Delhi Monuments

India Gate

  • Built in : 1931
  • Built by : Sir Edwin Lutyens
  • Location : Delhi

Built as a memorial to commemorate the 70,000 India soldiers killed in World War I, India Gate was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1931.

Located on Rajpath, the road which leads to the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan, the gate is 160 feet high with an arch of 138 feet.

Built from sandstone, the arch also houses the Eternal Flame, a gesture in memory of the Indian soldiers who laid their lives in the 1971 war with Pakistan.

Humanyun’s Tomb

  • Built in : 1565
  • Built by : Humanyun’s wife
  • Location : Delhi

This tomb, which as built by emperor Humanyun’s wife, took eight years to complete. The emperor’s wife Begai Begum was buried in the tomb and the structure is first of its kind built in the center of a well – planned garden. The combination of white marble and red sand stone was a great influence on later Mughal architecture. It is generally regarded as a prototype of the famed Taj Mahal of Agra.

The Mughals brought with them their love for gardens, fountains and water. The first mature example of Mughal architecture in India. HUMAYUN’S TOMB, was built in AD 1565. Designed by Presian architect, Mirza Ghyas, Humayun’s Tomb shows a marked shifts from the persian tradition of using coloured tiles for ornamentation. Located in the midst of a large square garden, screened by high walls, with gateways to the south and west, the tomb is a square tower surrounded by a magnificent marble dome. The dome stands 140 feet high from the base of the terrace and is topped with a copper pinnacle.

Old Fort (Purana Quila)

  • Built in : 16th century
  • Built by : Humayun and Sher Shah Suri
  • Location : Delhi

The fort is said to be constructed on the historic site of Indraprastha (900BC) by Humayun and Sher Shah. Covering a circuit of about a mile, the walls of the fort have three gates and are surrounded by a mat fed by the river Yamuna.

The wall was built by Humayun while the buildings in the fort are attributed to Sher Shar. The notable buildings that have survived in the fort are the Sher Mandal and the Quila-I-kholina Mosque. Sher Mandal is a two storeyed octagonal tower which was used by Humayun as his library. The mosque, built around 1541-42, is a landmark in Indo Islamic architecture.

The architect has shown skill by enriching each part with moulding, bracketed openings, marble inlay, carving and other establishments. A variety of materials have also been used to construct the small mosque (168 x 44 feet). The entrance arch is of marble, the spandrels of red sandstone studded with marble bossed, the columns and pilasters of black and white marble.

Jantar Mantar

  • Built in : 1724 – 1734
  • Built by : Sawai Jai Singh II
  • Location : Delhi

A unique structure raised in 1724, now lies in the heart of Delhi’s commercial centre near Connaught place . This is the Jantar Mantar, one of several astronomical observatories raised by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur.

The various abstract structures within the Jantar Mantar are, in fact, instruments that were used for keeping track of celestial bodies. Yet, Jantar Mantar is not only a timekeeper of celestial bodies, it also tells a lot about the technological achievements under the Rajput kings and their attempt to resolve the mysteries regarding astronomy.

The Jantar Mantar of Delhi is only one of the five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the other four being located at Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura. All of these were built as far back as AD 1724-1730 during the period generally known as the dark age of Indian history, when the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had died and the Mughal Empire was rapidly declining.

During this period of turmoil, Muhammad Shah ascended the throne of the Mughal Empire. As many enemies surrounded him, he sought the alliance of the Hindu rulers. Of these, the most notable was Sawai Jai Singh II of Amber, who came into limelight since the days of Aurangzeb. When Jai Singh ascended the throne of Amber in 1699, he was barely eleven, but sharp and shrewd far beyond his years.

The then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was so impressed with the young ruler that he gave Jai Singh II the title of ‘Sawai’, meaning one and a quarter of an average man in worth. As Jai Singh repeatedly proved himself a worthy ally of the Mughals, Muhammad Shah, who was seeking a dependable ally, zeroed in on Jai Singh and duly raised him to the rank of governor of Agra and later, of Malwa.

Safdarjung’s Tomb

  • Built in : 1753-1754
  • Built by : Nawab Shauja-ud-Daula
  • Location : Delhi

After the death of Aurangzeb, the only significant structures raised were the Tomb of Safdarjung, who was the prime minister of Delhi under Muhammad Shah. Built in 1753-1754, the tomb lies at the head of Lodi road. Described as the “last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture” it is clearly decadent in style. Mehrauli village also has the Zafar Mahal, a summer place of the last Mughal.

