India's capital and an important gateway into the country, Delhi is a bustling metropolis and an interesting blend of fast paced modernisation and carefully preserved antiquity. For tourists, Delhi's strategic location allows easy access to the rest of the country by road, rail and air. This is also one of the prime reasons for which, since the 11th century, its fortunes have fluctuated in concert with those who have ruled over the north Indian plains. Its peak came with the advent of Mughals in the mid 17th century, a time when India was shining as a golden bird, an eye of beauty which led to the construction of some of the finest buildings in the world. It was later the heart of the British raj, an empire which endowed it with yet more architectural masterpieces, a colonial flavour in red sandstone.
Delhi continues to stride on its ambitious path of redevelopmentment - there are spanking new flyovers everywhere, the Metro is set to redefine the transport scene, the land pulsating with new multiplexes and malls, the coffee culture has come to town, monuments are being restored, gardens beautified..All in time for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, to be held here in 2010. Despite that, if you have a sense of adventure and an interest in history, scratch the veiled peel of its outlook, and you will be greeted with a fascinating history, a place where centuries-old traditions are virtually unchanged, a haven that characterises the stark contrasts that epitomise India, where the 20th century clashes head-on with the 17th century, or even earlier periods.
The Forgotten Charms of Old Delhi
Originally Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi was built by the most romantic of all Muhal emperors, Shah Jahan. It is here you will find imperial mosques, colossal red sandstone monuments and forts relating to the city's rich Mughal history, as well as, lively, teeming and colourful bazaars, labyrinthine streets and barely controlled chaos. Roam around Chandni Chowk, a market with slim lanes reverbearting with the eternal aroma of old books at one side and 'parathas' (fried Indian bread) to the other. Don't miss the 'Son-et-lumiere' at the Red Fort, the light and sound show that recreates the Mughal era right in front of your peeled eyes and eager ears.
The Green Garden City of New Delhi
The British built New Delhi in the early 20th century. Designed by the eminent British architect Edwin Lutyens, the dream was to make Delhi a signature of the powerful British empire. New Delhi was conceived as a garden city of sprawling tree-lined avenues and lime-washed bungalows designed to survive the assault of famous Delhi's summer. And such it is even today, being one of the few urban settlements in the world where the central parts are cooler than the periphery. The intricate geometrical city plan owes something to other Imperial British regional capitals such as Pretoria, Canberra and Ottawa. Today, you can see an impeccable fusion of many Indian elements melted with international designs.
The Exotic Sights
Hanging Around in Delhi
The vivacious terrain of Delhi is dotted with numerous monuments that still open-heartedly sing the bygone glory. Some inspire awe, some amaze us, and still some make us bow our head to the deities nestling inside. Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) is a natural starting point with the most important cluster, the bewitching Red Fort (the only monument in India that is listed in the wonders of the world apart from the Taj Mahal) and the ambrosial Jama Masjid. The first city of Delhi, Mehrauli in the far south, dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. The exotic minaret - Qutab Minar - an enduring Delhi icon, is located here. Don't miss the World Heritage Humayun's Tomb and Jantar Mantar, the popular Sawai Man Singh's observatory that tracks the movements of celestial bodies.
What Makes For A Holiday
Delhites are often referred to as connoisseurs of good food which has come from the age old exchange of cultures tracing its way back to quite a few centuries. Without having a unique taste of her own, Delhi food still has an international reputation, and savouring some of the exotic dishes and regional cuisines is one of the delights of any holiday visit. From Chinese to Continental, add with the unavoidable aroma of succulent 'kebabs', the recipes of which have been handed down over the generations, Delhi's food has many edges that delights every palate.
If you have your heart set on picking up a rare Kashmiri carpet or Buddhist amtique for a bargain price, remember that some stores have been selling goods for hundreds of years and the best agents in the world have scoured them before you get here. Diversity in shopping options is always there; where you go depends on what you want. Really, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the whole of Delhi is a shopping mall, where every corner has something unique to offer.
Fast criss-crossing the fabric of this sprawling city, the Delhi Metro is changing the way people travel in delhi. Three lines are already operational and many more are on the anvil. Soon people will get off the roads, opting to travel by the Metro, and Delhi will be an even cleaner and greener city. The area above the Metro's underground Connaught Place station is soon to be transformed into a beautiful park with a central amphitheatre and waterbodies.
Commencing from October 3rd in 2010, this amazing bouquet of exquisite sport events will continue upto October 14th, the opening and closing ceremonies being performed amidst the rugged and serene landscape of Jawaharlal Nehru University. In preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, a slew of renovations and developments are changing the look and feel of the city, for the better. Stadiums are being reneweled, avenues are being broadened, new transport solutions are being envisaged, my ways are being changed to highways, so much so, that even a games village is also being developed. India's national animal, the royal bengal tiger is to be the mascot of the games.
Perhaps the most impressive attraction of Delhi is the brand new Akshardham Temple, nestling on the pristine banks of river Yamuna. Built in just five years with the help of 11,000 artisans and volunteers, the temple is a stunning tribute to the grand tradition of Indian temple architecture. Dont forget to attend the Audio Animatronics Show (Sahajanand Darshan) at the Hall of Values, where the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan is portrayed through robotics, fibre optics, light and sound effects, dialogues and music; transporting the audience to 18th century India.
After the Center Stage Mall in Noida, the Rs 200-crore real estate player Shipra Group has launched the largest mall in the National Capital Region - the Shipra Mall. Nestling on the border of Uttar Pradesh, this fine specimen of Gothic architecture is a pleasant hub for shoppers from all over the city. Affording four exquisite anchor stores - Shopper's Stop, Globus, Food Bazaar and Fashion Station - the Mall is expected to satisfy each and every need. Besides, the Mall is fringed with a humoungous parking lot, a theatre and several other attractions of tourist interest.