Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Legacy of Delhi Vol 1 - An Introduction

(Begining from now, the bi-monthly editions of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays are going to present a new and extremely informative insight into the treasures of the city of Delhi, it's seven former capital cities, in the series The Legacy of Delhi. Read and Enjoy.)

New Delhi (28°36′36″N 77°13′48″E) is the capital of India. It's total area is 1484 square kms or 573 sq miles and within this area seven capital cities (of the kingdoms of their time) and other numerous military garrisons (which also served as capitals of the kingdoms of their time) were established.
What made successive rulers choose the location (where Delhi stands today) millennium after millennium to choose the same spot to build their capitals ? What were those capitals like ? Did they serve their Purpose ? Do their ruins still remain and Can we still see them ? It is questions like these and more which will be answered in this special series called 'The Legacy of Delhi'. Read On..

The Genesis -
                               Since the Sun first dawned over the Indian Subcontinent ( which includes countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal e.t.c.) people started to move in to this part of Earth, which is separated from the rest of Asia by a continuous mountain system, to make this place their own. Initially there was area for everybody. So people worked, traded and dwelled in peace (for example The Indus Valley Civilization). They established relations with civilizations beyond the subcontinent (like the Mesopotamians).

The Indus Valley Civilization (the biggest urban centers of the Indus valley are underlined in Red while the location of the city of Delhi, which was uninhabited then, is highlighted in Green)

But as time kept flowing by, more and more people (e.g. Aryan tribes) migrated, from Central Asia, into the subcontinent to make this land their own and therefore the space or the land available began to lessen. As a result conflicts arose and when conflicts arose the need for establishing supremacy came up. When the societies and the manner of governance in the Indian Subcontinent became more organized kingdoms began to be formed and the rulers started to expand their dominions across the subcontinent.

Gradually, the concept of having large kingdoms arose when rulers began to emerge with large powerful armies and good administrative skills. For example,the Mauryan Empire under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, Bimbisara and Asoka the Great started to expand their empires successfully until it encompassed the entire subcontinent.

A replica of Ashoka's major rock Edict at Girnar, Gujarat, India
Through these edicts, which were placed across the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal), Emperor Ashoka proclaimed his beliefs in the Buddhist concept of dharma and his efforts to develop the dharma throughout his kingdom. Although Buddhism and the Buddha are mentioned, the edicts focus on majorly over social and moral precepts of Buddhism.

Now, with the advent of large empires the need for greater coordination amongst the armed forces in the event of an attack by an invading force was felt. Also in order to smoothen the process of tax collection the capital of the empire had to be located in a particular location from where the coordination of the armed forces and that of the administration could take place smoothly. So when large empires began to be setup in north India especially by invaders from Central Asia the search for the ideal capital led them to Delhi.

The naming of Delhi - 
                                                    There are various theories which suggest how the city got his name, all of them interesting to read, but the first reference about the name(of the location) Delhi seems to have been made when Raja Dhilu built a city nearby in the 1st century B.C.
                                                    Vibudh Shridhar
(an accomplished writer of his times) in his book Pasanah Chariu (The Conduct of Parshva) provides the first 'written' historical reference to the name 'Dhilli' (it is pronounced in the same manner as Delhi would be pronounced in Hindi). 
                                                    As per the lines written in his book - 'There are countless villages in Haryana (look at the map below) country. The villagers there work hard. They don't accept domination of others, and are experts in making the blood of their enemies flow. Indra himself praises this country. The capital of this country is 'Dhilli'

Physical Map of Delhi

Geographical Location - Once you observe the location of Delhi in the Indian Subcontinent on the map above it would reveal to you how advantageous the position of Delhi must have been to the former rulers keeping in mind the fact that Afghanistan(from where the majority of invasions took place) is neither too far nor too close to the capital. This locations was not in an aggressive location nor in a very defensive location which is why the city either ended up being ransacked by the invading army or the armies of the ruler of Delhi would take the battle against the enemy right into Afghanistan.

One other reason for rulers(Hindu) to choose Delhi as capital was because Delhi is said to be located in the very spot where the fabled city of Pandavas (of Mahabharata), Indraprastha once stood.

This was the first post in the series of The Legacy of Delhi. Next post would be over Indraprastha (The fabled city of the Pandavas)

Co-Written by Traveler Fahad and R Yamuna


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Please Note:- The geographical map has been sourced from under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Licence.