Few people are aware of the fact that there are seven cities of Delhi officially recognized by the government and archeological department of India. Since time immemorial, Delhi has been the center of power from where several rulers, kings and emperor held forth their sway over large geographical area of Indian subcontinent.
Although there were many cities which are said to be in existence, the first historical city of Delhi with archaeological proof was the Lal Kot or Quila Rai Pithora. This city was established by the most legendary Indian prince in polular romance – Pritvi Raj Chauhan. When the Mohammad of Ghor first attacked India he was defeated by the forces of Pritvi Raj Chauhan in the First Battle of Tarain and Ghori was captured then released. However during the second invasion PrithvirajChauhan was defeated, captured and killed by Ghori forces.
The foundation of second city of Delhi was laid by Qutub Din Aibak who was appointed by Mohammad of Ghor as governer of Indian territories. Mehrauli area in and around Qutub Minnar is the city which was established and ruled by the first Slave Dynasty in India. Qutubud Din Aibak began the construction of Qutub Minar or the Quwwat ul Islam Masjid (Might of Islam) which was by completed after his death by his son in law and successor Iltutmish. The ruins of the city built and ruled by first Mamluk dynasty could be found in today’s Mehrauli. The ruins of more than 70 monuments including Balban’s Tomb could be found inside Mehrauli Archaeological Park adjacent to Qutub Minar Complex.
Soon after the death of Iltutmish, the first Sultanate dynasty began to crumble and was finally usurped after Balban’s death by Khiljis who were also of Turkic origin. The strongest ruler of the Sultanate is considered to be Alaudin Khilji who went on to established Siri, the third city of Delhi. Alauddin Khilji was a firm ruler and laid a strong foundation to withhold the threat presented by marauding Mongols as he also consolidated his rule in large territories across India. Khilji’s rule also ushered in a new era of architecture and learning. Hauz Khas in Green park was also built by Khilji to cater to the water needs of his subjects.
The Fourth City of Delhi was established by Ghazi Malik a strong general of Alauddin Khilji who helped consolidate Sultanate’s rule in Southern India. He took the name Ghiyas ud din Tughluq and founded the first Tughluq Dynasty. Tughluqabad, the fourth historical city of Delhi now lie mostly in ruins but the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq is still very well preserved.
The fifth city of Delhi was founded by the erratic visionary son of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Muhammad Bin Tughluq. The city was named Jahanpannah (refuge of the world). The ruins of the city are today visible near SIri and other isolated places near IIT, Begumpur and Khirkee Village. One of the reason attributed to non-existence of forts or palaces of Jahanpanah is the fact that Muhammad Bin Tughluq, for some strange reason decided to move his capital to Daulatabad which turned out to be the final nail in the coffin of his rule.
After Muhammad, Firuz Shah Tughluq succeded the Sultanate rule in Delhi, He is considered to be the great builder and restorer who restored and rebuild several structures – including Hauz Khas – during his reign. He founded the sixth city of Delhi which was called Firuzabad. Today the ruins of his city could be found near the Firoz Shah Kotla Stadium. The fort complex houses ruins of prayer mosque, Hawa Mahal a baoli and several other structures.
10 years after Firuz Shah’s reign ended, Delhi Sultanate was devastated by Timur’s invasion which ushered in the rise of Mughal dynasty in India. But early inroad by Babur, founder of Mughal Dynasty was cut short by the brilliant strategist Farid ‘Sher’ Khan who in a strategic move captured Bengal and Bihar and later defeated Humayun at Battle of Chausa and ascended throne of Delhi as Sher Shah Suri founding the Sur dynasty in India. His city was built in and around what is known as Purana Qila today and which was founded as Dinpanah by Babur.
Soon after the sudden death of Sher Shah in an accidental gun powder explosion, Mughal gathered their forces and once again established their rule in India which was the beginning of the great Mughal Dynasty and which would also be the last monarchy of India before East India Company would gain control of India.
The Seventh City and the most resplendent of all was established by Shah Jahan one of the mightiest of Mughal Emperor. He was a great patron of arts and literature and his rule ushered in a new era of Indo-Islamic architecture which culminated in the building of iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, a memorial of love built by Shah Jahan to commemorate his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal.
Travelers to Delhi have so much to take in while visiting this city sprinkled with magnificent architectural wonders and every street pervaded by a history of its own and every ruin with a story to tell. With so many monuments and medieval cities with their unique features, one of the best ways to explore the cultural potpourri that is Delhi is through heritage walks. Heritage Walk is a relatively new concept wherein group of tourists are taken down the history lane accompanied by a guide with deep knowledge of history and cultural milieu of the places covered.
The most sought after and fulfilling heritage walks in Delhi are the one near Mehrauli (Qutub Minar & Mehrauli Archaeological Park) with so many monuments close. Hauz Khas Village Heritage Walk and Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi) Heritage Walks also offer a glimpse into the rich heritage and historical cities of Delhi. If you are from outside Delhi and looking for accommodation, then a good option is to check out Hotels in New Delhi.
I’ll leave you with a few more images: