A journey around Delhi, the capital of India is a must for any visitor, for the city has a lot to offer. From historic monuments and museums to parks and gardens, a variety of cuisine on offer, ranging from traditionally Indian to international, and shopping options from traditional bazaars to mega malls, Delhi is a cosmopolitan city with a sense of history.
Some of the places to visit in Delhi are:
Red Fort: It is from the ramparts of this majestic building that the Indian Prime Minister addresses the nation every August 15th or Indian Independence Day. Built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan (1628-58), this magnificent fort, made of red sandstone, was the seat of governance of the Emperor. Within the fort is the Diwan-e-Khas or Hall of Special Audience and Diwan-e-Am or Hall of the People, where the Emperor held court and dispensed justice. The fort contains a museum of arms and weaponry. There is a sound and light show in the evening that depicts the history of the fort and the medieval rulers of Delhi.
Qutab Minar: Sultan Qutub-ud-din Aibak began the construction of this 72.5 m high victory pillar in 1199 A.D. and it was completed by his son-in-law Sultan Iltutmish. This sandstone and marble structure was built over the remains of Kila Rai Pithora, the fort of Prithviraj Chauhan - the last Hindu King of Delhi.
India Gate: This 42 metre high arch is set at one end of Rajpath, a broad avenue that runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Presidents mansion, through the green central vista of Delhi. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the chief architect of New Delhi, it is a war memorial that commemorates the soldiers who died in World War I. The names of the martyrs are inscribed on the walls of the arch. Beneath it is an eternal flame called Amar Jawan Jyoti, which glows in memory of the Unknown Soldier. The lawns around India Gate are a popular picnic spot.
Humayun's Tomb: This elegant monument was the first tomb to be set within a formal garden, in the Indian subcontinent. Commissioned by Hamida Begum, Humayun's wife, after his death in 1556, this mausoleum's symmetrical proportions and setting on a large platform influenced the design of other monuments, including the Taj mahal.
Jantar Mantar: This astronomical observatory is located near Connaught Place in the centre of Delhi. Built by the king of Jaipur, Raja Sawai Jai Singh, these large geometric structures are scientific instruments that were used to observe and measure the movements of celestial objects. The interesting shapes of these brick and plaster structures, placed within a garden, are truly worth seeing.
Bahai Temple: A newer architectural wonder in this historic city, this house of worship of the Bahai faith, is built in the shape of a lotus and commonly called the Lotus Temple. Set amidst green lawns, this white marble structure is open to all and is a perfect space for meditation, since total silence is maintained within the temple at all times.
Some of the places to visit in and around Agra on your journey to this city in north India are:
The Taj Mahal: A poet once described this enchanting monument as "A teardrop of love, frozen in marble on the cheek of Eternity." Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal (Exalted one of the Palace), after her death in 1631, this exquisite tomb is recognized the world over for its aesthetic perfection and is considered a symbol of eternal love. Situated near the banks of the River Yamuna, in Agra, this white marble mausoleum is set like a jewel amidst the serene ambience of a formal garden. Its green lawns and waterways lead to a raised platform on which the tomb rests. The refined elegance of the artistic pietra dura work of inlaid designs on the marble walls, the large onion-shaped dome and its surrounding symmetrical minarets represents the pinnacle of Islamic architecture in India. Couples from across the world journey to this monuemnt to eternal love in north India
Agra Fort: This imposing fort built by Akbar, and added to by Shah Jahan is a veritable treasure trove of the Mughal architectural tradition. The various buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of Hindu and Muslim cultures, resulting in the Indo-Saracenic school of architecture, which was the hallmark of the Mughal period. The fort contains halls of public and private audience and formal parks and gardens.
Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb: Built by Noor Jahan for a relative, Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb is a highly ornate edifice, which is looked upon as an imminent precursor of the Taj Mahal as far as the elaborate carvings and pietra dura inlay work are concerned. The tomb marks a significant departure from the tombs of the Mughal dynasty built earlier, because this tomb follows the central Asian pattern of a domed structure, set in a formal garden, with waterways and paths laid out in a geometrical pattern. This is the design followed later in the construction of the Taj Mahal.
Fatehpur Sikri: Fatehpur Sikri was the imperial city of the Mughal dynasty between 1571 and 1584. Built by the Mughal emperor Akbar, this royal city was abandoned because the lack of water in the area was not sufficient for the population of the city. The magnificent palaces and buildings of this abandoned city stand today as a testimony to the power of nature over the most grandiose dreams of a mighty Emperor. The city is located at a distance of 40 km from Agra.
Sikandra: Akbar's tomb at Sikandra is an excellent example of assimilation of different styles of architecture and it represents a significant departure from the earlier Mughal buildings. The tomb carries the characteristic flavor of the airy tiered pavilions of the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Set in a quiet locale, the tomb has gardens on all sides where grazing deer can be seen. Watch out for monkeys that live in the trees nearby.
The capital of Rajasthan is known as the Pink city because of the pink colour with which all the buildings of the city were painted, to look like red sandstone buildings from Mughal times, during the journey of the then Prince of Wales in 1876, to India when it was a British colony.
Jaipur is known for its grand forts and monuments as well as its markets where fine handicraft items, jewellery and textiles produced by skilled traditional craftsmen are on offer.
Some of the places to visit on your journey to Jaipur, India are:
The City Palace at Jaipur, also known as the Sawai Jai singh Chandra Palace or Moon Palace, continues to be the home of the royal family of Jaipur, however part of it has been converted into a museum that is open to the public. At the City Palace you can see two giant silver vases, used to carry water from the holy Ganges, from India to London, when the Raja Sawaii Man Singh II went on a journey from India to England.
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, is one of five built across India by Raja Sawaii Man Singh II and consists of fascinating geometric structures which are astronomical instruments which are used to observe the constellations and measure the movement of the planets through the sky.
The Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, a landmark monument that characterizes Jaipur, is a tall structure with an elaborate fašade, with decorated windows. In earlier times, the women of the royal family could observe what was happening in the streets below, from these screened windows, without being seen themselves.
Amer Fort, a grand monument; Jaigarh Fort, where the largest cannon on wheels can be seen, and Naharagarh Fort, which offers stunning views of the city, are must visits on your tour of Jaipur.
Jaipur is also known for traditional Rajasthani music and dance forms. The Gangaur and Teej festivals are colourfully celebrated in this city.
Enjoy the sights of these historic cities on your Delhi-Agra-Jaipur journey through India.