When the sun sets at Shahjahanabad the city rises!

Shahjahanabad was the ‘seventh’ city which reflected the Mughal magnificence of Shah Jahan’s vision of 1639.The city is a beautiful amalgamation of religions, culture, food, people and heritage. The best time of the day to witness its beauty is at night, when the city gears up to unwind it the colours of the place. This memorable experience in the walled city of Delhi is curated by ‘Delhi Walks’, a flagship brand of India City Walks that strives to provide unique, memorable city experiences.

The Old Delhi experience begins after sunset at Jama Masjid, one of Shahjahanabad’s most prominent architectural landmarks. A walking tour with ‘Delhi Walks’ will help you understand the grandeur of Shah Jahan’s vision and the kind of resources that the Emperor had at his disposal. You will not be able to go inside the mosque at this hour of the day, but since the mosque is at an elevated area, you can see the grandeur from a distance as well. The elaborate Indo-Islamic architecture and the magnificent courtyard where people still sit and pray, is an exquisite sight to watch.
Stepping out of Shahjahan’s imperial Mosque, you straight enter into the lively alleys pf Old Delhi. Discover the gems of the main streets of Chandni Chowk, when we tell you the stories related to them. It was said that the main street was called as Chandni Chowk because the a tank at the center of this historic street once reflected a moonlight.
This walk promises to enthrall history buffs with the magnificent view of Red Fort on one end, Fatehpuri Masjid on the other and an array of heritage buildings on both ends.
The road staright ahead from Jama Masjid takes us to the most opulent bazaar loaded with a wide array of precious, semi-precious stones which can easily give competition to other streets in India. The street which was once a street lined with jewellery from various corners of the world, has looters eyeing on the wealth that the empire had in terms of Jewellery, which has gone through enough ransack to let it now sell only silver jewellery. But the designs offered here are unmatched to any other place.
A walk through DaribaKalan, would lead you to a small alley called Kinari bazaar which is a haven for those who love to shop till they literally drop with the weight of the bags that they’re carrying. At night, the lanes glitter, pop and shine with the colourful borders, laces and colorful embellishments
Tucked away in the heart of Kinari is a lane that’s easy to miss. This tranquil lane is known as Naughara, which contains nine traditional havelis that belong to the Jain community. Not very from Naughara lies a popular lane called galliparantheywalli. Pack a parantha or two from this alley only to head back to Naughara, to enjoy your moment of peace!

At the extreme end of this symmetrical street lies KhariBaoli, Asia’s largest spice market. A walk through the spice market lets you experience the smell of freshly ground spices, which is a mesmerizing feeling!
The Charm of Old delhi is intoxicating, and charismatic. A walk around Old Delhi is letting yourself immerse into the culture, the history and all that the city has to offer!

When the past coalesce with the present: Old Delhi

Old Delhi is not a place, it’s an experience. Each street that you visit has a different story to tell. While you reminisce the past Haveli’s which are forgotten, you also get to experience the delectable’s that the place has to offer. While going through the narrow alleys of the Mughal magnificence the original havelis of Shahjahan’s era are gone now, most of them destroyed, but some of them taken over by larger populations dividing and converted into mohallas or the residential colonies and katras or the commercial enclaves. The main street of Chandni Chowk houses the most prominent Red Fort, which was the residential complex of the Mughal emperor, at the end of the street is his favourite wive’s Mosque, named after Fatehpuri Begum. There is an interesting story behind naming the main street as well. It was said, that the central arcade of the main street had a well at the center. On a full moon night, when the moonlight used to fall on the reservoir, it used to reflect on the mainstreet. That is why it was called as the moonlit square.

Apart from the old deserted Haveli’s which used to be of prominent people, the local culture and mixture of the people was effervescent. With the vibrancy that the walled city has to offer, the city has some delectables to offer. Be it for the non-vegetarians or vegetarians, such as Paranthewali gali, it is also the food haven.

If we have to travel back in time, the main street of Chandni Chowk exposes us to such cultural and religious tolerance which is unmatched till now. The main street has a Digambar Jain Temple, in line you have the famous Gurudwara Sis Ganj, right opposite to which is a cathedral Church and right at the end is the Fatehpuri Mosque.

The Story of the Bloody Uprising of 1857

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s walled city of Shahjahanabad, was indeed a bubble of Mughal high culture and fine tradition, until the revolt of 1857 massacred the whole place, asked a meek King who enjoyed his wine and poetic evenings, to be the leader. As the British were busy exercising control, Zafar was immersed in coming up with perfect Urdu couplets. The Uprising of 1857, a war between the British teachers and their Indian students of the Army was a religious enigma. A walk through the Northern Ridge would make it come alive, the horrors of the mutiny, where the high caste Hindu soldiers started the war to restore the glory of a Muslim emperor by fighting against a Christian force, however the so-called Christian force were not all whites either: they were basically natives.

