War Memorial Delhi

Dilli Shehr: The City of Delhi

There is something in the air in Delhi that you can sense the centuries of history of the place. Some say the Hindi accent is pure here. For others it is just another city in this big nation. For me it was the city and the aura it emanated.

Delhi Aerial View

Delhi from the air

The City

Delhi might be a crowded city. It’s streets bustling with every day life of the million people making a living here and calling it home. The ancients called it Indraprastha. A city that had a glorious past. Life has not been the same since the British made it the capital of the British Empire in India just over a century ago.

Metro station

A crowded metro station

My first encounter with Delhi was on my way back from the North east of India. I had one night and a day to spend here before returning home. Keep no expectations, that has been my mantra. It works out as the best way to enjoy your travels. Delhi was one such place. I have heard bad things and good things about this city but Delhi proved to be more than that.

Delhi Airport

Arrivals at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi

I bid goodbye to Guwahati and the North east and landed in Delhi at around 6pm. It was the end of April. The mercury was slowly rising. A friend had arranged a place for me to stay for the night. All I had to do was to phone his cook and he would be ready to host me. I rang him up and took an Ola cab to this guesthouse. The cook at the guesthouse hailed from Tripura. Right from the time I met him I shared about my trip to the North east of India and how much I enjoyed travelling that part of India. He made a simple dinner for me of some roti and chicken curry and I was off to sleep after the long day.

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HOHO Delhi

The next morning, I woke up and planned to take a tour of the capital. I found out there was a HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) service in Delhi which is quite efficient and well planned. It is a localised version of the Big Bus Tours found in other cities.

HOHO Delhi

A Delhi HOHO bus

The HOHO Delhi is an official initiative by Delhi Tourism. Depending on your time you can opt for the Delhi Sightseeing One Day Tour or the Two Day Tour. I opted for the quick One Day Tour. The buses are fully air-conditioned and they even have a guide who announces the places of interests and gives you a brief history as we pass by them. But this was from last year so things could be different now.

When the cook heard about my plan for the day, he asked me if he could join me on my solo tour. And I said why not, he would be good company. The young chap had been living in the city for about 4 years but never got the chance to visit some of the historical places in the city.

Bus Stop in Delhi

Starting point for the HOHO bus

I had only a few hours of the day to spend and had to use the time wisely. With nothing really planned, I decided to HOHO for the day. The buses start from near Rajiv Chowk.

Delhi Metro

I walked to the nearest Metro station from Greater Kailash where I stayed for the night and boarded the metro to Rajiv Chowk. It was my first ride in the Delhi Metro and it was packed with daily commuters. The metro is a life-line for thousands of commuters and is an efficient and economical mode of transportation in an otherwise crowded city. Having lived in India for 17 years this experience was new to me and I enjoyed the ride.

Delhi Metro

Delhi Metro, A lifeline to thousands of commuters in the city

Connaught Place

CP, abbreviation for Connaught Place, now known as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk, is the commercial and business district of Delhi. Here you can find buildings that were built in classical English architecture and is modelled after the Royal Crescent in England consisting of two concentric circles.

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Buildings at Connaught Place

From the bygone Colonial Era: Connaught Place

 

India Flag

One of the largest flags of India; The Tricolour fluttering high at Rajiv Chowk, in the center of Rajiv Chowk

 

Subway at Connaught Place

A Subway at Jan Path

We got 2 tickets for the HOHO bus from Connaught Place and started our bus tour. On my list for the day was a visit to the Red Fort, India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb. There wasn’t much but we were excited and wanted to explore the city.

Red Fort

Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This sprawling complex used to be the capital of the erstwhile Mughal Empire and the royal residence of the emperor at one point of time and in the recent past it was the seat of the British Raj in India. The name Red Fort or Lal Qila comes from the red sandstone that was used in its construction which, still stands strong to this day. The architectural brilliance of the Persian inspired Mughal empire was something to behold at its time and is evident with the Red Fort. It is with pride that all of India celebrates the Independence Day when the Prime Minister hoists the national flag and delivers his speech from its ramparts every year.

Red Fort in Delhi

The Red Fort

The Red Fort is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One can pick audio guides in different languages at the entrance. As soon as you enter from the Lahori Gate, which serves as the main entrance to the fort itself, a long passageway leads you to a bazaar called the Chhatta Chowk or the covered Bazaar used to be known as the Bazaar-i-Musaqqaf in earlier times. In the reign of Shah Jahan, this catered to the imperial luxury trade of silk, brocades, velvets and gold jewellery of the imperial.

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There are also other major structures inside the fort’s sprawling complex such as the Naubat Khana, the Drum house from where the musicians used to announce the arrival of the emperor. Diwan-i-Aam, the Hall of public audience was where the emperor received the general public and at its center is a marble canopy where the throne is placed. There is also a light and sound show held at the fort premises in the night. I would easily recommend this as a must visit place when you are in Delhi.

Lahore Gate entrance at the Red Fort

The Lahori Gate

 

Chhatta Chowk

Chhatta Chowk

 

Ceiling of Chhatta Chowk

Design of the ceiling inside the covered bazaar

 

Inside the Red Fort

Inside the Fort

 

Garden inside the Red Fort

A garden in front of the Diwan-i-Aam

 

Throne of Shahjahan

Throne of emperor Shah Jahan inside the Diwan-i-Aam

 

Inside the Red Fort

Inside the Red Fort

India Gate

After having a cold fresh lime soda from outside the fort to beat the heat, we slowly moved through the crowded streets of Delhi on the bus. We passed by the Supreme Court of India, the highest judicial court in India, The National Gallery of Modern Art and then towards the India Gate.

India Gate

The India Gate, All India War Memorial

India Gate, a war memorial from British times built as a memorial to all the soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the first World War. This resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Following the Bangladesh Liberation War, a structure called the Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the flame of the Immortal Soldier was built below the gate. We paid our respects to the fallen soldiers and moved to our next destination.

Remains of Purana Quila or The Old Fort built by Sher Shah Suri

Remains of Purana Qila or The Old Fort built by Sher Shah Suri

The bus went past some of the other historical places such as the Purana Qila or The Old Fort. One of the oldest forts in Delhi built by an Afghan king, Sher Shah Suri. Since the heat was becoming unbearable and time was ticking to catch my flight, I had to skip this place and move straight to Humayun’s Tomb.

Purana Quila behind palm trees

Purana Quila behind palm trees

Humayun’s Tomb

My final destination for the day was the Humayun’s Tomb. Another UNESCO listed World Heritage Monument. The mausoleum was built by Bega Begum, the widow of the late emperor. The tomb complex has over 100 graves earning the name “Dormitory of the Mughals”. Built with a mix of red sandstone and white marble, it stands as a precursor to the world-famous Taj Mahal which was influenced by Persian, Turkic and Islamic styles of architecture.

Charbagh garden

The Charbagh garden in front of Humayun’s Tomb

 

Cenotaph inside Humayun's tomb

A Cenotaph of one of the Mughals

 

Design of the dome at Humayun's Tomb

Intricate colourful designs adorn the inside of the dome at Humayun’s Tomb

As you enter the complex, you will not fail to notice the Charbagh garden, a Persian style garden that encompasses the main tomb. Thought to depict heaven or Jannat from the Qur’an. Several other tombs dot the landscape. In the centre of the main tomb, lies the cenotaph of Emperor Humayun while his burial chambers lies beneath.

Cenotaph of Emperor Humayun

The cenotaph of Emperor Humayun

 

The Charbagh Garden

The Charbagh Garden depicting Jannat or heaven at Humayun’s Tomb

 

Entrance to another Mughal tomb

Entrance to another tomb in the complex

 

A gate at Humayun's Tomb

An arched gateway at the tomb premises

Soon after visiting the tomb, with time running out, I had to skip the tour and head back to the guesthouse for lunch and then to the airport. I would have loved to stay back and complete the entire tour. Maybe the best is yet to come another day.

Picture depicting Emperor Humayun

Emperor Humayun

The Experience

My time in this city was short and this by no means is an exhaustive list of all the places to see in the city but it helped me to discover my love for history and appreciate the things of the past. The past might be history but it has a lot to teach us. I was filled with awe and respect for the previous rulers of this historical city and the times it has had. This is a land of cultures intertwining with each other and Delhi truly lives up as the capital of the great nation that is India.

