Itimad ud Daulah

Top Attractions In Agra

Taj Mahal 

Taj Mahal

 

Grand tombs were rarely built for women, and the equation of tomb-beauty would’ve stayed overwhelmingly in favour of the men, had it not been for this one structure, this one monument that blew all competition out of the park – the Taj Mahal built to immortalize Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Before the Taj, the Mughals mostly built using red stone with marble being used mainly for decoration purposes or to break the monotony. By choosing to build the Taj Mahal entirely from marble, Shah Jahan intended to blur the distinction between royalty and divinity and elevated Mumtaz to the level of a saint. The white marble is transluscent, and loves to play with light – so depending on the sunlight and weather conditions when you visit, you may see a different Taj!

The river provides a serene backdrop to the Taj Mahal, and the cool breeze emanating from the river has a soothing effect. But the location next to the river gave rise to the greatest technical challenge to the Taj. The sand banks and the issue of river flooding. The Mughals came up with an ingenious way to secure the foundation. They made hollow cylinders of wood (large enough for a person to fit in) and thrust them into the soft sand. These wells were then filled with stones and iron, giving them strength.

The entire tomb is situated on a two-level platform, known as a chabutra. The first level, around 1.5m high is made of sandstone, while the second one, around 6m high, is clad with marble. The two platforms bestow a look of majestic grandeur to the main tomb – almost as if the architect is positioning the tomb and its occupant at a plane higher than earth and closer to heaven.

Taj Mahal – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Allow for a minimum of 1.5 hours if you intend to cover only the highlights
Opening days:
Open daily expect Friday
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 40)/ Foreigners (INR 1000) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free, Video camera Rs 25. Shooting with a tripod is not allowed
Address:
Taj Road, Agra
How to get there:
Most common options are a 3-4 hour road trip from Delhi to Agra (204 km) by bus/ taxi or the Taj Express/ Shatabdi trains from Delhi. From the main parking area of the Taj, it’s a 7-10 min walk to the main Western Gate. You can also reach the Taj via the Eastern Gate or the Southern Gate

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Agra Fort was built in 1565 – around 7 years before Fatehpur Sikri – at a time when Akbar was still expanding his foothold in the empire. Potential threats were still very high and the royal capital needed protection with massive fortifications, moats and defensive features. The Fort has many structures that are worth seeing –

  • Anguri Bagh – Angur means grapes, and those were grown here at some point of time and Bagh means garden. The garden itself has a design that resembles a carpet. Each of the quadrants have unique bed-dividers forming cartouches, which when planted with flowers look like a carpet.
  • Shish Mahal or Mirror Palace – This chamber had a lot of water devices inside to keep the royal family cool during Agra’s scorching summers. Keeping the heat out and ensuring privacy meant no windows, so the place would’ve been dark all day. How to provide adequate light? Solution: Mirrors!
  • Muthamman Burj – This octagonal tower that projects out of the fort is called either Muthamman Burj or Shahi Burj (Royal Tower). In this building, the Emperor would meet the highest dignitaries and his sons in secret council and also work with his main historian on editing the history of the reign.
  • Khas Mahal – The Khas Mahal was one of the early buildings in the Agra Fort with Shah Jahan’s imprint on it. The clear differentiation was marble – Red sandstone was discarded in favour of this smoother, more reflective and translucent stone.

Other points of interest if you have time are the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas and the Masjids or Mosques.

Agra Fort – Key Information

 

Expected time spent:
Allow for 1.5-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 40)/ Foreigners (INR 550) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras:
Still camera allowed for free, Video camera Rs 25. Shooting with a tripod is not allowed

Address:
Rakabganj, Taj Road 
How to get there
It’s a 20-25 minute walk from the Taj Mahal complex, quite close to the Agra Cantt railway station.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri

A magnificent complex on a hill, Fatehpur Sikri was for a brief period of 14 years in the 16th century, the nerve-centre of the mighty Mughal empire, then the world’s 2nd largest economy.

And then, for reasons that are still not clear, it was unceremoniously abandoned and gradually became a surreal, ghostlike complex.

The main palace complex is essentially 3 courtyards (with multiple buildings), plus a mosque.

– The first is the Public Courtyard, housing the Diwan-e- Aam or ‘Hall of Public Audience’ where ordinary people could get an audience with the Emperor to air their grievances, settle disputes and complaints, and the Emperor would proclaim his judgment.

– The second is a vast private courtyard called the Daulat Khana (or Abode of Wealth), which houses many interesting structures and was primarily restricted to the Emperor and his close, male nobles.

