15 Facts about Delhi and Its Rich Culture
Delhi is a major urban conglomeration, which includes New Delhi, the capital city of the Republic of India. It is a major communications and trade center. Situated in the great lowland trough of northern India in a relatively narrow passageway commanding the divide between the Indus Valley in the northwest and the Ganges Valley in the southeast, Delhi occupies the historic and cultural center of Indic-speaking India, the great crossroads of the subcontinent. The city is strategically located on the Yamuna (Jumna) River, with the Thar Desert on the west, the Himalaya on the north, and the Aravalli Hills to the southwest. Each wave of past invaders from the northwest had to control this area in order to rule northern India.
1. Today, although physically Old Delhi has met New Delhi, the line between them remains sharp. As passing from the new city to the old city, one may see spacious, tree-lined avenues pass suddenly into a labyrinth of narrow, twisting streets and alleys; expansive stone government buildings, quiet shopping centers, and handsome residences give way to temples, mosques, noisy bazaars, and crowded tenements.
2. The heart of New Delhi is the broad Rajpath (Kingsway), the widest avenue in the city, which runs 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the India Gate (a war memorial) to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace. Along the Rajpath and adjoining boulevards are large government office buildings, Parliament House, and an array of other official structures. To the south is the diplomatic enclave, where some fine examples of modern architecture can be seen. A mile and a half north of the Rajpath is Connaught Place, a huge circle around which is situated New Delhi's main shopping center. Not far north of Connaught Place is the Delhi Gate. Beyond lies Old Delhi with its narrow streets, bazaars, cottage industries, and slums.
3. The residential area of New Delhi contains many elegant one- and two-story homes built in garden settings, often walled, and placed well back from the streets. The streets themselves are broad and tree-lined. There is an air of wealth and graciousness rarely seen in a country where most people are so extremely poor.
4. The two outstanding monuments of Old Delhi are the Jama Masjid, India's largest Muslim mosque, and the gigantic Red Fort. Both were built during the Mughul (Mogul) rule of Shah Jahan in the 17th century.
5. The Red Fort, so called because of its massive red sandstone walls, comprises, among other architectural masterpieces in marble, the Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Private Audience, where once stood the Peacock Throne; the Rang Mahal, or Painted Palace; and the beautiful Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque.
6. Westward from the Red Fort runs Chandni Chauk ("Silver Street"), which is lined with the shops of some of the city's finest artisans. North of Old Delhi is a suburban section known as Civil Lines, which was developed by the British before they founded New Delhi.
7. Other outstanding historical monuments found in Delhi and its environs include the Qutb Minar, a 238-foot (72.5-meter), freestanding tower, completed in the 13th century; the Iron Pillar, a remarkable 24-foot (7.3-meter), rust-free iron shaft, erected in the 5th century; the ruins of Tughluqabad and Purana Qila, old cities that preceded Delhi; the Mausoleum and gardens of Humayun, built in the 16th century; the shrine of Nizam-ud-Din, dating from the 14th century; and the open-air astronomical observatory of Jai Singh, built in the 18th century.
8. Literally hundreds of other tombs, mausoleums, mosques, temples, and other monuments of the past abound in every section of the city. More contemporary structures and institutions include Rajghat -the memorial marking the site where Mohandas K. Gandhi was cremated- and the Delhi Zoo.
9. The modern National Museum in New Delhi contains many fine collections of relics dating back 4,000 years to the time of the Indus Valley civilization. Its paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, weapons, decorative crafts, jewelry, and pottery vividly portray India through the centuries. Also in the museum is an outstanding collection of the antiquities of Central Asia gathered by the British Orientalist Sir Aurel Stein. Other museums in Delhi include the National Art Gallery, the private Kumar Art Gallery, the Indian War Memorial Museum, and the Crafts Museum.
10. Many of the country's major research institutions and laboratories are centered in Delhi. These include the National Physical Laboratory, the Central Road Research Institute, the National Scientific Documentation Center, the National Research Development Corporation, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the Central Family Planning Institute, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. Among the institutions of higher education are the University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indira Gandhi National Open University, and a branch of the Indian Institute of Technology.
11. In the field of mass media, Delhi is served by at least 20 daily newspapers and many more weekly newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals, a sizable number having a nationwide distribution. Newspapers and periodicals are published in Hindi, Panjabi, Urdu, and other languages, but those with the greatest prestige and largest readership are usually in English.
12. Delhi is the best Indian city in which to examine and purchase cottage-industry products. Artisans in Old Delhi turn out superb ivory, silver, and glazed pottery wares. The government-sponsored Central Cottage Industries Emporium in New Delhi stocks a wide range of handmade craft products from all over India. In addition, a number of state governments maintain well-stocked retail stores in the city, displaying the handicraft products of their own peoples. Among the states that have such stores are Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.
13. Delhi is served by rail, road, and air transportation. Passenger trains, many of them air-conditioned, and freight trains move into the city from Bombay (Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata), Madras (Chennai), and Punjab. Major international airlines, both domestic and foreign, link Delhi to every continent, and private and government-owned airlines connect Delhi with all the major cities of the country.
14. Many forms of transportation serve the public within the city. Buses, taxis, and motorcycle-rickshaws are popular for public transport; horse- and other animal-drawn vehicles continue to carry passengers and freight alike, especially in Old Delhi. Trucks, private automobiles, and bicycles abound. Traffic congestion and air pollution are significant problems.
15. Delhi is a major tourist center, and a high percentage of foreign visitors to India make it their first stop. Most luxury hotels are located in New Delhi. Considerable new construction took place before Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games in October 2010. Preparations for the games were beset by difficulties, however, including flooding caused by particularly heavy monsoon rains. The 2010 games were the most costly in history, and ticket sales were below expectations. India was the second Asian nation to host the competition, after Malaysia. It was largest sporting event ever held in India.