Travel Bucket List: India – Delhi Part 6

Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum
Located in what was the residence of the late Indira Gandhi, India’s former Prime Minister, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum was where Indira Gandhi’s assassination took place on October 31, 1984. After her demise, the residence was converted into a museum and it now features an array of interesting memorabilia and artefacts that once belonged to the late Prime Minister.

Some collections on display include the saree she had was wearing during her assassination and personal and rare photographs of her childhood and life, the Nehru-Gandhi family as well as the Nationalist movement. The museum also showcases awards received by her son Rajiv Gandhi, newspaper clippings of funeral pyres, and personal items including pens, bags, book collections, and clothes. Apart from this, the gifts that Indira Gandhi received from several people are also on display.

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum is open between Tuesdays and Sundays from 9:30 am to 4:45 pm. It is closed on Mondays.

Sanskriti Museums
Located at Anandagram, within the Sanskriti Kala Kendra Complex in Mehrauli, the Sanskriti Museums was established in 1990 by O.P. Jain to preserve indigenous heritage and culture by curating, promoting and documenting everyday objects of art and craft. The complex has three museums- Museum of Everyday Art, Museum of Indian Terracotta and Museum of Indian Textiles, all of which are a treasure trove of stunning displays of everyday objects, handcrafted products and terracotta sculptures and figurines.

Housed in a beautiful farmhouse, the complex also has functional workshops, a live art studio and the residence of the artisans. The place is the perfect getaway from the city. A huge banyan tree stands tall and this is one of the largest research and resource centres on the art and craft traditions of India.

The Museum of Everyday Art was established in 1984 and this section was created to preserve the rich cultural heritage of India and to showcase the ordinary objects of everyday use which display excellent craftsmanship and skill like cups, saucers, and spoons. The gallery has been designed with products from rural and urban India, depicting the cycle of life, from birth to death. The Museum of Indian Terracotta is an ode to terracotta art that has been synonymous with human civilization, and also with Indian art and culture since ancient times. From earthen pots used to drink water to Tamil idols of the Ayyangar cult, terracotta art occupies a large part of our lifestyle and has been in practice for over hundreds of years. This museum has over 1500 articles of terracotta art, sculptures and figurines. The Museum of Indian Textiles was initially a personal collection of the founder O. P. Jain. Sometime later Shri Jyotindra Jain along with the founder helped him curate and collect more artefacts. Over time, the growing collection led to the idea of a museum and the museum was inaugurated in January 2009 by then Chief Minister Sheila Dixit. The museum is unlike any other in the world and does not aim to have an exhaustive assemblage, rather focuses on the quality of the content curated so it can later be used for research and study.

The complex is closed on Mondays and other days is open between 10 am and 5 pm and does not have any entry fees.

Charkha Museum
One of the newer museums in Delhi, the Charkha Museum was constructed in collaboration with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission and highlights the importance of the great heritage of the Indian Charkha. Inaugurated on 27 May 2017, the museum is built atop the underground Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place opposite the Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan. Managed by New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the gigantic model of the Indian Charkha which is 26 feet long, 13 feet wide and 4 feet high promotes the philosophy of self-reliance.

The Charkha is a symbol of nationalism and celebrates the history and evolution of Indian culture, the Swadeshi movement and is a dedication to Mahatma Gandhi. The museum showcases 14 vintage charkha models and depicts the journey of charkhas from cotton or kapas to yarn to the final khadi product. In addition, the museum also has a multimedia display of Gandhiji’s journey from his younger days to his death. The Charkha Museum is open from 10 am to 9 pm daily and has an entry fee of INR 20 for adults.

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, built in 1992 by social activist Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is titled one of the weirdest museums in the world by Time magazine. Established to address the global history of sanitation and toilets, the museum has plenty of exhibits from over 50 countries and ranging from ornately carved toilets to painted urinals and related anecdotes. The exhibits brings the entire history of toilets from 3000 BC to the 20th century, arranged in three sections of Ancient, Medieval and Modern.

The museum also has exhibits and items displaying the transition in toilet-related technology, sanitation habits, hygiene etiquette and the like. What makes the exhibits more attractive are the tiny piece of toilet poetry latched to the specimens on the display boards. Among the many chamber pots, Victorian toilet seats, golden commodes, bidets, toilet furniture and privies, the most fascinating is the copy of the toilet of King Louis XIV while still in court.

The museum has been divided into three sections depicting the evolution of toilets in the last five thousand years from the Harappan Settlements to the end of the 20th century. The Ancient gallery depicts the sanitation facilities, wells, bathing tanks, underground drains, soak-pits and toilets used in the excavated sites of Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Lothal and Dholavira. It also has copies of relics from ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Crete, Jerusalem, Greece and Rome. The Medieval Gallery showcases the luxuriant toilet models from the Amber Fort of Jaipur, Akbar’s Fort in Fatehpur-Sikri near Agra, Gingee Fort of Tamilnadu and Golconda Fort of Hyderabad. The international collection has a tabletop toilet of England and exuberant stones studded pot of Queen Victoria. The Modern Gallery is the most recent addition, which has a collection of toilet-related jokes, cartoons and photographs. Among the many models from the modern age include the toy commode from China, the mobile toilet of Sulabh, the electric toilet from the USA and the model of the world’s biggest toilet complex at Shirdi.

The Toilet Museum is closed on Sundays and is otherwise open between 10 am and 5 pm and does not have any entry fees.

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum
Situated in the Children’s Book Trust Building, Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is a dreamland for children. Shankar’s Museum was conceptualized by the famous cartoonist K. Shankar Pillai. Segregated into two sections, the museum has over 160 shelves full of dolls from all over the world. When it was created in 1965, the museum was inaugurated with just around 500 dolls; however, as of now, there are over 6500 dolls from over 85 countries, 500 of which are from the different states of India.

Spread over an area of 5000 sq ft, the museum has two sections. One displays dolls from western nations and the second displays dolls from India and Asian countries. It also has a workshop area where visitors can learn the art of doll-making. The dollhouse itself has been designed in various themes including man on the moon, Mexican aborigines, and Japanese kabuki dancr. Shankar’s Museum is the largest of its kind in India and is considered the best option for a children’s day out.

Among the foreign collection, the most famous are the Boy and Girl Festival dolls from Japan, replicas of dolls from Queen’s collection, cute Kabuki and raging Samurai dolls from Japan, Maypole dancing dolls from Hungary, famous Flamenco dancers from Spain, and Kandy Pehara from Sri Lanka. In the Indian section, over 150 dolls are created in traditional Indian costumes in the museum workshop including dolls in Kathakali dancing costumes, conventional Lavani costume dancers, dolls depicting different wedding traditions, brides and grooms from different states, and dolls in regional dresses. The dolls are made in-house and are exchanged with or and sold to museums abroad. The museum also has a tiny hospital to treat sick dolls. Open between 10 am and 5:30 pm, the museum is closed on Mondays. Entry fees are INR 25 for adults and INR 15 for children.

Museum of Archaeology
Located within the premises of Purana Qila, the Museum of Archaeology displays exhibits, most of which were excavated at Purana Qila by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1955 and between 1969 and 1973. The museum is located on the upper floor of the fort right next to the entrance. The collection of articles and relics at the museum are excavations which are evidence of the earliest settlements in the city dating back to 1000 BC. The exhibits are placed in a sequenced order ranging from painted grey ware to objects collected over time through the age of Mauryans, Mughals, Sunga, Kushan, Gupta, Rajput and the Sultanate Empires.

The museum also boasts a wonderful collection of antiquities and pottery products from different ancient periods. In addition, it has paintings, textiles, costumes, beautifully calligraphed manuscripts and the like. A separate section has relics bought and preserved from the First War of Independence including armour, daggers, maps and other weaponry.

The museum is closed on Fridays and is otherwise open between 9 am and 5 pm. Entry fees are INR 5 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners.

National Railway Museum
Located in Chanakyapuri, the Rail Museum aims to preserve the 163 years old railway heritage of India. Popularly known as the National Railway Museum, the museum is spread over 10 acres of land and houses some fabulous railway memorabilia. Established on 1 February 1977, the Rail Museum possesses around 100 real-size exhibits of the Indian railways both working and static, antiques, and furniture. A few dummy specimens also offer rides to both adults and children. Outside, the famous Fairy Queen, the oldest working steam locomotive is located. Today the museum has also facilitated 3D virtual train rides, steam loco stimulators and an indoor gallery.

Adjacent to the museum is the building which has beautiful photographs of the golden yesteryears in the history of the Indian railway. Some miniature models can be seen at the entrance, which can’t be photographed. It also has an auditorium with a seating capacity of 200 people. In addition, the museum also has an in-house souvenir shop to buy little souvenirs.

The idea of the Rail Museum took shape in 1970 under the advice of rail enthusiast Michael Graham. The then President of India, Shri V. V. Giri laid the foundation stone of the building in Chanakyapuri which was called Railway Transport Museum and it was intended to cover the histories of roadways, airways, and waterways in addition to the railways. In 1977, it was inaugurated by the then railway Minister, Kamlapati Tripathi. However, by 1995, it was established as a full-fledged railway museum and was called National Railway Museum.

Fairy Queen which is the oldest working steam locomotive is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits. The Patiala State Monorail, originally built in 1907, consists of a track of single rail. Renovated and restored in 1927, it is not in running condition. Built by John Morris and Sons Ltd, there are just two Morris-Belsize engines known to exist to date, one of which is showcased here. The other one is preserved at Whitewebbs Museum of Transport in London. There are various Saloons in the museum including that of the Prince of Wales which was built in honour of the Prince Wales’ visit to India, of the Maharaja of Holkar of Indore, of the Maharaja of Mysore, and India’s first-generation 1500V DC locomotive engine, the Electric Locomotive 4502. It was locally known as khekdas or crabs owing to the similarities in their sounds while at rest and in motion.

The Rails at the Rail Museum is a new innovative restaurant located inside the premises, where one can have a fancy dinner in a rail carriage. Inspired by the design of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, the restaurant has a similar dome and the food is brought in steam engines and served to guests occupying different tables named after different railway stations in India.

During the weekdays, entry charges are INR 50 for adults and INR 10 for children between 3 to 12 years. During the weekend and on government holidays, adults need to pay INR 100 and children INR 20. The Bheem Diesel Stimulator costs INR 150 for adults and INR 50 for children during weekdays while the same during weekends is INR 300 for adults and children. The Steam Loco Simulator during weekdays costs an adult and a child INR 150 while during weekends and government holidays costs INR 300 for both adults and children. The 3D Virtual Coach Ride during the weekday is INR 100 and INR 200 during weekends. The Toy Train costs INR 100 and INR 200 on weekends and holidays. The Joy Train costs adults INR 20 during the weekday while children pay INR 10 and during weekends and holidays, the same will cost an adult INR 50 and a child INR 20. Closed on Mondays, the Museum is open on other days between 10 am and 5 pm with entry closing at 4:30 pm.

Museo Camera
Located in Gurugram, Museo Camera is a unique vintage camera museum showcasing analogue, still and video cameras, some over a century old. The eccentric repository is a private venture and the brainchild of Indian photographer Aditya Arya. Located in the India Photo Archive’s headquarters, the gallery boasts a large collection of over 1500 cameras ranging from the 1880s to the 1990s.

In addition to the cameras, pinned pictures and photographs explain the procedure behind film photography, developing pictures from reels, and the like. There is also an elaborate display of antiques including the earliest flash equipment, vintage photographic films, enlargers, and light meters. The Museo Camera is open by appointment only between 10 am and 5 pm and though there is no entry fee, donations are requested to the tune of INR 300.

National Gallery of Modern Art
Located at Jaipur House, the National Gallery of Modern Arts preserves paintings and other artistic pieces dating back to the 1850s. It was established on March 29, 1954, by the Indian Government and covers an area of 12,000 sq m and is larger compared to its subsequent branches in Mumbai and Bangalore.

The Gallery houses a collection of more than 14,000 artworks which includes work that is as old as 150 years. It showcases a perfect blend of modern and contemporary art in the form of visual galleries and different exhibitions. The collections at the Gallery include A.A. Almelkar’s work, a gallery on miniature paintings including the earliest surviving miniature painting on palm leaves dating to the 10th century and that on paper to the 14th century. Tanjore paintings on cloth and Mysore paintings on paper, works of European Traveller Artists like John Zoffany, Tilly Kettle, William Hodges, Emily Eden and others as well as Kalighat paintings and artworks by Amrita Sher-Gil, Jamini Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Gaganendranath Tagore are available. Other galleries include art movements of the 1960s and the 1970s and contemporary and modern sculptures as well as printmaking and photography.

The idea of a national art gallery was conceived in 1949 and the gallery was inaugurated on March 29, 1954. Sir Arthur Bloomfield built this butterfly-shaped building in 1936 as a place of residence for the Maharaja of Jaipur, hence the name Jaipur House. The central hexagon used by Lutyens was used in the styling of this building. In 2009, a new wing of the NGMA was set to operate which added almost six times the space to the existing gallery making it larger than before. At present, it includes a new auditorium, conservation laboratory, a preview theatre, cafeteria, library and academic section and museum shop.

The National Gallery of Modern Art is closed on Mondays and national holidays and is otherwsie open between 11 am and 6:30 pm. Entry fee for Indians is INR 20 while foreigners need to pay INR 500. Children and and students with a valid ID can enter free while professional photographers need to pay INR 1000 per picture

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Situated in Saket, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is the first private museum in India dedicated to contemporary and modern art. Established in 2010, the museum has a centre in Noida as well. Sprawling over an area of 18000 sq ft, the museum has an art collection from 20th-century painters and also features young and contemporary talent. Initially, Ms Kiran Nadar started the venture by displaying exhibits in a cafeteria outside her husband’s office, but later the gallery moved to South Court Mall in Saket.

Currently, the museum boasts an elaborate collection with more than 4500 works of art from painters dating to the 19th century including prominent works from celebrated Indian artists like M. F. Hussain, Raja Ravi Verma and Anish Kapoor. Other than the painting displays, the museum hosts regular workshops, seminars, symposiums, exotic art exhibitions and public programs. The museum is free to enter and is open between 10:30 am and 6 pm and is open all days of the week except Mondays.

Museum of Illusions
Located in Connaught Place is India’s first optical illusion museum, The Museum of Illusions. Exhibits here include holograms, a supposedly rotating cylinder, a room with no gravity, rooms with mirrors that distort reality and much more. One can also see photo illusions which come with all kinds of backgrounds or experience a stereogram which is a picture that contains a hidden object which appears to be 3D when viewed from a certain angle. There is also a Smart Playroom here which is aimed at stimulating cognitive function. On weekdays the museum is open between 11 am and 8 pm and over the weekends, it is open from 11 am to 9 pm. Weekday entry fees are INR 650 for adults while children over the age of 3 pay INR 520. The weekend entry rate is INR 690 for adults and INR 550 for children.

National Zoological Park
Inaugurated in 1959, the National Zoological Park also known as Chidiya Ghar is situated near the Old Fort in Delhi and is a favourite weekend spot. Well maintained and largely visited by tourists, there are canteens inside and battery-operated vehicles at very reasonable prices.

It was previously known as the Delhi Zoo and in 1982, it was renamed The National Zoological Park with the idea of making it the model zoo of the country. The park also has a Conservation Breeding Programme for the Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Brow Antlered Deer, Swamp Deer, Indian rhinoceros and red jungle fowl.

The Park was formally inaugurated on 1 November 1959 and in 1982, it was given the status of a National Zoological Park. There are a large number of animals, birds and reptiles at the zoo with 1,347 animals and 127 species. The Zoo is closed on Fridays and national holidays and on other days is open between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm. Ticket prices for Indian adults are INR 40 and INR 20 fo children between 3 to 5 years of age. Children below the age of 3 get in free, while senior citizens pay INR 40. For foreigners, adults pay INR 200 while children above the age of 5 pay INR 100. Entry is free for children below the age of 5.

National Bal Bhavan
National Bal Bhavan is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, headquartered at ITO. Established in 1956 by the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the centre aims to nurture and enhance the creative ability of young children by providing them with an interactive environment replete with engaging activities and interesting opportunities according to their age group, abilities and aptitude. The centre provides a wonderful platform to kids to express and evolve their ideas and helps them in their overall growth. There is also an informative museum which offers non-formal learning opportunities and knowledge to children as well as a traffic park, skating park, camping hostel, amphitheatre, cultural exchange programmes and interesting workshops.