– A third courtyard houses the female quarters with palaces for the various queens, and living accommodations for their staff

– and finally, outside this complex, a short walk away, is the main mosque or Jama Masjid, which houses the tomb of the Sufi Saint Shaikh Salim Chishti

 

Fatehpur Sikri – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Allow for a minimum of 1.5 hours if you intend to cover only the highlights
Opening days:
Open daily
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 40)/ Foreigners (INR 510) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free, Video camera Rs 25. Shooting with a tripod is not allowed
Address:
Fatehpur Sikri
How to get there:
Around 45 km from the Taj Complex, about 1 hour by road. You will need to hire a taxi for the trip, or you can take a local bus from the Idgah bus station in Agra. Buses are frequent but ensure you take a bus that goes to Fatehpur Sikri town, as many buses bound for Bharatpur will drop you 1 km away from the monument.

Itimad ud Daulah

Itimad ud Daulah

This tomb was built in honor of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, by his daughter Nur Jahan, Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s wife. It is her most significant architectural contribution.

It is called Itmad-ud- Daula meaning ‘pillar of the government’ in reference to the title conferred on her father by Jahangir. It is the first tomb in India made entirely of marble (as opposed to red stone) with an elaborately carved tomb. It has octagonal shaped towers and uses arched entrances signifying the Persian influence while the Indian influence is evident from the absence of a dome despite being a tomb.

Itimad ud Daulah – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Allow for 60-75 minutes
Opening days:
Open daily
Opening hours:
6 AM to 6 pm
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 10)/ Foreigners (INR 250) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free, Video camera Rs 25. Shooting with a tripod is not allowed
Address:
Moti Bagh, Etmadpur, Agra
How to get there:
It is located in the Old Agra area, about 30 minutes from the Taj Complex, close to the Agra Fort

Sikandra, Tomb of Akbar the Great

Akbar’s Tomb via Ekabhishek

Akbar was the third Mughal Emperor and generally regarded as one of India’s greatest monarchs in its five-thousand-year history. A key factor driving the Mughal Empire’s longevity was Emperor Akbar who ruled for 49 long years, conquering a large part of the sub-continent including access to seaport for trade with Europe, and during his time established a centralised bureaucracy and other imperial institutions, especially in land revenue management.

The construction of this tomb, located about 10 km from the city centre, was started by Akbar himself and completed by his son, Jahangir. The gateway has large mosaic patterns set into it while its four minarets are built of red sandstone inlaid with marble patterns. The garden is laid in the Char Bagh style, common for all the famous Mughal tombs including the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb.

Akbar’s Tomb – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Allow for 45-60 minutes
Opening days:
Open daily
Opening hours:
6 AM to 6 pm
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 10)/ Foreigners (INR 250) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free, Video camera Rs 25. Shooting with a tripod is not allowed
How to get there:Located on the main Mathura Road, it’s about 18 km/ 45 min drive from the Taj Mahal complex

sim-cards

How to get a SIM Card / Data Connection in India

If like us at CaptivaTour, you need your mobile phone connection and data just a little bit less than you need water and air :), then you will certainly be looking for a way to be connected while on holiday.

This article will guide you on where you can get a SIM card for your phone, and the process.

Where to buy a SIM card:

  1. Kiosks at the airport: These counters are usually located immediately after you clear customs. For the most part, if you have the required documents in order, you should be able to get your card in fifteen to twenty minutes after you fill out the form. A confirmation call is made to your mobile phone to verify details provided in your application, after which the SIM is activated (usually) within 24 hours.
  2. Local cellphone dealer: You might get some reluctance from shopkeepers due to new government regulation that puts validity of the SIM card to your Indian visa or a 3 month limit whichever is shorter. The procedure for activation is similar to the earlier option. Many local dealers may not have mini and micro SIM options on hand.

 

Documentation Required to buy a SIM Card

The Government of India has tightened the regulations on the sale of prepaid SIM cards to foreigners after November 2012 and therefore you need to be prepared to submit the following documents to the vendor along with an application form.

 

  • Filled out Consumer Application Form (CAF)
  • 2 color passport photographs of yourself (3.5 inches x 4.5 inches)
  • A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification, after which it will be returned to you.
  • A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original visa for verification.
  • A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
  • Residency proof – Proof of where you will be staying in India. Guidelines state foreigners may use the address of a local reference, a tour operator, or a hotel where you are staying – A letter confirming that you are a guest will suffice.

 

Which Prepaid SIM card should you buy:

Some of the more popular networks in India are as follows:

  • Airtel: the most popular network in India because of the good coverage in metropolitan areas.
  • Vodafone: one of the better networks for metropolitan coverage.
  • Reliance and Idea: other large carriers in India, which offer both 3G and 4G connectivity.
  • BSNL and MTNL: state owned telecommunications providers that may be a better option if you’re travelling away from the major cities, especially remote regions, as their coverage is better in remote areas.

