Temple of the Emerald Buddha - Amazing Thailand

This series is based over my reflections upon visiting Thailand.

Shahjahanabad (Const 1648 CE)- The Legacy of Delhi Series (Vol 8)

'Shahjahanabad' is the eighth post in a series of 9 articles on the former capital cities which were built in the historical region of Delhi. Read on to know more..

Hill Fort of Kumbhalgarh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Know more about this incredible World Heritage Site here..

The Immortal Kumbh Mela - Mahakumbha of 2013

Believed to be the largest congregation of mankind in the world, read my series of posts to know how it feels like to be amongst a magnitude of people

Guru Dongmar Lake, one of the highest in the world

Few destinations have the ability to change your life; Sikkim being one of them. Check out the series 'Sikim Soujourn' to find out why ?



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Delhi (1929 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 9

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the ninth edition of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.) 

Calcutta (Kolkata) was the capital of India until December 1911 during the British Raj. However, Delhi had served as the political and financial center of several empires of ancient and Delhi Sultanate, most notably of the Mughal Empire from 1649 to 1857. During the early 1900s, a proposal was made to the British administration to shift the capital of the British Indian Empire (as it was officially called) from Calcutta to Delhi. Unlike Calcutta, which was located on the eastern coast of India, Delhi was located in northern India and the Government of British India felt that it would be easier to administer India from Delhi rather than from Calcutta.                                                                               
India Gate or the All India Memorial (as called by the British) (at night). This memorial was constructed to honor the Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British Crown in the First World War (1914-1919)

Connaught Place at Night. It was developed as a showpiece of New Delhi (planned by Edward Lutyens) featuring a Central Business District.

Night View of the inner radial of Connaught Place

History -
                  As per a letter sent by Lord Hardinge (the then viceroy of India) to the Earl of Crewe in 1911 the britishers wanted to move out of Calcutta to Delhi because of the rising importance of legislative bodies meant that Britain needed to find a more centrally located capital.  There was also an increasing resistance to the British rule in Calcutta that was making it less than a hospitable capital city. The people's movement for Home-Rule was growing stronger and after Lord Curzon partitioned the Bengal in 1905  into two along religious lines (in an attempt to quell the movement) the nationalist sentiments of the Indians had grown manifold as well which eventually led to large protests, boycott of British goods and a spate of political assassinations. 
 Aerial View of the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) (Architect - Sir Edward Lutyens)

 Parliament of India (Architect - Sir Herbert Baker)

On December 12th 1911, a magnificient Delhi Durbar of (British) Imperial Emperor George the Fifth was organnised to announce his ascension to the throne of Britain. He accepted homage's and promises of allegiance from the local Indian rulers (vassals) and then announced his intention of building a new capital city would be made in Delhi for the British India. Moreover the British Emperor George the fifth, was simply continuing with the traditions of previous pan-India Hindu (Indraprastha), Islamic (Tughlaqabad) and Mughal (Shahjahanabad) rulers who had established their capitals over here.
Architecture -
                               Much of New Delhi, planned by the leading 20th century British architects Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, was laid out to be the central administrative area of the city as a testament to Britain's imperial vanity. The construction of the city began after the First World War ended (1919) and was completed by 1931.

 A view of Raj Path (King's Way). The way stretches from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate. The parade on Republic Day(on 26th January) takes place over here.

  Raisina Hill which hosts the Central Secretariat (North Block - Right, South Block - Left). Notice the Jaipur Column in front of the Central Dome. The Raj Path (Kings Way) starts from this point. This spot is also known as Vijay Chowk (Victory Square).

                              While planning and constructing New Delhi Edward Lutyens invented his own new style of classical architecture, which is normally known as the "Delhi Order". Unlike the more traditional British architects who came before him, he was both inspired by and incorporated various features from the local and traditional Indian Indian architecture. For example -  although the dome of the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace) is said to have been influenced by the Roman 'Pantheon', it indicates an influence of the famous Sanchi Stupa (Buddhist architecture).
                            The landmark buildings constructed by Lutyens in New Delhi were All India Memorial (India Gate), Viceroys House(Rashtrapati Bhawan), the Parliament(designed by Sir Herbert Baker), Central Secretariat, the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (which houses current M.P.s of India) e.t.c.

Life in New Delhi -
                                           Today the city of New Delhi has already celebrated 100 years of being a formal capital to India . The city still serves as the capital and the seat of power for the Republic of India. It has expanded and incorporated all the former cities which ever stood in its vicinity into its modern borders. People from all parts of India come to Delhi in search for work and a better life. Various studies and travel magazines have dubbed New Delhi as 'Alpha-City', 'Metropolitan City', 'Cosmopolitan City', 'Most Expensive city for Expatriates in South Asia', 'A Must visit destination in your lifetime' e.t.c. e.t.c.

 A street in Lutyens Delhi. Streets in this portion of Delhi are known for their immaculate planning.

Culmination of the Series -
                                                             While I was doing considerable research for this series, visiting all the monuments and ruins of past, and then writing about them.. I started to understand how it felt like being a citizen of each of the preceding cities of New Delhi and I could not help but compare those cities with the city of today.
                                                             As compared to the past the city is much secure thanks to the stability provided by the Britishers and the current Indian establishment. Also as compared to the past the current government of India is much more stable than the previous governments because of its democratic nature.
                                                             I realized that this piece of earth has seen everything that could be seen. From the grand processions of Emperor Shah Jahan(1650 A.D.) to the massacre of its citizens ordered by Timur lane(1398 A.D.) and Nadir Shah (1739 A.D.). From seeing moments of dominance( when Ala ud din Khilji hung heads of Mongol Soldiers from the walls of Siri in 1299 A.D.) to moments of weakness (when the Britishers sacked the city of Shahjahanabad in 1857 A.D.)
                                                            Here's to hoping that after seeing instability for over a thousand years the city of Delhi now gets to see peace and stability for the next thousand years to come. Amen. 

The No-Nonsense Travel Advice
Name of the City
New Delhi, India
Edward Lutyens (of Lutyens Delhi)
Year of Completion
1931 A.D.
How to Reach Delhi
By Air – All major airlines fly in and out of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Intl Airport
By Railways – The city is connected to all parts of India with regular trains
By Road – Interstate buses to all destinations in North India ply to and from Delhi
Places to Visit
Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Complex (all World Heritage Sites), Connaught Place, Purana Qila (Old Fort), Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, National Museum, India Gate e.t.c.
Best Mode of Local Transport
. Take the Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus run by Delhi Tourism to cover Delhi in a day.
. If you wish to cover Delhi at your own pace then for budget travelers the best option is the Delhi Metro Rail. Take a Pre Paid Smart Card and travel around the City with ease


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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) (1648 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 8

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the eighth edition of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.) 

In India whenever the words 'grand', 'historical' and 'marvelous' are mentioned about a city, the conversation is either about the city of Shahjahanabad or Hampi (capital of Vijayanagar Kingdom - 1500 A.D.) and their significant monuments. The citadel of Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a monument which is a landmark in terms of architectural brilliance. But the city of Shahjahanabad was much more than just the Red Fort as you will get to know in this informative article. 

   1863 Map of Shah Jahanabad (Old Delhi)  

 The Red Fort (Citadel of Shahjahanabad)
History -
            The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (whose rule was the zenith of Mughal architectural brilliance) by 1637 A.D. began to realize the paucity of space in the Agra and Lahore courts to conduct royal ceremonies properly. By the year 1639 A.D. he decided to lay the foundation stone for a new capital of his kingdom which would be known as Shahjahanabad. The site of Shahjahanabad is north of earlier cities of Delhi, its southern part overlaps some of the area settled by the Tughluqs in 14th century. Delhi had always remained an important place for the Mughal kings (before Shah Jahan), who built palaces and forts here.