The mini train at Bal Bhavan is one of its major attractions. The train was originally gifted to the centre by Pandit Nehru in 1958. The tiny train has two full coaches and a seating capacity of 52 people, both adults and children. There is also a make-believe railway station called Khel Gaon and an engine house where the train rests and has a turntable to help turn the train around. The mile-long train ride circumventing the Bal Bhavan compound on a Y3 gauge passes through a tunnel as well as a bridge, both of which are very realistic.

A tiny traffic park has been set up with the support of the Delhi Traffic Police. The park has small roads and is equipped with traffic signals, road signs and crossings. Children are provided with bicycles to paddle around and learn about traffic rules and signals in a fun way. A small film is also played briefing the kids about road safety measures. Bal Bhavan also has the laughing mirror section which is a gallery full of mirrors. Huge pieces of concave and convex mirrors have been placed at different angles and positions with each other to reflect a deflected and distorted image of the object placed in front of them. So when children look at themselves in the mirror, they see a funny image of themselves and burst out laughing.

The Science Park is equipped with working science models of everyday use. There are also models of various science equipment including a pin-hole camera, periscope, musical pipes, and solar system models. The Bal Bhavan complex also houses a tiny zoo to impart basic knowledge about animals to the kids. There is a huge aviary with over 20 varieties of different birds and the fish corner educates the children about freshwater fish and saltwater fish, the use of gills, streamlined swimming and other techniques. They also learn about the making of aquariums including surface tension, and the release of oxygen.

Inaugurated in 1992, the library has been divided into sections. The Children’s Library has books for children from 5 to 16 years on subjects ranging from art & crafts, literature, mathematics, science, computers, and general awareness. The infants’ corner is meant for children between 5 and 9 and has soft toys, game accessories and stencil pictures. The library also organised games and quiz shows for the children. The reference library has encyclopedias for children to refer to. They can take an annual membership of the library after which books can be issued for a period of 7 to 14 days.

A small section of the Bal Bhavan complex has been dedicated to the creation of a rural village scene. Equipped with small kiosks, water wells, machaans, swings, statues of village women drawing water and milking cows, huge idols of cows and stray animals, seating spaces called chaupals, mounds of real cow dung and folk art, the area is synonymous with the village culture. The village comes alive with activity every Saturday when the art and craft activities like henna application, paper mache, pottery etc. are shifted to the village complex. Folk songs are played for the children, and they are made to see and learn the rural arts like pottery, dung making etc.

The National Bal Bhavan is closed on Sundays, Mondays and gazetted holidays and on other days it is open between 9 am to 5:30 pm. Entry fees for both adults & children are INR 5

Connaught Place
Connaught Place or CP as it is more commonly known is a massive commercial and financial centre. Named after the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, this confusing market complex houses almost all famous international chain stores, famous food chains, restaurants and bars. Connaught Place has one of the largest national flags in the country. This circular, greying whitewashed structure has two concentric circles; the inner circle has blocks A to F and the outer circle has blocks G to N. No visit to Delhi is complete without a visit to Connaught Place.

The area in and around Connaught Place is a shopper’s paradise. The main markets in Connaught Place are Janpath and Palika Bazar. Janpath which starts at radial road number 1 at CP stretches for around 1.5 km. Most famous for Pashmina shawls from Kashmir, it is one of the largest and oldest street shopping localities. Palika Bazar is another street shopping locality near Janpath, particularly dominated by electronics shops. Connaught Place is known for its excellent dining options right from budget to high-end and is also well known for its nightlife.

Old villages like Madhoganj and Raja ka Bazaar were demolished to build the place, and people were relocated to nearby sites. These villages were on the route of the historic Qutb Road which connected Qutb Minar to Old Delhi. Named after Prince Arthur, the first Duke of Connaught, it was designed by Robert Torr Russell, chief architect of PWD at the time. Construction was completed in 1931. Built on Georgian architecture, the complex is very identical to the Royal Crescent in Bath, England. It was initially planned to be a massive 172 meters high but was later reduced to two-storeys.

Shopping at Connaught Place is open between 11 am and 9:30 pm except on Sundays and entertainment options start from 11 am and go on till 1 am.

Chandni Chowk
One of the oldest markets in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk is Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare and a chaotic wholesale market lined by hawkers and porters offering a full medieval bazaar experience. It is an important historical site renowned for the availability of every kind of goods as well as food. Constructed in the 17thcentury by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, It is opposite the Red Fort and provides a view of the Fatehpuri Mosque.

Crisscrossed by narrow streets with shops jostling for space, Chandi Chowk has been a shopper’s paradise since the 17th century. During Shah Jahan’s reign, there was a tree-lined canal running through its centre, reflecting the moon, hence the name Chandni Chowk which means a moonlit market. Shopping at Chandni Chowk can be slightly overwhelming as the market is distributed in several streets and these narrow streets are inundated with vibrant varieties of clothes, perfumes, electronic items, jewellery, candles, idols of deities and lifestyle goods. And as it is a wholesale market, one can get huge discounts on most of the items. Apart from shopping, it is equally famous for its eateries, street food, and Indian snacks.

Nai Sadak is mainly known for books and stationery items while Dariba Kalan is known for jewellery, especially silver and gold items, especially hand-crafted jewellery. Chawri Bazar is your go-to place if you are looking to get wedding cards printed in bulk as it specialises in the sale of paper products. Kinari Bazar is a haven for wedding shopping. It is a narrow lane known for selling the best zardozi items like laces and frills. Bhagirath Palace is Asia’s largest wholesale market for electrical and electronic items and Ballimaran Market is known for selling shoes at affordable prices. Chor Bazaar is one of the biggest thrift markets in the city and offers anything one can name. Khari Baoli is a street dedicated to spices, nuts, herbs and dried fruits located at the western end while Fatehpuri Market is a wholesale trade market for khoya and paneer. Kucha Choudhary Market is also known as the photo market where one can get all types of cameras and accessories and Katra Neel is the wholesale market for all kinds of clothes.

Chandni Chowk is a gastronomic hub and home to some of the oldest and most famous restaurants and confectioners, many of them dating back to pre-partition. The food trail of Chandni Chowk begins and ends at Gali Paranthe Wali.

The history of Chandni Chowk dates back to the foundation of Shahjahanabad by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Shahjahanabad was set to be the empire’s capital. Chandni Chowk was initially laid as a square in the centre of which was a pool that shimmered in the moonlight with the shops arranged in a half-moon pattern around this square. Many people believe that it was built so that Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, Jahan Ara Begum, could buy whatever she needed. It was a gathering place for traders and merchants who flocked here from all over the country. Today, the original pattern of the reflecting pool and shops arranged in half moon has been replaced. There is also speculation that Chandni Chowk was named after silver or Chandi in Hindi as it was famous for its silver merchants.

Closed on Mondays, Chandni Chowk is open otherwise between 10 am and 7 pm.

Dilli Haat
Designed to invoke the ambience of a traditional village fair, there are three Dilli Haats in Delhi – in Pitampura, Janakpuri and INA, with INA being the most popular one. Delhi Haat INA is located in the commercial centre of South Delhi, bang opposite the INA Market. Run by Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), the market offers a plethora of traditional crafts and handloom products. The market also has cuisines from all over the country. There is an open-air theatre where cultural events are performed daily basis.

Spread over 6 acres, the area was initially part of a reclamation process and converted into a food plaza cum cultural market in 1994. Currently, Dill Haat INA houses 62 stalls, some of which are rotated every 15 days to other craftsmen; the cost of which is INR 250 per day.

Dilli Haat has been designed in the traditional north Indian architectural style with brick latticework and stone roofs. The complex houses a large hall which conducts exhibitions and displays of handlooms and handicrafts and occasionally hosts cultural events. A tiny souvenir shop sells mainstream souvenirs of Delhi. The stalls are built in kiosks and cottages with thatched roofs to give a village feel to the entire set-up. The shops are set on a slightly elevated platform connected through a stone pathway and are interspaced with grass; with courtyards in between to retain the harmonious village environment.

Dilli Haat is open from 10:30 am to 10 pm daily and has entry fees of INR 30 for Indian adults, INR 20 for children up to 12 years and INR 100 for foreigners.

Sarojini Market
Vibrantly coloured clothes strewn all over, tiny food stalls crammed in every nook, a loud cacophony of the salesboys, this is Sarojini Market in a nutshell. Popularly known as a bargain bazaar this market offers options in clothing, footwear, kitchen utensils, accessories and cosmetics. Located in South Delhi, the bazaar is named after the famed freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu.

The market is closed on Mondays and on other days is open between 11 am and 8 pm.

Lajpat Nagar
A bustling and colourful neighbourhood in South Delhi, Lajpat Nagar is named after the Lion of Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai. Lajpat Nagar is divided into four areas – Lajpat Nagar I, II and III which are located to the north of the Ring Road and Lajpat Nagar IV which is located to the south of the Ring Road. The neighbourhood consists of housing colonies and the famous Central Market. The market is pretty accessible and is famous for daily necessities, clothing, especially ready-to-wear and couture, wedding apparel, electronics, and furnishings. Lajpat Nagar is also famous for its delicious street food. Lajpat Nagar was formed after partition in 1947 and the oldest residents are Hindus and Sikhs who relocated from Pakistan and established this colony in 1954.

The Lajpat Nagar Central Market is open daily between 11 am and 10 pm.

Majnu ka Tila
Popularly known as Little Tibet, Majnu ka Tila is a Tibetan market and colony, located near the North Campus. The area is known for some amazing restaurants and cafes, a Tibetan market and Majnu ka Tilla gurdwara. The market is known for its eccentric fashion garments, footwear and jewellery.

Pragati Maidan
Pragati Maidan, on Mathura Road, is a huge complex-cum-exhibition centre with a total exhibit area of 150 acres. Overlooking Purana Qila, and equipped with well-paved roads, lawns, gardens and eating outlets, Pragati Maidan, which means progress grounds, houses 16 vast and spacious halls and is the biggest exhibition centre in the city hosting about 70 national and international exhibitions and conventions each year.

Built to celebrate 25 years of India’s independence, technological progress and indigenous talent, Pragati Maidan is an embodiment of the Make In India. Other than the exhibition halls, Pragati Maidan has many attractions, like the Son of India Pavilion, the Defence Pavilion and a movie theatre, Shakuntalam.

And with this, I end my series on all the states and Union Territories of India. Over the last few years, as I spent time researching the different states and union territories, I learnt a lot about my country of birth and my bucket list has grown so big, I have doubts I will be able to visit all the places I want to in India. India is a country of contrasts and has so much to offer – from the mountains of Kashmir to the tropics of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and from the white sands of Gujarat to the mountains of the northeast, every state, every territory and in fact, every nook and corner has something new and unique to offer.

To the Indians reading this series, please go and visit the different parts of India, you will be surprised by what the country has to offer and to foreigners, make India your next holiday destination. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

For myself and others, I will put together an index of all the states and what I have covered in them very soon. This may help you plan your next trip to Incredible India!

Travel Bucket List: India – Delhi Part 5

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Built to commemorate the visit Guru Har Krishan, the eighth Sikh guru in 1664, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib was built by Sikh General Sardar Bhagel Singh in 1783, who supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi in the same year during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.

The complex has a main prayer hall, a holy Sarovar or lake, a higher secondary school, a hospital, the Baba Baghel Singh Museum, and a library within its premises. People visiting get free community meals served at a particular time. The entire building is carved out of delicate white marble, with the central dome covered in solid gold leaves. The front wall is embellished with intricated projected carvings and has several smaller domes as well. The Nishan Sahib is a towering flagpole that proudly waves the Gurudwara’s flag.

It is believed that the waters of the Sarovar here have miraculous healing properties. The Gurudwara was once a bungalow belonging to Raja Jai Singh in the 17th century and was known as Jaisinghpura Palace at that time. When the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan visited Delhi in the year 1664, he stayed at the palace. Following the teachings of Sikhism, Guru Har Krishan dedicated his services to the suffering by giving fresh water from the well, the healing powers of which cured the diseased. Unfortunately, he contracted the same, as a result of which he died on March 30, 1664. Raja Jai Singh constructed a small tank over the waters of the well, and it is now believed to heal all kinds of diseases and health problems. It is taken away in bottles as souvenirs by devotees coming to Bangla Sahib from all over the world.

When entering the gurudwara, heads need to be covered, shoes have to be deposited near the entrances, and feet washed in warm water before entering. The Paath and Shabads or the sacred chants go on for almost 24 hours and there is an aura of peace and divinity that envelops the visitor.

There is also a Yatri Niwas for tourists with room facilities available. An air-conditioned room, it costs INR 1000 per night, while non-air-conditioned rooms are rented for INR 800 per night. There is also a huge hall that can accommodate 500 people. Photography is not allowed inside the campus and selfies are strictly prohibited. Community meals or Langars are served between 9 am and 3 pm and then again between 7 and 10 pm.

Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib
Situated in the Chandi Chowk area, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is one of the nine historical gurudwaras in Delhi. Built in 1783 by Baghel Singh, a military general in the Punjab cantonment, the gurdwara is the martyrdom site of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur who was executed here on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb on 11th November 1675 as he refused to convert his religion to Islam. Before the body could be revived and displayed for view for the devotees, it was stolen by one of the Guru’s disciples Lakhi Shah Vanjara. Vanjara carried the body to his home and burnt down his house to cremate his Guru. Today, Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib stands at that spot. The head of Guru Tegh Bahadur was taken to Anandpur Sahib and cremated there by his son. Like all other gurdwaras, this one is also open to people of all religions and faith to visit. The gurudwara is open between 12 noon and 11:30 pm daily.

Rakab Ganj Gurdwara
Another historical Gurdwara, the Rakab Ganj Gurdwara near Parliament House has historical significance. Historical records name Baghel Sikh, the Sikh Military General, to be the one who constructed this Gurdwara in 1783. Gurdwara Rakab Ganj is known for being the cremation site of the headless body of the ninth Guru of Sikhs, the martyr Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, who gave his life, saving Hindu Kashmiri Pandits from Aurangzeb’s cruelties in 1675.

The body of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was cremated by Baba Lakhi Shah Vanjara and his son, who belonged to a colony of stirrup makers, which are attached to a horse’s saddles. Hence, the name Rakab, Persian for stirrups. Gurdwara Rakab Ganj has two prayer halls. The main prayer hall is where the body was cremated. The second one is much bigger and recent and is used during events to accommodate large crowds of people. Constructed of white marble, there is a garden on one side. Indicating how Sikhism doesn’t discriminate based on caste, colour, or religion, it has entrance gates on all four sides.

While the Sis Ganj Gurdwara is where Guru Tej Bahadur Ji’s head was beheaded, the place where Gurdwara Rakab Ganj stands now was earlier a Muslim Mosque. When Baghel Singh came to Delhi with his army of 30,000 Sikh warriors and saw this, he asked the Muslims to uproot the Mosque to check the ground beneath the Mosque for Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s ashes by demolishing it. There were objections raised to this, but the Muslims were offered that the Mosque would be reconstructed at the Sikhs’ expense if the vase with the Guru’s ashes was not found. Upon investigation, the claims by the Sikhs were proved right and the Gurdwara was built with permission from Emperor Shah Alam II.

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Sunder Nursery
Located opposite Humayun’s Tomb, Sunder Nursery is a 16th-century heritage park, home to six UNESCO world heritage monuments and 15 heritage monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The 90-acre garden also houses a paradise garden with a marble fountain, almost 300 plants and tree species, 80 bird species, and 40 butterfly species. Formerly known as Azeem Bagh, Bagh-e-Azeem, or the Great Garden, it was originally built by the Mughals in the 16th century. The park is sandwiched between the Humayun tomb complex on the south and Purana Qila to the north. The word Sunder means beautiful and the nursery gets its name from the Sunder Burj tomb on its premises.

As one of New Delhi’s top green eco-zones, Sunder Nursery is an immensely photogenic place and one can often come across many couples taking wedding photoshoots and movies being filmed here. While 20 acres of the park are utilized for developing nursery beds, another 30 have been dedicated to creating a biological diversity zone. Sunder Nursery has a collection of four distinct micro-habitat zones with sections showcasing Delhi’s heritage monuments and ecological wealth. These zones replicate Delhi’s original terrain, viz. Kohi or the ridge, Bangar or the alluvial soil, Khadar or the riverine, and Dabar or the marshland.

