Travel and Dining


New Delhi's Historical Monuments

An Indian couple look at the 17th century Mughal-built Taj Mahal mausoleum, from the nearby Red Fort. (Photo: Tauseef Mustafa / AFP-Getty Images)

New Delhi, India's capital, is a city of dreams and splendid historical monuments, where each crumbling wall has a tale to tell. Rulers have come and gone, leaving behind a reflection of the past.

New Delhi sprawls over the west bank of the River Yamuna, and is one of the fastest growing cities in India. It is surrounded on three sides by the northern state of Haryana and to the east, across the river, by the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Historically, the city has long since been of primary political importance with successive dynasties choosing it as their seat of power between the 13th and the 17th centuries, and thereafter British rulers declaring it as the Indian capital in the early 20th century.

Remnants of the glorious past today survive as important monuments in different parts of the city.

The different faces of the city are simply fascinating. In some places it remains a garden city, tree-lined and with beautiful parks, and in some places there are the modern structures of the 21st century. Soaring skyscrapers, posh residential colonies and bustling commercial complexes can be seen alongside ancient historical monuments.

Among the city's prominent monuments is the "Red Fort's" massive curtain wall and battlements, which dominate the skyline of Old Delhi. Inside the fort — built by emperor Shah Jahan — are a range of exquisite 17th century Mughal buildings.

The flawless balance and proportion of these buildings, as well as the intricate decoration, is wonderful to behold and in complete contrast to the military might of the fort itself. The "Lahore Gate," on the west side of the fort, was a potent symbol in the fight for independence and is still regarded as a shrine of the Republic.

Also built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and situated opposite to the Red Fort. The mosque was built in 1656 AD; about 5,000 laborers and craftsmen toiled for six years to complete the beautiful monument.

In central Delhi, "Humayun's tomb" was built by Mughal Emperor Humayun's widowed Queen Haji Begum in the 16th century. Architecturally the forerunner of the Taj Mahal, it stands in Nizamuddin, which shows the Mughal architecture at its best.

The "Qutb Minar" in Southern part of the city is a huge tower, was built to commemorate the Muslim conquest of Delhi. Standing 238ft (72.5m) tall, it is built of fluted red sandstone and decorated with calligraphy representing verses from the Koran.

In the center of Delhi stands the "India Gate," a majestic high arch, 138ft (42m) high, built as a memorial to the Indian soldiers killed in the World War I. Beneath it burns an eternal flame.

Nearby stands the "Jantar Mantar," an astronomical observatory with masonry instruments, built in 1724 by Jai Singh, the mathematician and astronomer king of India.

The government of Delhi government is presently undertaking several measures to protect these historic monuments, recently making the decision to restore 100 heritage structures in the city. The drive is part of the effort to showcase the Indian capital for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

According to officials, several monuments in the city, which are over 1, 200-years old, were being neglected as they did not fall under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958. All structures in this category are monuments of national importance.

Speaking to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Reena Ray, secretary of Delhi Art and Culture Department said, "Now that we are empowered to protect these monuments, we will take up more of them in the coming year for protection. Work on renovation and sprucing up of the other monuments has also started."

Ray further explained that certain plans were being explored, such as the introduction of sound and light shows, and food courts to boost tourism in the city. Many monuments would be handing over to Delhi Tourism Department.

An archaeological museum is proposed to be set up shortly by the Delhi government to display sculptures, bronzes, arms and armory, arts and crafts, coins and excavated material.

The Delhi government has also proposed to set up an Interpretation Canter of international standard near Qutub Minar, which will highlight the history, culture and life styles of Indian kings as well as technology applied in construction of the Minar and other monuments.

Delhi possesses a rich and varied cultural heritage spreading over millennia of history and is dotted with a number of historical monuments of great historical importance.

The government of Delhi is making concerted efforts for preservation and restoration of monuments.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury.