By Rashmi Goyal
A Delhi City Excursion Tour is a must for any India first timer. The capital of this vast, ancient, incredible land is very aptly called a mini India. Delhi city can truly be dubbed as a Heritage City of the world – it is actually seven cities successively built over more than a thousand years, all inter-meshed within each other, with British built New Delhi making an eighth! This has resulted in a fascinating heritage collection of mostly Mughal monuments and relics juxtaposed with modern architectural wonders.
A brief historical timeline of Delhi –
1. Lal Kot (or Qila Rai Pithora) : area around Qutab Minar founded in 1060 A.D.
2. Siri Fort : a fortress rather than city, commissioned in 1303 .
3. Tughluqabad : fortified city built in 1321 but deserted soon after.
4. Jahanpanah : Founded 1326 as an extension of Lal Kot
5. Firozabad : remains are a fortified palace, Firoz Shah Kotla, founded 1354
6. Purana Qila : 1533 A.D. fortress , said to be the site of ancient Indraprastha
7. Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad) : Founded in 1638 as capital of Mughal India
8. New Delhi : Inaugurated by the British in 1931 as their brand new capital
Today’s buzzing international metropolis is both daunting and alluring. Form the tourists point of view, Delhi is divided into two main parts. Old Delhi is the city of the Mughals, dating the 17th century, with ancient monuments in marble and sandstone and teeming bazaars. Spacious New Delhi is full of tree-lined boulevards, museums, classy markets. Our unique two day Delhi City Excursion Tour makes the mammoth task of an inner excursion easy, comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable!
Highlights of Delhi City Excursion Tour
* Red Fort – Morning, you start your excursion with a visit to the magnificent Red Fort, the most famous and largest of heritage monuments. The massive fort is built in red sandstone and its ramparts stretch for about 2 km. The fort contains halls of public and private audience, domed and arched marble palaces, private apartments, a mosque and elaborate gardens.
* Jama Masjid – Next on the agenda is India’s largest mosque, the Jama Masjid. It has huge minarets and offers bird’s eye views over the old city. The mosque accommodates 25,000 worshippers and was built by a workforce of 5000 men. It looks east to sprawling Red Fort and down onto the seething streets of Old Delhi. In its northeast section, a shrine protects a collection of Muhammad’s relics shrouded in rose petals and watched over by keepers who reveal the contents: two sections of the Koran written on deerskin by relatives of the prophet, a red beard hair of Muhammad, his sandals and his footprint ‘miraculously’ embedded in a marble slab.
* Chandni Chowk – At this point, you can have a fascinating foray into Chandni Chowk on cycle rickshaw or foot – Asia’s biggest wholesale market said to be 400 years old and running since! It is Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare that was once a tree lined canal with opulent bazaars. There are heritage buildings signposted at intervals. Starting east to west, just across Red Fort is Lal Mandir, a Jain temple with carvings and gilded paintwork. The 18th century Hindu Gauri Shankar Temple is next door with shrines, a statue of Lord Shiva and an 800 year old lingam.
Go further west to Gurudwara Sisganj, a 1784 Sikh temple marking the spot where Emperor Aurangzeb beheaded the ninth Sikh guru, Tegh Bahadur in 1675. The guru was forced to see three of his followers executed – one was sawn in half from head to foot, another wrapped in cotton and slowly burned to death, a third boiled alive in a cauldron of water. This happened across the street in what is now Fountain Chowk.
* Finally you reach Connaught Place or ‘CP’ – the popular, modern commercial and shopping hub full of restaurants, shops, cinemas, banks and airline offices. Its central park is beautifully landscaped and offers a quiet retreat from the hurly-burly. Neon advertisements adorn the roofs and verandas of buildings that circle central park.
You can break here for a sumptuous lunch at any one of numerous fine dining spots or munch yummy snacks at a food joint out here.
We continue our Delhi City Excursion Tour :-
* Jantar Mantar – located just south of CP, built in 1725 A.D.– one of five open-air observatories designed by Maharaja Jai Singh II – huge red and white slanting stone structures used to calculate time, solar and lunar calendars and astrological movements with an admirable degree of accuracy.
* Bangla Sahib Gurudwara – Delhi’s largest Sikh temple with a vast white marble structure topped by a huge, golden dome .
* Lakshmi Narayan Mandir – an extravagant modern Hindu temple commissioned by a wealthy merchant family, the Birlas and inaugurated in 1939 by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Delhi City Excursion Tour will now take you on a drive down the grand avenue Rajpath viewing hotspots :
* Rajpath – South of CP , the grand avenue Rajpath stretches from India Gate to the Presidential Palace, flanked by gardens and fountains floodlit at night. It’s wide grassy margins are a popular spot for families, picnickers, courting couples. It is the location of the annual National Republic Day Parade.
* India Gate – a must see war memorial raised in honor of Indian soldiers, designed by Edward Lutyens in 1921. The 42 meter high arch commemorates Indian soldiers and bears names of more than three thousand soldiers. India Gate has a carnival atmosphere with sellers of balloons, ice cream and candy-floss, families enjoying a day out .
* Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) – one of the largest and most grandiose of the Raj constructions, with classical columns, Mughal style domes, Indian filigree work and use of the red sandstone.
* Sansad Bhawan (Parliament Building) – its well known circular structure is located just north of Rajpath.
You round up the first day of your Delhi City Excursion Tour with the must visit must see Akshardham Temple Complex.
* Akshardham Temple is a sprawling, modern construction that has stupendous stone cutting in stunning sculptors and carvings and is set amidst beautiful flood lit fountains in the evening. It’s back to your hotel to tuck in a sumptuous dinner before bed.
* Raj Ghat or Gandhi Smriti – Morning you start off with a visit to the Memorial site of the peace apostle, Mahatma Gandhi. An open air, black marble platform with an eternal flame burning at one end, set amidst lush greens and a tangible, pervading atmosphere of peace.
* Humayun’s Tomb - Next on the agenda is the Mughal garden tomb in red sandstone and white marble set amidst lovely gardens – considered to be the elegant forerunner of the Taj Mahal.
* Purana Quila – remains of the fortress citadel built in 1533 A.D., Delhi’s sixth incarnation . Surrounded by a lake on which boating is very popular. The Delhi zoo is adjacent to it.
* The Lotus (or Baha’i) Temple - A stupendous piece of iconic modern architecture in the form of 27 free standing petals comprising a gigantic lotus structure. Said to receive the maximum number of annual visitors in the world after the Eiffel Tower in France!
* Qutab Minar Complex – The impressive ruins of 13th century Delhi comprise the Victory Tower, the tallest single tower in the world and famous 4th century Iron Pillar that has not rusted in 1500 years! The red sandstone tower tapers up to a height of 72 meters and has beautiful carvings on its floor landings. The area to the south is rich with relics from many historical periods and is now an Archeological Park.