|Population: 9.4 million|
Languages: Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu
The British shifted their capitol from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. In doing so, they were restoring to Delhi the position it had occupied during most of the period between the 12th and the 19th centuries, when Muslims held sway over gradually expanding parts of the subcontinent.
New Delhi, designed by Edwin Luytens and built between 1911 and 1931, became one more chapter in the long history of the city. Over the centuries there have been no less than seven distinct cities where Delhi is now, not including Indraprastha, which may correspond to the city of the Pandavas mentioned in the Mahabharata, said to have existed between 1000 BC and 400 AD.
The first of the seven cities is Lal Kot, founded by the Tomara Rajputs in the 8th century. It was renamed QILA RAI PITHORA in 1180 by the Chauhan dynasty who pushed out the Tomars and became the last Hindu dynasty to rule Delhi. Of this city little remains today. The Afghani emperor, Muhammad Ghuri defeated the Chauhans in 1191 and his general, Qutb-ud-din Aibak was left in charge of the newly won territories. Aibak set up the Delhi Sultanate which controlled the city and the area until the Moghuls under Babar took over in 1526. Aibak began the construction of the Qutb Minar, which still stands today, and his successor, Iltutmish, carried on the work.
Iltutmish was a powerful leader, but it was under Ala-ud-din-Khalji that the Delhi Sultanate experienced its heyday. Their territory was enlarged to central India, and progressive reforms, particularly in agriculture, were instituted. It is at this point that the second city of Delhi, SIRI, was established and grew rapidly in size and wealth.
Ten kilometres southeast of the Qutb Minar, was the site chosen by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq, who became Sultan in 1320, for a walled city which he called TUGHLUQABAD. Little of the city remains today. JAHANPANAH, the fourth city, was built by Muhammad bin Tughluq, but did not last. And of FEROZABAD, built in 1354 by Feroz Shah when the Sultanate had already begun to splinter, only the palace, the Feroz Shah Kotla, remains.
After the Tughluqs came the Turk, Tamerlane, who sacked Delhi in 1398, and after him the Sayyids ruled for most of the first half of the 15th century. They were defeated by Buhlul Lodi, whose son Ibrahim Lodi was in turn beaten in battle in 1526 by Babur, first of the Moghul leaders. Babur's son, Humayun, was defeated and forced to flee by Sher Shah, who began the construction of the sixth city, SHERGARH, but Humayun returned victoriously from Afghanistan in 1555. He died a year later and his son, Akbar, moved the capitol to Agra as his grandfather Babur had done.
The Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, the massive Jami Masjid Mosque all were built by Shah Jahan, and SHAHJAHANABAD was the seventh city, which corresponds to what is now Old Delhi. Shah Jahan's son, Aurangzeb, ousted his father and imprisoned him in Agra. In 1681 Aurangzeb moved his capitol further south and in the next century Delhi was invaded several times. First the Persian emperor, Nadir Shah, fell upon Delhi in 1739, looting and killing. The city was again assaulted and looted in 1760 by the Marathas and the Jats, who opposed Muslim rule.
The British came to Delhi in 1803, by which time Moghul power had largely disintegrated, and weak leaders accommodated British demands. A bloody struggle took place in the city in the 1857 Mutiny, when Delhi became a centre for resistance to British control. The British regained control of the city, but continued to rule from Calcutta until Delhi became capitol in 1911.
Today Delhi is a crowded, heavily polluted metropolis. New Delhi is focused around Connaught Place, with its wide avenues radiating out from a central circle. The parliament and administrative buildings are here as are many of the cities major hotels. In Old Delhi, to the north, the Red Fort and the Jami Masjid Mosque remain from the days of Shahjahanabad, and the area is still predominantly Muslim. To the south are the ruins of the remaining five cities that punctuate Delhi's history. The city is dotted with remnants of previous dynasties and eras.