The National Capital Territory of Delhi has served as the central region for many empires. There are many myths and legends surrounding its formation that go back to as early as 50 BCE. Since that time, the city has grown into a mixture of historic and modern, which reflects the distinctions of Old Delhi and New Delhi, which serves as the capital of India.
There are plenty of sites to explore, a good number of which have heritage site designation. Delhi is the place where travelers can develop a deeper understanding of India's rich culture and traditions.
Standing at 240 feet, the Qutub Minar is a historic example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Built by Qutb ud-Din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk Dynasty, construction started in 1192 and was finished in 1220 by successor Shams-ud-din-Iltutmish, ten years after Aibak's death. For some, it was a symbol of the beginning of Muslim rule in India, while others say it was a minaret. Several other buildings surround Qutub Minar, including a mosque and a tomb. It's open from sunrise to sunset and is free for children 15 years and younger.
Known as Qila-e-Mubarak, many people may not realize that the Red Fort was originally built with white sandstones and was painted red when the stone started chipping. The fort took a decade for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to build, and it was the residence of the Mughal Emperors for more than 200 years until the trial of the last emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Known as Moonlight Square, the Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in Delhi. It was built by Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter, Princess Jahanara in 1650. Its name comes from the pool at its center that shimmered in the moonlight. Chandni Chowk was originally divided by canals and had over 1,500 shops spread along 1,520 yards. These days, in addition to shops that sell clothing and books, it's famous for its variety of authentic foods, especially sweets.
Located in New Delhi, Jantar Mantar was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II at the request of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah, who wanted to revise the calendar and astronomical tables. It was built in 1724, and for seven years, daily data was collected, calculated and sent to the emperor, until the surrounding construction of tall buildings made readings inaccurate. Jantar Mantar is one of 13 astronomical instruments. It's open daily, from 6 am to 6 pm.
Sansad Bhavan, Parliament House in New Delhi, was inaugurated in 1927 after six years of construction by the then-Governor General, Lord Irwin. It's a circular building with a Central Hall that's 98 feet in diameter, and it is the site of the Indian Constitution drafting. It also has a museum, which educates visitors on India's democratic history with the help of virtual reality and interactive computer screens. It's open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 5 pm, and children enter free.
Born Muhammad Muqim in-Khurasan in 1708, Safdarjung relocated to India from Persia and eventually became Prime Minister of Hindustan under Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur. But, court politics ousted him from the post, and from Delhi, in 1753 and he died the following year. The sandstone and marble construction materials help to depict the distinctive Mughal architectural style. The mausoleum has a square garden on each side with an enclosed three-domed mosque. It's open from sunrise to sunset and children 15 years and younger enter free.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is the largest Sikh temple in Delhi. It also serves 10,000 free, cooked meals every day. In order to ascend the steps to the centuries-old golden shrine, visitors must cover their heads and dip their bare feet in the tank of water. Along with participating in prayers, everyone enjoys a sweet called karah parshad, and in the kitchen, volunteers prepare for the communal meal that includes rice, vegetable stew, and roti. All are welcome.
The Lotus Temple is a Baha'i House of Worship that's open to all. The temple has nine clusters of three marble clad petals. There are nine openings that feed into the central hall, which has a capacity of 2,500 people. It's been open to the public since 1986 and has won several architectural awards and distinctions. By 2014, the temple had more than 100 million visitors.
Commissioned by Empress Bega Begum, the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun was the first structure to use many red sandstones at that scale. It's a 16th-century complex that was a marvel of architecture and set a precedent for subsequent buildings. It contains Humayun's tomb as well as that of subsequent Mughals, and a Char Bagh, which is a quadrilateral Persian-style garden. Its geometrical sandstone and marble inlay patterns and the integration of corbels, pendentive decorations, and chhatris make this tomb a prime example of Mughal architecture.
Near Jantar Mantar in New Delhi is a protected monument known as the Agrasen ki Baoli. It's a 60-meter step well that was said to be originally built by Maharaja Agrasen during the Solar Dynasty. The only records about the possible origin of the step well were when it was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal community, which traced it back to Agrasen. The mystery behind its origins as well as its ancient architecture makes it a popular location for tourists and Bollywood films.