridge, Old Delhi, Old Fort and Ring Road
Remains:All major British buildings including the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sansad Bhawan, India Gate, North and South Block and VIP bunglows.