With Delhi celebrating it’s 100th year as the national capital, we decided to bring to you a special feature on the History of Delhi. Hope you find it interesting.
Delhi has a long history including a history as the capital of several empires. Let’s take you through the history of Delhi through its previous capitals:
City1: Popular Hindu mythology claims that Delhi was the site of the fabled city of Indraprastha, which featured in the Mahabharata over 3000 years ago. Hindu texts state that the city of Delhi used to be referred to in Sanskrit as Hastinapur, which means “elephant-city”.
City2: According to Satyarth Prakash (1874) of Swami Dayanand, Raja Dhilu (King Dihlu) founded ancient Delhi in 800 BC and named it “Dilhu” .However it is not supported by any older texts.
City 3: Modern Delhi is usually said to have come into being when the Tomara Rajput ruler Anangpal founded “Dhilli“. He built a fort called Lal Kot , in which the Qutb Minar stands today. The iron pillar was originally erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya in front of a Vishnu Temple complex at Udayagiri around 402 AD. It was shifted by Anangpal from Udaygiri to its present location.
City4: In 1180, a rival Rajput clan, the Chauhans, ousted the Tomaras and renamed the walled citadel Qila Rai Pithora.Soon afterwards, in the two successive battles of Tarain in 1191, the Rajputs succumbed to Afghan leader Muhammad Ghauri. Ghauri was assassinated in 1206 and succeeded by his Turkish general, Qutb-ud-din Aibak who founded the Delhi Sultanate . He named the capital as “Mehrauli“.
City 5: The slave dynasty was followed by the Khilji dynasty. Ala-ud-din Khilji built “Siri” in 1303. Near present-day Hauz Khas, it grew into a flourishing commercial centre.
City6: Cracks appeared in the Khilji dynasty and the ensuing period of confusion only ended when Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq proclaimed himself Sultan in 1320. Ghiyas-ud-din in turn built a city fortress, at “Tughluqabad”, 8km east of Qutb. The capital was later shifted 1100km south to Daulatabad in Maharashtra.
City 7: Water scarcity drove the Tughluqs back to Delhi in 1327, and as a recompense for the mistake, a new city, “Jahanpanah“, was built between Lal Kot and Siri by the eccentric Muhammad bin Tughluq.
City 8: The next sultan, Firuz Shah, fascinated by the Ashokan pillars of Meerut and Topra, had them moved to the new capital, the city of “Firozabad“, built beside the river in 1354.
City 9: The Tughluq line came to an end in 1398, when Timur a Central Asian Turk, sacked Delhi. His successors, the Sayyids (1414-44), were ousted by Buhlul Lodi who established a dynasty that left behind the fine tombs and mosques still to be seen in the beautiful Lodi Gardens. The Lodi dynasty ended when Ibrahim Lodi was defeated by Babur who founded the Mughal Dynasty. Babur moved his capital to Agra. Babur’s successor Humayun was driven out of India by Sher Shah Suri who quickly built the fort, “Din-Panah”, or Asylum of Faith, which still stands on the banks of the Yamuna in the southwest of modern Delhi and is known as Purana Qila.
City10: Sher Shah was surrounded by bickering power-thirsty relatives, all of whom were overcome when Humayun returned from Kabul to retake Delhi in 1555. When Humayun died in a fall in 1556, his wife Banu Begum built a sandstone garden tomb for him in Nizamuddin. His son Akbar took over as emperor, and the capital was moved once more to Agra. It was his grandson Shah Jahan who shifted the capital back to Delhi and built “Shahjahanabad“. It is now referred to as Old Delhi and incorporates the mighty Red Fort and the huge Jama Masjid.
City 11: Over the next few decades, Mughal supremacy began to fade and they were reduced to puppet kings.The British, who had already gained footholds in Madras and Bengal under the guise of the East India Company, moved to Delhi in 1803 during the reign of the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah. The British retained a hold on Delhi while administering affairs of state from their capital in Calcutta. When King George V came to India from England to be crowned as emperor in 1911,he decided to make Delhi India’s new capital . Fervent construction of sprawling bungalows, parliamentary buildings and public offices followed, and in 1931 “New Delhi“ was officially inaugurated as the capital of Britain’s largest colonial possession.
Today, Delhi is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population next to Mumbai. Owing to the migration of people from across the country, Delhi has grown to be a multicultural, cosmopolitan metropolis. Its rapid development and urbanisation, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population and a checkered history, has transformed Delhi into a major cultural, political, and commercial centre of India.