Delhi Pictures, India
Isa Khan’s octagonal tomb, constructed in 1547, Delhi, India.
India’s capital city, Delhi, is maddening, chaotic, polluted and crowded, but – unlike Mumbai – also offers the resilient tourist a good variety of places to visit and tranquil spaces.
The most congested but lively and colourful part of the city is Old Delhi, particularly around Chandni Chowk bazaar area, while just southwest of there is the more spacious and British colonial section of New Delhi, with plenty of attractions. New Delhi is officially the name of the capital of India but few people aside from bureaucrats (who are not, let’s face it, really people), take any notice of the prefix.
The rest of Delhi is a vast, dull mass of residential living ranging from seething slums to modern, pricey apartment enclaves and mega-rich mansions.
The tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun, begun in 1562, is a magnificently restored complex of red sandstone buildings that pre-date and set the style for the Taj Mahal and are the earliest example of Persian influence in Indian architectural design.
This ‘Dormitory of the Mughals’ (due to more than 100 graves in the complex) includes the great Bu Halima Gate, the Char Bagh Gardens (Persian-style), an Arab Rest House, the fine little white tomb of Isa Khan that pre-dates Humayun’s Tomb (photo at top) and many finely detailed ornaments such as the doorway below.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple
The Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Connaught Place, Delhi.
Also known as Laxminarayan Temple or the Birla Mandir, this Hindu temple dedicated to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. It’s full of shrines and pictures with a large and calm garden behind it. Take off your shoes before entering but keep your wallet ready!
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Another magnificent temple complex in Delhi is the Sikh religion’s Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a grand whitewashed building topped with a golden dome. It’s near Connaught Place and once inside, there are guides to assist foreign tourists. There is a huge pool of holy, healing water and an enormous dining area where anyone can eat a simple meal free of charge. The guards look tough as nails but are actually talkative, cheerful and full of information.
What better way to travel around an overcrowded, overheated, less-than-pristine city but in the air-conditioned cleanliness of the new Delhi Metro/Subway/Underground train.
The Metro is magnificent but frequently packed and Indians don’t have the same idea of ‘personal space’ that westerners do. Women who feel uncomfortable should use the female-only carriages on each train.
Qutub Minar, south Delhi, India.
Built in the 11th century this intricately carved, 72m high sandstone minaret was the first monument built by a Muslim invader, the ex-slave Qutb-al-Din. The largest mosque in India is the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, built by everybody’s favourite Emperor, Shah Jahan.
India Gate on Rajpath avenue in New Delhi and its surrounding grass is a popular destination for Indians on hot evenings and holidays.
Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory
Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Photo by El Tonio.
Also called the Yantra Mantra, this astronomical observatory was a pre-cursor to the Jaipur Jantar Mantar, constructed in 1724 by the Jaipur Maharaja on the instructions of Emperor Mohammed Shah, another of the Mughal moguls.
Akshardham, the largest Hindu temple in the world
The brilliant Akshardham, the largest Hindu temple in the world and loaded with interest, Delhi. Photo by Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Tourists visiting the Akshardham Temple should expect a long wait to pass through security, but it’s well worth it. No cameras, phones or handbags are permitted in the main areas and must be deposited in lockers.
The massive complex is a feast for both eyes and soul, but not short of modern technology. The temple complex and gardens are free but it’s definitely worth paying to see the exhibitions such as sound and light shows, an Imax theatre, musical fountains and even robot presentations, all very hi-tech but presented with an unusual spiritual dignity.
Everything is on a grand scale, from the exquisitely carved stonework to the solid gold statues, and offers a fascinating insight into Indian history, culture and religion.
Get there by Metro. It’s cheap, clean and efficient and the Akshardham Metro station is only a short walk from the complex.