If you are a responsible tourist, here’s something you can do to experience India a little differently.

A Bronze Buddha head

A Bronze Buddha head at the T3 Terminal inside Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi


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46 Comments

  1. Pingback: Meghalaya: The Abode of clouds - Share Your Travel Stories

  2. You covered a lot of ground in one day! Your last destination, Humayun’s Tomb looks so beautiful! The details on the building, inside & out, are amazing! If I ever find myself in Delhi, I’ll reference your post! 🙂

  3. Now I see that I definitely have to visit Delhi on my next trip to India. I spent a month in India in the beginning of this year, but only managed to visit the South – it was incredible! I’m planning to visit the North next year. Many people told me not to go to Delhi, as it’s really crowded and crazy, but your post makes me want to go there. And fresh lime soda – I really miss it here in Poland. When travelling in India I usually had it a few times a day – both lime soda and masala soda 🙂

    • Great stuff Adam. I wonder how your trip to the South went. I am from the South myself. Did you visit Kerala? Delhi is crowded, yes. But there’s so much to see and do, you’ll forget about the crowd.

  4. The Roti sounds excellent. I have an opportunity to go to India in January and I hope it works out. Like you, I’ve heard good and bad about India, but I won’t let the bad keep me away!

  5. Oh, great post about Delhi. I haven’t head the chance yet to visit. Only been to Mumbai. But next time I am back I will make it an extended trip and see much more of the country 🙂

  6. I have been living in Delhi for a while now but it keeps confusing me. There is the never ending summer and one can always get into a fight. But there is much history to explore in the forgotten alleys an dthere are many other legit as well as forbidden pleasures to be had!

  7. I could never do a detailed tour of this city though I have been to the city twice. Those world heritage monuments are the ones I crave to see the most.

    • Thank you Reid. The metro was really crowded there. I waited for a bit for the crowd to clear and get on the escalator. But this was because it was a central station and the commuters switch lines here. The other stations were fine.

  8. Delhi comes across so beautifully in your post and the pictures. The vibrancy and the diversity of the city is well captures. For me Delhi is a city which lures me again and again and enthralls me with its charm and beauty.

  9. Delhi looks like a beautiful place. I think the hop on hop off bus tour was a great idea, you got to see a lot! We usually choose that option if we are short on time or if the city is really just too big to get around by foot. You got some really great photos, thank you for sharing.

  10. That was a nice trip! I think I must go with your mantra to keep no expectation when hitting Delhi. Good to know about the HOHO service that they have for the tourists, is Purana Qila and India Gate also comes in your HOHO ride?

    • Thank you Lindon. Yes, Puran Qila and India Gate is part of the tour. Since time was short for me, I had to finish them quickly to spend more time at the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb. If I stayed longer I would have gotten to the Qutub Minar as well. Hopefully the next time.

  11. Delhi is undeniably the most hectic city I have ever been in my life, almost every day is an exercise is sensory overload. But, as you’ve alluded to here, even amid all this chaos, there are part of the city that can be rather tranquil, just like the Charbagh Gardens. Certainly, there is no other city like Delhi anywhere else on the world and, while it certainly exhausted me, I have always vowed to return one day

  12. Delhi is beautiful and your pictures brought back some lovely memories of my visits many years ago. Though you’ve covered the cultural side of it, I hope you had some time to taste the awesome food as well. Delhi’s chaats are fabulous. I’ve been wanting to go and do a rather touristy thing…mostly out of curiosity and because I’ve heard good things about it…Kingdom of dreams. Your pics have made me want to go soon!

    • Thank you Mansi. I did taste the food the second time I went to Delhi at the Chandni Chowk area. It was a hurried affair the first time. I need to make more visits soon. I hope you make a trip soon as well.

  13. I like the “Delhi might be a crowded city” and then the picture of probably the most crowded escalator I’ve never seen in my life! I sometimes complain about rush hour in Milan, with people trying to overtake you in every possible direction, on the escalator too, but there in Delhi it won’t be possible, there’s no room to slip into!
    On the other side, I like a lot the picture of Charbagh garden in front of Humayun’s Tomb, it relaxes me. The tones of yellow and green make me feel calm, I’d like to see that place myself 🙂

    • Hey Luca, yes, Delhi is crowded, a million people making a living in the capital of the fastest growing economy in the world. You should take a look at the Bombay Suburban Train system, that will blow your mind away. But it’s the mix of the old and new that makes Delhi special, a clash of cultures. Do make a trip to Delhi.

