of the most fascinating aspects of Delhi is the "visibility"
of its historic past. Were it not for the demands
of urbanization, large portions of the city could well be earmarked
as archaeological parks. This is because the rulers of successive
dynasties between the 13th and the 17th centuries established seven
cities in different parts of Delhi. A chronological review of these
cities fortunately also serves as a suitable itinerary for tourists
and highlights the important monuments amongst the 1300 officially
history goes much further back in time than the 13th century. In
1955, excavations at the Purana Qila revealed that the site was
inhabited 3000 years ago. Ware pottery known as Painted Gray Ware
and dated to 1000 BC confirmed this as being yet another site associated
with the epic Mahabharata. The excavations also cut through houses
and streets of the Sultanate, Rajput, post-Gupta, Gupta, Saka-Kushan
and Sunga periods, reaching down to the Mauryan era (300 BC), thus
revealing almost continuous habitaion. The association of Emperor
Ashoka (273-36 BC) with Delhi has come to light with the discovery
of a Minor Rock Edict in the locality known as Srinivaspuri.
clearer picture of the city emerges from the end of the 10th century,
when the Tomar Rajputs established themselves in the in the Aravalli
hills south of Delhi. The isolated, rocky outcrop facilitated the
defence of the royal resort which the Rajputs called Dhilli or Dhillika.
The core of the first of the seven cities was created by Anangpal
Tomar who is said to have built Lal Kot, which is the first known
regular defence work in Delhi. The Chauhan Rajputs later captured
Delhi from the Tomars . Prithviraj III, also known as Rai Pithora,
extended Lal Kot, adding massive ramparts and gates, and made Qila
Rai Pithora the first city of Delhi.
only the ramparts are visible near the Qutub Minar , though the
city is known to have had several Hindu and Jain temples. Prithviraj
was ruling Delhi when Muhammad of Ghur invaded India, and died fighting
the invader at the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192. Ghur returned,
but left as his viceroy, his slave Qutbuddin Aibak.
1206, Qutbuddin crowned himself as the Sultan of the Slave or Mamluk
dynasty, and became the first Muslim ruler of Delhi. Qutbuddin,
had however, commenced his architectural career even before he chose
to become the sultan. The mosque was essential to the Islamic emphasis
on congregational prayer, while the burial of the dead, as opposed
to cremation, introduced the tomb to India.
earliest of these Islamic structures are to be seen in the Qutub
complex and the incorporation of many Hindu elements is due to the
ready availability of building material and the use of local craftsmen.
Qutbuddin raised the Quwwat-ul-Islam (might of Islam) mosque, which
is the earliest extant mosque in India. Within its spacious courtyard
he retained the 4th century Iron Pillar, probably the standard of
an ancient Vishnu temple. The pillar has puzzled scientists, as
its iron has not rusted in all these centuries.
1199, Qutbuddin raised the Qutub Minar either as a victory tower
or as a minaret to the adjacent mosque. From a base of 14.32 mtrs
it tapers to 2.75 mtrs at a height of 72.5 mtrs. It is still the
highest stone tower in India, one of the finest tower Islamic structures
ever raised and Delhi's recognized landmark. It was completed by
the Sultan's successor and son-in-low, Iltutmish. The tomb of Iltutmish,
which he himself built in 1235, is nearby. Its interiors are profusely
decorated with calligraphy, thought the dome has collapsed.
Khalji rulers displaced the Slave dynasty in 1290, and when Alauddin
Khali ordered renovations of the mosque in 1311, he also raised
the impressive Alai Darwaza, the southern entrance to the mosque.
It is the first example of a building employing wholly Islamic principles
of construction, including the true arch. In 1303, Alauddin, established
the second city of Delhi, called Siri, of which nothing remains
but the embattlements. He also had dug a vast reservoir, Hauz Khas,
to sypply water to his city.
historians describe the Delhi of that time as being the "envy
of Baghdad, the rival of Cairo and the equal of Constantinople".
(for the sake of convenience, tourists visiting the Qutb complex
could also see the Tomb of AdhamKhan and Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli,
and the Tomb of Jamai-Kamali behind the Qutb Minar. These, however,
belong to a later date.) The Khalhjis were replaced by the Tughlaq
dynasty in 1321. of its eleven rulers, only the first three were
interested in architecture and each of them established a new city.