A walk through the Northern Ridge would take us through the Viceregal house, which is now in Delhi University, the power center till the Independence struggle, during the revolt. Taking a ride from there the Flagstaff tower from the main gate of Northern Ridge takes you through the haunting stories towards the Khooni Jheel, Tughlaq architecture which came into prominence due to its location in 1857. Further as we move forward, from the Northern ridge area, we come across the Mutiny Memorial a Gothic structure which was put up by British after crushing the 1857 uprising to show the strength and prowess of the new born Empire.

While the British were busy establishing a city to reflect their power over the later to be called the ‘jewel in the crown’, the earlier part of the Empire’s administration was done from the Walled city, as that was the seat of the power.

A walk around the precincts of the Walled City would showcase the mix of material cultures which are the remnants of our historical past.

The Abode of Djinns

Djinns are a part and parcel of Delhi life. They are the spirits tending to the faithful seeking help. On Thursdays, the Djinns are busy when thousands turn up with various concerned letters for them.
Imagine a newly built city, oddly 650 years back on a Friday, bustling with people, arriving from the main western gateway with bastions on either side. Right from there, they would enter one of the two smaller gates into the palace interiors, with the exotic Tas-i-Ghariyal playing in the background to announce the time of the day. From the smaller gates, meandering through the garden of grapes, to Ashokan Pillar on left and the imposing Jami Masjid on the right, the new city used to be a favorite place for pleasure trips for people. With a variety of transport options available, the entrance of the citadels from the western side led to a waiting hall flanked by dual gates. Single storied guard rooms lined at the entrance interiors.
Welcome to the fort city of Feroz Shah Kotla, built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century which is between a famous cricket stadium and Delhi’s Ring Road. In the stonewalls of the city, believers of 21st century still stick their letters to the Djinns, light candles and diyas and the believers pray.
Every Thursday, people from various corners of Delhi come with their prayers and letters, with a belief that they would be heard and solved by the Djinns. I happened to meet a lady, a mother of five young children, who had come with photocopies of her letters.
The new city complex of 14th century, there were three palaces which were exotically named as The palace of grapes (Mahal-i-angur) for the Maliks and Amirs; Mahal-i-chajja-i-chobin for personal attendants and; Mahal-i-bar-I ‘amm or the palace of public court for the public. Now all these lie in ruins as they indistinguishable from any other ruins. The Jami Masjid had cloisters four in number, in a rectangle, is a small domed roofs which are supported on 260 stone columns which have 16 feet high, having a 25 feet high central octagonal dome, which contained the Emperors ordinances.
The circular Baoli was the king’s personal swimming pool which had considerable ornamentation. The water conveyed from two overhead water tanks were surmounted with chattris. With the ruins of Jama Masjid, the 42 feet and 7 inches high pale pinkish tapering Ashokan Pillar, and the Sultans most ambitious construction project, it is a sight to watch and retell the story with the same vigour.

When the abode of Godly city became a Mughal City!

The city of Dinpanah, was founded by Humayun, four years, after his father had founded the Empire. On the banks of the river Yamuna, the city was constructed unknowingly, that there was another ancient city which existed at the same area. It was called as ‘Indraprastha’ which translates as the ‘city of the God Indra’. While going through the fort complex, you get to witness the Mughal magnificence as well the remains of the ancient city scattered around, in the form of pottery and other materials. But one very significant thing which the fort city reflects is the material remains that have been left by Sher Shah Suri. An Afghan ruler who had overthrown Humayun, wreaked havoc in the Mughal city, built the new capital city called Sher Shahi, which is now known as Purana Qila. After successfully defeating Humayun in 1540, Suri demolished all that remained from the existing fort city of Dinpanah, re-used the materials from it, as well as from Feroz Shah Kotla and Siri, to make his new city SherGarh which translates as ‘the abode of Lions’. While the fort city was enclosed with three gates which were referred to as Bada Darwaza, Talaqi Darwaza and Humayun Darwaza, the outer walls, right in the front was demarcated with few more gates, such as the Lal Darwaza and the Kabuli Darwaza.
Humayun was often known in history as a moderate Mughal ruler between his charismatic father Babur and his legendary son Akbar. Humayun a superstitious man that he was, must have chosen the particular location of Indraprastha, not far from Nizamuddin Auliya’s shrine. It seems a little awkward that although the gates and outer wall can be proved to be of Humayun’s time, there is not a single other structure of his time.
The gates and the outer walls prove to be of Humayun’s time, but not more than this can be called as pertaining to Humayun’s time. A decent look inside the fort will reveal how scantily the monuments are scattered around the whole area. The main attractions of the whole place might be either the Sher Mandal, and The Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque. The exquisite design of the mosque can be credited to Sher shah, but it doesn’t look like Pathan architecture. A look at the octagonal dome makes it look more like a ‘Lodhi-era’ construction. However, the mosque is the best preserved part of the complex as its horse-shoe shaped doorways is one of the most beautiful example of symmetry, two on the left are ‘sawaal’ and two on the right are ‘jawaab’.

