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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 3:28am

Delhi

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 July, 2006, 12:00am

1 Dynastic legacies


You can't go to Delhi and not visit the Red Fort. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan tried to move his capital from Agra to Delhi's old walled city of Shahjahanabad in 1638, but was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb before he could complete the move. Although the Mughal reign from Delhi was a short one, the legacy of this dynasty is encapsulated by the majesty of the Red Fort. One of the most impressive stately halls inside the fort, the Diwan-i-Khas, once housed the diamond- and ruby-studded Peacock Throne. Other highlights are the Pearl Mosque and grand marble palaces. An evening sound and light show (9pm-10pm every day except Mondays) recreates the glory of Delhi's history. It was at the Red Fort that the British deposed the last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, marking the end of the three-century Mughal rule. Many years later India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, announced the country's independence from this site.


2 Top brass


Whereas the Red Fort represents India's history, the contrasting modern circular structure of Parliament House represents the future. There are two Houses of Parliament: the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (upper house). You can obtain a permit to sit in the public gallery to watch the lawmakers at work if you have a letter of introduction from your embassy (www.parliamentof india.nic.in).


3 India Gate


Delhi's version of the Arc de Triomphe comes in the form of the India Gate, a majestic 42-metre memorial to the 85,000 Indian soldiers killed in the first world war and the Afghan war. It was completed in 1931, and the names of the soldiers who died in these battles are inscribed on its walls. An eternal flame underneath the gate burns in memory of Indian troops killed in


the 1971 India-Pakistan war.


4 Heavenly bodies


Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur was a keen astronomer who built the Jantar Mantar Observatory in Delhi, and a smaller version in Jaipur. Dissatisfied by the inaccuracies of existing observatories, the maharaja constructed Delhi's Jantar Mantar, the first of the five, to get a better look at the heavens. Wander through the enormous structures that were used to calculate planetary positions and perform sacred rituals. There's a huge sundial, the Samrat Yantra, with two stone quadrants on either side.


5 Ancient artefacts


The best place to soak up five millennia of Indian history is at the National Museum (www.national museumindia.gov.in). Its galleries display artefacts from the Indus Valley civilisation, stone and bronze sculptures from the Chola period, the largest collection of miniature paintings in the world and crumbling manuscripts. There's a Buddhist gallery, an anthropological gallery of tribal art, galleries devoted to decorative and applied arts and maritime heritage, and an entire gallery dedicated to Sir Aurel Stein's discoveries along the Silk Road.


6 Say a prayer


The 27-petal white marble Bahai Temple is Delhi's answer to the Sydney Opera House. Referred to as the Lotus Temple, it's Delhi's most innovative structure and was designed by an Iranian architect and completed in 1986. Recognised for its excellence by the US-based International Federation for Religious Art and Architecture, the Lotus Temple is open to all visitors free of charge. Its 92-hectare gardens are a green refuge from the smog of the city centre. The Bahai sect, originally from Persia, views humanity as a single race. There are four 15-minute prayer sessions each day featuring a unique combination of prayers from a number of different religions. Sessions are held at 10am, noon, 3pm and 5pm.


7 Shop and eat


On a large showground on Aurobindo Marg, in the centre of the city, is the Dilli Haat. It's set up like a traditional village market with stalls selling crafts from all over India. There are carpets from Kashmir, colourful puppets from Rajasthan, bangles, jewellery, textiles and wooden souvenirs. Traditional bands chant and bang their drums as they weave among the shoppers, creating a festive atmosphere. Regional festivals portraying the vast diversity of cultures within India are held throughout the year. You can also fill up on food from India's different states at the open-air stalls.


8 Taj Mahal day trip


Visit one of the most recognised buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal. Situated on the banks of the River Yamuna, at Agra, just a day trip away, this architectural wonder was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his queen and has been admired around the world for centuries. The latest offering is a moonlight tour, conducted on a few nights each month about the time of the full moon. Day tours are available from 7am to 10pm and cost 850 rupees ($145).


9 Humayun's Tomb


Completed in 1570, Humayun's Tomb is of particular significance because it was the first garden tomb on the subcontinent. It inspired numerous architectural masterpieces, most notably the Taj Mahal. The monument comprises a complex of Mughal buildings, including the main tomb of the emperor Humayun, plus other resting places such as the Barber's Tomb. The edifice is a Unesco World Heritage Site.


10 Qutub Minar


Visit the soaring 72.5-metre sandstone tower, which was built in 1193 and is still India's tallest. There are five levels, each with its own balcony. Arabic and Nagari inscriptions tell the story of the structure, which is said to have been built to commemorate the victory of Muhammad Ghori over the Rajputs. The tower is one of Delhi's best-known landmarks and another World Heritage Site (www.delhigate.com).


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