Every weekend, The Earth Collective farmers market is pitched here with both permanent and new stalls. There are about 45 stalls in total, selling local handmade apparel, home decor, snacks, and fresh vegetables and fruits. Artisan products, beverages, jams and preserves, terracotta cookware, handmade clothing and solar power products are some of the eco-friendly products available. Visitors can also pick up Sunder Nursery’s organic vermicompost, fertilizers and pesticides at this market. The market is open on Saturday and Sunday between 9 am and 2 pm.

In 1950, Mr V.P. Agnihotri donated a bonsai house to Sunder Nursery with some of the plants as old as 90 years. Other bonsai contributors include British officials who imported exotic seeds in the early 1900s. The Bonsai House is also home to 40 species of butterflies like a blue and yellow pansy, Indian Palm Bob, Peacock Pansy, and the Banded Awl.

Sunder Nursery is open daily between 7 am and 6 pm. Ticket prices for Indians are INR 40 for adults, INR 20 for children between 5 and 12 and those under five get in free. Senior citizens 60 years and above need to pay INR 20 while foreigners pay INR 200.

Lodhi Gardens
Located near the Safdarjung tomb and Khan Market, Lodhi Garden is a luscious garden that houses the tombs of the Sayyid ruler Mohammed Shah and Lodhi King Sikandar Lodhi. The garden was constructed under the Lodhi reign sometime in the 15th century and in addition to the tombs, Lodhi Garden also has the Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad within its perimeter. The architecture is a mix of the Sayyidi and Lodhi styles and today the garden is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The garden was also known as Lady Willingdon Park, but was renamed Lodhi Gardens after India’s independence. The contrast of sombre mausoleums against the lush greenery of the gardens makes it a favourite. Under the Mughal, the garden area went under major renovations following the purpose deemed fit by the rulers. Akbar, the third Mughal emperor, used the garden as an observatory and to keep records as well. During British colonial rule, renovations were regularly carried out and The wife of the Governor-General of India, Marquess of Willingdon, landscaped these gardens after which it was named Lady Willingdon Park upon its inauguration on 9 April 1936.

One of the oldest tombs here is that of Mohammad Shah who was the last ruler of the Sayyid Dynasty. This cenotaph was built in 1444 by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah as a tribute to the King. The construction of the tomb is a combination of Hindu style symbolism and Islamic ornamentation. The main complex of the tomb is octagonal and has a central dome embellished with arches, verandahs and ancient fortification structures. Sikander Lodhi’s tomb is made in the image of the Shah’s tomb and is an important example of this kind of architecture. This tomb houses the remains of the battlements within it even today. In the gardens’ midst lies the Bara Gumbad, which is a large rubble dome. Not a tomb, the Bara Gumbad is a passage to an adjoining three-domed mosque, both of which were built in 1494 during the rule of Sikander Lodi. Opposite the Bara Gumbad is the Glass Dome, which is called so owing to the glazed tiles used in its construction. The ceiling here contains plasterwork with inscriptions from the Quran and is a representation of both Hindu and Islamic architecture. Within this dome are the remains of an unknown family. The Glass Dome was also constructed during Sikander Lodi’s reign. Once inside the Gardens, one may see remains of a watercourse that connects the Yamuna River to the Tomb of Sikandar Lodi. An Eight Pier Bridge close to Sikander’s tomb was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The bridge has seven arches amongst which the central one is the largest.

Lodhi Gardens is open between 6 am and 7:30 pm and there is no entry fee to access the gardens. There are a few restaurants within the garden, which makes for a very nice ambience.

Garden of Five Senses
Located away from the din of the city, the Garden of Five Senses sprawls over 20 acres of land and is designed to stimulate the senses of touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste . Partly built on rocky terrain and partly in the plain area, the garden has various themed parks, a section of Mughal baghs, pools of water lilies, cascades of sparkling water, a solar energy park, an amphitheatre, and a food court, in addition to a number of sculptures, rock carvings and themed decor.

Designed by Pradeep Sachdeva, the park was jointly constructed by Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation and was inaugurated in February 2003. The flower show during February is a notable event.

Two enormous sculptures of ascending birds, carved in stainless steel welcomes one to the garden. In the front is the expansive plaza, set on a rocky ramp, which leads to a spiral walk away amidst a parade of slatey-coloured stone elephants. The garden is divided into several parts.

To the right of the spiral stairway is the Khas Bagh. This tiny piece of garden is inspired by the Mughal char bagh. It has lush green lawns in the four-fold style, with water tanks and free-flowing cascades of water. The sides are decked with small shrubberies and vibrant flowers and the median axis has a decor of fountains, the main attraction of which is the sculpture of a Fountain Tree which is a fountain cum tree lit up by a fibreoptic lighting system. On the other side of the spiral walk away, a little further on the pathway, is the food court and tiny shopping area. A few steps ahead is the rocky ridge with stone silhouettes and a pinwheel. Another trail of winding paths will lead one to Neel Bagh, a pool of water lilies and climbers, and seasonal flowers. Overhead on the trees is an elaborate decor of wind chimes. Walking still inside the park, one will come across various floral species and bushes including some rare and endangered species, almost 200 of them. Set amidst trees is the amphitheatre with stone seats and grassy steps which hosts cultural events and art workshops. In addition, the garden also has a tiny solar area which helps in generating solar energy.

Guided tours of the garden called Nature Walks are organised which commence with the introduction and description of the trees and proceed to the architecture inspired by the Mughals and then showcase the park and what it can offer. Believed to be a goodwill gesture to Mexico, the government hoisted a replica of the Labna in Mexico here. The original Labna was built by the Mayans in Yucatan during the Late and Terminal Classic era, around 862. The local Labna Arch was constructed with stones imported from Rajasthan which are similar to the ones found in Yucatan.

The park is open in the summer from April to September between 9 am and 7 pm and in the winter months from October to March between 9 am and 6 pm. Entry fees are INR 30 for adults, INR 15 for children up to the age of 12, and INR 15 for senior citizens.

National Rose Garden
The National Indo-Africa Friendship Rose Garden, commonly known as the National Rose Garden is a gorgeous rose garden situated in Chanakyapuri. It boasts umpteen varieties of roses curated from all over the world. The park is especially crowded from November to January when the roses are in full bloom. The garden is open daily between 6 am to 6 pm.

Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Less than a km from the Qutb Complex, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park is spread over a 200-acre area, which includes the ruins of the Lal Kot built by the Tomar Rajputs in the 11th century. Mehrauli is one of the seven ancient cities that comprise today’s Delhi and the ruins at the archaeological park are almost half a century older than Old Delhi or Shahjahanabad. The more than 100 scattered monuments here date back to the 10th century and as recent as British colonial rule. From the majestic stone works of the Lal Kot under the Chauhan Rajputs to one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in Balban’s Tomb, to the Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb which is believed to be the first pioneering work of Mughal architecture in India, there are a lot of glimpses one can gain in the work of craftsmen, builders, architects, masons and engineers of a past era.

The redevelopment of the area as an archaeological park and the conservation of important structures started in 1997, in collaboration between Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), the State Department of Archaeology, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which first started systematic documentation of structures in the area and also started conducting heritage walks since 2000. Over the years, INTACH has restored some 40 monuments in the Park and added signages, heritage trails, and sandstone trail-markers

The fort city of Lal Kot was built by the Tomar Rajputs in 1050 and served as a sanctuary for the armies. After the Chauhan Rajputs seized control of Delhi from the Tomars, Prithviraj Chauhan, the ruling king refurbished and revamped the existing structure. The citadel and its fort walls now lie in ruins, visible and scattered around the Qutb complex, Saket, and Vasant Kunj areas. The Jamali Kamali Masjid and Tomb is a pre-Mughal dynasty structure built during the 1520s comprising two different ancient monuments. They stand here adjacent to one another, on one side a mosque dedicated to a famous Sufi saint by the name of Shaikh Jamali Kamboh and on the other side, a tomb for Kamali, an unknown person closely associated with the saint. A 16th-century tomb, it lies on the walls of Lal Kot and has a verandah on each side. The grave of Adham Khan lies right below the central dome. The arch made its first appearance in the Indian subcontinent at Balban’s Tomb and so this tomb is of historical and architectural importance as a piece of Indo-Islamic architecture. Built in the 17th century, the tomb of Shah Quli Khan is a magnificent octagonal structure with a giant white dome as its topping. It was raised entirely by using red and grey sandstone materials. The famous stepwell of Rajon Ki Baoli is one of the main attractions in the park because of its incredible intricate architecture. The well boasts symmetrical arched walls, a rectangular-shaped well, and stonework masonry in great detail.

Mehrauli Archaeological Park is open from sunrise to sunset and there is no entry fee to view what treasures lie within.

Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya
The Prime Ministers’ Museum or the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 April 2022. Located next to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, the museum pays tribute to all of India’s post-independence Prime Ministers. Besides memorabilia, there is an audio and visual tour of speeches from the Red Fort and a virtual helicopter ride.

Building I of the museum houses the Toshakhana Zone which displays the treasures gifted to various Prime Ministers. Other parts of the museum are dedicated to different aspects of India’s history. The Making of the Constitution room displays the debates and documents made by the Constituent Assembly. Democratic India showcases the understanding of parliament and democracy. The India – China War room has photographs and a history of the war. The Nehru Gallery, his study room, sitting room, and bedroom are also open for visitation.

Building II has a Parichay room that introduces the Prime Ministers of India. The zones for each Indian Prime Minister display their achievements and speeches. The Bhavishya ki Jhalkiya room takes the visitors on a virtual helicopter ride exploring what the future holds for the country. The Time Machine room virtually displays the changes that took place over the years in India. Using Augmented Reality one can take a selfie with the Prime Minister or the Handwriting Robot can write a message signed by the Prime Minister that one can take home.

The museum is open in the summer months between March to October from 10 am to 6 pm and in the winter months between November to February from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Mondays and Gazetted Holidays and has an entry fee of INR 20 for adults while it is free for students studying until class 12. For foreigners, the entry fee is INR 350.

National Museum
Also known as the National Museum of India, the National Museum is one of the largest museums in the country, situated on the corner of Janpath and Maulana Azad Road. Established in 1949, the museum boasts of possessing 200,000 artworks, both Indian and foreign, and is maintained by the Ministry of Culture, Department of India. Covering an extensive range of products from prehistoric times to modern works of art, the museum traces the rich cultural heritage of nations across the world, over 5000 years.

The museum also houses the National Museum Institute of the History of Arts, Conservation and Museology which was added as a different section in 1983. Since 1989, this section runs different courses in History of Arts, Conservation and Museology for Master and Doctoral degrees. Besides, the repository boasts of 4th and 5th century BC relics, dating to the times of the Buddha and the Harappan Civilization in addition to numerous wood carvings, paintings, sculptures, murals, textiles, and armoury. The two-storeyed building has segregated chambers to display antiques of different periods and covers all departments including Archaeology, Decorative Arts, Jewellery, Manuscripts, Textiles, Numismatics, Epigraphy, Central Asian Antiquities, Anthropology, Pre-Columbian American and Western Art Collections.

In the winters of 1947-48, an exhibition on Indian arts and artefacts was set up in the Royal Academy of London. Post the event in London; the exhibition curators intended to display the entire collection in India before returning the artefacts to the respective individual museums. And in 1949, an exhibition was organised on the premises of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The massive success of the exhibition led to the formation of a permanent National Museum. On 15 August 1949, the museum housed in Rashtrapati Bhawan was inaugurated by the then Governor-General of India, C. Rajagopalachari. In 1955, the museum was moved to its current location and was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960. Until 1957, the museum was run by the Director-General of Archaeology, but today it is maintained and managed by the Ministry of Culture.

The National Museum boasts an extensive number of galleries possessing many exhibits and relics of ancient cultural heritage. The Harappan Gallery houses various artefacts from the Indus Valley Civilization. The prominent displays include the dancing girl and the priest’s head. Apart from this, the gallery flaunts various terracotta sculptures, bone structures, ivory, semi-precious stones and numerous seals found during excavations. Spanning three dynasties, the Maurya, Shunga and Satvahana Art Gallery has objects spanning the 4th century BC to the 1st century BC. The relics in this gallery showcase the Greek influence, which includes fragments of the railings and structures from ancient stupas. An important period in the religion of Buddhism, this gallery has depictions of Buddha’s life in the form of inscriptions or carvings without any real sculpture or physical form.

The Kushana Gallery depicts objects from the Kushan period ranging from the 1st to the 3rd centuries BC. This gallery presents a demonstration of the Gandhara School of Art and the Mathura School of Art and is also the period when Buddha was shown in a physical form. The Gupta Gallery depicts the Gupta period from the 4th to the 6th century BC. The gallery is a celebration of marvellous sculpture and religious iconography with exhibits of Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna and magnificent sculptures of other gods and temples. The Medieval Gallery is subdivided into Early and Late Medieval Artefacts. Early Medieval artefacts cover the Palas, Chalukyas and Pratiharas between the 7th and 10th centuries, after the fall of the Gupta Empire. The Late Medieval artefacts have sculptures from the 10th to the 13th centuries, of the Hoysalas, Gajapatis, and Chauhans.

The Decorative Arts Gallery showcases decorative articles across centuries including collections of ivory, jade and ceramics, thrones of Indian rulers, Hindu and Jain pitakas, metalware, and jewellery. The Miniature Painting Gallery displays around 17,000 paintings from all over India, extending over Mughal, Rajasthani, Deccani, Pahari and others styles. The main themes of the paintings are the Mahabharat, the Ramayana, the Puranas, Ragamala, and Baburname. The Buddhist Art section houses the extensive relics, specimens and antiques from the life and times of the Buddha.

In addition, the museum also houses a compact but airy auditorium with a seating facility of 250 people. A brief film introducing the auditorium is screened several times a day and occasionally, the auditorium also screens film shows on art, history and heritage. A 75-minute audio tour can be facilitated at some extra cost, and is available in English, Hindi, French, German and Japanese. Indians need to pay INR 100 for the Hindi language and INR 150 for other languages while this is included in the entry tickets for foreigners.

The museum is closed on Mondays. Tuesdays to Fridays it is open between 10 am to 6 pm. Over the weekend, on Saturdays and Sundays, it is open between 10 am and 8 pm. Entry fees are INR 20 for Indians and children studying upto class 12 enter free with identity cards. For foreigners, the entry ticket cost is INR 650 which includes an audio guide.

Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
Housed within the premises of the Teen Murti Bhavan, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is an autonomous institution established in the memory of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Founded in 1964, after the death of Pandit Nehru to foster research and preserve modern and contemporary history and the Indian Independence Movement, the museum is currently managed and maintained by the Department of Culture. Besides being the primary source of detailed information on Nehru, the repository also has archives of Mahatma Gandhi’s writings, in addition to private documents of C. Rajagopalachari, B. C. Roy, Jayaprakash Narayan, Charan Singh, Sarojini Naidu and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. The museum conducts talks, workshops, special shows and live interaction programmes as well as quizzes and activities both for children and adults.

Sprawling over 30 acres, the complex comprises an elaborate museum in the eastern wing and a library in the western wing. The depository is a treasure trove of facts and data about the freedom struggle of India. Due to growth in the research data, an exclusive library building was added in 1974 and a centre for contemporary studies was added in 1990. The complex also houses a planetarium.

Teen Murti Bhavan was the residence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and after the museum was established, in the eastern wing of the complex, some of the rooms were preserved in their original state like the drawing room, study and bedroom. The galleries are an insight into the Indian Independence Movement. The Teen Murti Bhavan complex also houses a specialized library which can be made use of at a cost of a nominal fee charge. The library is a treasure trove of valuable newspapers and journals and research materials. The diverse collection includes 267,000 printed books and over 200,000 photographs from the freedom struggle movement. There is a special collection of books by Nehru called Nehruana concerning his writings, thoughts and political beliefs. The gallery also boasts 2,02,415 photographs from Indian history which are largely used by newspapers, magazines and journals.

The planetarium hosts shows on celestial bodies and the solar system. The show in English runs at 11:30 am and 3 pm while the show in Hindi runs at 1:30 pm and 4 pm. Entry fees are INR 50 for adults, INR 30 for children between 4 and 12 and INR 20 for school children in groups. The museum is closed on Mondays and other days it is open between 10 am and 5 pm. There is no entry fee to access the museum and library.

Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum
Located inside the premises of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum was inaugurated in 2014 by the then-President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. The depository showcases invaluable artefacts from art, culture and history. The complex is situated alongside Circuit 2 within the compound and has been further segregated into three sections – The Clock Tower, The Stables and The Garage. The Garage is the most recent addition to the complex inaugurated in 2016.

Built for a cost of over 80 crores in two years, the underground museum houses gifts given to the country from all over the world, since the time of the first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad. The galleries have been facilitated with virtual reality equipment and multi-screen projectors to provide a live element to the story-telling feature. The museum has an art gallery which hosts exhibitions frequently as well as a platform displaying speeches from former presidents through projection.

The museum has been segregated into three galleries. The Clock Tower was originally built in 1925 by Sir Edward Lutyens and was known as the Band House. Previously, it was used as residential quarters and post office for Rashtrapati Bhavan but currently, the building is used as the reception for the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex or RBMC. The square structure is 23 feet high and has neatly cut corners; it is graced with alcove arches and lion heads for fountains. Two sturdy pillars with a tiny patio are at the entrance to the chamber and a vintage clock system, a product of the famous James & Joyce company adorns the central dome. The Stables is the section of the museum that displays and preserves the gifts given to former presidents and ministers from personalities all over the world. Before the inception of this museum, the gifts and articles were stored at a place called the Toshkhaana inside Rashtrapati Bhavan. To display the valuables to an audience, this gallery was created as a state-of-the-art museum. Besides the gifts, it has a collection of arms, furniture, sculptures, wood carvings, and archival material. Based on the name, the gates and windows of this chamber have horse-shoe images on them. The chamber has been divided into three more sections – the left corridor, the long hall and the right corridor. While the left corridor holds the actual gift articles received, the long hall is further cut up into the War Scene Gallery, the Furniture Gallery and the PBG Gallery. The right corridor again has gifts, paintings and other memorabilia. Within the Stables is also a Coach House which was originally used to house the carriages but now is equipped with material depicting the ancient history of the nation through pictures, articles and contextual references. The Garage is the last section of the complex and derives its name from the fact that previously it was used as a garage for the President’s Estate. The gallery showcases the Presidents of India, their history and political journeys, the ceremonies hosted at the President’s Estate and the like. It has three floors, ground, upper basement and lower basement.

The museum is open between 9 am and 4 pm every day except Mondays when it is closed. Children below the age of 8 have free entry while adults need to pay INR 50. For a large group of 30 people, the cost is INR 1200.

Indian War Memorial Museum
Located in the Naubat Khana within the premises of the historic Red Fort, the Indian War Memorial Museum was built to pay tribute to the Indian soldiers who fought for the country. Spread over two floors, the galleries depict the military history of India with arms, weapons, a variety of daggers, chest armour and other objects of war. The first gallery has a brilliant miniature model of the war scene between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi. The other exhibits in this section include swords, daggers, helmets, armour, gilded weapons, and battle axes. The next two galleries are filled with replicas of slightly evolved weapons which comprise bombshells, pistols, machine guns, and gunpowder among othersn mostly used during World War I.

The following two galleries showcase European influence over weapons and communication facilities like the telegraph, telephone, radar, and signal lamps. It also displays uniforms, badges, flags and ribbons of the officers from lands like New Zealand and Turkey. There is also a display of the complete dress of the Maharaja of Jodhpur in the museum bedecked with a belt, jewellery, turban and sword. The museum is open daily between 10 am and 5 pm and entry fees for Indians is INR 5, for Indian students is INR 1, and for foreigners is INR 100. Camera and video recording fees are INR 25.

National Handicrafts Museum
Popularly known as the Crafts Museum, the National Handicrafts Museum is a centre for varied specimens of handicrafts, textiles and local decor and to preserve, protect and revive the tradition of local handicrafts. Located in the far corner of Pragati Maidan in Delhi, the museum is designed by Charles Correa and is currently under the management of the Ministry of Textiles. The Lota Café on its grounds which serves regional cuisine is famous as is the Museum Shop.

Today, the museum houses over 33,000 assorted collections of various crafts collected over the last 60 years from different Indian states. The diverse collection includes exhaustive textiles and fabrics, bronze and metal lamps, sculptures, wood carvings, bamboo crafts, terracotta figurines, and tribal paintings. Among the multiple galleries housed in the complex, the popular ones include the Tribal and Rural Craft Gallery, the Gallery of Courtly Crafts, the Textile Gallery, and the Gallery of Popular Culture. A mini model of a village spread over 5 acres is located on the premises which displays actual generic exhibits depicting the life of rural India. The museum also has a library, an auditorium, a research centre, and a laboratory.

The Jewellery and Valuables collection flaunts a beautiful collection of Indian antiques and vintage jewellery. It showcases a metal plate called Theva plate with historical scenes depicted on it, a skull neckpiece dating back to the early 20th century, a metal neckband worn by Naga warriors, a ruby-studded Mangamalai or mango necklace popular in Tamil Nadu and a Hansli which is popular in Rajasthan from the late 18th century. The gallery has a copper pot from the early 19th century, a brass figurine of Radha from the 18th century, a peacock casket, popularly known as Mayur Phorua, the head of Goddess Gauri, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathy, Bidriware utensils from the late 18th century, and other deities in metal. In the Matting and Weaving section, products include hukkas made from bamboo stalks, floor matting called Sheetalpatti, and cane and bamboo grain baskets. The Textiles collection has different textile products like temple hangings, sarees with hunting scenes called Shikargah, loom-woven vintage shawls, patched clothes, a story depicting kerchiefs, and block prints among others. In addition, the museum boasts a vast collection of terracotta figurines, glazed pottery, wooden Krishna panels, Jali latticework, wood carvings, toys and masks, Indian folk paintings, ancient opium containers, gunpowder cases and other antiques.

The Bhuta Sculpture Gallery showcases the Bhuta Cult who worship spirits, synonymous with the coastal region of Karnataka. The Folk and Tribal Crafts Gift Gallery showcases the folk and tribal traditions of India and has a collection of folk paintings and frescos and different daily objects from across the nation. The Cultic Crafts Gallery displays sculptures, accessories, products and objects of rituals from different religious practices of India. The Court Craft Gallery has a collection of home decor and valuable products which used to adorn ancient palaces and royal homes. The Textile Gallery has several textile and handloom products, both hand woven and machine-made from different states of India.

Cafe Lota at the museum is a contemporary restaurant serving sumptuous and healthy regional Indian dishes. The restaurant is decorated with beautiful terracotta figurines, and soft music is played. The cafe is open from 8 am to 8:30 pm every day of the week except Mondays. The Crafts Museum is also closed on Mondays and other days is open between 10 am and 5 pm. Entry Fee to the museum is INR 20 for Indians and INR 2—for foreigners.

Travel Bucket List: India – Delhi Part 4

Jama Masjid
The Masjid-i-Jehan-Numa or the World-reflecting Mosque, commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is one of the large mosques in India. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1650 and 1656 at the highest point of Shahjahanabad and inaugurated by Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari from Bukhara, Uzbekistan who had been invited by Shah Jahan to be the mosque’s Shahi or Royal Imam. Situated in the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad which is today Old Delhi, it served as the imperial mosque of the Mughal emperors until the demise of the empire in 1857. The Jama Masjid was regarded as a symbolic node of Islamic power across India, well into the colonial era as well as a site of political significance during several key periods of British rule. It remains in active use today and is one of Delhi’s most iconic sites, closely identified with the ethos of Old Delhi.

The mosque has two names. The older one, bestowed by Shah Jahan, is Masjid-i-Jehān-Numā, roughly translating to the mosque commanding the view of the world in Persian and Urdu. The other more common one is Jāmā Masjid, which emerged among the common people whose literal translation in Arabic is a congregational mosque. It is used in the sense of a Friday mosque or Juma Masjid since this is when the congregational prayer is held. The term Jama Masjid is not unique to Delhi’s mosque. Since the 7th century, it has been used in the Islamic world to denote the community mosque, and hence many around the world bear this name and its variants. The mosque was one of the last monuments built under Shah Jahan and after completion, it served as the royal mosque of the emperors until the end of the Mughal period.

During British colonial rule, the Masjid continued to serve as a site of social and political discourse, but the Revolt of 1857 was a major turning point. It resulted in the deaths of many British and weakened colonial authority, deeply affronting the British and ending the Mughal empire. The British perceived the revolt as instigated by Muslims, cultivated within Delhi’s mosques. So, after the British reclaimed the city in the same year, they razed many mosques and banned the congregation of Muslims in any remaining mosques. The Jama Masjid was barred from any religious use and was repeatedly considered for destruction, but eventually, it was used as barracks for its Sikh and European soldiers. The Masjid was eventually returned to the Muslims in 1862, due to their increasing resentment of British actions. Multiple conditions were imposed, including the usage of the Jama Masjid as strictly a religious site, as well as mandatory policing by the British. The Jama Masjid Managing Committee or JMMC, consisting of respected Muslims of Delhi, was established as a formal body to represent the mosque and enforce these conditions. In 1886, the Nawab of Rampur donated a sum of 1,55,000 rupees to facilitate repairs and in 1926, a donation from the Nizam of Hyderabad of 1,00,000 rupees was used for similar purposes.

The Jama Masjid continued to be a political symbol after independence. In 1948, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah VII was asked for a donation of 75,000 rupees to repair one-fourth of the mosque floor. The Nizam instead sanctioned 3,00,000 rupees, stating that the remaining three-fourths of the mosque should not look old.

Today, Jama Masjid serves as Delhi’s primary mosque and has a largely congregational function. The Muslims of the city traditionally gather here to offer communal Friday prayer, as well as for major festivals such as Eid. The mosque is also a major tourist attraction and derives a significant amount of income through such visits.

At the time of its construction, the Jama Masjid was the largest mosque in the Indian subcontinent. It was modelled after the Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri, reflected in the design of many exterior features, such as the facade and courtyard. However, the interior of the mosque more closely resembles the Jama Masjid in Agra. The mosque predominantly uses red sandstone and is set apart from its predecessors by more extensive usage of white marble. Black marble also features as a decorative element. Arabic and Persian calligraphic pieces are found on various surfaces of the structure, whose content ranges from religious to panegyric. The complex is oriented to the west, towards Mecca. An imperial college, imperial dispensary, and madrasa used to lie adjacent to the structure but were destroyed in the uprisings of 1857.

The mosque is accessed by three sandstone gates, with the most prominent being the three-storied high eastern gate, which historically acted as the shahi or royal entrance, reserved only for the use of the Emperor and his associates. The other two entrances are the northern and southern gates, which are two stories high and were used by the general population. Each gate is accompanied by a three-sided sandstone stairway, with white markings to designate prayer positions. The cabinet located in the north gate has a collection of relics of Muhammad, including the Quran written on deerskin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals, and his footprints embedded in a marble block. The square courtyard is paved with red sandstone and faces the eastern gate and can accommodate 25,000 worshippers. Open arcades run along the edges of the courtyard, through which the surroundings of the Masjid are visible. Chhatris mark the four corners of the courtyard, rising above the arcades.

Three marble domes rise from the roof of the prayer hall, featuring golden finials and the facade features a grand pishtaq in the centre, flanked by five smaller, cusped archways on either side. Above each archway of the prayer hall are some calligraphic pieces. The interior of the hall bears seven mihrabs or prayer niches on the western qibla wall, corresponding to the seven bays into which the hall is divided. The central mihrab is intricately decorated and clad in marble, with a marble minbar or pulpit lying to its right. The hall is floored with white and black ornamented marble to look like a Muslim prayer mat. The mosque’s domes are flanked by two sandstone minarets, at the northeast and southeast corners. They are 40 m high and longitudinally striped with white marble. Each minaret consists of 130 steps, along which viewing galleries occur at three places. Both minarets are topped with a marble chhatri.

The Imams of Delhi’s Jama Masjid have traditionally been the direct descendants of the first Imam of the Masjid, Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari, who was appointed by Shah Jahan. Their position is known as that of the Shahi Imam, or Royal Imam. The person next in line to the position is known as the Naib or Deputy Imam. The Shahi Imams bear the last name of Bukhari, denoting their ancestral origin in Bukhara in modern-day Uzbekistan.

The best time to visit the mosque is before 12 noon and between 2 and 4 pm. The most important prayer is held right before sunset between 4:30 and 5:30 p. Jama Masjid is open every day from 7 am to 12 noon and then again between 1:30 and 6:30 pm for muslims and for non-muslims, between 8 am to 30 minutes before sunset. The minaret is open between 9 am to 5:30 pm. While entry to the mosque is free, if you want to photograph the masjid, the cost for that is INR 200 while entry to the tower costs INR 100.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Located within the Qutb Minar complex, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque which translates to the Might of Islam was built by the Mamluk ruler, Qutub-ud-din Aibak. This was the first mosque to be built in the city after the Islamic conquest of India. Also known as Jami Masjid, the construction of the mosque began in 1193 and is the oldest surviving testament of the Ghorids’ architecture in the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent additions were made to the monument during the reigns of Iltutmish and Alauddin Khilji. Initially, the mosque was conceived as a stand-alone structure but the Qutb Minar was constructed simultaneously as a Minar of the Jami Masjid so that the imam can use the minar to call the congregation for prayers.

The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque resembles the structure and pattern of other monuments at the time built by the same ruler like the Adhai Din ka Jhopra and the Ajmer Mosque. A Persian inscription found at the site suggests that it required the destruction of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples to furnish the material for the construction of this mosque. Originally built with red sandstone, grey quartz and white marble, the building is currently in ruins. Layers of plaster have given way to reveal Hindu carvings on the original stone.

An example of Indo-Islamic architecture, the mosque includes a central courtyard and a grand prayer hall located to its west, huge arcades made of greystone, and a total of five bays. It also has an enormous central arch and comparatively smaller side arches. Both the screens and the pillars are carved with floral designs and religious texts. The mausoleum is built on an elevated platform with an ornate dome-shaped entrance borrowed from Hindu temples. The iron pillar is located in the front while the very popular Qutb Minar is located to its west. The mosque is open between 10 am and 5 pm. Entry fees are INR 10 for Indians and IR 250 for foreigners.

Fatehpuri Masjid
Situated at the western end of Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri Masjid is a 17th-century mosque named after the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife, Fatehpuri Begum. Built in 1650, the mosque is constructed entirely of red stone and boasts a fluted dome and towering minarets. The mosque has a vast central prayer hall designed with seven enormous arches and is famous for stationing the Indian troops during the war of 1857. Later, it was auctioned by the British to a local merchant, Rai Lala Chunnamal for INR 19000, who preserved and protected the mosque till 1877 when it was again acquired by the government in exchange for four villages. The mosque has three huge entrance gates, one of which opens across the road from Red Fort and the other two are located towards the North and South.

Fatehpuri Masjid has been built on an elevated platform of three and a half feet. Capped by a gigantic dome, the mosque is guarded by two towering minarets. The chief prayer hall has seven arches, the central of which is the highest. Both the dome and the arches have been made out of lime mortar and are striped black and white. Made entirely in red sandstone, the mausoleum has three entrance gates- the biggest of which opens across the road from Red Fort and the other two opens towards the North and South ends. The monument also boasts of a central courtyard which houses more than twenty graves of prominent Islamic scholars; single and double-storeyed apartments flank the courtyard. A very large tank grace the courtyard, the water from which is used for ablution.

Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb
Situated in Mehrauli’s Archaeological Village Complex, Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb are the two structures situated beside one another. The mosque is surrounded by a garden area and is built in red sandstone with marble decorations. There’s a prayer hall with five arches embellished with medallions and other ornaments. The nooks and walls are adorned with inscriptions from the Koran. The tomb, adjacent to the mosque, is a flat monolith painted in red and blue and decorated with Koranic inscriptions and Jamali’s poems. The way to the tomb gives one the impression that one is stepping inside a jewellry box.

Jamali, also known as Shaikh Jamali Kamboh, was a famous Sufi saint from the pre-Mughal rule. He was buried in his tomb after his demise in 1535. On the other hand, Kamali was a common man who was associated with Jamali. Together the complex is regarded as Jamali Kamali as both these people were laid to rest next to each other under two marble graves. The construction of both the mosque and tomb began in 1528 and it took a whole year to complete. The mosque and tomb are open between 10 am and 6 pm.

