Majestic past and present
remained the capital of the Mughals until the end of the dynasty in 1857. Despite having become extremely crowded and dilapidated today, the place still serves as the symbolic heart of metropolitan Delhi.
Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, projects beautifully into the Old Delhi skyline. Built by more than 5,000 artisans, the courtyard of the mosque can hold up to 25,000 worshippers. It also houses several relics in a closet in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Quran written on deer skin.
Originally meaning moonlit square, Chandni Chowk is the commercial heart of Old Delhi, with many wholesale markets. It is especially notable as a market for traditional silver jewellery, handicrafts and sweetmeats.
Situated just opposite Chandni Chowk is one of the most spectacular pieces of Mughal architecture and Unesco World Heritage Site — the Red Fort. The fort houses the Diwani-Am (hall of public audience) where the Emperor used to listen to the plight of common people.
If Old Delhi was the living capital of the Mughal dynasty, then the Humanyun tomb is its necropolis. This magnificent garden tomb was the burial ground of the ruling Mughal family. Inside the walled enclosure, a mausoleum topped by double domes rests on the garden squares with its many pathways and water channels.
For a more contemporary flair, make a stop at the Bahai Temple. Built in the shape of a lotus flower, the white marble architecture was completed in 1986 and is set among lush green landscaped gardens. Adherents of any faith are free to visit the temple to pray or meditate.
When in Delhi, shopping remains one of the most imperative activities for visitors. Apart from Chandni Chowk, the other principle shopping areas are Connaught Place, Karol Bagh and South Extension.
The feature of a Delhi market is that every shopping hub has its own ambience. For one, Connaught Place is one of the largest commercial centres in Delhi. On the other hand, Baba Kharak Singh Margis is dotted with emporiums that offer famous handicraft artifacts from different states of India.
Approximately 200km away from Delhi is Agra, an ancient city that’s synonymous with being the home of the Taj Mahal.
Phenomenal not only in beauty, but also the thought and design that went into its making, the white mausoleum is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture.
Majestic and sensuous, the bulbous dome and minarets have all been inscribed meticulously with the Holy Verses. It is suggested that one should walk around the outside of the tomb to appreciate it from all sides.
However, to only plan your trip around the Taj Mahal would be a grave injustice to the city of Agra as there are many other places of interest.
The Agra Fort, for instance, is a splendid structure in its own right and is considered to be the inspiration for the Red Fort in Delhi. The massive and forbidding reddish brown exterior houses many exquisite and fascinating buildings such as the Jahangir Mahal, Moti Masijid, Shish Mahal and other regal buildings.
There’s also the exquisite Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb. Made by Emperor Jahangir’s queen Nurjahan, in memory of her father Mirza Beg, the tomb is built entirely in white marble and inlaid with semiprecious stones.
Another place worth visiting is Jama Masjid, a large mosque attributed to Princess Jahanara Begum. The struc- ture is notable for its unusual dome and absence of minarets. Agra also claimed a first in the world for the Interactive Theatre at Adlabs multiplex. The venue is the first ever interactive cinema in the world.
There are plenty of shopping areas and malls where one can buy local specialties. The local artisans are great at making leather goods such as chappals (sandals), purses, bags and decorative items.
The main shopping areas in Agra include the Taj Mahal complex, Kinari Bazaar, Raja Mandi, and Sadar Bazaar. Spend time in Sadar Bazaar where you can shop while enjoying delicious street food.
Blending culture and an illustrious past, Delhi and Agra are quintessential cities that truly illustrate the beauty and depth of India.
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Sikandra Agra houses the tomb of Akbar the Great.
Qutab Minar is arguably one of the finest monuments in India.