Delhi dates back to the era of Mahabharta and is proven to be the third oldest city of India after Varanasi and Ujjain. From the historic city of Indrapatta (Indraprastha) to the present day National Capital Territory of Delhi, the city underwent many facelifts. Delhi was built in phases. Following is the timeline, that gave Delhi its present look...
The legend of Mahabharta tells that Pandavas got five villages from their brothers, the Kauravas. These five villages were in the forest of Khandva (or Khandavprastha). The Pandavas built their empire, as beautiful as the city of Lord Indra, and hence it got its name "Indraprastha". This ancient city was situated at the banks of river Yamuna.
Though the city is nowhere to be found in present time, the archaeological excavations have proved that it was around the area, where later Humayun built Dinpanah and Sher Shah built Shergarh. In present time, this area lies around Old Fort, Pragati Maidan, Indraprastha park and nearby colonies.
It is said that Raja Dhillu, from the lineage of Karna (another brother of Pandavas, who joined Kaurvas and was killed in Mahabharta Battle) later formed Dhilli around Indraprastha and promoted several small villages to form a big city. His descendants still exist with surnames Dhillon, Dhull, Dhill, Dhilwal and Dhaliwal etc. and are popular castes in Jatt clan of Punjab region of India and Pakistan. They are also called Raja Jatts, because of numerous ancestor kings and warriors.
Quick Specs - Indraprastha
Year of Establishment: circa 1450 B.C.
Built By: Pandavas
Present Location: Around Old Fort of Delhi
Remains: None. Only excavations from the neighbourhood proved the fact of existence
Raja Anangpal Tomar re-founded "Dhilli" in 736 A.D. Later, to fortify their establishment, the Lal Kot (meaning: Red Fort) was built. Excavations show that this fort might be built around 1060 A.D.
In 1180 A.D. Maharaja Prithvi Raj Chauhan captured this fort and extended its boundries. He created a bigger and more powerful fortification called Quila Rai Pithora. Originally, this Qila (Fort) was having 13 gates, but now only 3 are remaining. The remains of Lal Kot can be seen behind Adam Khan's Tomb. The wall of Rai Pithora is present around Mehrauli and can be seen in Rai Pithora Cultural Complex at Lado Sarai. The Lado Sarai Golf Course is also situated within the remaining walls of Rai Pithora Fort. The Rai Pithora Cultural Complex is a well maintained park, administered by Delhi administration and is a common place for morning walks.
Although Hindu mythology suggests and the Archaeological excavations confirm Indraprastha to be the first establishment in this area, the fortifications of Lal Kot and Quila Rai Pithora are popularly known as the 1st city of Delhi. Both these establishments are counted as one city because Rai Pithora was actually an extension of Lal Kot and not a separate city.
Quick Specs - Lal Kot and Qila Rai Pithora
Year of Establishment: circa 736-1060 A.D.
Built By: Tomars and Rajputs
Present Location: From Lado Sarai to Mehrauli
Remains: Remains of Walls in Mehrauli and Lado Sarai
In the begining of 14th Century, Alauddin Khilji built his new capital with a strong fortification around it. The city was called Dar-ul-Khilafat, or 'the seat of Califate'. It had seven gates, none of which is present today. This fort was later named as Siri (or Siri Fort), and helped Khiljis stronghold thier empire. This fort faced many unsuccesful attacks from Mongols, and established Alauddin Khilji as the first 'real' emperor of India, as from here, he spread his empire across the length and breadth of the subcontinent.
As per the legend, Siri got its names because heads of 8000 Mongol soldiers were burried in the foundation of its walls. According to another legend, the heads were actually hung from the wall. A huge water tank, called Hauz Khas, was built to provide water to this oval city. Later rulers, espacially Sher Shah Suri demolished a major portion of Siri to build their own cities. Alauddin also made additions to the then 'Old Delhi', Mehrauli, and started Alai-Minar opposite to Qutub Minar. Several other constructions were done outside the walls of Siri to establish the mightyness of the great emperor. This was the first complete Muslim city of Indian Subcontinent.
Quick Specs - Siri
Year of Establishment: circa 1297-1307 A.D.
Built By: Alauddin Khilji
Present Location: Around Shahpur Jat, SiriFort, Hauz Khas and Green Park
Remains: Remains of Walls, Hauz Khas complex and Tohfewala Gumbad
Ghazi Malik, a general in Khilji Empire once asked his Khilji master to build a bigger fort on hills towards the south of his empire. The master jokingly told him to build one himself, when he was a king. Later, Ghazi Malik took over the Khilji throne at Siri and gave himself the title of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluk, thus starting the Tughlaq Dynasty. He soon started Tughlaqabad on the hill, he proposed. He was so obsessed with his dream, that he had put entire labor force of nearby areas for the construction of this fort. Legend says that Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a renowned sufi mystic of the era was not happy with this descision as the work of his baoli stopped due to unavailability of labour. He then cursed the fort of Tughlaqabad with "Ya rahey hissar, ya bassey gujjar" (may it remain unoccupied/infertile, or else the herdsmen may live here). While the fort was about to complete, Ghiyas-ud-din had to leave for a Bengal. Hazrat Nizamuddin's another curse was "Hunuz Dilli Door Ast" (hindi: Abhi dilli door hai, english: Dilli is still far away). Emperor was crushed to death on his way back to Dilli.
Quick Specs - Tughlaqabad
Year of Establishment: circa 1321 A.D.
Built By: Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq
Present Location: Tughlaqabad
Remains: Remains of the main Fort, Tombs and small neighbouring fortifications
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq, the son of Giyas-ud-Din Tughlaq (Founder of Tughlaqabad), moved ahead to populate the vacant land between Old Delhi (Mehrauli), Siri and Tughlaqabad. His intention was to fortify all cities of Delhi and save from Mongolian invasions. He named this fort Jahanpanah, meaning the shelter for entire world The new city was created within 2 years, but the emperor took a decision, which later proved to be a disater. He shifted his entire capital to Daulatabad (Maharashtra). The big mistake he did was to shift everything, including the citizens and cattle. During this shift, many people died of thirst and due to lack of aminities, the capital had to be shifted back to the city of Jahanpanah. This resulted in more life loss.
Some prominent structure built inside walls of Jahanpanah were the majestic Begumpur Mosque, Bijai Mandal and adjoining the fortification was the Adilabad Fort, a minor version of Tughlaqabad. The 13 gated wall of Jahanpanah is nowhere to be traced today. Only few tombs and mosques stand witness to the era. Famous traveller Ibn-Batuta visited this place during the regeim and said, Delhi appeared to be a desert. But when the capital came back to Delhi from Daulatabad, he met the emperor and described Jahanpanah and its buildings and architectural marvel.
Quick Specs - Jahanpanah
Year of Establishment: 1326-1327 A.D.
Built By: Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq
Present Location: Entire stretch from IIT-Delhi to Tughlaqabad
Remains: Adilabad Fort, Begumpur Mosque, Bijai Mandal, Lal Gumbad, Satpula, Khirki Mosque and few other tombs
Firuz Shah Tughlaq joined the race of his cousin Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq and uncle Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq and built another city, towards the east of the existing Delhi. He called it Ferozabad. He established this fortified city on the banks of river Yamuna in 1354 and bought a 3rd century Sandstone pillar, attributed to the Legendary Mauryan ruler, Samrat Ashoka. This pillar is also called Ashok ki Laat or the Ashoka Pillar.
Not much of this city remains today and the palace walls are nowhere to be found. However, the Ashokan Pillar still stands on a three story arcaded pavillion located near to the main royal residences and congregational mosque at heart of the once fortified area. Few traces of wall are also available within the area.
The are today hosts the famous Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. This stadium holds many world records and is very famous for cricket games.
Quick Specs - Ferozabad
Year of Establishment: 1354 A.D.
