One of the world’s largest cities, a teeming megalopolis with millions of inhabitants, Delhi is also one of the oldest -- dating back more than 5,000 years. Layering century after century of succeeding empires, from the legendary Pandavas to the Mughals and the British raj up to today’s thriving democracy, Delhi portrays a cross section of much of recorded civilization. Hectic, congested, cacophonous and maddening, a mix of dire poverty and fabulous wealth, with crumbling ruins, restored monuments of the walled Old City and gleaming high-rises of New Delhi, the rapidly expanding capital in many ways represents all of India as it charges into the 21st century.
Places whose monikers start with the word New -- New York, for instance - carry the implication of replacement, relocation, or rejuvenation of an older place. New Delhi,India's capital city, is in fact the latest incarnation of a string of Delhis (there were seven earlier versions, to be precise).
This newest Delhi, with its population of around 9.5 million, is actually quite young, its main construction finished in 1931, after the capital of British India was moved from Calcutta in 1912.
The earliest community at the site of Delhi was Indraprastha, in the first millennium BC. Lal Kot, the first of Delhi's seven cities, was built by the Tomar Rajputs; Prithviraj Chauhan annexed Lal Kot and extended it, creating the Qila Rai Pithora. In 1206, Delhi became Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak's capital, and he built two of Delhi's great landmarks - the soaring Qutab Minaret and the Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, one of Delhi's purest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture.
Subsequent cities through the ages came and went, leaving the best of their monuments - including the Ashokan Pillar (from the fourth city), and the famous Red Fort of theMughals (from the seventh and last pre-British city, Shahjahanabad, aka Old Delhi) - to the ages and today's tourists. The Red Fort, built between 1638-1648, is the largest reminder of Old Delhi, a massive, turreted red sandstone fortress that even withstood (for a time) the onslaught of British forces during the war for independence in 1857.
Other landmarks are mere ruins, but worth visiting for their historic value; among the more fascinating remnants of Delhi's past is the Jantar Mantar, the 18th centuryastronomical observatory of the Mughal grandee Jaisingh, where astronomers studied the heavens to standardize Indian almanacs. Delhi's modern attractions, meanwhile, includethe National Gallery of Modern Art, the Nehru Museum, the Rail Transport Museum, and the International Doll Museum.
Situated in Northern India, Delhi's economy is India's fastest growing. As the capital of the world's second most populace nation (and a country that boasts the world's sixthlargest Gross Domestic Product), India, with New Delhi in the lead, is moving swiftly toward the next century.