How much will a SIM Card cost?

Approximately INR 350 (USD 5) for a SIM card with 3 months validity. However depending on the voice and data bundle you buy you may get the SIM card for lower prices as well.

How to make a call using your new Prepaid SIM Card

  • For international calls dial country code + area code + phone number
  • Call to local fixed phone in India ‘City/area code’ followed by the number. City/area codes can be found here.
  • Call to local mobile Dial the 10-digit mobile number without prefixing ‘0’
  • Call to mobile in other state/service circle Dial ‘0’ followed by the 10-digit mobile number

You can add more balance to your SIM card online via the network’s website or at most shops with the network’s logo on the shop front. You will get better deals online as many local shops will not have data heavy bundles available. Most networks have selfcare apps that you can install on your phone to use for adding voice minutes and data to your SIM.

Scams

Tourist Scams to Avoid while in India

Here are a list of 15 scams to avoid while travelling to India. Most are targeted exclusively at foreigners, though some are perpetrated against locals too.

The Hotel Scam – “Pretending to have never heard of your hotel or that your hotel has moved places/burnt down/changed names etc”

The likelihood that this is true is minimal and the driver is almost certainly going to take you to an alternate place where he gets a commission for bringing in gullible travelers like you. It helps to have the location of the hotel on a map (offline or online if you have access to a data connection), distance & shortest route from the airport or railway station along with the hotel’s local number to call & check for directions if needed. Alternately, just get the hotel to organize a pick for you – more expensive but worth it to avoid the hassle. There will be plenty of time during your stay in India to try local transport once you settle in (relatively speaking!).

 

The SIM card scam – “You can buy & use SIM without filling any paperwork”

For buying a SIM in India, both locals & foreigners are required to fill out paperwork. For foreigners or tourists, you need to fill out a Consumer Application Form (CAF) and submit below information.

  • 2 color passport photographs
  • A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification, after which it will be returned to you.
  • A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original visa for verification.
  • A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
  • Residency proof – Proof of where you will be staying in India. Guidelines state foreigners may use the address of a local reference, a tour operator, or a hotel where you are staying – A letter confirming that you are a guest will suffice.

If they don’t ask for all that, they are either giving you a used SIM which means you’ll get calls all day from random Indians, or they aren’t even planning on filing your paperwork which means the SIM will not get activated. As a tourist, its best to go straight to a local cellphone dealer of any of the popular networks in India (Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL), fill in the paperwork and get a new SIM card.

 

The change scam – “Give you the wrong amount or pretend that you have given a Rs 100 note instead of a Rs 500 or Rs 1000 note”

Show and if possible, say aloud the amount you are handing over to the driver or shop keeper or anyone else you are dealing with and always count the change you received right in front of them. It’s also a good idea to have more of 100 rupee notes with you so that these problems are avoided (change at your hotel or when buying something at a ‘respectable’ establishment). Many shops are unable to change or accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes for small transactions.

 

The photo scam – “Tips for a photo you take”

When taking photos of animals (usually elephants or dressed up cows) & sometimes even local people, someone nearby is expecting a tip. They may ask upwards of INR 100 and will shout or yell if you don’t pay up. If you see the owner around, check if there are any charges and negotiate before clicking a picture.

 

The beggar scam – “Exchange whatever you buy back for money”

Tourists are usually the first people approached by beggars/ children on the street etc asking for money. If you refuse to give money to support this “business”, they change tack and ask instead for you to buy milk for their hungry child or purchase pens for school. This sounds fine as you are not really giving money but helping them out in a more meaningful way. Unfortunately, this is a scam too as the beggars/ kids have a deal with the store to return the product when you leave in exchange for money.

 

The bill or invoice scam – “Asking you to pay again for the stay or charging for drinks/ eatables that you didn’t even order”

With anything prepaid, ensure you keep the receipts/ invoices handy to show the hotel if asked to pay again during check in or check out. The other scam to watch out for is being charged for food or drinks you didn’t order. If you catch it, they will claim it was a mix up from a different table and subtract the amount from the bill while leaving the service charge (~15%) and luxury charge (~10%) taken on the original higher amount. If the difference matters to you, get them to make a new bill.

 

The Commission scam – “Drivers/ guides etc get commissions from most places they recommend at your expense”

On the way, the driver or guide will check if you are hungry or are looking to buy anything. He is being incentivized or given a commission for bringing you there. And that’s why like most tourist places, its best to do your own research instead of asking your driver to take you to the best local food or shopping in town. Ask for a recommendation from your hotel desk or research online – TripAdvisor, Zomato (India’s Yelp) are good sources! If you get to know a driver and use him often or he comes with a recommendation from family/ friends, then you can start to build trust.

 

The Pashmina/ shopping scam – “Original available at only a 1000 bucks”

It’s a fake! There is no way you can buy original Cashmere or pashmina for Rs 1000. If you still like it and would like to buy, negotiate it down to a rate you are happy paying. Tip: Start at 50% of the original rate! On the other hand, if you are concerned about getting cheated or not one to bargain, shop at the different state emporiums in Delhi where rates are fixed but reasonable & you are assured of the quality. Other options include Delhi Haat (ensure you visit the original, fakes abound!), Tibetan market for cheap clothes & other knick knacks etc.

 

Bogus train tickets or information offices scam – “Phony offices selling you tickets”

If there are not many computers or proper desks, and the “employees” are telling you that trains or hotels are booked out due to an upcoming event but they can make alternate arrangements – you are at a fake office. Do your research on which trains are suitable for you, timings, costs etc before you go to a ticketing or information office.

 

The Free bracelet or gift scam – “Gifting you something or putting things in your hand saying they are for free and then asking to be paid”

Very common around temples where kids or “Holy men” put flower bracelets or tie a red string on your wrist saying ‘it’s a gift’ and then ask you for money. If you are not sure, feel free to decline and walk away.

 

The broken meter scam – “Check for a working meter before you get in a taxi/ auto rickshaw”

Check if the auto/ taxi has a working meter before you get in and if feasible, check at the hotel desk/ trusted local, on how much it will cost. If you are in a hurry, agree on a price ahead of time and show them the destination on a map (phone or otherwise) so they go the shortest route. Also keep in mind, just because they are willing to use a meter, doesn’t mean that the meter is set appropriately! You’ll get used to how fast the meter should run and if it’s going too quickly, call the guy out on it so he is aware that you know.

 

Leaving luggage in the car – “Only if you have hired the car & driver from a trusted source”

Do not leave any valuables in the car – your wallet, passport, travel insurance and any other important documents you are carrying. If you are leaving your luggage in the car, take a photo of the license plate, driver’s information (like name, phone no, where he is expected to park the vehicle etc) and don’t pay him until the end of the day.

 

Renting a bike or a car – “Check if it is in working condition (especially tires & brakes) before you rent it”

When you rent a bike or car, inform them and take photos of the damage already there – rent the one with the least damage to avoid hassles later. Check if the tires have sufficient air, brakes are working properly, how long the petrol is expected to last and take it for a short test ride to check if everything is in working condition. Always lock up your bike when parked even if you are running a short errand to avoid it getting stolen.

 

Food or Drink tampering scam – “Spurious bottled water, spiked food etc”

It’s important to inspect bottled water before purchase to check if the cap has been tampered with as there are cases where the shopkeepers refill with tap water and glue the lid back on – if possible, buy all food & drink at super or hyper markets. Be extra careful and never accept food or drink from strangers especially in trains as there are cases of tourists being drugged and robbed.

 

The Police scam – “Stop only the cab you are traveling in & ask for a road fee”

While traveling in a cab or taxi, if the police stop your car (and no one else’s) and ask you to pay a road fee/ fine/ tax etc, they are most probably taking you for a ride. The cab driver may be a good guy and tell the cop ‘NO’ or he may not have an option and ask you to pay to avoid getting into trouble with the local police. You can argue (not worth it) and in the end pay up as the driver won’t go otherwise. Road tolls, parking fees at certain places etc are real and you have to pay for them.

Diwan-e-Aam Pillars

Top Attractions In Delhi – South Delhi

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

Located in the Mehrauli Archeological park, the principal attraction in South Delhi is the Qutub Minar, an iconic 800-year-old tower that has endured earthquakes and lightning for eight centuries.

The Qutub tower at 72.5 meters (tallest stone tower in India) is a stunning example of collaboration across generations. It was started by Qutubuddin Aibak in 1193, to commemorate his victory over an Indian Rajput King, Prithviraj Chauhan, but he could only complete the first floor, before he died. Iltutmish then completed the rest of the tower by building three more floors (yes, it originally had only four floors). It is believed that the tower is named Qutub Minar, not after Aibak, but his namesake, Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, a much revered Sufi saint, who lived around that time, and whose tomb is built nearby.

