Travel – Delhi and its history

Delhi (

Hindustani pronunciation: [d̪ɪlliː] Dilli), officially the National Capital Territory of Delhi, is the Capital territory of India.[3] It has a population of about 11 million and ametropolitan population of about 16.3 million, making it the second most populous city and second most populous urban agglomeration in India.[2][4] Such is the nature of urban expansion in Delhi that its growth has expanded beyond the NCT to incorporate towns in neighbouring states and at its largest extent can count a population of about 25 million residents as of 2014.[5]

Quick facts: Delhi दिल्ली, National Capital Territory of Delhi …

The NCT and its urban region have been given the special status of National Capital Region (NCR) under theConstitution of India‘s 69th amendment act of 1991. The NCR includes the neighbouring cities of GurgaonNoida,GhaziabadFaridabadNeharpar(Greater Faridabad), Greater Noida,BahadurgarhSonepatPanipatKarnal,RohtakBhiwaniRewariBaghpat,MeerutAlwarBharatpur and other nearby towns. A union territory, the political administration of the NCT of Delhi today more closely resembles that of a state of India, with its own legislature, high court and an executive council of ministers headed by a Chief Minister. New Delhi is jointly administered by the federal government of India and the local government of Delhi, and is the capital of the NCT of Delhi.

Delhi has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC.[6] Through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region.

Toponymy and idioms

There are a number of legends associated with the origin of the nameDelhi. One is that it is derived from Dhilluor Dilu, a king who built a city at this location in 50 BC and named it after himself.[7][8][9] Another legend holds that the name of the city is based on theHindi/Prakrit word dhili (loose) and that it was used by the Tomaras to refer to the city because the Iron Pillar of Delhi had a weak foundation and had to be moved.[9]The coins in circulation in the region under the Tomaras were calleddehliwal.[10] According to the Bhavishya Purana, King Prithiviraja,of Indraprasthabuilt a new fort in the modern-dayPurana Qila area for the convenience of all four castes in his kingdom. He ordered the construction of a gateway to the fort and later named the fortdehali.[11] Some historians believe that the name is derived from Dilli, a corruption of dehleez or dehali—both terms meaning ‘threshold’ or ‘gateway’—and symbolic of the city as a gateway to the Gangetic Plain.[12][13] Another theory suggests that the city’s original name was Dhillika.[14]

The people of Delhi are referred to asDelhiites or Dilliwalas.[15] The city is referenced in various idioms of the Northern Indo-Aryan languages. Examples include:

  • Abhi Dilli door hai or its Persianversion, Hanouz Dehli dour ast, literally meaning Delhi is still far away, which is generically said about a task or journey still far from completion.[16][17]
  • Dilli dilwalon ka shehr or Dilli Dilwalon kimeaning Delhi belongs to the large-hearted/daring.[18]
  • Aas-paas barse, Dilli pani tarse, literally meaning it pours all around, while Delhi lies parched. An allusion to the sometimes semi-arid climate of Delhi, it idiomatically refers to situations of deprivation when one is surrounded by plenty.[17]


Main articles: History of Delhi and Old Delhi
The entrance of Yogmaya temple

The ancient Yogmaya temple, claimed to be one of the five temples of the Mahabharata era in Delhi.

The area around Delhi was probably inhabited before the second millennium BC, and there is evidence of continuous inhabitation since at least the 6th century BC.[6] The city is believed to be the site of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas in the Indian epic Mahabharata.[7] According to this epic this land was initially a huge mass of forests called ‘Kandavaprastha’ which was burnt down to build the city of Indraprastha. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya period (c. 300 BC); in 1966, an inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–235 BC) was discovered near Srinivaspuri. Remains of eight major cities have been discovered in Delhi. The first five cities were in the southern part of present-day Delhi. Anang Pal of the Tomara dynastyfounded the city of Lal Kot in AD 736. The Chauhans conquered Lal Kot in 1180 and renamed it Qila Rai Pithora.

The iron pillar of Delhi, is said to have been fashioned at the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya(375–413) of the Gupta Empire.[19][20]

The king Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in 1192 by Muhammad Ghori, aTajik invader from Afghanistan, who made a concerted effort to conquer northern India.[7] By 1200, native Hindu resistance had begun to crumble, the dominance of foreign Turkic Muslim dynasties in India was to last for the next five centuries. On the death of Muhammad in 1206, the Turkic slave-general, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, broke away from the Ghurid Dynasty and became the first Sultan of Delhi. He began construction of the Qutb Minar andQuwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam) mosque, the earliest extant mosque in India. Qutb-ud-din faced widespread Hindu rebellions and it was his successor, Iltutmish (1211–36), who consolidated the Turkic conquest of northern India.[7][21]

A view of Qutab minor

At 72.5 m (238 ft), A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Qutub Minar is the world’s tallest free-standing brick minaret.[22]

