A city at the heart of cultural, architectural and historic significance, is it any wonder that Delhi is the capital of such a storied land, India? Through centuries, the city has seen changing tides in terms of rulers, who have often deliberately and also inadvertently influenced the culture and heritage of the city. The most influential are the rulers of the Mughal Empire. It is three of their creations in the capital that flaunt the Unesco World Heritage Site tag. Arguably, these three are also the most popular structures in the city (barring India Gate and the Parliament, of course). This winter, rediscover these Indian wonders in the capital of the country:
Qutub Minar and its monuments
The celebration of victory takes form of a towering 73 metre minaret at the Qutub Minar. Built between 1193 and 1220 in Mehrauli, New Delhi, the minaret celebrates the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. Five storeys flaunt Indo-Islamic architecture, each with a protruding balcony. The first three storeys are built with red sandstone and the last two are built with a combination of marble and red sandstone. The construction was started by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi and then continued by his successors, Iltutmush and Firoz Shah Tughlak. Each bring a change in the architecture of the minaret through distinct relief work and even materials. Bands of inscriptions are spread on the tower.
The first mosque of the country sits at the foot of the tower. It was built between 1193 and 1197. The courtyard of the mosque also features a 7m tall iron pillar. It is believed that if you stand with your back on the pillar and can encircle it to make your hands meet, any wish you have will come true. Iltutmush and Alla-ud-din Khilji have made additions to the mosque in 1230 and 1315 respectively.
The first garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent, Humayun’s tomb was built in 1565 for the Emperor Humayun by his wife, Bega Begum. The construction was initiated nine years after the death of the Emperor and his body was buried in two different locations before finally being transported to what is now called Humayun’s tomb. The structure is located near the crossing of Lodhi road and Mathura road. There are many architecturally notable features at the structure. It is in fact one of the first examples of Mughal architecture in the country. The innovative style even inspired many techniques that were later used in the construction of the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s tomb features garden squares with water channels and pathways with a grandiose mausoleum right in the centre of the complex. The entire enclosure is walled and houses many graves of rulers. Interestingly, it was here that the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah II was captured by Lieutenant Hudson.
The architecture of the tomb is strongly influenced by Persian techniques. Unsurprisingly, the architect of the tomb, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas was of Persian descent. The garden with its four-part division and walkways of flowing water are constructed particularly to resemble the garden of paradise in the Quran.
Red Fort Complex
The magnificence and prosperity of the Mughal rule was showed off in the form of the red sandstone marvel, that is the Red Fort. The complex was built to be the palace fort of Shahjahanabad, the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s capital. The walls were built in 1638 to protect the fort from invaders. Now, it is these walls that keep the inside of the fort peaceful and silent. The complex houses many sites of interest for those who are inclined towards history and architecture. The Drum House, the Hall of Public Audiences, the white marble Hall of Private Audiences, The Pearl Mosque, Royal Baths and Palace of Colour are a testament to the architecture that prevailed during the rule of Mughal Emperors. The Lahore gate is of extreme cultural and patriotic significance and attracts many tourists on Independence day. The architecture of the fort is a marvelous combination of Islamic, Timurid, Persian and Hindu techniques. In fact, the architectural style went ahead to influence many other significant buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi.
The crowded bazaar of Chatta Chowk, selling trinkets, is the gateway to the fort. The fort stands adjacent to the Salimgarh, an older fort, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex.