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The story of Delhi, the capital of India, is a long one. Ruled for centuries by the Moguls and then by the British, this fascinating city has seen its fair share of world events.
Today’s visitors, however, are more likely to be of the camera-wielding variety. Every year, more and more tourists visit Delhi to experience its architecture, culture and many places of worship. They also come to shop. Fabric, furniture, rugs and crafts are all excellent buys here. Whether you have two days or two weeks in Delhi, there are some attractions you must find time to fit into your schedule.
Things To Do In Delhi
Delhi has many more attractions, but this list will get you off to a good start. Now you just need to jump in a taxi, brave the crazy Delhi traffic and enjoy all things to do that this city has to offer!
Delhi is essentially a two-in-one city, Old Delhi being the part of the town that was constructed during the Mogul era. If you’re on a tight schedule, you’ll still need to allocate about half a day or so to Old Delhi since there is so much to take in. The first stop on your visit should be the Red Fort, an imposing structure built of red sandstone which dominates its surroundings. Built by the emperor Shah Jahan in 1638, the fort took about 10 years to complete.
Take a walk through the pavilions and the halls where at one time the emperor would address the common people and nobility, the drum house where the musicians would play and the royal baths. Also of interest is the water-cooled apartment where the ladies of the court would rest.
Jama Mosque and Chandni Chowk
Another important site in Old Delhi is the Jama Mosque. The mosque, constructed of sandstone and marble, was also built by Shah Jahan and is the largest in India. It has a courtyard designed to hold 25,000 worshipers and is a formidable sight during Friday prayers. Adjacent to Jama Mosque is Chandni Chowk (Chandni Market). Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jahanara, who was also something of an aspiring town planner, designed the market.
In her day it would have been the Mogul equivalent of Rodeo Drive. Today, Chandni Chowk is rather less high fashion and more bargain-basement bazaar, but the energy and excitement generated in this rambling, labyrinth-like market is to be experienced.
Rashtrapati Bhawan and surroundings
When the British moved their headquarters from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911, they undertook a massive construction project and renamed the city New Delhi. The wide boulevards and stately government buildings here are reminiscent of Washington, D.C., until, that is, you see your first cow cross the street and sit down in the middle of the traffic! Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the Indian president, is one of many colonial-era buildings. Near Rashtrapati Bhawan are the Secretariat, Parliament House and India Gate. India Gate commemorates the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died during the First World War.
Near Connaught Place in New Delhi are two temples of great significance. The first is a Hindu temple called the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, built in 1938. It is also known as Birla Mandir. When the temple was opened by Mahatma Gandhi, he stipulated that it would accept all castes, including untouchables. Today, the temple even plays host to international visitors who can stay and study the religion. The walls are adorned with ornate paintings depicting scenes from important Hindu religious stories and outside the temple are beautifully landscaped gardens. Interestingly, the building is constructed in red stone and marble, echoing the city’s pervasive Mogul influence.
The other temple near Connaught Place is Gurdwara Bangla Sahib (Bangla Sahib Temple). This Sikh temple is significant because it is located at the site where one of the Sikh gurus, Guru Har Krishnan, stayed during the 17th century. During that time there was a smallpox outbreak in Delhi and Guru Har Krishnan blessed the sick with water from the pond at the site. Today, Sikhs from around the world make pilgrimages to the temple, which is also a hospital, gathering center and art gallery.
A few miles out of the city centre is the Lotus Temple, a Bahai place of worship constructed in 1986. The temple architecture is unique-it is made of white marble and looks like a flower opening upward to the sky. There are nine reflective pools around the temple that allow visitors some moments of quiet contemplation.
Janpath is one of many roads which radiate out of Connaught Place and it is here you will find the National Museum. It is a veritable treasure trove of archaeological finds. After all, India’s civilization can be traced back at least 5,000 years and a lot of what has been excavated from the Indus Valley, including jewellery, tools and other items are on display here. Mogul art, weaponry and musical instruments are also housed in the museum.
Humayun’s Tomb was built to commemorate the emperor Humayun in 1570 by his widow, Haji Begum. This site is one of the most important examples of early Mogul architecture in India. The garden surrounding the tomb is laid out in a geometric design, divided by walkways and channels, a style of architecture repeated later in the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Long before the British and the Moguls, there was Qutub-ud-din, one of Delhi’s early rulers who in 1199 embarked on the construction of the most enduring structure of his day, the red sandstone tower of Qutub Minar. It is over 200ft tall, and from its wide base tapers off to a narrow top. The structure is carved with verses from the Koran but you can also find many Hindu references in the construction. This is because some of the building materials used to make Qutub Minar were taken from plundered Hindu temples.
Gandhi Museum and Raj Ghat
The Gandhi Museum contains the personal belongings of Mahatma Gandhi, an information centre and an extensive library. On display are Gandhi’s stone bowl and plate, clothes, sandals and other possessions. Here, you can learn about India’s Freedom Movement and the principle of non-violence. You can also buy books, videos, CDs and memorabilia in the on-site store. Opposite the museum is Raj Ghat, a simple yet sombre memorial to Gandhi.
Tibet House was established by the Dalai Lama after he fled Tibet in 1965. It houses a collection of rare Thangkas (monastery scrolls), antique jewellery, musical instruments and prayer items. The aim of the museum is to preserve these objects of Tibetan heritage and prevent them from being sold overseas. There is also a sizeable library and Tibetan handicraft store on the premises. Discussions and talks are held regularly and are open to the public.
No visit to Delhi is complete without a major shopping trip. Try Dilli Haat for handicrafts from all over India. This modern bazaar is laid out like a traditional market, with more than 60 stalls selling items from different regions of India. Modern, clean and comfortable, Dilli Haat is a place you can stroll through at leisure. Here you can buy embroidery, sari fabric, household linens, wooden sculptures, artwork, clothing and all kinds of crafts. There are also several food stalls offering various Indian delicacies. Dilli Haat is a good place to stop for a thosai (Indian pancake) and chai in between purchases!
Another not-to-be-missed shopping centre for tourists is the Cottage Industries Emporium. It is similar to a department store and has an even bigger selection of crafts than Dilli Haat. You can also buy furniture and rugs here. The Cottage Emporium is more expensive than Dilli Haat but the prices are still reasonable when converted to US dollars. Also, they ship goods internationally.
Near the Cottage Emporium are many smaller stores and stalls which also sell handicrafts. Particularly interesting are the many little Tibetan stores, bookshops and for those looking for a budget wardrobe, the surplus clothing stalls. You can also find some good bargains at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, which is about a 10-minute walk from the Cottage Emporium.