The Tentacles of Incomparable Slaves: Qutub Complex

There is no tower like the tower of the triumph modeled to prove the victory of the Turkish over the Indian lands. The QutubMinar is one of the finest brick minaret which was the tower of triumph modeled after another victory, Minaret of Jam near Herat in the remote valley of western Afghanistan, which was erected by the brother of Muhammad Ghori.
The evening QutubMinar, with its tapered star like base with a circular top, was the victory tower with four ornamental bands adorning its lower storey, followed by two more storeys with two bands each. The construction of the first floor of QutubMinar was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the founder of the Mamluk dynasty, who had also commissioned for Jami masjid. Later the first mosque of Delhi, was called as Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was right on the stronghold of the Hindu citadel of Tomars and Chauhans in delhi.
“To summon the prayers so loud that it could reach Misr (Egypt) and Medina”, was the intention of building the magnificent Minar. The piece and other pieces in the architectural arena in the QutubComplex, are exquisite as the complex beholds layers of history in it. While the Rajput rulers had stationed themselves in the first city of Delhi which was comprising of the precincts of Qutub Complex, the first Muslim rule had not been that adventurous to explore more places. Hence you come across the Mosque, and in its courtyard you can stumble upon the Iron Pillar which is said to have got by the Tomars, and has resisted rusting for 1600 years. The early Turkish rulers were primarily soldiers who had their imagination take shape with the Hindu craftsmen who were locally available.
The complex, sitting on the old citadel of Tomar’sLalKot represents the imagination of the Turkish sultans which was fuelled by their conquests and an uncertainty in the new land: a Muslim theme with Hindu imagination. Together, the layers of history in the complex area represents group of monuments of the Mamluks and Khilji dynasties, and some unreal dreams which were left deserted.
The journey which started from QutubComplex, spread tentacles around Delhi and spread their Sultanate throughout Delhi. It’s fascinating to trace how the Sultanate started off with simpler backgrounds to such elaborate tomb structures as we see elsewhere.

The Story of New Delhi

The story of the longest serving capital of India goes back to the British empire, when they wanted to add to the existing heritage, but also wanted to show their prowess by erecting some iconic monuments. But because of the lack of imagination, they named their city “New Delhi”.
The first foundation stone of New Delhi was laid by King George the Vth, the new emperor of India, after successfully crushing the revolt of 1857, and establishing the British Empire in India. For the longest time, the seat of British power was Calcutta, but when they experienced the bloody revolt from the Indians, their affirmations of the power could not stop them from acquiring the seat of power from Delhi. The architects chosen for this dream project of the British were Edward Lutyen’s and Herbert Baker.
On a December winter, during the Delhi Durbar, George V, along with Queen Mary, made an announcement that the capital of the British Raj would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, while the Viceroy’s residence was in the process of construction. Both Baker and Lutyens’ masters in their work, and excellent 20th century architects, wanted to replicate the colonial, vintage architecture, so that the Raj feels comfortable coming and settling in Oriental lands. The constructions in the city began after the First World War, but could only be completed by 1931. The initial planning consisted of the important residences, like the Secretariat buildings, the Viceroy’s residence, the India Gate which was made especially to welcome King George the Vth to his new territory which later would become the ‘Jewel in the Crown’.
These were initial places which were constructed. Later, both Baker and Lutyen’s started considering other places, in the vicinity of their city. Thus, was Delhi Town Planning Committee, set up to plan the city which would expand its tentacle’s till as far and wide. Thus the bungalows which expanded till present day Safdarjung Tomb till South are still in use by the prominent personalities of politics.
A glance through the wide roads, the roundabouts and the greenery around it, reflects why the architects chose to name it, what it was, in contrast to the existing seat of power.

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