In any case, it’s a testament to Iltutmish’s humility to build 60% of the tower and not name it after himself! Around a hundred and forty years after he built it, the fourth floor was damaged in a lightning strike – it was repaired by the then ruler, Firuz Shah Tughlak, who added the fifth floor and made a few changes.  In fact when further lightning strikes and earthquakes damaged the Minar, there were other rulers down the line who repaired it. In the sixteenth century, Sikander Lodhi undertook some repair; while the British did some repairs in the nineteenth century. Having been started by Qutubuddin Aibak and then built on by further Kings, the Qutub Minar is a wonderful example of collaboration among multiple rulers.

Qutub Minar – Key Information

Expected time spent:
1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
Sunrise to sunset (typically 7 AM to 6 pm)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Indians (INR 30)/ Foreigners (INR 500) and free for children under 15 years
Cameras: 
Still camera allowed for free
Address:
Aurobindo Marg
Closest metro station:
Qutub Minar
How to get there:
The nearest metro station is Qutub Minar station which is around 2.3 km away. You can hire an auto from the metro station to reach the site.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb is India’s first garden tomb, and a worthy precursor to the Taj – built around seventy years before the Taj, in the year 1571.

This beautiful building stands majestically on the banks of the Yamuna river perfect in its symmetry and awe-inspiring grandeur.

Built in the rather unique octagonal shape, it stands out among the hundreds of tomb structures in Delhi.

That symmetry, however, could not be more ill-suited to describe the life of the ruler for whom it was so lovingly created: the Mughal Emperor, Humayun, second ruler of the Mughal dynasty, and the son of its founder, Babur.

Humayun’ means ‘fortunate’. However, many believe that, given his tragic life, Humayun was quite unfortunate. A ruler who would’ve remained forgotten had it not been for this extraordinary tomb built for him, redeeming his legacy forever.

Humayun’s Tomb – Key Information

Expected time spent:
Around 1-1.5 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
7 am to noon, 1:30 pm to 6:30 pm (tourists are not allowed during prayer hours)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:
Still camera is free
Location:
Mathura Road, opposite Nizamuddin Dargah
Closest metro station:
JLN Stadium (Violet Line)
How to get there
You can take an autorickshaw from the JLN Stadium metro (about INR 50). Alternate metro stations include Khan Market and Jor Bagh.

Hauz Khas

The Hauz Khas complex contains the ancient ruins of Alauddin Khilji’s historic city, Siri, which dates back to the 13th century. In addition to its numerous ancient stone monuments, the entire village is dotted with domed tombs of minor Muslim royalty, who were laid to rest here from the 14th to 16th centuries. Other highlights include the water tank, remnants of an ancient college and the tomb of Firoz Shah, who ruled Delhi in the 14th century, as well as Ki Masjid, a fine mosque built in Lodi style.

Once famous for ancient ruins and architecture, Hauz Khas is now one of the most vibrant places in Delhi with a number of art galleries, fashionable restaurants, and boutiques.

Hauz Khas – Key Information

Best time to visit:
Any time of the day
Expected time spent:
Allow for at least 1-2 hours, more if you plan to visit the shops and boutiques.Opening days:

Monday to Saturday (closed on Sunday). Restaurants are open on all days till 11 PM

Opening hours:

10:30 AM to 7 PM

Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free

Cameras:
Free

Closest metro station:

Hauz Khas (yellow line)

How to get there:

Drive along Aurobindo Marg towards the Hauz Khas enclave. Follow the signages for the village or ask a local. If you’re taking the metro, the Hauz Khas and Green Park stations (on the Yellow Line) are just a 5-minute auto-ride away.

 

 

Lodhi Gardens

Spread over 90 acres, Lodhi Gardens is a beautifully landscaped city park strewn with ancient monuments belonging to the Sayyid and Lodhi periods. Located on the main Lodi Road, about 1 km east of Safdarjang’s tomb, it contains – Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Tomb of Sikandar Lodi, Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad – architectural works of Lodhis who ruled parts of northern India & Pakistan, from 1451 to 1526.

Muhammad Shah’s Tomb

The tomb of Muhammad Shah (1434-44), the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty is located in the southwestern part of the garden. Built in 1444 by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah as a tribute, it is a typical octagonal tomb with the central chamber surrounded by a verandah having three arched openings on each side. There are stone lintels (chhajjas) along the arches of the verandah with the sloping buttresses at the corner and a chhatri on the roof over the center of each side. The tomb definitely shares its prominent features with the previous octagonal tombs but the beauty of this tomb lies in its proportions, the crowning lotus and decoration on the domes. There are eight graves inside the tomb of which the central one is said to be the grave of Muhammad Shah.

