The massive metropolis and capital city of India is unavoidable if you are travelling directly to the north of India from another country as your flight will land at Delhi airport, the largest in the country since its renovation. New Delhi is a city of contrasts, the old beside the new, bringing the ancient past to life, while simultaneously showcasing India’s modern future. While the crumbling city of Old Delhi exists alongside the organised and sleek New Delhi, they feel like they are world apart. Delhi has a rich history and was ruled by the Mughals and later the British, and there are forts, monuments and evocative mosques, many of which are set in beautifully landscaped gardens, left over from the Mughal occupation.
One of the most notable of these relics is the Red Fort, which was the main residence of the Mughal emperors and now houses several museums. The Qutab Minar monument, is the tallest brick minaret in the world and an astounding example of early Indo–Islamic architecture that was built in 1206. There are several other historic monuments at the same site. There is also the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid, whose courtyard can accommodate up to 25,000 people. Near to the mosque is the sprawling Chandni Chowk bazaar on the main street of Old Delhi, a vibrant market full of spice stalls, food carts and sweetmeat shops.
At the centre of New Delhi stands the India Gate, a war memorial reminiscent of the Arc De Triomphe, built in memory of the Indian soldiers who died fighting in World War I for the British Army. The floodlights at night provide a warm glow and the gardens that line the boulevard are a popular spot to while away a warm summer’s evening. Another place that presents an opportunity to escape from the bustling city and relax in a serene environment is the Lodi Gardens that were built in 1936 by the British. The vast gardens are especially popular with yoga practitioners and joggers. The modern Bahai Temple also known as the Lotus temple as it takes the form of a lotus flower also provides a tranquil environment in the gardens and by the ponds that surround the temple for visitors to relax and maybe enjoy a picnic. The temple is constructed of white marble and as the Bahai faith is inclusive, anybody is welcome to worship here.
Another important temple is the Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The main attraction of the complex, built relatively recently in 2005 is the mandir, a fantastic architectural feat of pink sandstone and white marble, intricately carved with dancers, musicians, deities, and flora and fauna, plus 234 ornately carved pillars and nine domes! The complex also comprises: an IMAX theatre showing a specially commissioned 40 minute film; a 15-minute cultural boat ride depicting 10,000 years of Indian heritage; a musical fountain; and a sprawling garden lined with bronze sculptures reflecting India’s culture and history. To ensure you get to explore the complex fully, allow at least half a day for your visit. Many who make the trip to New Delhi, also take the opportunity to visit the site where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and where he lived in the final 144 days of his life, Gandhi Smriti, which is now a museum, and also the spot where he was cremated, Raj Ghat.