For the next three hundred years, Delhi was ruled by a succession of Turkic and an AfghanLodhi dynasty. They built a number of forts and townships that are part of the seven cities of Delhi.[23] Delhi was a major centre of Sufism during this period.[24] The Mamluk Sultanate (Delhi)was overthrown in 1290 by the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320). Under the second Khilji ruler, Ala-ud-din Khilji, the Delhi sultanate extended its control south of the Narmada River in the Deccan. The Delhi sultanate reached its greatest extent during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325–1351). In an attempt to bring the whole of the Deccan under control, he moved his capital toDaulatabad, Maharashtra in central India, but by moving away from Delhi he lost control of the north and was forced to return to Delhi to restore order. The southern provinces then broke away. In the years following the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), the Delhi sultanate rapidly began to lose its hold over its northern provinces. Delhi was captured and sacked by Timur Lenk in 1398.[25] Near Delhi, Timur massacred 100,000 captives.[26] Delhi’s decline continued under the Sayyid dynasty(1414–1451), until the sultanate was reduced to Delhi and its hinterland. Under the Afghan Lodhi dynasty (1451–1526), the Delhi sultanate recovered control of the Punjab and the Gangetic plain to once again achieve domination over northern India. However, the recovery was short-lived and in 1526 the sultanate was destroyed by Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty.

In 1526, Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur, from the Fergana Valley in modern-day Uzbekistan, invaded India, defeated the last Lodhi sultan in the First Battle of Panipat and founded the Mughal Empire that ruled from Delhi and Agra.[7] The Mughal dynasty ruled Delhi for more than three centuries, with a sixteen-year hiatus during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, from 1540 to 1556.[27] In 1553, the Hindu king,Hemu acceded to the throne of Delhi by defeating forces of Mughal Emperor Humayun at Agra and Delhi. However, the Mughals re-established their rule after Akbar’s army defeated Hemu during the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556.[28][29][30] Shah Jahan built the seventh city of Delhi that bears his nameShahjahanabad, which served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1638 and is today known as the Old City or Old Delhi.[31]

Red Fort with the Indian Flag at the center

UNESCO World Heritage Site,Red fort is the location from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation onIndependence Day

After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal Empire’s influence declined rapidly as the Hindu Maratha Empirerose to prominence.[32] In 1737, Maratha forces sacked Delhi following their victory against the Mughals in the First Battle of Delhi. In 1739, the Mughal Empire lost the huge Battle of Karnal in less than three hours against the numerically outnumbered but military superior Persian army led by Nader Shah of Persia during his invasion after which he completely sacked and looted Delhi, the Mughal capital, carrying away immense wealth including the Peacock Throne, the Daria-i-Noor, and Koh-i-Noor. The Mughals, severely further weakened, would never overcome this crushing defeat and humiliation which would also let the way open for more invaders to come, including eventually theBritish.[33][34][35] Nader eventually agreed to leave the city and India after forcing the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah Ito beg him for mercy and granting him the keys of the city and the royal treasury.[36] A treaty signed in 1752 made Marathas the protectors of the Mughal throne in Delhi.[37]

Humayun's tomb (reddish coloured against the sky

UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in 1560, Humayun’s Tombis the first example of Mughal tomb complexes.[38]

In 1757, the Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah Durrani, sacked Delhi. He returned to Afghanistan leaving a Mughal puppet ruler in nominal control. The Marathas again occupied Delhi in 1758, and were in control before their defeat in 1761 at the third battle of Panipat, and the city was captured again by Ahmad Shah.[39]However, in 1771, the Marathas established a protectorate over Delhi when the Maratha ruler, Mahadji Shinde, recaptured Delhi and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II was installed as a puppet ruler in 1772.[40] In 1783, Sikhs under Baghel Singh captured Delhi andRed Fort, however due to treaty Sikhs withdraw from Red Fort and agreed to restore Shah Alam as the emperor.In 1803, during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the forces of British East India Company defeated the Maratha forces in the Battle of Delhi.[41] During theIndian Rebellion of 1857, Delhi fell to the forces of East India Company after a bloody fight known as the Siege of Delhi. The city came under the direct control of the British Government in 1858. It was made a district province of the Punjab.[7]In 1911, it was announced that the capital of British held territories in India was to be transferred from Calcutta to Delhi.[42] The name “New Delhi” was given in 1927, and the new capital was inaugurated on 13 February 1931. New Delhi, also known as Lutyens’ Delhi,[43]was officially declared as the capital of the Union of India after the country gained independence on 15 August 1947.[44] During the partition of India, thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees, mainly from West Punjab fled to Delhi, while many Muslim residents of the city migrated to Pakistan. Migration to Delhi from the rest of India continues (as of 2013), contributing more to the rise of Delhi’s population than the birth rate, which is declining.[45]

The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 declared the Union Territory of Delhi to be formally known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi.[46] The Act gave Delhi its own legislative assembly along Civil lines, though with limited powers.[46] In December 2001, the Parliament of India building in New Delhi was attacked by armed militants, killing six security personnel.[47] India suspected Pakistan-based militant groups were behind the attack, which caused a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries.[48]There were further terrorist attacks in Delhi in October 2005 and September 2008, resulting in a total of 103 deaths.[49]


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