Right in the heart of North India is New Delhi, inaugurated India’s capital city by India’s Viceroy in 1931, Lord Irwin. It is now home to at least 20 million people according to the Census of India in 2017. A vibrant and beautiful city, British influences can be seen all around as the colonial rulers of the time had commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker to work on the initial design and engineering of the city in the early 20th century.
Mahatma Gandhi was the driving force behind India’s independence from Britain, and after his assassination, the house he was staying at was turned into the Gandhi Smriti museum. His room has been immaculately preserved and will give you insight into how the spiritual leader lived from day to day. The place where he was assassinated while at prayer is now a column called Martyr’s Column (above). The Raj Ghat, next to the Yamuna River, marks the final resting place of Gandhi. His cremated remains were buried at this place, marked by a large square platform with black marble.
The British and European influences are clear when you view the India Gate (above). The structure was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe and lies on the Rajpath, which is modelled after the Champs-Élysées. On World Yoga Day (June 21), the whole boulevard and adjoining gardens will be filled with people performing yoga – a spectacular sight to witness.
Amusingly, you can find Old Delhi within New Delhi, and it’s a fascinating travel back in time. The Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square; above) is the oldest and busiest market in Old Delhi, and a haven for foodies. Besides the wonderful street food and restaurants, Chandni Chowk is where you can stock up on spices – the largest spice market in all of Asia is located here.
Tip: Spices here tend to be much hotter than you may be used to, so check your spice tolerance levels first.
On the back of your 500 rupee note, you will see the Red Fort (above). This impressive red sandstone fort hosted the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty for nearly 200 years and is now the largest monument in India. The site is so significant that the Independence Day speech is delivered by the prime minster from its ramparts every year. Queen Mary and King George V of England stood on the balcony of the Red Fort’s Shahi Burj tower in front of thousands of people, during their visit in 1911.
Religious monuments abound in New Delhi. The Jama Masjid (above) is considered the largest mosque in India and can host up to 25,000 worshippers. The Lal Mandir is the oldest Jain temple in India, and is also well-known for its avian veterinary clinic. It makes sense that New Delhi should have an avian clinic seeing as they are the second most bird-rich city in the world after Nairobi.
Tip: India is a conservative society, so when visiting religious sites, males are advised to wear longer shorts and sandals, while females should ensure their legs and shoulders are covered.
Ranked as the number one tourist and pilgrimage spot in New Delhi, the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (above) is the most prominent Sikh house in the city. The pool inside the complex is famous for its healing properties and Sikhs from all over the world take these waters home with them to pass on to family and friends.
The Taj Mahal is an obvious choice for most travellers to India, but what inspired such a beautiful mausoleum? Visit Humayun’s Tomb (above) in New Delhi and its design and construction immediately bring to mind the more famed structure. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it was the first garden tomb in India and the first structure that used red sandstone on such a grand scale.
Tip: There are many people selling their wares outside major tourist attractions. You will soon learn that you have to bargain, or you will pay exorbitant prices.
New Delhi is particularly famous for its beautiful landscaped gardens and is, in fact, one of the greenest cities in the world. Statistics say that over 20 per cent of the city is covered by forests. The Lodi Gardens (above) is a 90-acre park and contains several large and beautiful tombs, as well as a three-domed mosque. The Buddha Jayanti Park, established to mark the 2,500th birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, lies near the southern ridge forest of Delhi.
Exploring Connaught Place, the city’s main business hub, can easily take up a whole day with all the attractions on offer. It’s a good place to get all your shopping done, with all the major chain stores here, but it’s also a great area for vintage cinema. Catching a movie in cinemas like the Odeon or the Rivoli is a cinephile’s dream. The centre of Connaught Place is dedicated to a project called Art Today, which curates and exhibits works from contemporary Indian artists.
One of the most fascinating places here is the Jantar Mantar observatory (above) which was built in 1724. The Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur was tasked with keeping track of calendars and astronomical tables. There are various instruments, including a massive sundial which was used to track the movements of the sun, moon, and planets.
Finally, the quirkiest museum that you’ll visit while in New Delhi is probably the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets (above). Dr Bindeshwar Pathak’s passion for the history of toilets culminated with the opening of this museum. Here, you’ll learn about the complete history of toilets and sanitation systems dating back to 2,500 BC. It really is a fascinating visit where you’ll get information on social customs, toilet etiquette and legislative efforts of the past.
– TEXT BY JESSICA FARAH
PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM, PIXABAY, 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.