Delhi: Main Sights
A multidimensional metropolis
The national capital of Delhi offers a diverse range of tourist sights, from old colonial and Mughal architectural buildings, to elaborately carved temples and mosques, museums and gardens. Since Delhi is the political centre of the country, important political centers are a major tourist attraction here.
The Red Fort (Lal Qila)
Built in 1639 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as his ruling palace, this red sandstone fort in Delhi has since stood the test of time, and serves as one of India’s most prized monumental heritage sights. It has also been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The Red Fort in Delhi is renowned for a very high level of art and ornamental work displayed in the different buildings that are housed in the fort. Certain sections of the fort are closed to public viewing. A Meena Bazar or shopping arcade is located as you enter the fort, selling artifacts of historical relevance. To get a real feel of the era during which the Red Fort was in use by the Mughals, a Sonnet Lumiere (sound and light show) is on every evening and there are two shows, one in English and one in Hindi, and this is something not to miss. Every year on the country’s Independence Day the National flag is unfurled by the Prime-Minister of the country at the Red Fort in Delhi. The fort is open from 9AM to 5PM daily, except on national holidays.
One of the earliest and most notable examples of Indo-Islamic Mughal architecture, the Qutub Minar, built in 1386, is the world’s tallest brick minaret. Built under the orders of India’s first Muslim ruler Qutubuddin Aibak, this 72 metre high architectural wonder is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Qutub Minar is surrounded by numerous medieval structures and ruins, and is collectively known as the Qutub Complex. Entry to the Qutub Minar is from sunrise to sunset, daily.
Another example of exquisite Mughal architecture is Humayun’s Tomb. Built on the orders of the ruler Humayun’s widow Hamida Banu Begum, this architectural wonder took 8 years to build, and had a first of its kind Persian styled garden layout, which is maintained as is till date. Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty lie buried here. Most of the Humayun tomb’s decorative ornaments and precious stones were looted as the tomb was plundered time and again in later years. They have now been replaced with semi-precious stones to maintain the beauty of this magnificent structure. The tomb is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
The largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid was also built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1656, and can accommodate an average of 25,000 devotees at any given time.
Close to 5000 men were involved in the construction of this architectural masterpiece and it is located just 500 metres away from the Red Fort. The mosque is constructed on high ground, which makes it look even more breathtaking. It houses several remnants of the Muslim religion like a replica of the Koran written on a deer skin, a strand of the Prophet’s hair as well as the Prophet’s sandals. Tourists visiting the mosque have the option of wearing the traditional ceremonial clothes available inside the mosque. The mosque is open from dawn till dusk, but is closed during prayer time. Women cannot enter after 6 in the evening.
The Akshardham Temple complex in Delhi is located on the banks of the Yamuna River. It displays centuries of Hindu culture, ancient architecture and spirituality in all its breathtaking grandeur, beauty, wisdom and bliss. It showcases India’s timeless heritage and ancient architecture. To get an insight into India’s timeless and glorious art and values, a visit to the temple is a must. If you want to understand what the Hindu religion is all about, what are its principles and teachings, the Akshardham Temple in Delhi is a good experience. Apart from the main temple, the complex houses a large stone step well and musical fountain, a giant film screen, the Hall of Values, a large moat surrounding the temple where boat rides tell you all about the 10,000 years of India’s glorious heritage, sixty acres of lush green lawns and gardens in which bronze statues of India’s child gems, valorous warriors and national figures have been put up. The complex also houses a restaurant and souvenir shop. The Akshardham Temple in Delhi is open from 10AM to 7PM daily except Mondays.
Located on Parliament Street, the Jantar Mantar was built from 1724 onwards, to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. This astronomical observatory houses 13 astronomical instruments or structures, and is used till this date to determine the position of astral bodies. The Jantar Mantar as an astronomical observatory is a perfect combination of religion and science, and is a must see for every tourist. The Jantar Mantar is open daily from sunrise to sunset and there is no entry fee. Situated in the heart of Delhi, it is easily accessible from all over the city.
The Bahai House of Worship is popularly known as the Lotus Temple because of its flower-like shape. Since its opening in 1986, the Lotus Temple has attracted more than 65 million tourists, who come to witness this architectural masterpiece, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world. Located in Kalkaji, the temple is made of marble, dolomite and sand. The Lotus Temple provides an immaculate environment for peace and meditation. It is open daily to people of all faiths, from 9AM to 7PM.
One of the largest war memorials in India built to commemorate the members of the British Indian Army who lost their lives fighting in the World War1, the India Gate is also known as the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Warrior’, and is a major tourist attraction in Delhi. Below the arch of the India Gate burns the eternal flame in honor of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives. The India Gate is located in Rajpath and is open to tourists throughout the year.
Apart from these famous monuments, Delhi is home to many museums like the International Doll Museum, the Railway Museum, the National Museum, the Air Force Museum and the Archaeological Museum to name a few. The Rashtrapati Bhavan which houses the President of India, and the Mughal gardens surrounding it, form another major tourist attraction here.