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Delhi is one of the most unique cities you will come across.The city is full of juxtapositions and paradoxes. The city had been around for centuries and the walls do tell a story. Every unique stone represents a unique period in time. It has been a refuge for travelers and the seat of power for rulers.

Since the city passed into the hands of many ruling dynasties it is considered to be a city built, destroyed and rebuilt several times. The rulers made monuments, buildings, temples, mosques, tombs, churches, palaces, etc.

Look around yourself, the city is so different from how it looked 10 years back. Forget 10 go back 5 years, better yet go back a year and you will find visible changes in the cities make up. Now imagine how different all of this would have been 1000’s of years ago. Whenever someone comes into power, they wish to create a legacy, something concrete that they can leave behind. Most rulers construct monuments and build cities in their own or their predecessors honor. This is how they choose to be recognized and remembered by the generations to come.  Delhi has seen many such concrete evidences marking glory to its ancestors.

Ancient legend has that “He who rules Delhi, rules India“. Delhi has seen the rise and fall of empires. It has survived all the trails of time and fortune. It has witnessed power plays that have helped shape the political, social and cultural life of the sub-continent.

Delhi has been an important city since 12th century. It had a significant importance for the Rajputs who then ruled the city. But the actual transformation of Delhi into a capital that controlled vast areas of the subcontinent started with the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate.

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Before that Delhi was the capital of a kingdom under the Tomar Rajputs, who were replaced by the Chauhans. The Chauhans hold a special place in history, as they were the last Hindu dynasty to claim Delhi as their capital. After their defeat we saw the rise of a Sultanate that made significant mark on the capital and whole of India.

Prithviraj Chauhan, a very popular king was defeated by Muhammad Ghori. After this defeat Ghori left Delhi to his ‘Mamluk’ or owned slave. This is how Qutbuddin Aybak became the first Sultan of Delhi and with him the rise of Delhi started. He was the first Muslim king to rule Delhi. He was the one who started the construction of Qutub Minar. This Minar later became the symbol of Delhi.

After the decline of slave dynasty a succession of Turkic Central Asian and Afghan dynasties came into power. They were the Khilji, the Tughluq, the Sayyid and then the Lodi dynasty. From 1206 to 1489 Delhi was controlled by them. During their rule Delhi witnessed power struggles, new administrative machinery and construction of many new monuments. The tombs these rulers built for themselves might be biggest of their legacies.

During their reign of more than three centuries these dynasties gave India a unique opportunity for a broad range of cultural expansion in language and literature, customs, concepts of kingship and government, religious organization, music, and architecture.

The Lodi dynasty was the last dynasty of the sultanate period. The last ruler Ibrahim Lodi lost a battle against Babur. Babur replaced the Sultan and laid the foundation of Mughal Empire.

2423323058_6132a8445dThe Mughal Dynasty became the most powerful empire in India.

Mughals constructed towns, marketplaces, forts and tombs. Historical monuments like Red fort, Humayun’s tomb, Jama Masjid are some of the notable works of Mughal Emperors. The Mughal Empire declined in 1858 when the last Mughal emperor, Bhadur Shah Zafar was arrested and deported to Rangoon by the British. After the decline of Mughals, Delhi’s destiny was shaped by the British.

 

They founded the new city which in popular culture is known as Lutyens Delhi. The new capital city included modern buildings which were the administrative and government offices of the British. These buildings were Parliament house, Viceroy’s palace, India Gate, Connaught place etc. These buildings are still the administrative hub of the modern Indian Government.

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These buildings have merged into a complex design which makes Delhi the capital it is today. Every area has its own unique style of construction. And in Delhi almost all colonies have traces of their past and future in their construction. The city of Delhi has labyrinth in its urban jungles. It also has gardens, lakes and open spaces to view and worship nature.

Today Delhi’s geography and topography are marked by all its past glory. And it all co-exists in a beautiful pattern. We often don’t take notice of where one legacy ends and the other begin. Maybe that’s true for all the cities in the world but the blend of new and old that Delhi leaves in its trace is remarkable.Another thing remarkable about Delhi might be its adaptability. It has seen so many changes, gone through so many alterations but the essence of the past is still there.

 

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Akanksha Jain

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