Physical Map of Delhi depicting the Location of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi)

A snapshot of Chandni Chowk (taken in 1858)

Architecture -
                              The architecture of the city of Shahjahanabad is something which cannot be described in a paragraph or two. It was a detailed city (rectangular in shape) (built on the banks of River Yamuna, which has now changed course) with many architectural and visual marvels. The main palace (or citadel) in which the emperor Shah Jahan and the succesive rulers of the Mughal Dynasty lived until 1857 A.D. was known as the Lal Qila (Red Fort). It was called so because of its Red Sandstone walls (Initially the walls were being made of mud until Shah Jahan ordered them to be decorated with red sandstone). The fort covers approximately 125 acres of land.

The Diwan e Khas (Pavilion for Private Audience). The platform in the middle of the picture was where the peacock throne once stood before it was looted by Nadir Shah and taken to Iran in 1739.

 One of the pillars of the Diwan e Khas. Observe the engraved precious stones.

                              The Red Fort itself is a World Heritage Site which speaks volumes about the beauty of its buildings and pavilions. Some of the well known and most beautiful sections of the Red Fort and Shahjahanabad were the emperor's private area which housed various pavilions like the Diwan e Khas (Hall for Private Audience), Rang Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal (which has now been converted into a museum), Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) (it was the private mosque of Emperor Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan's successor) e.t.c.  The most enthralling part of the private quarters was the Nahr e Behisht (Stream of Paradise) which was a man made channel of water (drawn from the river Yamuna). This channel of water had flown through the middle of the main pavilions of Diwan e Khas , Rang Mahal and the emperor's private apartments. It was loaded with rose petals, incense e.t.c. so that it would not only cool the halls but also make the air rich with fragrance.
A street of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad)

                                   The city of Shahjahanabad as such had eight gates which were locked during night time (in the 17th, 18th and the 19th century). The city had many bazaars, some of which exist even now, for example Khari Baoli (which is today Asia's largest wholesale spice market). The area of Chandni Chowk (Moonlit Square) (which was also the main street of Shahjahanabad) had many bazaars as well. Some shops in this area are several centuries old ! Other important monuments in Shahjahanabad are Ghalib ki Haveli (the house of famous poet Mirza Ghalib), Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) (an imposing mosque made of Red Sandstone), St James Church (First Church of Delhi), Sunehri Masjid, Gurdwara Sis Ganj e.t.c.

The Red Fort in 1905

Decline -
                   After the fall of the Mughal Empire post 1857 revolt, the British Empire shifted the capital of India, to a more (security-wise) stable Calcutta (Kolkata), where it remained till 1911 (when they came back to Delhi). After quelling the 1857 revolt the Britishers built a military garrison inside the Red Fort and evicted the 3000 people (approximately) who were living there at that time and destroyed many of the residential palaces.
                  To be frank the city of Shahjahanabad (now better known as Old Delhi) never actually declined. The focus simply shifted from being an administrative capital city to being an area for trade and commerce (which it remains till date), with many large wholesale markets coming up in the mid 19th century. These markets like Chawri Bazar (hardware market est 1840), Phool Mandi (Flower Market est. 1869) e.t.c. exist till date.

The No-Nonsense Travel Advice
Name of the City
Shahjahanabad (Now known as Old Delhi)
Constructed By
Emperor Shah Jahan
Year of Completion
1648 A.D.
Chandni Chowk, Netaji Subhash Road, New Delhi
How to Reach
Get down at Chawri Bazaar Metro Station (on the Yellow Line) and take a Cycle Rickshaw for the Red Fort (Rs 40 for 2 people) OR else take an Auto Rickshaw from your Starting Point OR take a Hop-On-Hop-Off sightseeing bus which is run by Delhi Tourism. Fare is Rs 300 for Adults and Rs 150 for children. Checkout Delhi Tourism website for details.
Entrance Fee
. Citizens of India and visitors from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Thailand and Myanmar - Rs. 10 per head
. Visitors from other countries -
Indian Rs. 250/- per head
. (Free entry to children up to 15 years)
. There is a separate counter for foreign nationals.

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