Delhi - the capital city of India is a bustling metropolis that successfully combines in its folds - the ancient with the modern. Standing on the west-bank of the Yamuna River at the narrowest point between the Aravalli hills and the Himalayas, Delhi has commanded the strategically vital route from the Northwest frontier to the agriculturally rich Ganges plains. Its strategic location was one of the prime reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power.
Delhi has always been intrinsically identified with power and imperial sway. The eternal Yamuna River bears witness to the glorious and tumultuous 5,000-year-old history, which begins with the creation of Indraprastha by the Pandavas of the Mahabharata. It is not surprising that what constitutes Delhi today is really a conglomerate of eight cities, created between the 11th and 17th centuries around modern Delhi. The first four cities were towards the south around the area where the Qutab Minar stands starting with Lalkot or Qila Rai Pithora built by the Chauhan Rajputs in mid 11th century. This city was followed by Siri, built by Alauddin Khilji (near present day Hauz Khas) in the 12th century. The third was Tughlaqabad, now entirely in ruins, which stood 10km Southeast of the Qutab Minar. The fourth city dates from the 14th century and was known as Jahanpanah. It was also built by the Tughlaqs and it also stood near the Qutab Minar. The fifth city was Ferozabad, built by Feroz Shah Kotla. Some of its ruins are to found opposite the Raj Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna River. The sixth city Dinpanah was created by Sher Shah at Purana Qila (Old Fort) that stands in New Delhi today. The Mughal Emperor Shahjahan constructed the seventh city Shahjahanabad in the 17th century, thus shifting the Mughal Capital from Agra to Delhi. His city corresponds to the walled Old Delhi, which is still largely preserved. Finally the eighth city, New Delhi, which was constructed by the British and was officially, inaugurated in 1931. After Independence in 1947, New Delhi became the capital of India.
Delhi is in fact really two distinct cities; the energy and colour and the thronged bazaars and Mughal architecture of Old Delhi contrast with the formal splendour of New Delhi, whose wide boulevards offer ever-changing perspectives of Lutyen's landscaped city. The division in the Walled Old City and New Delhi also marks the division in life styles: the walled city retains its past traditions and one can get a glimpse of a past life with its many facets, colours and spells. New Delhi, in contrast, is a city trying to live up to the best of twenty-first century standards. Amidst the tall and modern skyscrapers the remnants of a bygone time in the form of its many monuments stand as silent reminders to the region's ancient legacy.