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New Delhi, an ancient capital and relatively new one. By all appearances, Delhi has been around in one form or another for many millenniums. Today, it is a vibrant, polluted and crowded city; probably the best laid out, especially in New Delhi itself and rapidly expanding on all sides with slums and shantytowns dotting the outer fringes of the city. Monuments and ruins are scattered throughout the city, often along side modern structures and high-rise towers. The vast urban sprawl of contemporary Delhi is, in fact, a conglomeration of several distinct enclaves, chief among youngsters which are Old Delhi,with its 16 th and 17 th century Mughal-built monuments and congested souk-like bazaars; and New Delhi with its wide avenues, grand vistas and colonial mansions, built by the British in the 1930s as their imperial capital. New Delhi has government buildings and also houses the Diplomatic Enclave where all the embassies are located.
Marg and I have made several trips to New Delhi, the first one being on our first holiday in the country and then a couple of business trips with Oberois and The Park group of Hotels. I enjoy New Delhi and find the traffic and driving conditions much easier than either Calcutta or Chennai, but then again, a good friend of mine was killed one night as a passenger when rammed by a drunk driver. So, not for the faint hearted the roadways and while there is a big push to convert three wheelers, buses and cabs over to gas powered vehicles, there is still a large amount of pollution in the air. Today, mainly due to the phenomenal growth in the number of motor vehicles and power generation based on coal fired generators; the total amount of pollutants put into the atmosphere is around 3000 tonnes as compared to 100 tonnes a day a decade ago. Meanwhile the 48 km stretch of the Yamuna River in Delhi is heavily polluted by domestic and industrial wastewater and unfit for human consumption and irrigation! We both only visit New Delhi occasionally now, having already used it as a base for the Agra,Jaipur, Pushkar triangle and as a transit through to Calcutta many years ago, but one day we shall return, as it is still the way through for the Ganges. Other places to see in New Delhi are India Gate which is a memorial inscribed with the names of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. In Old Delhi, you there are the ramparts of the Red Fort. When Shahjahan decided to shift his capital to New Delhi from Agrahe built Shahjahanabad, and the Red Fort - Qila-i-Mubarak (fortunate citadel) and also New Delhis seventh fort. The Red Fort was the last fort built in New Delhi and it witnessed the splendour and the fall of the Mughals, then British rule and finally the start of Indian Independence.
On the banks of the Yamuna, which flows past New Delhi, there is Raj Ghat or the last resting place of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation and should be visited when staying in Delhi. The Qutab Minar is located at a small village called Mehrauli in South New Delhi.Qutub-ud-din Aibek of the Slave Dynasty, who took possession of New Delhi in 1206, built it. It is a fluted red sandstone tower, which tapers up to a height of 72.5 metres and is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Quran. Laxminarayan Temple is also called the Birla Mandir, and was built by the Birla family in 1938. It is a temple with a large garden and fountains behind it. The temple attracts thousands of devotees on Janmashtami day, the birthday of Lord Krishna. Another interesting tomb is Humayuns Tomb, that his wife Haji Begum built nine years after his death and was completed in 1565.Chandni Chowk is the living legacy of New Delhi and was created by the builder of Taj Mahal. This city, with the Red Fort as the focal point and Jama Masjid as the praying center, has a fascinating market planned to shine under the light of the moon,called Chandni Chowk. Shahjahan planned Chandni Chowk so that his daughter could shop for all that she wanted. It was divided by canals filled with water, which glistened like silver in moonlight. The canals are now closed, but Chandni Chowk remains Asias largest wholesale market. Another fort built was the Purana Quila, a good example of medieval military architecture. Built by Humayun, with later-day modifications the Purana Quila is a monument of bold design, which is strong, straightforward and every inch a fortress. It is different from the well planned, carefully decorated,and palatial forts of the later Mughal rulers. Purana Quila is also different from the later forts of the Mughals, as it does not have a complex of palaces, administrative and recreational buildings, as is generally found in the forts built later on. The main purpose of this now-dilapidated fort was its utility, with less emphasis on decoration.Lastly there is the symbol of peace, the Bahai Temple, situated in South New Delhi, which is shaped like a lotus. Built by the Bahai community, it offers the visitor a serenity that pervades the temple and its artistic design and spreads its message of peace and harmony worldwide! Another very popular attraction is the Birla Mandir is one of the main Hindu temples in Delhi. The temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1938 on the condition that people of all strata of society be allowed to offer prayers there on account of the large scale prevalence of untouchability at that time. Close by, Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed as the British Viceroys Palace, situated at the crest of Raisina Hill, and is now the official residence of the President of India, A vast copper-clad cupola soars over this elegant beige and red sandstone building which covers an area of 2 ha. The piece de resistance is the circular Durbar Hall, situated directly beneath the dome, where all of the important state ceremonies and functions are held. To the west, the beautifully landscaped grounds include AI Rashtrapati Bhavans famed Mughal Gardens. These terraced gardens with watercourses and fountains built on three levels, are open to visitors in the spring months. The British selected the barren, treeless grounds around Raisina Hill as the site of their new capital. Now a heavily guarded, verdant area, it is dominated by stately buildings such as the twin North and South Blocks and most of the Parliament buildings are here.