Built By: Firuz Shah Tughlaq
Present Location: Feroz Shah Kotla
Remains: Few ruins of the old fort and Ashokan Pillar
Humayun sat on the throne of India after his father Babur's demise in 1530. Four years later, he established the city, which he called the refuge of the world, or the Deen Panah. In 1540, while he was marching to Gujrat, a mughal general of Afghan origin, Sher Shah Suri took over the throne of Agra and established himself as the emperor of India. He had to defeat a major part mughal army to prove himself. Soon, he marched to Delhi and turned the city of Dinpanah into Dilli-Sher-Shahi. He created the famous Old Fort of Delhi and the Sher Mandal inside it. He is known for some very architectural contributions and is also known for the most famous road of India, the Grand Trunk Road, a.k.a. Shaher Rah-e-Azam, a.k.a. Sher Shah Suri Marg, a.k.a. National Highway 1, which stretches from Sonargaon in Bangladesh to Peshawar in Pakistan and connecting important cities like Calcutta, Agra, Delhi and Lahore. The city of Dinpanah also contains Qila-e-Kuhna mosque and the Sher Mandal. Humayun took the throne back after the death of Sher Shah Suri and Islam Shah in 1555 but before completing his 1 year, he died after falling from the Sher Mandal at Old Fort in Dinpanah. The famous Humayun's Tomb was built by his son Akbar in the same city, that his father established. This tomb is said to be the basis of architecture for the famous Taj Mahal
Quick Specs - Dinpanah
Year of Establishment: 1534 A.D.
Built By: Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Humayun and Sher Shah Suri
Present Location: Old Fort and Humayun's Tomb
Remains: Ruins of the old fort, Qila-e-Kohna Mosque, Sher Mandal, Lal Darwaza and Kos Minar in Zoo
Poplarly known as 'Purani Dilli', it is the original Delhi to most of the people. In 1639, Mughal Emperor Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram Shah Jahan built a magnificent walled city with 13 gates and 16 windows next to the banks of Yamuna and moved the Mughal capital of India from Agra to Delhi. The 13 gates were The gates were known as Dilli Darwaza, Kabuli Darwaza, Raj Ghat Darwaza, Khizri Darwaza, Nigambodh Darwaza, Kela ke Ghat ka Darwaza, Lal Darwaza, Kashmiri Darwaza, Badar Darwaza, Patthar Khati Darwaza, Lahori Darwaza, Ajmeri Darwaza and Turkuman Darwaza. The windows were known as Zeenatul Masajid Khirkee, Nawab Ahmad Bakhsh ki Khirkee, Nawab Ghaziuddin ki Khirkee, Musamman Burj ki Khirkee, Muslim Garh ki Khirkee, Naseer Ganj ki Khirkee, Nai Khirkee, Shah Ganj Khirkee, Ajmeri Darwaza ki Khirkee, Sayyad Bhole ki Khirkee, Buland Bagh ki Khirkee, Farash Khana ki Khirkee, Ameer Khan ki Khirkee, Khalil Khan ki Khirkee, Bahadur Ali Khan ki Khirkee and Nigambodh ki Khirkee. The walled city was filled with mansions of nobles and members from the mughal court. Most of these mansions (Havelis) are present even till date. Few famous havelis are, Mirza Ghalib's Haveli, Begum Samru's Palace (Bhagirath Palace), Chunnamal Haveli, Zinat Mahal's Haveli, Haksar Haveli (Where Pt. Nehru was married) and Naharwali Haveli (Where President Pervez Musharraf was born). During British rule, this part was known as the Modern Delhi
Quick Specs - Shahjahanabad
Year of Establishment: 1639 A.D.
Built By: Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram Shah Jahan I
Present Location: Old Delhi
Remains:Few traces of walls and few gates, Red Fort, several mosques and mansions.
After Britishers took over India officially, Sir Edwin Lutyens were assigned the task to architect the new colony of the empire. He laid out the central administrative area of the city. Herbert Baker was assigned the task to design the Viceroy's House on Raisina Hill (now Rashtrapati Bhawan) and the India Gate. He also designed the Parliament House and bunglows of several Members of Parliament. The area was later named after the main architect as Lutyen's Delhi. Today, the entire spread is called New Delhi and the area of Shahjahanabad, then called the Modern Delhi, is now the Old Delhi. It's foundation was laid on 15th December, 1911 and it was inaugrated on February 13th, 1931. During the Coronation Durbar in 1911, the formal announcement was made to move the seat of empire from Calcutta to Delhi. It took 20 years for these designers to complete the buildings, but since then, this has been the Seat of then British Empire and now the Republic of India.
Quick Specs - New Delhi
Year of Establishment: 1931 A.D.
Built By: British Empire
Present Location: Area between Delhi Ridge, Old Delhi, Old Fort and Ring Road
Remains:All major British buildings including the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sansad Bhawan, India Gate, North and South Block and VIP bunglows.