While the earth made another trip around the sun, I embarked on my last long trip of 2022, a whirlwind trip of my birth land in a span of 2 weeks.
Delhi has been my stomping grounds for most of my youth- from primary school through the completion of my Engineering degree.
My daughter, Tia has been to Delhi a number of times in the past, however, she was much younger and her the highlights of her visits were the entertainment zones in the shopping malls.
This time, she is older and wiser, and a bit more versed with world history. Our visit this time was to Delhi was unique – my dad was our tour guide and he wanted Tia to sightsee Delhi through his lens.
Iconic landmarks of Delhi
We had 2 days to cover Delhi and wanted to hit the major spots. The following is Grandpas bucket list- we were able to cover most of the places.
- Humayun’s tomb
- Qutab Minar
- India Gate
- Red Fort ( I will cover this in a separate blog)
- Baha’i Lotus temple ( we have ear marked this landmark for our next visit)
- Shopping areas ( not so much on the Grandpa’s list; but, places of shrine on my list:)- Delhi Haat and Janpath
We live in the expanded suburbs of New Delhi – Greater Noida. It is about 40 kilometers from Delhi and is well connected by express ways. We rented a private car to travel to Delhi. While the car allows us the flexibility, Delhi’s traffic jams are infamous and can happen anywhere at any time. An alternative to car ride would be using the Metro ( underground railways) which has an extensive network. The service is extremely reliable and comfortable. The only flip side for a tourist would be the unfamiliarity of the routes.
First stop- Humayun’s tomb
The historical perspective
The tomb was built for the Mughal emperor- Humayun.
My father is an ardent history buff and is extremely knowledgeable and well read on all things history.
While one generation was imparting knowledge to the other, I was the official scribe.
Cliff’s notes -Grandpa to Grand daughter
Humayun is the second Mughal emperor who ruled the Mughal territories of the Indian subcontinent in for a short but important period- for 10 years from AD 1530-1540 and just another year before his death ( AD 1555-1556).
Interesting fact about Humayun’s reign was that Humayun inherited hope, rather than a fact of empire and merely restrained the local kingdoms who were not reconciled to the Mughal supremacy. Humayun was defeated by the Afghan kingdom and was a wanderer for 10 years before he came back to India with help of military aid from the Persian kingdom and seized his throne back for only a year.
The tomb was commissioned by his Persian wife and was built by a Persian architect who had previously designed buildings in Afghanistan and followed the same architecture.
The location was chosen to adjoin the shrine of an important saint (Nizamuddin). Nizamuddin was particularly venerated by Mughals at the time.
What makes the tomb unique-
Persian Gardens- This tomb was set in a geometrically arranged garden crisscrossed by water channels. These Persian gardens were the first of the kind in India and was influenced by Mughal buildings and tombs built in other parts of the world during that time.
Amalgamation of Hindu and Islam Architecture- Persian double dome is infused with inlaid tile work, which is the hallmark of Hindu architecture at the time.
Star of David: Another fascinating feature of most Mughal buildings at the time was the incorporation of Star of David – a prominent symbol of old world traditions that became eventually associated with Judaism and Jewish culture
Prototype to Taj Mahal- this tomb became a prototype to the Taj- both in terms of layout and format. Interestingly enough, the Humayun’s tomb was a commemoration from a wife to a husband, which had reversed roles a few generations later with the Taj .
Humayuns tomb provides an easy insight to the Mughal era. It is easy to access, with lots of parking areas and is centrally located. The admission fees are minimal- 10 dollars for tourists and 1 dollar for locals. It takes about an hour or so to cover the premises. Well worth the visit .
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a minaret and a victory tower. This majestic tower, 73 metees tall, is set to be built at the end of the 12 century by a succession of Slave Dynasty rulers- Qutbu’d-Din Aibak and his son in law Iltutmish.
Cliff’s notes -Grandpa to Grand daughter
This was completely a de-Javu moment for me. I had visited this grandeur in red stone with my grandparents when they visited us in Delhi. I was probably 10 years old and my only recollection was that I was able to go up the really narrow stairs to the 1st floor and saw the expanse of Delhi greenery for the first time.
It was a surreal moment for me to see my father describing this awe inspiring monument to his grand daughter, just like my grandfather did 40 years back.
What is unique
Slave dynasty- Qutub din was originally a slave who rose to power to become the ruler of Delhi. This was a monumental feat by itself, for a slave to become a king.
Temple and mosque in the same complex: the Qutub minar complex has both temple and a mosque existing harmoniously in the same complex. The architecture represents but Hindu and Islamic elements- beautifully blending with each other, similar to what we saw at Humayuns tomb.
Tallest brick minaret: Qutab minar is still the tallest brick minaret in the world.
Iron pillar- magnificent pillar is made of rust resistant iron in 400 AD . It is also said that this 6 ton pillar was made elsewhere (western India) but was transported here in the 11th century.
Qutab Minar was by far the most favorite stop for all of us. This is a compact complex where different centuries blend and co exist, each adding its own flavor and character. This is a must see in Delhi.
One of the most iconic structures that represents Delhi is India Gate.
This is a brand new monument compared to our other tourist attractions. It was built by the British government ruling in India in the early part of the 20th century as a war memorial to fallen Indian soldiers in World War I.
Cliff’s notes -Grandpa to Grand daughter
1. The names of all fallen soldiers are inscribed in the bricks.
2. There is an eternal flame ( Amar Jyoti) that burns 24 hours 7 days a week.
Last but not the least, retail therapy
A trip to Delhi is never complete without a stop at Delhi Haat. Haat means local bazar and this unique open air bazar has little stores from each part of India. India’s diversity is expansive. Each state has its own language, culture, region, food as well as arts/crafts and clothing.
Delhi Haat is definitely the ‘Cliffs Notes’ of everything India. One can experience the entire country’s flavor in this Haat. Also, there are a number of food stalls, each representing a different Indian state.
Must see for anyone who likes anything Indian. Bargaining is an acceptable culture, it’s my ‘ cheap thrill’ and Tia and I felt we were in shoppers Mecca.
If Delhi Haat is the ‘eye’ to all things Indian, Janpath is the ‘pulse’ of Delhi. Ask any local, they will talk about Janpath with a passion that matches none. It’s more than a street with a string of shops that sell curios to Delhi tourists, it is the holy grail of any Delhite who has gone to college in Delhi. It’s sort of the rite of passage, the place where any college going student buys their first trendy fashionable thing with the hard earned allowance or stipend. It’s the first time when one has cold coffee at Depauls . Janpath is very uncharacteristic of Delhi- not the standard malls or small bazaars, it’s an amalgamation of sights and scents that are local and yet global.
While I will talk about Janpath with a fanatic fervour, in the eyes of my millennial, this was a huge big curio market with street fashion, trendy Indian jewelry and an ‘unexplainable’ cool factor. Tia bought a bunch of little things that are not typically found in a mall, and carried back a little of ‘Delhi’ with her.
From a sprightly 80 year young to a bubbly 20 year old, Delhi never fails to charm. It has something for everyone, in spite of its traffic and pollution and other shortcomings. Delhi is truly a melting pot- harmoniously blending in centuries, generations, religion , age and gender in a gentle churn – and creating magic at the end of the rainbow.
Leave a Reply