Bara Gumbad

Bara Gumbad is a square tomb surmounted by a large dome, situated 300 meters northeast of Muhammad Shah’s tomb. Though often considered as a gateway of Bara Mosque, which it is not, the tomb has facades and turrets and was supposedly built during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517). According to the records, the interior of the tomb was beautified with stuccowork and paintings. Since the tomb had no graves, the person buried inside is till date unidentified. It is assumed that he must be an officer of high rank for whom such a magnificent structure was constructed.

Sheesh Gumbad

Few meters north of Bara Gumbad Mosque lies another Lodi period tomb, the Sheesh Gumbad also known as ‘glazed dome’ because of the beautiful blue tiled decoration of the tomb, of which now only traces remain. Very similar to Bara Gumbad in appearance, the western wall of the tomb has the mihrab that served as a mosque. The tomb is surmounted by a dome, which was originally decorated with blue tiles. Some of the similar decoration can be seen today but only above the main façade. The interior of the tomb was also decorated with incised plasterwork containing floral designs and Quranic inscriptions.

Sikandar Lodi’s Tomb

Located in the northwestern corner of Lodi Gardens, this octagonal tomb lies about 250 meters north of the Sheesh Gumbad. It has a central octagonal chamber with each side opening in three arches with sloping buttresses at the corner. The tomb is enclosed within a square garden and has a wall-mosque on the west.

Athpula
Athpula is further located east of Sikandar Lodi’s tomb. As the name suggests (Ath-eight, Pula-piers), the stone bridge has eight piers and seven arches and crosses the small waterway running through the garden. The bridge is said to have been built during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s reign by Nawab Bahadur.

 

Lodhi Gardens – Key Information

Best time to visit:

Mornings

Expected time spent:
Around 1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week
Opening hours:
6 am to 7 pm
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:

Free

Location:
Lodhi Road
Closest metro station:
Jor Bagh (yellow line) or Khan Market (Violet line)
How to get there
This landmark garden is situated right between Khan Market and Safdurjung’s Tomb on Lodhi Road. Jor Bagh (on the Yellow Line) and Khan Market (on the Violet Line) are the closest metro stations.

Lotus Temple

Bahai Temple or the Bahai House of worship, is literally constructed in the shape of a large, white lotus flower. Like all other Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction. It is a gathering place where one is allowed to read or chant from holy scriptures belonging to any religion, but nobody is allowed to play musical instruments, give sermons or hold religious ceremonies inside the hall. The main temple area prohibits visitors from making any noise whatsoever and lays emphasis on meditation as a means to experience divinity.

Lotus Temple – Key Information

Best time to visit:

Late evening, when it is lit up

Expected time spent:
Around 1-2 hours
Opening days:
All days of the week except Monday
Opening hours:

9 AM to 7 PM (Summer); 9 AM to 5:30 PM (Winter)
Entry fee/ Ticket price:
Free
Cameras:

Free

Location:
Lotus Temple Road, Shambhu Dayal Bagh, Bahapur, Near Kalkaji Temple
Closest metro station:
Kalkaji Mandir (Violet line)
How to get there
The temple is located close to the Kalkaji Mandir metro station (on the Violet Line) and right next to the Kalkaji Park. Entry to the temple is via parking lot.
Red_Fort_A00C01P01_Red_Fort_facade

History of Delhi

Delhi is believed to have been the site of the fabled city of Indraprastha, which featured in the Mahabharata over 3000 years ago, but archeological evidence suggests that the area has been settled for around 2500 years.

However, for most of Indian history before the Turkic Muslim invasion in 1192 AD, Delhi didn’t really figure as a significant city on India’s map. Other cities such as Pataliputra, Ujjain, Kannauj and Mathura had been the major seats of power. Delhi attained some importance under the Tomar Rajputs from around 1050 AD; but it had never been a place from where the entire subcontinent’s fate would be decided.

That changed after the Turkic invasion.

Delhi was adopted as the formal capital of the new rulers. And since then, it has always been the most important city in India (barring a couple of centuries in between, when Agra, and then Calcutta held that honour). What made this city, which was an obscure hamlet for close to three thousand years, such an enduring choice for the capital of this vast country?

Like most things involving real estate, the answer is: location, location, location.

You can read more about Delhi’s location and it’s importance in this post.

For control over India, it’s important to have control over India’s most populous region. And the location of Delhi is ideal for doing so. It was almost as if India’s rulers experimented with multiple cities and sites before stumbling upon Delhi, and realised ‘Hey, we may be onto something here!’ And that’s how Delhi attained its status as India’s pre-eminent city and has pretty much retained it ever since.