The memorial was built by Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah who was the son of Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan popularly known as Safdarjung (1739-54) who was the governor of the province of Awadh under Muhammad Shah (1719-48) and later became his prime minister. The tomb is roughly on the plans of Humayun’s tomb, though much scaled down. It is set in the middle of an extensive garden, which spreads over an area of over 300-sq-metre.

The garden itself is on the pattern of the Mughal ‘Chaharbagh’ style. In the center piling up with effortless arrogance is the massive gateway to the enclosure which rises to two levels. Inside there is the tomb, the courtyard and a mosque. On either side are beautiful pavilions known as “Moti Mahal” or the pearl palace, “Jangli Mahal” or the sylvan palace and “Badshah Pasand” or the emperor’s favorite.

The mausoleum built with red sandstone and buff stone is faced with marble and stands squarely in the middle of a garden. There are two graves here, one of Safdarjung and the other presumably his wife’s. The square central chamber of the mausoleum is surrounded by eight rooms all around. All the apartments, except the corner ones are rectangular in shape, the corner ones being octagonal. The dome of the tomb rises from a sixteen-sided base. The tomb has been criticized for its weakness in proportions hence a lack of balance in its make-up.

Jama Masjid

  • Built in : 1644 and 1658
  • Built by : Shahjahan
  • Location : Delhi

Situated in the ancient town of Old Delhi, the Jama or Jami Masjid is the final architectural extravaganza of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan. This monument was built between 1644 and 1658 by five thousand artisans. Originally called the Masjid-i-Jahanuma, or “mosque commanding view of the world”, this magnificent structure stands on the Bho Jhala, one of the two hills of the old Mughal capital city of Shahjahanabad. On the east, this monument faces the Lal Quila (Red Fort) and has three gateways, four towers and two minarets. Constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble, the Jama Masjid is the largest and perhaps the most magnificent mosque in India.

Broad flights of steps lead up to the imposing gateways in the north and the south. The main eastern entrance, probably used by the emperors, remains closed on most days of the week. The main prayer hall on the west side, fronted by a series of high cusped arches and topped with marble domes, houses a niche in a wall that shelters the prayer leader. Worshippers use this hall on most days but on Fridays and other holy days, the courtyard is full of devotees offering namaaz.

Near the north gate of the mosque stands a cupboard containing a collection of Muhammad’s relics – Korans written on deerskin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals and his footprint, embedded in a marble slab.

Lodi Tomb

  • Built in : 1450
  • Built by :
  • Location : Delhi

Situated about 3-kms to the west and adjoining the Indian International Centre are the Lodi Gardens. In the midst of these famed gardens are the tombs of the Sayyid and Lodi rulers.

History has it that the tombs are remnants of another city that was sought to be built in Delhi. Muhammad Shah’s tomb built in 1450 is a prototype for the later Mughal style tomb of Humayun, a design that would eventually develop into the Taj Mahal.

Other tombs include those of his predecessors Mubarak Shah -1433, Ibrahim Lodi – 1526 and Sikander Lodi – 1517. The Bara Gumbad Mosque is a fine example of its type of plaster decoration.

Qutab Minar

  • Built in : 1193
  • Built by : Qutab-ud-din Aibak, Iltutmush
  • Location : Delhi

Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughlak are quite evident in the minar. The relief work and even the materials used for construction differ.

The 238 feet Qutab Minar is 47 feet at the base and tapers to nine feet at the apex. The tower is ornamented by bands of inscriptions and by four projecting balconies supported by elaborately decorated brackets.

Even in ruin, the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque in the Qutab complex is one of the most magnificent in the world. Its construction was started by Qutab-ud-din Aibak in 1193 and the mosque was completed in 1197. additions were made to the building by Iltutmush in 1230 and Alla-ud-din Khilji in 1315.

The main mosque comprises of an inner and outer courtyard, of which the inner is surrouded by an exquisite collonade, the pillars of which are made of richly decorated shafts. Most of these shafts are from the 27 Hindu temples which were plundered to construct the mosque. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Muslim mosque has typical Hindu ornamentation.

Close to the mosque is one of the most curious antiques, the Iron Pillar. Dating back to the 4th century AD, the pillar bears an inscription which stated that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and in the memory of the Gupta king Chandragupta II (375-413). How the pillar moved to its present location remains a mystery. The pillar also highlights ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98 per cent wrought iron and has stood. 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing.

