Part 1 – History, Connaught Place
For most of the foreign tourists, the visit to India starts from Delhi. Of these the ones with short travel plans restrict their visit only to Delhi and arounds and return home with an incomplete image of the country. Greatly unadvisable as it is, as India is like a vast kitchen whereas Delhi is simply a starter offered by it, Delhi does offer them a taste of ancient, historical India. If I am to be honest in portraying my opinion about Delhi, I would have a mixed take. Truly an interesting city, Delhi has extreme – at times unfriendly – weather for most part of the year. As for the people, you would find it tough to build a very warm opinion about them, especially if you drive yourself on the wide yet jammed streets of the city. Talking of the site-seeing options - this old and large metro offers a wide array of places rich with history and artistry and provides a decent glimpse of India’s cultural wealth.
A pot ever bubbling with brimful of incidents, Delhi, in common knowledge, hasn’t seen a socially quiet period over the last millennium. The fables, however, account it to be inhabited since the mythological era. In place of Delhi once existed the dense forest of Khandava, which was given to Pnadavas, the five brothers and heroes of the Indian legend Mahabharata, by the villain Duryodhana. Arjuna, the great archer and one of the five brothers burnt the forest with his might and leveled the ground. The brothers then built here a grand structure named Indraprastha, a marvelous place that sent Duryodhana reeling in envy.
The more believable history, however, marks Delhi to have been settled since 500 BC. It was a major settlement 2000 years ago, as scripted in the Mauryan documents from the period of Emperor Asoka. But the truly unbroken chain of important events began here around 900 AD. The Tomar Rajputs possessed and started developing Delhi, which was later captured by the Chauhans. The rule of Chauhans was ended by Muhhammed Ghori after he defeated and executed Prithviraj Chauhan. He named Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak as the viceroy of Delhi. After Ghori’s death, Qutb-ud-din stepped up to the throne by declaring himself the Sultan of Delhi. Before his death, he built the first storey of Qutb Minar and laid the foundation of Islamic rule over India that lasted for several coming centuries.
The Sultanate of Delhi, as India was known back then, kept changing its form, gaining and losing territories from the North-western and western parts of today’s India as well as portions of Afghanistan and other Arab regions. Delhi, however, remained the capital, until 16th century. In 17th century, the capital shifted from Delhi to Shajahanabad. In the 19th century, as the British came to India, they captured Delhi. Later, in the early 20th century, the British capital was shifted to Delhi from the turbulent Kolkata making it once more the most powerful city in India. Ever since then, Delhi has been the capital of India, and a separate state since 1992.
The typical itinerary for inner places of Delhi starts from Connaught Place and arounds. After the British captured Delhi, Edwin Lutyens was entrusted with the task of planning the New Delhi that would be built by the British. As you roam around at the circular market of Connaught Place, you notice British-style buildings and verandas, and a well planned township amidst otherwise haphazardly grown older parts of Delhi. Though the architectural style mostly remains British, Lutyens had to adapt it for India, so the buildings stood the massive heat and bright light of Delhi.
The most popular place in Connaught Place is its market, where today you can find almost anything of your need. The old buildings built by the British and the new, recent additions are today occupied by the shops and showrooms of varied multinational brands. There are also some good restaurants in this area; notable amongst these is Sarvana Bhavan, where you get a great experience of South Indian food.
There is a widespread underground market at Connaught Place known as Palika Bazar. It is popular for cheap electronic items and economical fashionable clothing. When you shop at this place you must constantly be aware that there is a big chance you may be swindled, for most of what you buy here is duplicate and low quality material. Also, you must know that there is a huge scope for bargaining and you can haggle down almost 80% of the originally offered cost. In any case, you must once visit this place for the sheer fun of roaming through the tunnels full of activity and the excitement of spotting articles at unbelievable prices.
Jantar Mantar at Connaught Place is a place of interest for many. It was constructed in 1724 by the famous Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. This astronomical observatory makes an interesting visit when in company of a knowledgeable guide who can explain how the large and peculiar structures work. Due to a growth of tall buildings in the vicinity, the observatory no longer works.
The bright and vivid market place called Janpath is popular not only amongst the citizens of Delhi but also the tourists. This market mostly flourished after India became independent. Of those who left Pakistan and came to India, many settled in Delhi. This wide street offered them the place to sale their ware and earn a livelihood. Janpath, which literally means the road for people, was known as Queensway during the rule of the British.
Laxmi Narayan Mandir, a temple built by Birlas, the famous industrialists of India, is located at Mandir Marg, meaning the road of temples. This famous and a very popular temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. He had famously placed a condition that he would only open it if it allowed entry to the people from all castes.