Delhi (sometimes called Old Delhi) is a city in northern India. It is situated on the western bank of the River Yamuna (a tributary of the Ganges). Just to the south of Delhi is the city of New Delhi, which is the capital of India. Delhi is the second-largest city in India, with a population of 12,791,458. Only Kolkata has more inhabitants.
A number of ancient settlements stood on the site now occupied by the modern city of Delhi. The first city was built there in the 12th century ad, although people may have lived in the area from as early as 1400 bc. Delhi was captured by Muslims in 1193 and became the capital of a Muslim empire in India. In the late 14th century, Mongol conqueror Tamerlane invaded the city and massacred the people living there, ending Muslim control.
Babur (the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India) made Delhi his capital in 1526, and his son Humayun built a new city there. In 1540 Delhi was seized and destroyed by the Afghan invader Sher Shah, and was replaced by another new city. Shortly afterwards, Emperor Humayun’s son Akbar recaptured Delhi, but moved his capital to Agra and allowed Delhi to fall into ruins. In 1638 Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan rebuilt the city and restored it as the Mughal capital.
Delhi remained as the capital of the Mughal dynasty until 1739, when it was conquered by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah. In around 1771 the Maratha Confederacy (a Hindu state that came to power in India in the 18th century) gained control of the city. The Maratha Confederacy remained in power there until British forces seized the city in 1803. Delhi was the temporary capital of British India from 1912 to 1931, when New Delhi became the official capital.
LANDMARKS AND MONUMENTS
Delhi is surrounded by a high stone wall that was built in 1638. The city can be entered through seven arched gateways. One of Delhi’s most famous landmarks is the Great Mosque. It is the largest mosque in India and was completed in 1658. Nearby is the spectacular Red Fort (completed in 1648), which was once the palace of India’s Mughal emperors. A high wall surrounds the complex of palaces and buildings, including the Painted Palace and the Pearl Mosque.
Just outside Delhi are many more important monuments and buildings. These include the Qutb Minar, a tall, decorated tower (built in the 12th century) and the tomb of Emperor Humayun. A memorial at Raj Ghat marks the place where many famous historical and political figures—including Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi—were cremated.
TRADE AND TOURISM
Delhi is a popular tourist destination, with people from all around the world visiting its famous landmarks and monuments. Tourists have also been attracted by important sporting events held in the city. The Asian Games were held in Delhi in 1982 and the city will host the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
The Chandni Chowk (Silver Street) is one of India’s oldest and busiest markets, selling jewellery, leather goods, clothing and all sorts of Indian food. The street is lined with stalls and is very crowded and congested.