Delhi is India’s capital territory and officially known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The city is home to the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort which is a symbol of India.
The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a forest park with lots of ruins of tombs, palaces and colonial follies. As you enter the park the first monuments you see are the tombs of Balban and Quli Khan.
The park’s most impressive structure is the Jamali Khamali Mosque which is attached to the tomb of the Sufi poet Jamali. Inside the tomb you can see upon the intricate incised plaster ceiling Jamali’s verses.
To the west is the Rajon ki Baoli, a majestic 16th century step-well with a monumental flight of steps. Walking from here towards Mehrauli Village you’ll see Adam Khan’s Mausoleum which at one time was used as a British residence, then a police station and then a post office.
One of Delhi’s most captivating mausoleums is Humayan’s Tomb. It was built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, the Persian-born senior wife of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. This tomb mixes Persian and Mughal elements, creating a template that strongly influenced the Taj Mahal. The tomb, other monuments and gardens went through a restoration in 2013. The arched facade is inlaid with bands of white marble and red sandstone. The building adheres to the strict rules of Islamic geometry, with an emphasis on the number eight.
In the beautiful gardens you can see green parakeets. There are also the tombs of the emperor’s favorite barber and Haji Begum. As you enter the complex to the right is Isa Khan’s Tomb which is a fine example of Lodi-era architecture. Further south is the monumental Khan-I-Khanan’s Tomb. The site has a new visitor center.
Jama Masjid is India’s largest mosque and can hold up to 25,000 people. It towers over Old Delhi. It was created by architect Shah Jahan and built between 1644 and 1658. This mosque has three gateways, four angle towers and two 40m high minarets. It is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. Entry is from gates 1 or 3. At the entrance you can purchase a ticket and climb 121 steps up the narrow southern minaret. From the top you can see one of the features that architect Edwin Lutyens incorporated into his design of New Delhi – the Jama Masjid, Connaught Place and Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House) are all in a direct line. Visitors should remove their shoes at the top of the stairs. There is no charge to enter the mosque but there is a camera charge.
The impressive Red Fort was converted into a barracks by the British. It is protected by a amazing 18m-high wall and the monuments here were built with marble and sandstone. Shah Jahan founded this fortress between 1638 and 1648. Every evening except for Mondays the fort hosts a sound and light show with colorful spotlights and a portentous voice over that highlights key events in the history of the Red Fort. When you purchase a ticket you can also visit the museums inside the fort and there is a fine audio tour available.
Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah is the marble shrine of the Muslim Sufi Saint, Nizam-ud-din-Auliya. He died in 1325 at the age of 92 and his mausoleum became a point of pilgrimage for Muslims from across the empire. There are many nearby Mughal tombs since kings and nobles wanted to be buried as close to the saint as possible. Other tombs in the compound include the graves of Jahanara (daughter of Shah Jahan) and the renowned Urdu poet Amir Khusru. It is interesting and inspirational to sit down on the marble floor at sunset and listen to Sufis singing rousing gawwali or Islamic devotional singing. There are other tombs scattered about and you’ll also see a huge baoli or step-well.
Of special interest is the Qutb Minar Complex. The first monuments here were built by the sultans of Mehrauli. The complex hosts The Qutb Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance every November/December. You can also see many different ruined tombs and monuments.
Akshardham Temple is a mixture of traditional Orissan, Gujarati, Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. It is a most fascinating structure where you can take a boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian history as animatronics tell stories from the life of Swaminarayan and musical fountains. The interior features a journey through Hindu mythology with 20,000 carved deities, saints and mythical beings.
Lahore Gate is the main gate to the fort and it looks toward Lahore in Pakistan, which is the second most important city in the Mughal Empire.
Just beyond the gate is Chatta Chowk where once silk and jewels were sold and now you can purchase souvenirs. At the eastern end of the bazaar you’ll find the arched Naubat Khana that once accommodated royal musicians and was a parking lot for royal horses and elephants. Upstairs in the Indian War Memorial Museum you can see an impressive collection of historic weaponry.
Walking toward the north you’ll come to the Museum on India’s Struggle for Freedom. Walking through the dilapidated barracks you’ll find a deserted baoli or step-well which the British used as a prison. A causeway leads to the Salimgarth, a fortress built by Salim Shah Suri in 1546. It is still occupied by the Indian army but visitors can visit the ruined mosque and a small museum.
The National Museum displays rare relics from the Harappan Civilization, Buddha’s 4th to 5th century BC effects, antiquities from the Silk Route, exquisite miniature paintings, woodcarvings, textiles, statues, musical instruments, an armory with practical weapons and a suit of armor for an elephant.
Gandhi Smriti is a poignant memorial at the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu zealot on January 30, 1948, after campaigning against inter-communal violence. You’ll see concrete footsteps leading to the spot where Gandhi died, marked by a small pavilion. Adjacent is a house where Mahatma Gandhi spent his last 144 days. The rooms have been preserved as he left them. You can see dioramas depicting scenes of his life and upstairs is an interpretive exhibition Eternal Gandhi. In Gandhi’s room you can see a walking stick, spectacles, a spinning wheel and a pair of sandals.
The lake at Hauz Khas, meaning royal tank was built by Sultan Allauddin Khilji in the 13th century to provide water for Siri Fort. Here you can see many birds and it’s surrounded by parkland. There are the ruins of Firoz Shah’s 14th century religious school and tomb with an amazing calligraphy-covered incised plaster ceiling.
To get to the lake shore go through Deer Park where you can see many deer and a popular drumming circle.
The colonial heart of New Delhi is Connaught Place, named after the paternal uncle of George V. Whitewashed, grey-tinged streets radiate from the central circle of Rajiv Chowk, lined with shops and restaurants. The outer circle is technically known as Connaught Circus and the inner circle as Connaught Place however locals call the whole area CP.
Just for the wonderful scents alone you must visit Delhi’s wholesale spice market. There are huge sacks of herbs and spices and you can purchase everything from lentils and rice to giant jars of chutneys, pickles, nuts and tea.
Lodi Gardens is a peaceful park dotted with the crumbling tombs of Sayyid and Lodi rulers including the impressive 15th century Bara Gumbad Tomb and Mosque as well as the tombs of Mohammed Shah and Sikander Lodi. There’s a lake that is crossed by the Athpula eight-piered Bridge, dating from the reign of Emperor Akbar.
Right in the center of Delhi is the amazing 42m high India Gate, standing in the middle of a crossroad. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during WWI. This memorial shows the names of over 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan War of 1919.
The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and was designed by Edwin Lutyens. Under the arch an eternal flame burns to remind the nation of the soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War in December 1971. At night it is illuminated by floodlights and nearby fountains are lit by colorful lights. The India Gate is surrounded by lush green lawns where people enjoy picnicking.