Few people know about the seven cities of Delhi. Historians speak about seven cities of Delhi but in actual, there have been 8 cities of Delhi. They usually exclude the New Delhi from the list. Here we are going to talk about the cities whose construction shaped the modern city. The city which now becomes the national capital of India- Delhi.
Ancient Significance Of Delhi
Evidence of the city comes from the time of Mahabharat when it was known as Khandavprastha (or Indraprastha). Pandavs make it their capital before the epic battle of Mahabharata. During the Mauryan empire, the city of Indraprastha plays a significant role. Stone carvings are found near Shrinivaspuri which indicates the reign of the Mauryan period. Archaeological Survey of India currently excavating at Pura Quila area to know the ancient linkage. The city always attracts the empires because of its strategic and commercial value. But Delhi becomes the center of political importance during the medieval time period.
Seven Cities Of Delhi
Historians speak about seven cities of Delhi but in actual, there are 8 cities. Every empire which took control of the Delhi tried to show its supremacy and for that did massive construction. Let’s talk about the cities which shaped the modern Delhi:
Quila Rai Pithora
According to the historical facts, it was the first city recorded during the 10th century. In actual, the city was established by Tomaras. But the grandfather of Prithviraj Chauhan III captured the city from Tomar Rajputs. Tomar’s became the vassal of the Chauhans at that time the city was known as Lal Kot. Prithviraj Chauhan III took control of Lal Kot and extended its boundaries and named it Quila Rai Pithora.
Ruins of the Place is still visible from the Qutab Minar. Lal Kot is present near Qutab Minar with the remains of the wall and a big statue of Prithviraj Chauhan the last Hindu King of Delhi. Thus it is recorded as first among the seven cities of Delhi
NOTE: Prithviraj Chauhan III is popularly known because of his ambitious expansion of empire and resistance against Invaders also the love story among him and Sanyogita the princes of Kannauj is one of the most popular folks in India.
Qutub-u-din Aibak the viceroy of Mohammad Ghori established independent Delhi Sultanate in 1206 AD. He established the city of Mehrauli. The construction in Mehrauli was the first of its kind in Delhi which has the fusion of Indo-Islamic Architecture. Qutub Minar is one of the attractions which is 72.5 m tall which now comes under World Heritage Site. Around the Qutub Minar, various remains are present which speaks the story of 10th and 11th century AD. Today the whole area is converted into Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is spread over 200 acres. It has over 100 significant monuments. The park is spread around the Qutub Minar and Qutub complex. Some of the most attractive monuments present in Mehrauli Archaeological Park are Balban’s Tomb, Tomb of Khan Shahid (son of Balban), Rajon ki baoli, Walled Mosque, Dargah of Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Jamali Kamali Tomb and Mosque, British Agent, Sir Thomas Metcalfe’s Guest House at Dilkusha.
NOTE: Usually Quila Rai Pithora and Mehrauli together considered as the first city among the seven cities of Delhi.
After the decline of the Slave dynasty, Khilji took control of the Delhi Sultanate. The most popular and ambitious Khilji ruler Alauddin Khilji decided the construction of the new city. Thus Allauddin Khilji established the second city out of seven cities of Delhi and named it Siri. According to legends the foundation of the fort was built over the head of several captured Mongol soldiers. Thus it was given name Siri, in Hindi “sir” means head.
The Saljuqian architecture is the attraction of Siri. This Saljuqian architecture came with the craftsmen from Saljuqian dynasty in West Asia. Due to the fear of invasion of Mongols, they took refuge in the Delhi court and contributed to the construction of structures. A large reservoir Hauz Khas was constructed during that time, to full fill the water demand of the city of Siri. Alauddin Khilji also constructed gateway in the shape of a horseshoe-shaped arch with Lotus motifs and is known as Alai Darwaza.
