Delhi has been the image of a city that portrays the center of power since time immemorial. It has been called the site of seven cities. We see it being mentioned for the first time, as Indraprastha in Indian Mythology Mahabharata, a city founded by Pandavas around 2500 BC. In the history of Delhi, the present-day old fort/Purana Quila is said to be the site for Indraprastha palace.

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Coming to the medieval ages, the next conquering of power over this cultural city can be seen during 1206 by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the first Sultanate of Delhi in the Slave Dynasty. During this period, a lot of development happened in and around Lalkot Area. The emergence of Islam in the city propagated a new cultural identity to its citizens. Later on, by defeating the Khiljis, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq established himself in the city and built a city six-kilometer east of Delhi and named it Tughlaqabad.

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Then came the cities, Jahanpanah and Ferozebad under Tughlaq Dynasty which emerged as medieval cities.

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By the 1500s, Mughals had started to spread their dominance across India. After winning the battle of Panipat in 1526 AD, Humanyun, the second Mughal emperor selected a site near Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah. The rise of their reign in the city came by the construction of Deenpanah and by this time Islam was a well-established religion in Delhi. Tracing the history of Delhi, we could see the city was brimming with artisans and poets. Art forms such as Blue pottery, Marble carvings techniques, and Persian miniature paintings were part of the heritage and culture of the city. The amalgamation of Islamic Architecture and Indian Architecture created a celebrated architectural style called Indo-Islamic Architecture.

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The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan by 1637 A.D. began to realize the paucity of space in the Agra and Lahore courts to conduct royal ceremonies properly. Shah Jahan’s selection of Delhi as the site for the new capital may have been influenced by a range of factors. Its location on the bank of a river ensured abundant water supply as also protection to the city from attacks from at least one direction. The Aravali ranges, running through Delhi was another form of defense.  Delhi being upstream from Agra on the river Yamuna meant that transport and communication between the two cities could be easily and quickly conducted. Since Delhi was not too far from Agra, the transfer of the capital could be carried out relatively easily. Delhi had a religious and spiritual legitimacy due to the shrines of several Sufi saints being located here in the city.

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Shahjahanabad is a “Sovereign City” – a city where the bureaucratic emperor dominated the social, economic, and cultural life of the city, and he dominated its built form as well. The capital stood as a symbol of Shah Jahan’s power and wealth.  Many travelers, poets, and romantics were mesmerized to see the wealth and culture of the city.

“Agar firdaus ba rue Zamin ast, Hamin asto hamin asto hamin ast.”If paradise is on the face of the earth, it is this, even this, it is this.

                                                                                                    – Mirza Galib

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Mughals were famous for their landscaping, Shah Jahan’s daughters Roshanara and Shahnara, helped in developing the gardens in the history of Delhi.  Present-day areas such as Moti bagh, Maharani Bagh, etc were a part of the suburbs of Delhi at that point in time. To date, the concept of gardens as open space adds recreation; hence it is difficult to see built structures way to high in the cities landscape, in the older suburbs.

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By 1700 the British and the Portuguese invasion started to take place and soon the East India Company was established. The princely states and other states were being dominated by the British Empire. By the end of the 1800s, they were well established in the country. Emperor George V, on December 12, 191, declared Delhi as the capital, Calcutta was growing seemingly violent. A new city, Lutyens Delhi, came up dividing the existing state into many parts. The planning aspects of Delhi changed. We saw wider roads and vistas created and the cultural and architectural landscape of Delhi changed drastically.

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In 1947, the partition of India changed the whole scenario of the city. In the wake of India’s hellish Partition, while Hindu and Sikh refugees poured in, Muslims fled to Pakistan. During the brutal months before and after August 1947, the history of Delhi had to take in nearly half a million refugees from Pakistan in those heady. Leading to large parts of today’s Delhi, such as Kingsway camp, Jangpura, Lajpat Nagar, etc grew out of the refugee camps spread along with its’ limits.

In the 1970’s it had a huge influx of Bengali refugees and in 1990s multitudes of Kashmiris.

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In 2004, Delhi was gifted with Metro that completely changed the mobility of the city. People are now more connected through the vast network of the metro line and traveling in the city has become more convenient and enjoyable. Moreover, it connected the regions that were inaccessible to people due to long traffic jams and saved a lot of time.

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Today, Delhi is a city where people are living together even with a diverse religion and cultural background. Here we celebrate every festival with full enthusiasm and encouragement.

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Being the capital of India, it is the place where people experience the joy of shopping in Chandni Chowk, congregate and celebrate independence in India Gate, Go out on heritage walks in old Delhi, and feel the openness in New Delhi. Delhi is rightly called “Dil Walon ki Dilli”.

Author

Aarushi Gupta is a practicing Architect and Urban Designer who is fascinated by Indian cities and their culture. Born and brought up in Delhi, she has experienced the transformation the city has undergone and how it is adapting the change. She loves to capture the small yet powerful transitions that solves the issues of common people. Writing about cities is one of her dreams that she's going to fulfill through RTF.

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