Nizamuddin Dargah
The mausoleum or dargah of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya who lived between 1238 and 1325, Nizamuddin Dargah is located in the Nizamuddin West and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every week. The Dargah is looked after by the descendants of Nizamuddin Auliya which is also known for its evening qawwali devotional music sessions. The tombs of Amir Khusrau, Nizamuddin’s disciple, and Jehan Ara Begum, Shah Jahan’s daughter, are located at the entrance to the complex. The dargah complex has more than 70 graves. The complex was renovated and restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture around 2010.

Nizamuddin’s tomb has a white dome. The main structure was built by Muhammad bin Tughluq in 1325, following Nizamuddin’s death. Firuz Shah Tughlaq later repaired the structure and suspended four golden cups from the dome’s recesses. Nawab Khurshid Jah of Hyderabad’s Paigah Family gifted the marble balustrade that surrounds the grave. The present dome which is about 6 m by 6 m in diameter was built by Faridun Khan in 1562. The structure underwent many additions over the years. The Dargah is surrounded by a marble patio and is covered with intricate jalis or trellis walls.

Next to the dargah is the Jamat Khana Masjid built of red sandstone and has three bays. Its stone walls are carved with inscriptions of texts from the Quran with arches that have been embellished with lotus buds, in addition to the facade of its dome having ornamental medallions. Built during the reign of Alauddin Khalji by his son Khizr Khan and completed between 1312 and 1313, Khizr was responsible for the central dome and hall and was a follower of Nizamuddin. Around 1325, when Muhammad bin Tughlaq took over the reign, he constructed the two adjoining halls, each of which has two domes. The southern hall or chhoti masjid or little mosque is restricted to women and features a wooden door. The large dome of the mosque features a golden bowl that is suspended from the centre.

At the back entrance of the complex is a baoli or stepwell, commissioned by Nizamuddin himself and completed in 1321. It is close to the Yamuna river and is always filled. People believe that its waters have magical powers and bathe in it. According to legend, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq had commissioned the Tughlaqabad Fort at the same time the baoli was being built. Because he forbade all workers from working on the stepwell, they would work on it at night. Upon discovering this, the supply of oil was restricted. The masons then lit their lamps with the water of the baoli, after a blessing.

The area has been a hub for cultural activities in Delhi since the 13th century, leading to many building important buildings close to the area, including Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursery, a 16th-century heritage park. The tombs of Mirza Ghalib and Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana are also located in this area due to their cultural significance. The other important monuments in the Nizamuddin heritage area include Barakhamba and Lal Mahal.

The area is referred to as the nerve centre of Sufi culture in India. On the 17th and 18th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal, thousands gather to observe the birth anniversary and urs or death anniversary of the saint. Besides this, thousands also visit during the birth and death anniversaries of Amir Khusrau, Nizamuddin’s disciple. Hundreds visit the dargah everyday throughout the year to pray. The Dargah has a tradition of qawwali, especially the one every Thursday night attracting about 1500 visitors. The regular qawwalis occur every evening after the Maghrib or evening prayer. Women are traditionally not allowed inside the dargah’s inner sanctum. The evening prayers in which lamps are lit, called the Dua-e-Roshni, is an important ritual. Pilgrims gather around the khadim, the caretaker, who prays for the wishes of all those gathered to be granted.

The festival of Basant Panchami is also celebrated at the dargah. According to legend, Nizamuddin was deeply attached to his nephew, Khwaja Taqiuddin Nuh, who died due to an illness. Nizamuddin grieved over him for a long time. Khusrau, his disciple, wanted to see him smile and dressed up in yellow and began celebrating the onset of Basant, after spotting some women do the same. This caused Auliya to smile, an occasion that is commemorated to this day. The Dargah is open daily between 5 am and 10:30 pm.

Humayun’s Tomb
The tomb of the Mughal Emperor, Humayan, Humayun’s tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum under her patronage in 1558. The first garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent, the tomb is located close to the Dina-panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila, which Humayun constructed in 1538. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone in such a scale and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Besides the main tomb enclosure of Humayun, several smaller monuments dot the pathway leading up to it, from the main entrance in the west, including one that even pre-dates the main tomb itself, by twenty years; it is the tomb complex of Isa Khan Niyazi, an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri’s court of the Suri dynasty, who fought against the Mughals, which was constructed in 1547.

The complex encompasses the main tomb of Emperor Humayun, and also houses the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and also Dara Shikoh, great-great-grandson of Humayun and son of Emperor Shah Jahan, as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals. It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture.

The tomb’s site was chosen on the banks of the Yamuna river, due to its proximity to the Nizamuddin Dargah. In later Mughal history, the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar took refuge here, during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, along with three princes, and was captured by Captain Hodson before being exiled to Rangoon. The Tombs of Battashewala Complex lie in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of the Humayun Tomb Complex; the two complexes are separated by a small road but enclosed within their separate compound wall. The tomb of Humayun was built by his first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum, also known as Haji Begum. Construction began in 1565 and was completed in 1572.

During the partition of India, Purana Qila together with Humayun’s Tomb, became the major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded state of Pakistan. An important phase in the restoration of the complex began around 1993, when the monument was declared a World Heritage Site. Excavation process began under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust and the ASI which culminated in 2003, when much of the complex and gardens were restored, with the historic fountains running once again after several centuries of disuse.

The high rubble built enclosure is entered through two lofty double-storeyed gateways on the west and south, 16 metres high with rooms on either side of the passage and small courtyards on the upper floors. The tomb, built of rubble masonry and red sandstone, uses white marble as a cladding material and also for the flooring, lattice screens, door frames, eaves, and the main dome. It stands on a vaulted terrace eight m high and spread over 12,000 sq m. It is essentially square in design, though chamfered on the edges to appear octagonal, to prepare the ground for the design of the interior structure. The plinth made with rubble core has fifty-six cells all around and houses over 100 gravestones. The entire base structure is on a raised platform, a few steps high. The double or double-layered dome has an outer layer that supports the white marble exterior, while the inner part gives shape to the cavernous interior volume. In a contrast to the pure white exterior dome, the rest of the building is made up of red sandstone, with white and black marble and yellow sandstone detailing, to relieve the monotony.

The symmetrical and simple design on the exterior is in sharp contrast with the complex interior floor plan, of the inner chambers, which is a square ninefold plan, where eight two-storied vaulted chambers radiate from the central, double-height domed chamber. It can be entered through an imposing entrance iwan or high arc on the south, which is slightly recessed, while other sides are covered with intricate jaalis, stone latticework. Underneath this white dome in a domed chamber or hujra, lies the central octagonal sepulchre, the burial chamber containing a single cenotaph. The Cenotaph is aligned on the north-south axis, as per Islamic tradition while the real burial chamber lies in an underground chamber, exactly beneath the upper cenotaph. The main chamber also carries the symbolic element, a mihrab design over the central marble lattice or jaali, facing Mecca in the west.

While the main tomb took over eight years to build, it was also placed in the centre of a 30-acre Charbagh, a Persian-style garden with a quadrilateral layout. The highly geometrical and enclosed Paradise garden is divided into four squares by paved walkways and two bisecting central water channels, reflecting the four rivers that flow in Jannat, the Islamic concept of paradise. Each of the four squares are further divided into 8 smaller gardens with pathways, creating 32 miniature gardens in all, with the mausoleum in the centre, a design typical of later Mughal gardens. The central water channels appear to be disappearing beneath the tomb structure and reappearing on the other side in a straight line, suggesting a Quranic verse that talks of rivers flowing beneath the Garden of Paradise.

The tomb and garden are enclosed within high rubble walls on three sides. The fourth side was meant to be the river Yamuna, which has since shifted course away from the structure. The central walkways terminate at two gates – a main one on the southern wall, and a smaller one on the western wall. It has two double-storey entrances; the west gate is currently used, while the south gate, which was used by the Mughals, is now closed. Aligned at the centre on the eastern wall lies a baradari, which is a building or room with twelve doors designed to allow the free draught of air through it. On the northern wall lies a hammam, a bath chamber.

Other monuments within the complex includes the tomb and mosque of Isa Khan Niyazi dating back to 1547, Bu Halima’s Tomb and Garden Afsarwala’s Tomb and Mosque, Arab Serai which used to be stables, Nila Gumbad and Chillah Nizamuddin Aulia believed to be the residence of Nizamuddin Auliya located just outside the main complex.

Humayun’s Tomb is open daily between 10 am and 6 pm and entry fees are INR 10 for Indians and INR 250 for foreigners. For filming videos, one needs to pay INR 25 while photography is free.

Safdarjung’s Tomb
An elegant mausoleum built of marble and sandstone boasting of an 18th-century Mughal architectural style, Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1754 during the reign of Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur. The tomb is dedicated to the Prime Minister of the emperor, Safdarjung. The mausoleum boasts of a tranquil ambience with an enormous dome, elaborate arches, and intricate architecture.

The mausoleum was built by Safdarjung’s son Shuja-ud-Daula and is one the very last specimens of Mughal architecture and signifies the downfall of the dynasty. The garden tomb is built in a fashion similar to that Humayun’s Tomb, and also houses several pavilions, a madrasa and a library at the entrance, managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The tomb’s design had four key features in the char bagh style – the mausoleum surrounded by four gardens, the nine-fold floor, five facade design and a huge rostrum with a secret passageway. The front of the monument has intricate ornamentation. The main mausoleum has high arched walls with intricate carvings, the cenotaph is reposed on the square central chamber, and the dome rests on top of the terrace. The underground chamber beneath the cenotaph has the graves of Safdarjung and his wife. Built entirely with red and buff stones, the interiors of the tomb are covered in rococo plasterwork. Four polygonal towers decorated in marble and possessing huge arches occupy the corners of the tomb from the outside. The rear side of the monument houses a library and several rooms. To its right, is a mosque. Built in the conventional style of Mughal architecture and closely on the lines of the Taj Mahal, the structure appears unbalanced due to accentuated prominence of the vertical axis, with a more elongated dome and the four minarets a part of the main monument, unlike the Taj Mahal where the minarets are detached.

The gardens surrounding the mausoleum are built in the typical Mughal charbagh style, styled on the designs of Humayun’s Tomb. Fenced by a 280 m high wall, the gardens are further divided into four squares with neat little pathways and sparkling water tanks. One passage leads to the main gate while the others lead to the pavilions. The main mausoleum stands on a dais 50 m in height. Four pavilions and octagonal chhatris or towers with arches built in rubble stone masonry, complete the structure of the monument. The pavilions in the western, southern and northern directions are called Jangli Mahal, Badshah Pasand and Moti Mahal respectively. These pavilions were originally the residence of the Nawab’s family. In addition, the complex also houses several tiny apartments, a mosque and a courtyard. The tomb is open between 7 am and 6 pm and has an entry fee of INR 15 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners. Children under the age of 15 have free entry.

Isa Khan’s Tomb
Located adjacent to Humayun’s Tomb in the same complex Isa Khan’s Tomb is the final resting place of Isa Khan, a courtesan of Sher Shah Suri, and his son Islam Shah Suri. Built during Sher Shah Suri’s lifetime, the construction of the monument resembles the architecture of the Suri reign. The tomb boasts lattice screens, glazed tiles and a deep verandah. The octagonal tomb has an architectural finesse which is apparent in the distinctive ornamentation of the monument in the form of glazed canopied and elaborate carvings.

Standing south of the Bu Halima garden, the main tombstone is made out of red sandstone and is marked with the inscription addressed to Isa Khan and the date of the construction. Restoration of the monument led to the discovery of sunken gardens, which are considered the earliest examples of the technique. At the corner of the tomb is situated a tiny mosque with matching architecture and patterns from those of the tomb. The mosque was built at the same time as the tomb and was supposed to be the prayer room for Isa Khan.

The tomb was constructed by Isa Khan in his lifetime who died a few months after the tomb was finished. The monument boasts a massive arched gateway and is circumferenced by a wide verandah with each side of the octagon having triple arch entrances adorned with blue, green, and yellow glazed tiles. Each of the eight corners is supported by pillars that rise above to form a minaret. A magnificent dome sits on the roof and is decorated with an inverted lotus filial. In addition to that, eight chhatris occupy the right sides of the octagon. Seven walls of the tomb have intricate lattice or jaali work, except the eighth western wall which has a mihrab. The walls and the roof have beautiful fresco paintings. The frescos are a beautiful amalgamation of flowers, geometrical patterns and calligraphy. The mosque in the complex also has a triple-arched gateway with similar glazed tile work in yellow, blue and green and the same pattern frescos on the walls.

The tomb is open between 10 am and 6 pm and has an entry fee of INR 30 for Indians while foreigners need to pay INR 500. Filming videos will incur a charge of INR 25 while still photography is free.

Hijron ka Khanqah
Located in Mehrauli, Hijron ka Khanqah is the Islamic monument for the burial of Muslim transgenders. The name translates to spiritual retreat for eunuchs, and the cemetery is situated within the Archaeological Park in Mehrauli. Dating back to the 15th century, the pre-Mughal monument houses forty-nine graves of the eunuchs who died during the reign of the Lodhi dynasty. The memorial is managed by the Hijras or eunuchs of Turkman Gate since the 20th century.

The compound has a narrow entry gate that leads to a marble patio which is dotted with white-coloured graves all over. Adjacent to the cemetery is a tiny terrace and on the west, in the direction of Kaaba is a mosque. Among the many tombs in the graveyard, the most important is that of a prominent hijra called Miyan Saheb.

Nicholson Cemetery
Situated in the heart of the city in Kashmere Gate and formerly known as Old Delhi Military Cemetery or the Kashmere Gate Cemetery, Nicholson Cemetery, also known as Lothian Cemetery is an ancient Christian cemetery named after the Brigadier-General John Nicholson, a Victorian-era military officer who played a crucial role during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and succumbed to injuries during the revolt. The cemetery is a burial ground for both British and Indian Christians during British colonial rule.

Located amidst wild bushes on the trail to the left is the grave of John Nicholson. Not much further is a tiny cottage occupied by the caretaker and his family. The cemetery is also notoriously popular for ghostly activities and according to the Indian Paranormal Society, the headless apparition of John Nicholson haunts the place.

Travel Bucket List: India – Delhi Part 3

Tughlaqabad Fort
Built in 1321 by Ghiyasuddin Tughluq, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty, of the Delhi Sultanate of India as he established the third historic city of Delhi, today the Tughluqabad Fort lies ruined as it was abandoned in 1327. It lends its name to the nearby Tughluqabad residential-commercial area as well as the Tughluqabad Institutional Area.

The area surrounding the fort is an important biodiversity area within the Northern Aravalli leopard wildlife corridor stretching from the Sariska Tiger Reserve to Delhi. It is contiguous to the seasonal waterfalls in Pali-Dhuaj-Kot villages of Faridabad, the sacred Mangar Bani, and the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. There are several dozen lakes formed in the abandoned open pit mines in the forested hilly area of Delhi Ridge.

The fort area also has the mausoleum of the founder and first ruler of the fort, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, his wife and son. It is said that the Sufi saint Nizammudin Auliya cursed Tughlaqabad as a punishment for the arrogance of Ghiyasuddin and the fort is believed to be haunted by djinns.

Adilabad Fort, a small fort built by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq is located around 2 km from the fort. The two forts were earlier separated by a reservoir that stood between the two hills, but is dried up now. The fort was constructed primarily as a stronghold for defensive purposes against the ever-invading Mongols rather than an architectural establishment.

Ghias-ud-din is usually perceived as a liberal ruler, but because he was so passionate about his dream fort that he issued a dikat that all labourers in Delhi must work on his fort. The Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya, who lived in the 13th century, got incensed as the work on his baoli or well was left incomplete and so there came a confrontation between the Sufi saint and the emperor during which the saint cursed the emperor.

The Mausoleum of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq is connected by a causeway to the southern outpost of the fortification. This elevated causeway 180 m in length and supported by 27 arches, leads across a former artificial lake. However sometime in 20th-century a portion of the causeway was pierced by the Mehrauli-Badarpur road. After passing an old Pipal tree, the complex of Ghiyas ud-din Tughluq’s tomb is entered by a high gateway made up of red sandstone with a flight of steps. The actual mausoleum is made up of a single-domed square tomb about 8 by 8 m with sloping walls crowned by parapets. The sides are faced by smooth red sandstone and are inlaid with inscribed panels and arch borders from marble. The edifice is topped by an elegant dome resting on an octagonal drum that is covered with white slabs of marble and slate. Inside the mausoleum are three graves – the central one belongs to Ghiyas ud-din Tughluq and the other two are believed to be those of his wife and his son and successor Muhammad bin Tughluq. In the north-western bastion of the enclosure wall with its pillared corridors is another octagonal tomb in a similar style with a smaller marble dome and inscribed marble and sandstone slabs over its arched doors. According to an inscription over its southern entrance, this tomb houses the remains of Zafar Khan. His grave was at the site before the construction of the outpost and was consciously integrated into the design of the mausoleum by Ghiyath al-Din himself.