Ghiasuddin Tughlaq in the early 1320s established Tughlaq dynasty by drove the Khilji’s out of the throne. He was a very ambitious ruler and thus to show his power he decided to construct the city of Tughlaqabad as the symbol of his power. The fort was constructed with high battlement to secure it from the Mongol invaders. His son Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq tried to enhance the power and constructed the new city of Jahanpanah, but the center of power was still Tughlaqabad.
The Tughlaq dynasty lasts for about 95 years. It had seen 11 different rulers but only 3 rulers were able to beauty the Tughlaqabad. It is divided into 3 parts:
- The city area comprised of residence
- The Citadel
- Adjacent side area, residence of royal family
The fort sets a great sense of military art with large fortified walls and magnificent structure. The Tughlaq Tomb is a beautiful fusion of Hindu architecture and Islamic architecture. Which can be seen as, instead of using true arch to span the openings, stone lintel was used and the top is crowned with Kalas pinnacle.
The construction of the fourth city of Delhi was initiated by the Tughlaq ruler Firoz Shah Kotla. The city was established adjacent to the River Yamuna. The attraction of the Firoz Shah fort is the Ashokan pillar at the top. He builds various structures and restored old buildings at Mehrauli and Hauz Khas. The tomb of Firoz Shah is present at Hauz Khas.
After the death of Firoz Shah, the Sultanate of Delhi falls under the shadow of uncertainty. Delhi faced a large number of attacks. There were a lot of political disturbance and in 1398, Timur of Samarkand attacked Delhi. That attack stunned not only Delhi but most of the North India. And the situation of Havoc created among the public.
Today, Firoz Shaz Kotala is famous for the cricket stadium where international tournaments are played. It is also famous because the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was formed at Firoz Shah Kotla in 1929, by Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and others. Thus the place has memories with Indian national movement.
Historians are still unclear about the history of Purana Quila and Archaeological Survey of India still doing excavation at and around the area. But according to most of the available facts, it was constructed by Sher Shah Suri. He was a Pusthan and came from Eastern side (probably Bihar). He defeated Humayun, the second Mughal ruler in 1540. But by 1555 Humayun took Delhi back from him and constructed remaining parts of Quila. Thus it has a mixture of Mughal and Pusthan influence.
Today, the ruins of Humayun and Sher Shah creation is a great tourist attraction. A very attractive and beautiful lighting and sound show held here at evening where tourists get information about the history of Delhi.
After seeing a lot of trouble, destruction, and bloodshed, the golden time of Delhi came again during the time of Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Who gave Taj Mahal to the world and provide Delhi its lost glory. He established the city of Shahjahanabad, today we call it “Purani Delhi” or “Old Delhi”.
Red Fort and Jama Masjid are two magnificent structures of Shahjahanabad. The city shows the excellent architecture of 17th century, the combination of Rajput architecture and Mughal architecture is a compulsory place for tourist to visit. The walled structured city spread about 10 kilometers and has many gates which connect the city to various regions. The gates are Delhi Gate, Lahore Gate, Kashmere Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Calcutta Gate, Kabul Gate, Faresh Khana Gate, Mori Gate, Turkman Gate. Chandani Chowk is the main attraction for shopping in Delhi.
The decline of Mughal Empire leads the strengthening of British, and the time of Imperialism arrived. On 1911, during Delhi Darbar the Emperor of British Empire, George V declared the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. As a result, the very ambitious project of British came into existence. Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker were given the charge for its architecture. It is a planned city which includes Rashtrapati Bhawan (President House), South Block and North Block, Secretariat, Parliament, India Gate, and Cannought place. It was the center of British administration but after independence, it becomes the center of Indian Governance.
Thus, these are the seven cities of Delhi which shaped the modern Delhi and build it to become the center of power of India. Delhi had seen various ups and downs since its creation, the power struggle among empires. It had seen the situation when it was just a barren land and it had also seen itself as the center of power. With infinite ups and downs and the absorption of different cultures, shaped the modern Delhi, which we are seeing today. It stands by collecting its past glory and lead the world’s largest democracy.