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Tuesday, July 23

About Delhi

A Heritage City --- Dhilika, Dilli, Dehli and then Delhi

Delhi derives its historic importance on the Indian Map from its geographical position in India, occupying a location between the Aravalli Hills to the southwest, and the Yamuna river on whose western banks it stands. Yamuna bears witness to the glorious and tumultuous 3000 year old history of Delhi. This enabled Delhi to dominate the old trade routes from northwest India to the plains of the Ganges.

The earliest reference to a settlement at Delhi is found in the epic Mahabharata, which mentions a city called Indraprastha, built about 1000 BC under the direction of ‘Yudhishtira’, a ‘Pandava’ king, on a huge mound somewhere between the sites where the historic Old Fort and Humayun’s Tomb were later to be located.

Historically, the city has long since been the foremost in political importance with successive dynasties choosing it as their seat of power, between the 13th and the 20th centuries. Remnants of the glorious past survive as important monuments in different parts of the city.

From about 750-1200, Northern India was ruled by wealthy Hindu dynasties. One of these, the Rajput clan, ruled in Rajasthan, and one branch in particular established power in Delhi. This dynasty established the First City of Delhi, Lal Kot (around the Mehrauli area), in 1060 A.D., when Anand Pal Tomar shifted his capital from Anangpur in the Suraj Kund area. The citadel of the Tomars was lost to the Chauhans in about 1160. Prithviraj Chauhan enlarged the small citadel and established Qila Rai Pithora also called Dhilika or Yognipura.

Delhi, its name —- Dhilika, old version: Dilli, hindi name: Dehli, urdu name and now Delhi

The enormous wealth of India attracted Muslim invaders and the stronghold of the Rajputs was lost to Mohammed Ghori in 1192, who left his slave Qutbuddin Aibak as his viceroy in India who established the Mamluk (Slave) Dynasty. The Qutb complex marks the advent of Islamic rule in India. This complex was built over the citadel of the Rajputs, and came about by destroying twenty-seven Jain and Hindu temples.

Delhi witnessed tumultuous times with different rulers and dynasties conquering, looting, plundering and ruling it for nearly 700 years. Starting with Qutbuddin Aibak who established the slave dynasty, to Khiljis, Tughlaqs, Sayyids, Lodis, Mughals, Sher Shah for a short time, then Mughals again. The Tughlaqs were followed by the Central Asian Turk invader-Taimur, who was later succeeded by the Sayyid dynasty. The two dynasties of Sayyids & Lodis constructed no separate cities but evolved a distinctive style of architecture. The city of Delhi passed into the hands of the British in 1803 AD, who conquered it by defeating the Marathas. The Mughal emperor was still the titular head, now called the king of Delhi.

Delhi has a history which encompasses all the various kings and emperors who fixed their royal citadels here… Lal Kot/ Qila Rai Pithora, Siri, Jahanpanah, Tughlakabad, Ferozabad, Dinpanah, and then Shahjahanabad. Combined and integrated into one, these ‘cities’ have always been called the 7 cities as Delhi has been destroyed and recreated 7 times. Adding to this New Delhi, the seat of the British when the Imperial capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911– we have the 8th city of Delhi.

India’s First War of Independence in 1857 was an attempt to unite India against the invading British and to restore power to the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah. The resistance disintegrated primarily due to lack of leadership and unity on the part of Indians, as also to cruel suppression by the British Army. It was a remarkable event in Indian history that marked the end of the Mughal Empire and sealed India’s fate as a British colony for the next hundred years.

The colonial period, which also marks the political unification of the subcontinent, ended in 1947 when India became independent. It was the hoisting of the tricolour at Red Fort in Delhi on 15th August, 1947 that India was freed from British rule. India became a republic on January 26, 1950 and Delhi was made the capital of Independent India. Delhi was declared a state in 1992.