Tughluqabad still consists of remarkable, massive stone fortifications that surround the irregular ground plan of the city. The city is supposed to once have had as many as 52 gates of which only 13 remain today. The fort is a half hexagon in shape with a base of 2.4 km and a whole circuit of about 6.4 km. Tughluqabad is divided into three parts – the wider city area with houses built along a rectangular grid between its gates, the citadel with a tower at its highest point known as Bijai-Mandal and the remains of several halls and a long underground passage and the adjacent palace area containing the royal residences. A long underground passage below the tower still remains. Today most of the city is inaccessible due to dense thorny vegetation. An ever-increasing part of the former city area is occupied by modern settlement, especially in the vicinity of its lakes.

The fort is open daily between 7 am and 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 20 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners.

Siri Fort
The Siri Fort was built during Alauddin Khalji’s rule, to defend the city from the onslaught of the Mongols. It was the second of the seven cities of medieval Delhi built around 1303, which at present is seen only in ruins with a few remnants.

History suggests that the city of Siri was built to protect the empire from the attack of the Mongols; and after the war, close to 8000 Mongol soldiers were buried in the city. At the time it was constructed, Siri had plenty of palaces, and other monuments including seven magnificent gates to enter and exit. However, now, the fort is in a derelict state with leftover ramparts, some citadels and a southeastern gate. Due to frequent Mongol invasions of West Asia, the Seljuqs took asylum in Delhi. The craftsmen of Seljuq dynasty are credited with this era’s architectural monuments in Delhi. In 1303, Targhi, a Mongol general, besieged the Siri fort when Alauddin retreated during the Mongol expedition into India. Targhi could not penetrate the fortifications of the Siri Fort and he finally retreated to his Kingdom in Central Asia. Subsequently, Alauddin’s forces defeated Mongols decisively at Amroha in 1306.

Siri was later linked to the fortifications of Jahanpanah and was also known as Darul Khilafat or the Seat of the Caliphate. According to the legend of Ala-ud-din’s war exploits, the name Siri given to the Fort was because the foundation of the fort was built on the severed heads or Sir which means head in Hindustani of about 8,000 Mongol soldiers killed in the war. It was the first city built by Muslims and was oval. The fort was once considered the pride of the city for its palace of a thousand pillars called the Hazar Sutan built outside the fort limits with marble floors and other stone decorations. Its darwaza or door is supposed to have been beautifully decorated. In the eastern part of the ruins, there are remnants of flame-shaped battlements, loopholes for arrows, and bastions, which were considered unique new additions of that period. In the nearby Shahpur Jat village, some dilapidated structures of the period are seen. The Tohfewala Gumbad Masjid is one such structure whose ruins show the form of a domed central apartment and sloping wall characteristic of Khaljis architecture.

The destruction of the Fort is attributed to the local rulers who removed the fort’s stones, bricks, and other artefacts for their buildings. In particular, Sher Shah Suri who was of Pashtun Afghan descent from Bihar, took away material from Siri to build his city.

Near the ruins of the ancient fort city, the Asian Village Complex, popularly known as the Siri Fort Complex, was developed during the 1982 Asian Games. The complex was developed in the land around the Siri Fort ruins and among these buildings are a large sports complex of courts for tennis, badminton and basketball, a swimming pool, a golf course, gymnasium, an aerobics centre, jogging tracks, cricket grounds, large auditoriums, upscale residential buildings, deluxe food joints and commercial establishments.

Siri Fort is open between 9 am and 5 pm and has no entrance fees to access the fort.

Feroz Shah Kotla Fort
The Feroz Shah Kotla or Kotla was a fortress built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1354 to house his version of Delhi city called Firozabad. A pristine polished sandstone Topra Ashokan pillar from the 3rd century BC rises from the palace’s crumbling remains, one of many pillars of Ashoka left by the Mauryan emperor; it was moved from Topra Kalan to Delhi under orders of Firoz Shah Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate and re-erected in its present location in 1356. The original inscription on the obelisk is primarily in Brahmi script but the language was Prakrit, with some Pali and Sanskrit added later. The inscription was successfully translated in 1837 by James Prinsep. Other than the Ashokan Pillar, the Fort complex also houses the Jami Masjid (Mosque), a Baoli, and a large garden complex. The fortress, also known as Kotla, was built on the banks of River Yamuna due to the scarcity of water in Tughlaqabad. The majestic fort is encompassed by beautiful gardens.

The Feroz Shah Kotla Fort is always crowded on Thursdays as people come here for prayers. There’s an interesting reason behind this weekly occurrence. It is believed that Jinns come to the fort from heaven to fulfil the wishes of people who pray on this day.

Jami Masjid is one of the most ancient and largest surviving mosques and monuments still in use. Built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan, architecturally it was built on a series of underground cells made of quartzite stone, covered with limestone. It is surrounded by a large courtyard with cloisters and a prayer hall. The Prayer Hall now in complete ruins was once used by the royal ladies. The Masjid and its architecture is an example of Tughluq architecture. The entrance to Jami Masjid lies on the northern side and is connected by a causeway to the pyramidal structure of the Ashokan Pillar. This mosque was visited by Timur in 1398 to say his prayers and he was so spellbound by its beauty, he constructed a mosque in Samarkand in Mawarannahr imitating the design of this Masjid. This mosque is also known to be where Imad ul Mulk, a Mughal Prime Minister, got Emperor Alamgir II murdered in 1759.

The Topra Ashokan Pillar which is now within Feroz Shah Kotla lies towards the north of Jama Masjid. The Pillar was first erected by King Ashoka between 273 and 236 BC in Topra Kalan in Haryana. There is another Ashokan Pillar, that is seen installed near the Hindu Rao Hospital, also erected by Ashoka in Meerut. This pillar, however, was unfortunately broken into five pieces after it was damaged during an explosion. The Ashokan Pillar was carefully wrapped with cotton silk and kept on a bed of reed made of raw silk and transported on a massive carriage attached with 42 wheels and drawn meticulously by 200 men from their original place to Delhi by Feroz Shah Tughlaq to avoid any damage during the journey, upon which it was then transported on huge boats to the final destination. The Sultanate wanted to break and reuse the Ashokan pillar for a minaret, but Firoz Shah Tuhglaq decided to erect it near the mosque instead. At the time of the re-installation of the obelisk in Delhi in 1356, no one knew the meaning of the script engraved in the stone. About five hundred years later, the script which was deciphered to be Brahmi was deciphered by James Prinsep in 1837 with help from scripts discovered on other pillars and tablets in South Asia. The inscription on the 3rd-century pillar describes King Devanampiya Piyadasi’s policies and appeal to the people and future generations of the kingdom in matters of dharma or a just and virtuous life, moral precepts, and freedoms.

Source

The circular Baoli or stepwell lies towards the northwestern side of the Ashokan Pillar. It lies in the heart of a large garden constructed in the form of subterranean apartments and a large underground canal built on its eastern side through which the water runs into the well. This is the only circular Baoli in Delhi, and also one of the four Baolis, where the tank is not separated from the well. It once had a roof on it, which collapsed long ago, exposing the tank at the second level. Originally it had an entry from the east and the west, but now, only the west side is accessible. Due to security reasons, the Baoli is kept locked, but permission to visit can be obtained easily for research purposes from the Delhi circle office of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Every Thursday there is a huge crowd at the fort. It is popularly believed that Jinns descend to the Fort from the Heavens and accept requests and wishes from people. A lot of wishes, penned down on paper, can be seen on the walls within the premises. The association with Jinns seems to be recent since it is only since 1977, a few months after the end of the Emergency, that there are first records of people starting to come to Firoz Shah Kotla in large numbers.

Firoz Shah Kotla Fort is open between 8:30 am to 7 pm daily and the entry fees are INR 5 for Indians and INR 500 for foreigners.

Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple
Close to Delhi’s border with Noida, the Swaminarayan Akshardham complex displays a beautiful mix of traditional and modern Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture. Inspired by Yogiji Maharaj and created by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, and was constructed by the BAPS Foundation. Officially opened on 06 November 2005, the temple, at the centre of the complex, was built according to the Vastu and Pancharatra shastra.

Various exhibition halls provide information about the life and work of Swaminarayan and the designers of the complex have adopted contemporary modes of communication and technology to create the various exhibition halls. The complex features an Abhishek mandap, a Sahaj Anand water show, a thematic garden, and three exhibitions namely the Sahajanand Darshan or the Hall of Values, the Neelkanth Darshan which is an IMAX film on the early life of Swaminarayan as the teenage yogi, Neelkanth, and the Sanskruti Darshan which is a cultural boat ride. According to Swaminarayan Hinduism, the word Akshardham means the abode of Swaminarayan and is believed by its followers as a temporal home of God on earth.

The Akshardham Mandir which rises 141 feet high, spans 316 feet wide, and extends 356 feet long is intricately carved with flora, fauna, dancers, musicians, and deities. The temple is entirely constructed from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble. Based on traditional Hindu architectural guidelines or the Shilpa Shastra on maximum temple life span, it makes no use of ferrous metal. Thus, it has no support from steel or concrete. The Mandir also consists of 234 ornately carved pillars, nine domes, and 20,000 statues of swamis, devotees, and acharyas. The temple also features the Gajendra Pith at its base, a plinth paying tribute to the elephant for its importance in Hindu culture and India’s history. It contains 148 life-sized elephants weighing a total of 3000 tons. Under the temple’s central dome lies the 3.4 m high statue of Swaminarayan seated in abhayamudra to whom the temple is dedicated, surrounded by images of the faith’s lineage of Gurus depicted either in a devotional posture or in a posture of service. Each statue is made of paanch dhaatu or five metals following Hindu tradition as well as statues of Sita Ram, Radha Krishna, Shiv Parvati, and Lakshmi Narayan.

Sahajanand Darshan or the Hall of Values features lifelike robotics and dioramas displaying incidents from Swaminarayan’s life set in 18th-century India. The hall also features the world’s smallest animatronic robot in the form of Ghanshyam Maharaj, the child form of Swaminarayan. The Nilkanth Darshan is a theatre that houses Delhi’s first and only large format screen and shows a 40-minute film specially commissioned for the complex, Neelkanth Yatra, to recount a seven-year pilgrimage made by Swaminarayan made during his teenage years throughout India. The Sanskruti Vihar is a 12-minute long boat ride that takes a visitor from Vedic India to present times, using life-sized figures and robotics. The musical fountain, also known as the Yagnapurush Kund, is India’s largest step well featuring very large series of steps down to a traditional yagna kund. During the night, a musical fountain show, Sahaj Anand – Multi-Media Water Show, a 24-minute presentation brings to life a story from the Kena Upanishad. The fountain measures 91 m by 91 m with 2,870 steps and 108 small shrines. In its centre lies an eight-petaled lotus-shaped yagna kund designed according to the Jayaakhya Samhita of the Pancharatra shastra. Also known as the Bharat Upavan, the Garden of India has lush manicured lawns, trees, and shrubs and is lined with bronze sculptures of contributors to India’s culture and history. The Yogi Hraday Kamal is a sunken garden, shaped like a lotus when viewed from above and features large stones engraved with quotes from world luminaries. Narayan Sarovar is a lake that surrounds the main monument containing the holy waters from 151 rivers and lakes. Surrounding the Narayan Sarovar are 108 gaumukhs, symbolising Janmangal Namavali or the 108 names for God, from which holy water issues forth. Premvati Ahargruh is a vegetarian restaurant modelled on the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra as well as an Ayurvedic bazaar. The Akshardham Centre for Applied Research in Social Harmony or the AARSH Centre applies research on social harmony and related topics.

The Akshardham Temple is closed on Mondays and on other days is open between 10 am to 8 pm with the last entry at 6:30 pm. Ticket counters close at 6 pm. There is an aarti twice a day at 10:30 am and 6 pm. The Abhishek Mandap is open for darshan and pooja between 10 am and 8 pm. To view the exhibitions, adults above 12 need to pay INR 220, senior citizens need to pay INR 170 and children between 4 and 11 need to pay INR 120 while entry is free for children below 4. The water show takes place after sunset and the maha aarti happens before the first show. The temple has a dress code where arms, shoulders, chest, navel, and legs have to be covered. Photography is not allowed as are electronics and mobile phones. If one is planning on carrying water bottles inside the complex, one needs to ensure the bottles are transparent.

ISKCON Mandir
Also known as the Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple, the ISKCON Temple is a Vaishnav temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radharani in the form of Radha Parthasarathi. It was established in 1998. The outer complex is embellished with intricate carvings and stonework and has many shops and a beautiful fountain. Inside the main sanctum, the idols are adorned with rich clothes and jewellery. The temple complex is also a centre for learning Vedic sciences and many devotional lectures and addresses are arranged for the benefit and spiritual nerve of devotees.

The main shrine gives way to three shrines that are located under the three spires, each of which is 90 feet tall. These are dedicated to Radha-Krishna, Sita-Ram and Guara-Nitai respectively. While the outer surface of the temple has detailed artwork, the inner sanctum has kaleidoscopic mosaics depicting the various phases of Krishna’s life. Located on the perimeter of these shrines is the parikrama compound, where pictures of different ISKCON temples are exhibited. Many images of Radha – Krishna adorn the complex as well.

The ISKCON temple also houses a museum which organises multimedia shows exhibiting great epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as a display of various gods and goddesses of bronze. The Ramayana Art Gallery has prominent scenes from the Ramayana showcased in multimedia with light and sound effects. The Bhagavadgita Animatronics Robot Show is a unique show with clay robots that narrate the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. The temple has an open-air amphitheatre where programmes are held from time to time. The Mahabharat Experience is a Light and Sound show that depicts the story of Mahabharat. The cost of the show is INR 200 per person. The Bhagavat Puran Exhibit is an exhibition of the Bhagavat Puran, the most important scripture for Vaishnava Hindus in a visual format. The Astounding Bhagavad Gita, is the largest printed book around the world weighing over 800 kg and measuring over 2.8 m.

The temple complex has a restaurant called Govinda’s, which offers vegetarian meals between noon and 3 pm for lunch and 7 to 10 pm for dinner. Coupons for the meal have to be purchased in cash.

The temple is open between 4:30 am and 9 pm with the core temple hall closed between 1 to 4 pm. Photography is not allowed within the temple complex.

Birla Mandir
Popularly known as the Laxminarayan Temple, the Birla Mandir is dedicated to Lord Laxminarayan. It is located at Connaught Place and was built by the Birla family, which is why it is known as the Birla temple. Built in the early 1900s and spread over 7.5 acres, the temple houses many shrines, fountains, and gardens along with sculptures and carvings. The main God of the temple is Lord Narayan with Goddess Laxmi. However, the temple has shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Shiva and Hanuman among other Gods. Famous for celebrating Diwali and Janmashtami, the temple attracts tourists from around the world making it one of Delhi’s most famous religious attractions. The temple is open between 4:30 am to 1:30 pm and then again between 2:30 to 9 pm. Photography, mobile phones and cameras are not allowed within the temple premises.

Chhatarpur Temple
Situated in South Delhi or Chhatarpur, the Chhatarpur Temple is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani, a manifestation of the Navadurga. Founded by Baba Sant Nagpalji in 1974, the temple is the second largest in all of India after the Akshardham Temple also in Delhi. Popular for its fabulous lattice screen work or jaali design, the shrine’s architecture is an amalgamation of South and North Indian designs. Besides the presiding deity, the complex has smaller chambers dedicated to idols of different gods. The highlight of the temple is the opulent Shayya Kaksh which is the resting room for Goddess Katyayani and the room houses a bed and dressing table made of silver.