Delhi is a city of cities, built and destroyed several times with at least eight known to have been founded around modern Delhi, the last of which was the British Raj’s New Delhi. Earliest existing ruins date from AD 736, when Tomara ruler Anangpal Tomar II, built Lal Kot, a fortified city in Mehrauli region as the first city of Delhi, to halt raids by Mahmud of Ghazni. After Anangpal’s demise, his maternal grandson Prithviraj Chauhan, then king of Ajmer took control of Lal Kot and renamed it Rai Pithora (remains of the fort walls are visible in Mehrauli around Qutub complex, Kishangarh and Vasant Kunj areas).

In the late twelfth century, Mohammed Ghori a Turk from present-day Afghanistan tried to capture Delhi and was initially defeated. But Ghori attacked for a second time the following year and executed Prithviraj Chauhan in a fierce battle in 1192 AD.

There’s an interesting backstory to that defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, that is told in an epic poem known as Prithviraj Raso, composed by his court poet.

Here’s how the story goes (Note: this story features in our Qutub Minar Audio Guide . For more such stories, take our audio guides for a spin on your Android or iOS phones.)

Prithviraj was an up-and-coming Rajput King, ruling over Delhi and Ajmer. He’d aroused the envy of his neighbouring ruler, the much older Jaichand of Kannauj. This Jaichand had a daughter called Samyogita.

Prithviraj and Samyogita fell for each other. The worried dad organised a “Swayamvar” for her. A “swayamvar” was a ceremony where the girl got to choose her husband, among many potential suitors; you could think of it as an ancient, feminist twist to the Indian arranged marriage system!) Naturally Prithviraj wasn’t called and what’s more – to add insult to injury, his statue was kept outside the door as a doorman! When it was time for Samyogita to choose, guess what she did: ignored all the other suitors, walked straight outside, and garlanded the statue. Prithviraj, who was hiding nearby, took his cue. He rushed in to take his girl and eloped with her on his horse… no doubt leaving behind a fuming Jaichand!

Why are we narrating this cute (if slightly incredulous) story in the context of Prithviraj’s loss on the battlefield? Well, by following his heart, Prithviraj made an unfortunate mistake – he antagonised the one guy who could’ve supported him, when the Turks came attacking. As it happened, Jaichand famously stayed away from the battle between Prithviraj and Mohammed Ghori. In fact, the Prithviraj Raso claims that Jaichand actively aided Ghori. That view is so popular, that Jaichand’s name became synonymous with treachery in Hindi folklore.

After conquering Delhi, when Mohammed Ghori left for Afghanistan, he left his trusted Turk slave, Qutub-ud-din Aibak in charge here. But hang on, you may ask – what happened to family? What about handing over the throne to your descendants or close family members? In Ghori’s case, he had no children; but a key factor that drove the preference for slaves by royals was their distrust of family. A saying in Persian captures the thought succinctly:

‘One obedient slave is better than three hundred sons; for the former desires his master’s glory; the latter, their father’s death.’

Qutub-ud-din Aibak built the Qutub Complex, which remains one of the most interesting sights in the city. Aibak took over the Indian spoils of war after Ghori’s assassination in 1206, founding the Delhi Sultanate, which was to rule Delhi and the surrounding region for almost 2 centuries.

In 1303, the Delhi Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji built the second city, Siri, near present-day Hauz Khas to defend the Delhi Sultanate against the Mongols.

Then the Tughluqs built Tughlaqabad, 8km (5 miles) east of the Qutub Complex, but this was deserted in 1321 and little remains of this city. After a brief sojourn in latter-day Maharashtra, the Tughluqs moved the city again in 1327, this time between Lal Kot and Siri, and named this fourth city Jahanpanah. These cities of Delhi were to the south, around the area where the Qutub Minar now stands.

A mere 27 years later the capital was moved again, this time some distance north to an eminently sensible position on the Yamuna River. Named Ferozabad, at Firoz Shah Kotla in present-day New Delhi, this sprawling fifth city was, according to legend, one of the richest in the world.

The Tughlaq dynasty received its final blow, when Timur invaded India in 1398. For eight days Delhi was plundered, enough to destroy what little was left of the Tughlaq foundations. Starting out as vassals of Timur, the Sayyids and from them the Lodis, did not build brand-new cities and their tombs are found scattered in the Lodi Gardens. Babur, king of Kabul, and native of Ferghana, dislodged the Lodi dynasty after defeating Ibrahim Lodi in the historic first battle of Panipat in 1526. Though Babur had a smaller army than that of the Lodis’, the cannons brought by him, and superior tactics balanced out the deficit in numbers. It was the first time that cannons were used in India, and unprepared for such a kind of onslaught, Lodis were defeated. Their defeat by the Mughal Babur signaled the end of Sultanate rule and the start of the Mughal empire, one of the world’s greatest medieval dynasties, which ruled the region for over 200 years.