  14. The Arc de Triomphe is the first thing I thought of when I saw the India Gate 🙂 I love your travel mantra, it allows for such an open mind and heart, and the ability to further enjoy almost any destination. We have never been to India, and some of your photos surprised me as there seemed to be so few people in them! The Red Fort is architecturally stunning. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • Hi Amy, thank you for your kind review. I love the fact that you noticed my travel mantra. Like the quote which says, “Traveling, it leaves you speechless, then turn you into a storyteller”. For me, travel is a wonderful feeling, to be away from home and explore different places and then return back to find that something in you has changed. I take the positives and the world is a wonderful place.

      You should make a trip to India sometime. There’s just so much it can offer you.

      India is pretty crowded in most cities and towns, so it takes a bit of waiting around to capture the perfect moments. I love landscapes, shapes and designs. As for the people, I let them have their privacy until they request to have their photos clicked. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for joining me on my journey.

  15. I have visited Delhi twice now and in a month I will be going there again, for a wedding. I found a lot of beautiful places but also a lot of grey, poverty and dirt. It’s great that now there is a hop on hop off bus service, i don’t remember it being there when I visited. My favorite place in Delhi was the Humayun’s Tomb, I found it so peaceful and green, an oasis in the dusty city. At the metro I was lucky as I would only go into the all women part of the train which was never as crowded as the other parts.

    • Hi Joanna, great to hear that you will be in Delhi again. It is true that Delhi has its fair share of the bad too and you are right. But things are slowly changing across India with cleanliness campaigns and poverty eradication. Education is key and is lacking in a lot of places and once the people get educated, things could change drastically. I love to stay positive and do my bit to help it get better, so that everyone can have a good time.

      The Hop on Hop off service has been there for a while now but the frequencies were less as far as I know. But I don’t really know the situation now. Amidst the Delhi traffic it is very hard to notice these buses moving along.

      Humayun’s tomb like you said is such a peaceful place and I really loved it. The whole concept of it is to resemble the heavens according to Islamic tradition.

      Great initiative by the metro authorities to have women’s only sections. Makes it really easy for solo female travellers to travel. You’ll even be surprised to find women who drive Uber as well in Delhi and other cities.

      I wish you an amazing trip and a big fat Indian wedding. I will be following your blog to hear more about your trips. Safe travels.

  16. Very interesting post. I love the idea of visiting Delhi with a hop on hop off bus. Even being a traveling family (with two small kids), visiting Delhi is something that I keep thinking about and such a bus service would be a blessing for small kids (I still don’t thin I would dare to use the metro with the kids… what do you think, is there a risk of losing them in the crowd???). The pictures are awesome as well. I loved the one of the airport.

    • Thank you for your kind review. Travelling within Delhi is a bit hectic but the Hop on Hop off buses are really doing a wonderful job showcasing almost all the places one would want to visit in the city. Winter would be a great time with kids as the summer months are too hot. The Metro is not really that scary for anyone. It might get a little packed at peak hours during the day, but otherwise it is pretty much the best metro system in India currently and starts right from the Airport.

      • So, Johann, does that mean it is not that packed out of peak hours? Because I’d rather use public transport to move in the cities when I visit. If it’s not so packed I could try it with my kids (I’m just scared of losing one of them 😉 )

  17. Your photography is incredible! I havent been to India just yet but have made it to nearby Pakistan a few times. I am planning a trip to India next year, very excited to see what the country holds for me 😀

    • Hi Marita, thank you so much. Well, if you are only visiting Delhi, I’d say you’ll need only a handful of days, say 3-4, roughly. If you take things slow say a week at the max. But Delhi is usually a good base to start a trip to any direction within the northern parts of India. The place is just filled with history at every nook and corner. When it comes to food, you can taste some amazing Mughlai cuisine in Delhi. A mash of Persian, Afghani and Indian cuisine, from street food to world class restaurants, Delhi has it all. But do come prepared for anything. Delhi is notoriously famous for the “Delhi Belly”. I feel so nostalgic now.

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