Sprawling over an area of approximately 70 acres, there is a sacred tree in the compound which is also worshipped. People tie a thread around it and make a wish and it is believed that the tree has the power to grant wishes made with faith. Navratri is the major festival at the temple. The temple compound has over 20 big and small shrines dedicated to various gods further divided into three major complexes. The shrine made for Goddess Katyayani is only open and accessible to visitors during the bi-annual Navratri festival. Adjacent to the chief shrine is the resting room of the deity, popularly called Shayya Kaksh. It has a bed and a dressing table carved out of silver, which is the major attraction of the temple. A different shrine of Goddess Durga is also present within the premises for the daily visitors. The temple has a facility for devotees to stay for a short while. The Dharamshala has 12 halls with a 30-people capacity and 36 rooms with a 6-people facility.

The temple is open daily between 6 am and 10 pm.

Jhandewalan Hanuman Mandir
Towering over the city, the 108 feet Hanuman idol is housed within the Hanuman Mandir complex in Jhandewalan. Located above the raised metro line between Karol Bagh and Jhandewalan Metro Stations, the gigantic statue is only one of the attractions of the temple, another prominent being the dramatic entrance designed like a mouth of a rakshasa or demon which has been slain and is waiting for its death. At the base of the statue, there is a small shrine dedicated to Goddess Kali. Tuesdays are the most visited days of the week.

Built in 1997, the temple can’t be missed. The evening aarti is the most important ritual as the arms of the giant Hanuman statue move back, the chest slides apart and beautiful idols of Goddess Sita and Lord Sri Ram appear to give darshan to the pilgrims. The temple is open between 5 am and 10 pm daily.

Kalkaji Temple
Located in South Delhi, the Kalkaji temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali who symbolises power and is the destroyer of evil. It is believed that the Goddess was exactly where the temple currently stands and it is also believed that during the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna and the Pandavas also worshipped Goddess Kali at this temple. The temple has its maximum visitors during the nine days of the Navratri festival, usually in October. The celebrations start with the devotees offering a milk bath to the idol after which a grand tantric Aarti is held in the morning and the evening.

Kali Bari Temple
One of the oldest Kali temples in Delhi, the Kali Bari Temple was constructed after years of demands from the Bengali community in the city. Located in Connaught Place, the temple is very close to the Laxminarayan Temple. An interesting fact about the temple is that Subhash Chandra Bose was the first President of the Kali Bari Mandir. Durga Puja, a sacred festival for the Bengalis is celebrated here on a grand scale.

Yogmaya Temple
The Yogmaya Temple is also known as the Jogmaya temple and is located in Mehrauli. It is dedicated to Goddess Yogmaya, sister of Lord Krishna. This temple is more than 5000 years old and has been destroyed multiple times during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods. Despite attacks, the temple remains intact and sees thousands of devotees every year. The temple is also famous for its inter-faith festival, Phoolwalon-ki-sair Festival which has been ongoing since 1812 and is one of Delhi’s oldest religious traditions. It was rebuilt last in 1827.

Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
Delhi’s best-known and oldest Jain temple, the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is located in Chandni Chowk, in the vicinity of Red Fort. Made entirely out of red sandstone, the striking building was originally built in 1658 and has undergone major modifications and alterations over the years. Popularly known as Lal Mandir or the Red Temple, the temple is dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, Lord Parshvanath. Besides the huge statue of Parshvanath, the temple also houses idols of Lord Rishabhdev, Lord Mahavir and several other deities. The main devotional area is on the first floor.

The shrine is famous because of the massive avian veterinary hospital behind the main temple complex which is called the Jain Birds Hospital which comprises general wards and ICU. The temple is well known for its striking architecture, beautiful carvings, pure gold artwork and frescos.

After Emperor Shahjahan founded the city of old Delhi, he invited some Jain merchants to trade and granted them some land to the south of the Red Fort area in the Dariba Gali locality. With his permission, the merchants constructed a temporary Jain temple in the area which stands to date and acquired three prominent statues of Jain deities, the most important being Parshvanath. Between 1800 and 1807, Raja Harsukh Rai made some modifications to the temple and a royal shikhara was added and the was then called the Naya Mandi or the new temple.

A pillar of honour called the Manastambh stands in front of the main temple complex. The main meditation area is situated on the first floor accessible through a flight of stairs. Besides the major shrines of Parshvanath, Mahavir and Rishabhdev, the temple has several smaller shrines dedicated to other Jain deities. The compound also has a memorial dedicated to the popular Digambara Jain monk Acharya Shantisagar. In addition to the famous bird hospital, the complex also houses a tiny bookstore selling Jain literature books and accessories. Visitors are free to donate money to the charitable bird hospital which is open on all days between 8 am and 8 pm. In the summer between Holi and Diwali, the temple is open between 5:30 and 11:30 am and then again between 6 to 9:30 pm and during the winter months between Diwali and Holi, it is open between 6 am to 12 noon and then again between 5:30 to 9 pm.

Lotus Temple
A Baháʼí House of Worship, the Lotus Temple was dedicated in December 1986. Notable for its flowerlike shape, like all other Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all. The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad petals arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides, with nine doors opening onto a central hall with a height of slightly over 34 m and a capacity of 1,300 people. The Lotus temple is one of the seven Baha’i House of Worship present around the world.

The temple was designed by Fariborz Sahba and the major part of the funds needed to buy the land needed for the temple was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, Pakistan, whose will dictated that his entire life savings would go to this purpose. A portion of the construction budget was saved and used to build a greenhouse to study indigenous plants and flowers that would be appropriate for use on the site. Rúhíyyih Khánum laid the foundation stone for the Lotus Temple on 17 October 1977 and dedicated the temple on 24 December 1986.

The Baháʼí Faith teaches that a Baháʼí House of Worship should be a space for people of all religions to gather, reflect, and worship. The sacred writings of not only the Baháʼí Faith but also other religions can be read and/or chanted, regardless of language; on the other hand, reading nonscriptural texts is forbidden, as are delivering sermons or lectures, or fundraising. Musical renditions of readings and prayers can be sung by choirs, but no musical instruments can be played inside. There is no set pattern for worship services, and ritualistic ceremonies are not permitted.

All Baháʼí Houses of Worship, including the Lotus Temple, share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Baháʼí scripture. Baháʼí Houses of Worship must be nine-sided and circular. Baháʼí scripture also states that no pictures, statues or images be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars be incorporated as an architectural feature. Inspired by the lotus flower, the design for the House of Worship in New Delhi is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad petals arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The temple’s shape has symbolic and inter-religious significance because the lotus is often associated with the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi. The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall 34.3 m tall that can seat 1,300 people and hold up to 2,500. The temple has a diameter of 70 m and the surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from the Penteli mountain in Greece. The Temple is designed in such a way that no external lighting is required to light up the huge prayer hall. The light filters through the inner folds of the Lotus and diffuses through the entire hall of the temple, functioning as a skylight. Along with its nine surrounding ponds and gardens, the Lotus Temple property comprises 26 acres and an educational centre beside the temple was established in 2017.

A short film on an outline of the Baha’i Faith in English is showcased in the temple. Short films are showcased every 20 minutes, from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. Dusk and the evening hours are the best time to visit this temple, as its beauty is even more enhanced by the floodlights during this hour. As is the case with other stone monuments such as the Taj Mahal, the Lotus Temple is becoming discoloured due to air pollution in India. Specifically, the white marble is turning grey and yellow due to pollution from vehicles and manufacturing in the city, among other sources.

Prayers timings are 10 am, 12 noon, 3 pm and 5 pm for five minutes and a few prayers from different religions are chanted or read out loud. People are requested to not leave the Prayer Hall during this time, but wait until the prayers are over. The temple is open daily except Mondays. Between October and March, it is open between 9:30 am and 5:30 pm while between April and September, one can visit the temple between 9:30 am and 7 pm.

Travel Bucket List: India – Delhi Part 2

Iron Pillar
Located in the Qutb Minar complex, the Iron Pillar is a 7.21 m high structure with a 41 cm diameter that was constructed by Chandragupta II who reigned between 375 and 415. Made of wrought iron, it is famous for the rust-resistant composition of the metals used in its construction. The pillar weighs more than 6 tonnes and is thought to have been erected elsewhere, perhaps outside the Udayagiri Caves, and moved to its present location by Anangpal Tomar in the 11th century. Recent studies suggest that the rust-resistant nature of the monument is due to a thin layer of crystalline iron hydrogen phosphate hydrate forming on the high-phosphorus-content iron, which serves to protect it from the effects of the humid climate and weather conditions.

The oldest inscription on the pillar is that of a king named Chandra, generally identified as the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II. The pillar was installed as a trophy during the building of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and the Qutb complex by Sultan Iltutmish in the 13th century. The top tip of the pillar is bell-shaped with a bulb-patterned base. The entire edifice rests on an elevated stone platform circumferenced by a fence of metal bars, which was constructed in 1997 to prevent visitors from touching it. A deep socket at the tip of the pillar suggests that probably an image of the mythological bird Garuda was fixed into it as it was common during the time of its construction.

According to the inscription of King Chandra, the pillar was erected at Vishnupadagiri or Vishnupada which is identified as Mathura, because of its proximity to Delhi and the city’s reputation as a Vaishnavite pilgrimage centre. However, archaeological evidence indicates that during the Gupta period, Mathura was a major centre of Buddhism, although Vaishnavism may have existed there. Also, Mathura lies in plains, and only contains some small hillocks and mounds, there is no true giri or hill in Mathura.

Based on paleographic similarity to the dated inscriptions from Udayagiri, the Gupta-era iconography, analysis of metallurgy and other evidence, it has been theorized that the iron pillar was originally erected at the Udayagiri Caves. The key point in favour of placing the iron pillar at Udayagiri is that this site was closely associated with Chandragupta and the worship of Vishnu in the Gupta period. In addition, there are well-established traditions of mining and working iron in central India, documented particularly by the iron pillar at Dhar and local placenames like Lohapura and Lohangī Pīr. The king of Delhi, Iltutmish, is known to have attacked and sacked Vidisha in the thirteenth century and this would have allowed him to remove the pillar as a trophy to Delhi, just as the Tughluq rulers brought the Asokan pillars to Delhi in the 1300s.

The iron pillar is open daily between 10 am and 5 pm and entry fees for Indians is INR 10, while foreigners need to pay INR 250.

National War Memorial
Built to honour soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces, the National War Memorial is a national monument is spread over 40 acres of land around the existing chhatri or canopy near India Gate. The names of armed forces personnel killed during the armed conflicts with Pakistan and China as well as the 1961 war in Goa, Operation Pawan, and other operations such as Operation Rakshak are inscribed on the memorial walls in golden letters.

The memorial wall is flushed with the ground and was completed in January 2019 and unveiled on 25 February 2019. The old Amar Jawan Jyoti, located at India Gate, previously served as the national war memorial. The flame from the old Amar Jawan Jyoti was merged with the flame at the new National War Memorial on 21 January 2022 by Integrated Defence Staff chief.

Based on the design of a Chennai-based architectural firm, the National War Memorial has four concentric circles and a central obelisk, at the bottom of which burns an eternal flame representing the immortal soldier or the amar jawan. The concentric circles are designed as a Chakravyuh, an ancient Indian war formation. From the innermost to outermost, the Amar Chakra or Circle of Immortality is a an eternal flame continuously burning under the main obelisk at the centre of the monument. The flame symbolises the immortality of the spirit of fallen soldiers and the promise that the Nation will never forget their sacrifices. The second circle or the Veerta Chakra aka the Circle of Bravery depicts the bravery of Indian forces in the form of a covered gallery that exhibit six murals crafted in bronze depicting valiant battle actions of the Indian Armed Forces. The battles showcased here are the Battles of Gangasagar, Longewala, Tithwal, Rizangla, Operation Meghdoot, and Operation Trident. The Tyag Chakra or Circle of Sacrifice are circular concentric walls of honour, which symbolise the ancient war formation or the Chakravyuh. The walls are clad with granite tablets where an independent granite tablet is dedicated to each soldier who has made the supreme sacrifice in the battlefield, where his name is etched in golden letters along with the details of Rank. The outermost circle is the Rakshak Chakra or the Circle of Protection which is made of rows of trees as a reassurance to the citizens of the country about their safety against any threat, with each tree representing the soldiers who ensure the territorial integrity of the Nation, round the clock. The Param Yodha Sthal houses the busts of all the 21 recipients of the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military honour.

A National War Museum will be constructed in the adjoining Princess Park area and will be connected to the memorial through an underground tunnel. The Princess Park is a 14-acres large area north of India Gate, with barrack-like accommodations built during World War II. Since 1947, it has served as family accommodation for mid-level armed forces officers posted in the Service Headquarters in New Delhi. Entry is free at the memorial which is open between 9 am to 6:30 pm during the winter months of November to March and between 9 am and 7:30 pm during summer from April to October.

Rajpath
Officially known as Kartavya Path, Rajpath is a ceremonial boulevard that runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan on Raisina Hill through Vijay Chowk and India Gate, National War Memorial to the National Stadium. It used to be known as Kingsway during the British colonial rule. Considered to be one of the most important roads in India, it is where the annual Republic Day parade takes place on 26 January. Janpath, meaning People’s Way crosses the road. Rajpath runs in east-west direction. Roads from Connaught Place, the financial centre of Delhi, run into Rajpath from north. After climbing Raisina Hill, Rajpath is flanked by the North and South Blocks of the Secretariat Building. Finally it ends at the gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan. At Vijay Chowk it crosses Sansad Marg, and the Parliament House of India can be seen to the right when coming from the India Gate. It is also used for the funeral processions of key political leaders of India.

In 1911 when the British Imperial Government determined that the capital of the British Indian Empire should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi, construction began on New Delhi, which would serve as the purpose-built administrative capital of the Indian Empire which was designed and constructed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens conceived of a modern imperial city centred around a ceremonial axis, such axis being the large boulevard known today as Rajpath. Most of the buildings surrounding the Rajpath were designed by Lutyens and the second architect of the project, Sir Herbert Baker.

When built, the road was named King’s Way, or Kingsway, in honour of the Emperor of India George V, who had visited Delhi during the Durbar of 1911, and where the Emperor formally proclaimed the decision to move the capital. Rajpath was built to provide an unhindered view of Delhi, as Lutyens wanted to have a panoramic sight from the Viceroy’s palace. Following India’s independence, the road’s name was translated to Hindi, Rajpath. In September 2022, Rajpath was redeveloped under Central Vista Redevelopment Project and renamed Kartavya Path.

Landmarks in the vicinity of Rajpath include the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India, North Block and South Block, also called the Secretariat Building which includes the Prime Ministers Office. Other buildings include Vijay Chowk is a spacious plaza and the site of Beating the Retreat ceremony, which takes place on 29 January each year, which marks the end of Republic Day celebrations, India Gate and the National War Memorial.

Rashtrapati Bhavan
After the decision to move Imperial India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi was taken in 1911, about 4,000 acres of land was acquired to begin the construction of the Viceroy’s House, as it was originally called, and the adjacent Secretariat Building between 1911 and 1916 by relocating the Raisina and Malcha villages that existed there.

British architect Edwin Landseer Lutyens, a major member of the city-planning process, was given the primary architectural responsibility. Lutyens’ design is grandly classical overall, with colours and details inspired by Indian architecture. The original plan was to have Viceroy’s House on the top of Raisina Hill, with the secretariats lower down. It was later decided to build it 400 yards back and put both buildings on top of the plateau.

Lutyens travelled between India and England almost every year for twenty years and worked on the construction of the Viceroy’s House in both countries. The gardens were initially designed and laid out in Mughal style by William Robert Mustoe who was influenced by Lady Hardinge who in turn had sought inspiration in the book by Constance Villiers-Stuart in her Gardens of the Great Mughals.

When Chakravarti Rajagopalachari assumed office as the first Indian-born Governor General of India and became the occupant of this palace, he preferred to stay in a few rooms in the former Guest Wing, which is now the family wing of the President; he converted the then Viceroy’s apartments into the Guest Wing, where visiting heads of state stay while in India. On 26 January 1950, when Rajendra Prasad became the first President of India and occupied this building, it was renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan or the President’s House.

Consisting of four floors and 340 rooms, with a floor area of 200,000 sq ft, Rashtrapati Bhavan was was built using 1 billion bricks and 3,000,000 cu ft of stone with little steel. The design of the building fell into the Edwardian Baroque period, a time when emphasis was placed on the use of heavy classical motifs to emphasise power and imperial authority.