Red Fort

  • Built in : 1638-46
  • Built by : Shahjahan
  • Location : Delhi

Shahjahan, the fifth Mughal emperor and grandson of Akbar, moved the imperial capital back to Delhi from Lahore in 1638. Within eight years, Shahjahanabad was completed with the Red Fort the then Quila-I-Mubarak (fortunate citadel)-ready in all its magnificence to receive Shahjahan. However, Shahjahan could not enjoy his new city as his son Aurangzeb imprisoned him in the Agra Fort, where spent the rest of his life. Though much has changed now because of large-scale demolitions during the British occupation of the fort, its important structures have survived.

The Red Fort gets its name from the use of red sandstone in its construction. It is situated on the western banks of the Yamuna (which has since changed its course). The walls of this fort extend for 2 km and vary in height. The height of the walls is 18 m on the riverside, while it is 33 m on the city side. The fort has two important gateways-Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate.

The Lahori Gate is the main entrance to the Red Fort. The gate faces the direction to Lahore (now in Pakistan), hence the name Lahori Gate. The gate forms a part of a massive stone fortification and is made up of dull pink sandstone. The grassy area above this massive gateway and below the tall ramparts of the fort is the place from where the prime minister of India addresses and leads the nation in celebrating the Independence Day.

Important Monuments within the fort

There are a number of important and interesting buildings within the Red Fort. As soon as one enters the Lahori Gate, one finds himself in a vaulted arcade-the Chatta Chowk-that is full of shops selling souvenirs and gift articles. During the time of the Mughals, the shopkeepers used to sell silk items, jewelry, and gold. This arcade of shops was then known as the Meena Bazaar. The arcade leads to the Naubat Khana (drum house), where musicians played for the emperor and announced the arrival of the royalty and important dignitaries.

Passing the Naubat Khana, one comes face to face with the Diwan-I-Aam (hall of public audience). It was in this flat-roof hall, having rows of cusped arches, that the emperor met his subjects. The emperor sat on a lavish marble-paneled throne set within an inlaid and painted alcove, built into the back wall of the hall. The throne was also studded with precious stones. A platform is located below the throne where the announcer read out royal farmans (royal edict) and list of gifts to be handed out to important people.

The Diwan-I-Aam served as a screen that protected the royal quarters behind it from the prying eyes of outsiders. The private quarters of the royalty consisted of a number of buildings. The Diwan-I-Khas (hall of private audience), made out of white marble, is a luxurious chamber where the emperor held private meetings with important people or with other members of the royal family. The roof and walls of this hall were painted and decorated with inlay work (pietra dura). Though precious stones from the inlay work have gone, the original splendor remains. The floral patterns that are still there reflect the high degree of skill of the Mughal artisans. The centerpiece of this hall was the magnificent Peacock Throne. It is said that the throne was built out of solid gold and had figures of peacocks standing behind it. However, presently, one can only see the marble pedestal on which the throne used to rest. The other important feature of this hall was that it had a ceiling made out of silver. Inscribed on the walls of the Diwan-I-Khas is the famous Persian couplet: “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto” (If there is a paradise on the face of the earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.).

Next to the Diwan-I-Khas are the hammams or royal baths; these consist of three rooms topped by domes, with a fountain in the center. These rooms have floors and walls made of marble and inlaid with precious stones. Near the hammams is a three-story octagonal structure called the Shahi Burj (royal tower), which was emperor Shahjahan’s private working area. The waterworks from this tower on the northeastern part of the fort go to the Rang Mahal (palace of the chief queen) in the south. To the west of the royal baths is the Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) built in AD 1659 by Aurangzeb (Shahjahan’s son) for his personal use.

Other important buildings

The Khas Mahal (special palace), to the south of the Diwan-I-Khas, was the emperor’s private palace. It is divided into rooms for sleeping, living, and worship. Like the Diwan-I-Khas, the Khas Mahal has splendid cusped arches set in white marble. It is profusely decorated with inlay work and the apartment has windows with finely patterned trelliswork overlooking the river. The Rang Mahal (recreation palace) is to the south of the Khas Mahal. The rooms in this palace have exquisite archways, trellises, channels, and fountains for cooling the interiors. The marble lotus, a fountain in the center of Rang Mahal, carved out of a single slab, is a piece of sheer beauty. In its sculptured grandeur, the lotus is matched only by the trellis wall under the scales of justice in the Khwab Gah. Water flowing from the Shahi Burj used to end up here. The Rang Mahal was the residence of the chief queen. The Mumtaz Mahal (the palace of Mumtaz, the chief queen of Shahjahan) has now been converted into a museum and contains artifacts belonging to the Mughal era.