History of Delhi

The Imperial Assembly of India at Delhi: the Viceregal Procession passing the Clock Tower and Delhi Institute in the Chandi Chowk - Illustrated London News, 1877 - Source - ebay Sept. 2009

Delhi is nothing without the history that has gone into its making as the capital of India.  Delhi's cultural identity will be lost without its history as the cosmopolitan nature and prowess of Delhi is derived from its rich historic past.

The Eleven Cities of Delhi are: 

Although Delhi was destroyed 10 times, the destructions could never affect its spirits. Each time a new Delhi arose, right next to the ruins, echoing tales of valor.

As per legends any man or king who creates a new city in Delhi will not be able to last his rule. Many conquerors came here to set their empires and named new cities through the centuries.  Eleven principal cities were chiefly created by different rulers, some of them are reduced to villages today with splendid ruins and act as a testimony of the evolution of times, while others have been modernized.

This region was first capitalized in the Ancient Era, during the time of the great war of Mahabharata around 3100 BC.  During that time five brothers called Pandava's built a highly sophisticated fortress called Indraprastha, which existed till 19th century. After which, the British demolished the ancient village to make way for the construction of New Delhi.


Akbar, the son of Humayun was one of the greatest Mughal emperors and was also a great architect.  His main works were in Agra and the now abandoned city Fatehpur Sikri.  Shah Jahan,  his grandson built the Taj Mahal and also created the city of Shahjahanabad. This was the tenth city of Delhi which is now popularly called the Old Delhi.

Throughout his rule, Shah Jahan erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the legendary Taj Mahal at Agra built as a tomb for his wife, Empress Mumtdens in Kashmir, his favorite summer residence. Surprisingly, a few of these gardens survive even till date and attracts thousands of tourists every year

During this time, Delhi prospered and the Mughals declared Shahjahanabad as heaven on Earth. This perioaz Mahal, the Red Fort and the Jama MasjidMosque in Delhi. The famous Takht-e-Taus or the Peacock Throne said to be worth millions of dollars by modern estimates, also dates from his reign.  He was also the founder of the new imperial capital called Shahjahanabad, now known as Old Delhi.  Shah Jahan is also believed to have the most refined of the tastes in arts and architecture and is credited to have commissioned about 777 gard boasted of an undefeated army, unsurpassed art, trade, religion and riches.

The city, enclosing an area of about 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) was built on the banks of holy river Yamuna.  It was surrounded by strong rubble-built high walls from all sides with bastions and 14 magnificent openings gates.  The base of the city was the imposing Red Fort (now the world's largest non-functional fort) which was a difficult proposition for any enemy to enter.

The city was strategically built, polygonal in plan, with gates for the people and the royal procession to enter or exit, while taking trips in different directions. The walls were 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and 26 feet (7.9 m) tall.  The city was once filled with mansions of nobles and members of the royal court, along with elegant mosques, enchanting bazaars, royal gardens and fountains at every corner.

The original walls were of mud and in the year 1657 were replaced by red stone.  Today, the walls have mostly disappeared and just four gates are left of the grand city which have survived the ravages of time.

Emperor’s beloved daughter Jahanara designed a major street called Chandni Chowk in front of Red Fort, with a canal running down the center and pools at major intersections reflecting the moonlight.

Chandni Chowk street underwent major changes during the British regime, specially during the mutiny of 1857.  Today, in spite having witnessed some of the most brutal historical events, the street and its way of living seem to exist in a time warp. Chandni Chowk truly reflects the national unity, secularism and diversity of India.

The township of old Delhi is still identifiable in a satellite image because of density of houses. The remains of Shahjahanabad are a must-do for tourists…

Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666)

The name Shah Jahan comes from Persian meaning "King of the World."  He was the fifth Mughal emperor after Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir.  In 1627, he succeeded to the throne upon his father's death, Emperor Jahangir.  He is considered to be one of the greatest rulers and his reign has been called the Golden Age of the Mughals and one of the most prosperous ages of the Indian civilization.  At the time of his death in 1666, he was one of the most powerful personalities on the earth and his Mughal Empire spanned almost 750,000,000 acres (3,000,000 km2) and he had in his empire the largest and most prosperous capital as well as some of the most delicate architectural masterpieces in the world.

Shah Jahan married, Arjumand Banu Begum, the grand daughter of a Persion noble, who was 14 years old at the time of marriage.  Shah Jahan gave her the title Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace).  She had 14 children.  She was his constant companion and trusted confidante and their relationship was intense.  The intervening years had seen Shah Jahan take two other wives, however his affection and attention for Mumtaz Mahal was incomparable.