Various Indian elements were added to the building, including several circular stone basins on top of the building and a traditional Indian chujja or chhajja, which occupied the place of a frieze in classical architecture. This was a sharp, thin, protruding element that extended 8 ft from the building, and created deep shadows blocking harsh sunlight from the windows and also shielding the windows from heavy rain during the monsoon season. On the roofline were several chuttris, which helped to break up the flatness of the roofline not covered by the dome. Lutyens appropriated some Indian design elements but used them sparingly and effectively throughout the building.

Lutyens added several small personal elements to the house, such as an area in the garden walls and two ventilator windows on the stateroom to look like the glasses which he wore. The Viceregal Lodge was completed largely by 1929, and along with the rest of New Delhi, was inaugurated officially in 1931. The building took seventeen years to complete and eighteen years later India became independent.

The premises of the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been divided into three circuits and can be accessed by an authorised visitor at specific time slots over the day. The first one is the Main Building and Central Lawn, where you can spectate the architecture firsthand. The second circuit is the Rashtrapati Bhawan Museum complex, which has several buildings within its perimeter. The third circuit comprises the marvellous Mughal Gardens.

Among the various rooms, the Darbar Hall and Ashoka Hall are the most prominent. The Durbar Hall is situated directly under the double dome of the main building and was known as the Throne Room before independence. Today, there is a single high chair for the President under a Belgian glass chandelier. The room has a capacity of 500 people and it is here that Jawaharlal Nehru took the oath of the office of Prime Minister from Lord Mountbatten at 8.30 am on 15 August 1947. Ashoka Hall is a rectangular room originally built as a state ballroom with wooden flooring. The Persian painting on its ceiling depicts a royal hunting expedition led by King Fateh Ali Shah of Persia. The walls have fresco paintings.

The Swami Vivekanand Garden is a Mughal Garden situated at the back of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and incorporates both Mughal and English landscaping styles and features a great variety of flowers. The Rashtrapati Bhavan gardens are open to the public in February every year. Two channels intersecting at right angles running in the cardinal directions divide the main garden into a grid of squares or a charbagh. There are six lotus-shaped fountains at the crossings of these channels which function as reflecting pools. The terrace garden has two longitudinal strips at a higher level on each side of the Main Garden, forming the Northern and Southern boundaries. At the centre of both of the strips is a fountain, which falls inwards, forming a well. On the Western tips are located two gazebos and on the Eastern tips are two ornately designed sentry posts. The Long Garden or the Purdah Garden is located to the west of the Main Garden, and runs along each side of the central pavement which goes to the circular garden. Enclosed in walls about 12 feet high, this is predominantly a rose garden with 16 square rose beds encased in low hedges. Around the circular garden, there are rooms for the office of the horticulturist, a greenhouse, stores and a nursery. The Mughal Gardens opens for general public viewing in February–March every year during Udyanotsav.

In July 2014, a museum inside Rashtrapati Bhavan was inaugurated by the then President, Pranab Mukherjee. The museum helps visitors to get an inside view of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, its art, and architecture and get educated about the lives of past presidents. The second phase was inaugurated in 2016.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan is open between 9 am and 4 pm. Circuit 1 is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays while Circuit 2 is open on all days of the week except Mondays and Circuit 3 is open between August to March on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Entry to Rashtrapati Bhavan is through Gates No. 2, 7, 38. Indian citizens are required to carry valid photo ID Cards while foreign tourists need to submit photocopies of their passports and are required to carry their original passports for identification on the day of the visit.

Agrasen ki Baoli
Also known as Ugrasen Ki Baoli, Agrasen Ki Baoli or the Well of Agrasen is a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide historical step well. A historical monument located on Hailey Road near Connaught Place, it has been designated a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. Water temples and temple step wells were built in ancient India with the earliest forms of step wells and reservoirs built in India in places like Dholavira as far back as the Indus Valley civilisation.

Although there are no known historical records to prove who built the stepwell, it is believed that it was originally built by the legendary King Agrasen, and the present architecture hints at it being rebuilt in the 14th century during the Tughlag or Lodi period of the Delhi Sultanate.

Agrasen ki Baoli is unique in its structure as its shape is quite different from the traditional round shape of reservoirs that existed in Delhi during that time. Built over a series of 108 steps, the baoli gradually descends into the ground. These steps are built over three levels, each of which serves as a landing where people can rest and relax. Each level is lined with arched niches on both sides. These levels are in turn akin to arched stone carvings that lie in beautiful symmetry with each other. The style of its architecture indicates that it was rebuilt during the Tughlaq period. The well is 15 metres wide and 60 metres long and the lower parts of the baoli can be seen submerged in water on some occasions. There is a mosque located on its South-Western Side which stands on four pillars with a heavy stone on the roof. Although the roof of the mosque has fallen in, the columns of the same are still present and have Buddhist-chaitya carvings adorning them. These sandstone pillars stand out in comparison to the general design of the mosque.

It is believed that the well was built by King Agrasen around the time of Mahabharata and was rebuilt and reconstructed by the Aggarwals in the 14th century which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen. The alcoves of the Baoli were also used for rituals and religious ceremonies.

Agrasen ki Baoli is quite famous for urban legends of hauntings and incidents. Legend has it that the reservoir was once filled with mystical dark waters that compelled people to jump in to commit suicide. Today, it is said that the place casts an evil spell on visitors that stay over at this destination after dusk. The presence of nocturnal beings such as bats and owls only elevates the bizarre quotient of this place.

The Baoli is open daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm and there is no entry fee to access the step well.

Ghalib ki Haveli
Ghalib ki Haveli or Ghalib’s Mansion was the residence of the 19th- century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib and is today now a heritage site located in Old Delhi and reflects the period when the Mughal era was on the decline in India. The house was given to him by a physician named Hakim, who is believed to be an enthusiast of his poetry. After the poet died in 1869, Hakim used to sit there every evening, not allowing anyone to enter the mansion.

The Haveli offers an insight into the Mirza Ghalib’s lifestyle and the architecture of the Mughal era. The large compound with columns and bricks is the reminiscence of the Mughal Empire in Delhi. The walls are adorned with a huge portrait of the poet and some of his couplets are hung around the side walls. After the Haveli was taken over by the government, it was made into a permanent memorial museum housing objects related to the poet and his times. It also houses various handwritten poems by the poet beside his books. The museum also houses a life-size replica of the poet in a realistic setting with a hookah in his hand. Portraits of Ustaad Zauq, Abu Zafar, Momin, and other noted contemporaries of Ghalib can also be seen. Another wall throws light on Ghalib’s favourite things like his attire and costumes. There is another poster that lists his favourite dishes and another chart that lists his interests and hobbies. In addition, there is a single-door protected room in the haveli that has the only photograph that was ever taken of Ghalib. There are also other pictures and portraits of the poet. Aside from that, there are handwritten letters, couplets and utensils, and accessories like hookah.

Ghalib lived in this Haveli for a long time after moving to Delhi from Agra. While staying at here, he wrote his Urdu and Persian diwans. Until 1999, the Haveli housed shops until it was acquired by the government and renovated it using Mughal Lakhori bricks, sandstone & a wooden entrance gate to recreate the 19th century.

The Haveli has no entry fees as well as no charges for photography. It is open on all days from 11 am to 6 pm daily except Mondays. It is closed for lunch between 1:30 to 2 pm.

Alai Darwaza/Minar
Among the many historical monuments within the Qutb Minar complex, Alai Minar stands apart as it has been left incomplete. The construction was started by the Ilbari ruler Alauddin Khilji as a project to build a minar higher than the Qutb Minar. After winning the Deccan war, he indulged in making modifications to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque within the same complex. Once the mosque was doubled in size, Khilji proceeded to construct the highest tower as a mark of his prowess and victory. It serves as the southern gateway of the mosque and is located in the southern part of the Qutb complex. However, the minar was left incomplete as Khilji died in 1316, soon after the construction of the tower began. The complete description of the Khilji’s intentions and the construction of the tower is mentioned in Amir Khusro’s book, Tarikh-e-Alai.

Alai Darwaza Minar was designed to be two times higher than the Qutb Minar and is well-proportioned with the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The idea was however abandoned and today, the building is an 80 feet high, mammoth rubble masonry, finished only up to one storey. The unhewn structure stands bare and suggests the creator’s intentions to be adorned with dressed stones and fancy architecture. The construction was not taken up by the descendants of the Khilji dynasty and eventually the minar was left unaddressed and neglected. But, even though in a derelict and a decrepit state, the monument resonates with the majesty and the magnificence of the bygone era.

The Alai Darwaza is made up of a single hall whose interior part measures 34.5 feet and the exterior part measures 56.5 feet. It is 60 feet tall and the walls are 11 feet thick. The height of the dome is 47 feet and is the first true dome built in India, as previous attempts to construct a true dome were not successful. The entire structure is made up of red sandstone with white coloured marble inlaid on the exterior walls. There is extensive Arabic calligraphy on the walls with horseshoe-shaped arches, the first time such arches were used in India. The facade has pre-Turkish carvings and patterns.

The Alai Minar/Darwaza is open between 10 am and 5 pm and Indians need to pay INR 10 to enter the monument while foreigners need to pay INR 250.

Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal
Situated near Karol Bagh, Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal is a ruined fort cum gateway structure that was originally built as a hunting lodge by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century. The fort is infamous for its haunted stories and tales of paranormal activity. There are no locks or chains on the gate to the fort, but only a warning sign that says not to come here after sunset. Nestled in between a dense forest, the monument is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. There is not a lot to explore except two courtyards and a few dilapidated rooms

The architecture of Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal resembles another monument, the Malcha Mahal built by the Tughlaq Dynasty. The fort has two entrances and the facade is protected by bastions like in a fort. As one enters the dilapidated rubble masonry gate, it opens to a courtyard. The other cobbled gate also leads to the same courtyard. On the side, there are rooms built by the emperor and a flight of stairs leading to a semi-circular structure. There is also a newly made toilet in a corner that was built by Delhi Tourism.

It is believed that the Tughlaq Dynasty built this heritage fort in the 14th century as their hunting lodge. However, after it was abandoned by the Tughlaq Dynasty, it became the abode of the Sufi Saint Bu Ali Bakhtiyari and the name today is just a distorted version of the saint’s name. Another story says that a woman named Bhatiyari was from Rajasthan who lost her way and landed here in the ruins of the fort and so the fort came to be called the Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal.

The area is infamous for its spooky atmosphere, and eerie ambience and there have been sightings of paranormal activities after sunset. According to a few people, there have seen a shadow of a woman lurking here at night. Therefore, no guard stays here after 5:30 pm. The area is barricaded by the police and entry is restricted. Some people claim that they saw a white wall here in the adjacent woods and photographed it. But when they went back and got the photographs developed, the wall was not in the photo, and they went back in search of the wall, but they could never find it.

Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal is open between 8 am and 5:30 pm and entry is free.

Purana Qila
One of the oldest forts in Delhi, Purana Qila or Old Fort was built by the second Mughal Emperor Humayun and Surid Sultan Sher Shah Suri and is thought by many to be located on the site of the ancient city of Indraprastha built by the Pandava princes from the Mahabharata. It is believed that the fort was built on the assembly hall of Indraprastha. The fort formed the inner citadel of the city of Dinpanah and is today located near the expansive Pragati Maidan exhibition ground and is separated from the Dhyanchand Stadium by Mathura Road. Built on the banks of river Yamuna and spread over 1.5 km, the monument has tons of myths and legends attached to it. It is also believed that Emperor Humayun met his end by tumbling down the steps of his library within the fort. The fort has three entrances and is surrounded by a moat, which is now used for boating. Purana Qila and its environs flourished as the sixth city of Delhi. On 7 October 1556, the Hindu king Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, who had defeated Akbar’s forces at the Battle of Delhi was crowned in Purana Qila. The Mughals would one month later decisively defeat Hemu and his army at the second battle of Panipat.

Edwin Lutyens who designed the new capital of British India, New Delhi, in the 1920s, had aligned the central vista, now Rajpath, with Purana Qila. During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila along with the neighbouring Humayun’s Tomb became the site for refugee camps for Muslims migrating to newly founded Pakistan. During World War II, Purana Qila was one of the two civilian internment camps, the other being Deoli in the Rajasthan desert.

Purana Qila in recent years has been used for various important theatre productions, cultural events, and concerts. Today, it is the venue of a daily sound and light presentation after sunset, on the history of the Seven Cities of Delhi, from Indraprastha through New Delhi.

The walls of the fort rise to a height of 18 metres, traverse about 1.5 km, and have three arched gateways: the Bara Darwaza or the Big Gate facing west, which is still in use today; the south gate, also popularly known as the Humayun Gate, probably so known because it was constructed by Humayun, or perhaps because Humayun’s Tomb is visible from there; and lastly, the Talaqi Gate, often known as the forbidden gate. All the gates are double-storeyed sandstone structures flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and coloured-marble inlays and blue tiles. They are replete with detailing, including ornate overhanging balconies, or jharokhas, and are topped by pillared pavilions or chhatris, all features that are reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture as seen in the North and South Gates, and which were amply repeated in future Mughal architecture. Despite the grandeur of the exterior, few interior structures have survived except the Qila-i Kuhna Mosque and the Shermandal, both credited to Sher Shah.

The single-domed Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque, built by Sher Shah in 1541 is an excellent example of a pre-Mughal design and an early example of the extensive use of the pointed arch in the region as seen in its five doorways with the true horseshoe-shaped arches. It was designed as a Jami Mosque or Friday mosque for the Sultan and his courtiers. The prayer hall inside, the single-aisled mosque, measures 51.20m by 14.90m and has five elegant arched prayer niches or mihrabs set in its western wall. Marble in shades of red, white and slate is used for the calligraphic inscriptions on the central iwan, marking a transition from Lodhi to Mughal architecture. At one time, the courtyard had a shallow tank, with a fountain. A second storey, accessed through staircases from the prayer hall, with a narrow passage running along the rectangular hall, provided space for female courtiers to pray, while the arched doorway on the left wall, framed by ornate jharokas, was reserved for members of the royal family. Today it is the best-preserved building in Purana Qila.[20][21]

The Sher Mandal was named for Sher Shah who had tried to finish what was ordered by Babur but had died during the initial phase and so construction was halted until the arrival of Humayun. This double-storeyed octagonal tower of red sandstone with steep stairs leading up to the roof was intended to be higher than its existing height. Its original builder was Babur who ordered the construction and was used as a personal observatory and library for his son Humayun, finished only after he recaptured the fort. It is also one of the first observatories of Delhi, the earliest being in Pir Ghaib at Hindu Rao at Ridge built in the 14th century by Firoz Shah Tughlaq. The tower is topped by an octagonal chhatri supported by eight pillars and decorated with white marble in the typical Mughal style. Inside, there are remnants of the decorative plaster-work and traces of stone shelving where, presumably, the emperor’s books were placed. This was also where on 24 January 1556 Humayun fell from the second floor to his death. He slipped while hastening to the evening prayers, following his hobby of astronomical star gazing at the top of this private observatory. He fell headlong down the stairs and died of his injuries two days later. Entry inside the library is now prohibited.

The museum at Purana Qila houses the many specimens excavated from the fort site by the Archaeological Survey of India. The exhibits include painted grey ware dating back to 1500 BC, various pottery and objects from the ancient empires of Kushana, Rajputs, Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals.

Several other monuments like Kairul Manzil, the mosque built by Maham Anga, Akbar’s foster mother, and which was later used as a madrasa lie around the complex. Sher Shah Suri Gate or Lal Darwaza, which was the southern gate to Shergarh, also lies opposite the Purana Qila complex. The Step Well is a rectangular well situated within the premises with a few steps with the Hammam next to it, possibly the bathing place for the royal ladies. The Kunti Devi Temple, a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is also located inside the premises. Legend says that the temple was established by the Pandavas and belonged to their mother, Kunti. The two Bhairon temples outside the complex are also said to have been by the Pandavas. Interestingly, alcohol is the preferred offering for the Bhairon temple.

The the fort hosts a light and sound show on the journey of Delhi from the Mughal Era to modern-day Delhi, aptly named Ishq- e- Dilli. It showcases the seven cities of Delhi, starting with the 11th century Delhi and covers the myth of Mahabharata and Indraprastha as well and brings the viewer to today. The Hindi show is between 7:30 to 8:30 pm while the English show is between 9 and 10 pm. The show runs daily except Fridays and tickets are priced at INR 100 for adults and INR 50 for children between 3 to 12 years old. During the day, Purana Qila is open between 7 am and 5 pm and entry fees are INR 5 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners. Videography is priced at INR 25.