It was Babur who first moved the capital to nearby Agra, but his son Humayun chose to return to Delhi in 1534, only to be forced into exile by the advancing army of the Afghan Sher Shah, who took possession of Purana Qila (literally “old fort”) in 1540, rebuilt this sixth city, and renamed the citadel Shergarh. In a brief span of 5 years (1540-1545), he made drastic reforms in civil and military administration. The currency of Rupiya was first issued in those times.

The Grand Trunk Road was built from Chittagong in Bangladesh to Kabul in Afghanistan, improving the transportation and postal services. Tragedy struck the Suris when an explosion of gunpowder took the king’s life in 1545. Islam Shah, his son succeeded him, but he too died in a short span in 1554. A series of weak rulers followed Islam Shah, thus creating an opportunity for the Mughals to return.

Fifteen years later, Humayun took back his throne, only to die an ignominious death a year later, falling down his library steps — his tomb, which can be seen from the southern gate of Purana Qila, remains one of Delhi’s top attractions. Under the guidance of Bairam Khan, Humayun’s son, Akbar, became one of the most able rulers in the history of India. Generally revered for his religious tolerance and diplomacy, he also instituted reforms in taxation and judiciary. He chose to move the capital back to Agra from Delhi. Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, constructed the seventh Delhi in 1639, thus shifting the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi; his Shahjahanabad roughly corresponds to Old Delhi today and is largely preserved. After the death of Aurangzeb, revolts had increased, and the Mughal empire started to disintegrate. Following the invasion by Nadir Shah in 1739, the foundations of Mughal dynasty were fatally weakened. In 1803, the British captured Delhi and promptly installed a British administrator. Delhi wasn’t the capital of India at the time, but it was a critical commercial centre. After the revolt of 1857, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah was exiled to Burma by the British and in 1876, Queen Victoria was proclaimed the empress of India.

The last of Delhi’s cities to be built, New Delhi took shape between 1911 and 1933. Designed by the British imperialist architects Lutyens and Baker, New Delhi’s major buildings are considered some of the finest artefacts of the British Empire.

Autorickshaw

Getting Around in Delhi

Like any great city of the world, Delhi is a fairly easy to get about in once you get the hang of it. Having a data connection on your mobile will help find out routes and to get your bearings.

Here are your top choices for local travel in Delhi:

The Metro

(Delhi’s lifeline – quick, reliable, safe!)

The Delhi Metro

The Delhi Metro

metrosightGetting there: Use Google Maps or ask a trusted local for nearest metro station or look for this sign of the Delhi Metro

Tickets: For single journey, it’s best to buy a token at the station. For multiple journeys, the ‘Metro card’ is super-convenient and great value. (no lines, discounted fare and a refundable deposit)

Metro Card

Metro Card

In the metro train: First coach of the train is reserved for women and extremely useful during crowded hours (especially mornings and evenings). No food/drink allowed inside.

 

Buses

(Useful for shorter distances, routes not covered by metro)

Getting there: Use Google Maps for routes & bus numbers to the required destination. Look for this sign to identify Bus Stops.

Air-Con Bus

Air-Con Bus

Tickets: Buy using cash inside the bus – make sure you have the correct change in coins/ notes. Cost usually in multiples of Rs. 5, and very cheap!

Non-A/C Bus

Non-A/C Bus

In the bus: It can get very crowded and uncomfortable – especially during rush hours. Look for separate seats reserved for ladies in front of the bus.

 

Autos (a.k.a ‘tuk-tuks’) and Rickshaws

(Last mile-connectivity)

Getting there: Usually hailed from the street; autos can also be called using the ‘Ola’ app which you can download if you are planning a longer stay and are keen on only using public transport for travel.

Autorickshaw

Autorickshaw

Fare/ Cost: Autos are metered, but drivers rarely abide by them. Use a thumb-rule of Rs. 10/km; find out the shortest distance using Google Maps. Cycle-rickshaw fare is usually standard amount depending on distance. Ask a trusted local when in doubt.

Rickshaw

Rickshaw

Radio & App Based Taxis

(When You’re in a Hurry)

Getting there: Use your mobile phone to call for a cab using the Uber or Ola apps. Another option is Meru.

Fare/ Cost: Fares are typically around Rs 10/km, while they vary lower and higher depending on the time of the day, special offers as well as surge pricing. Meru is about 2-3 times more expensive.