Ma­jes­tic past and present

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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.

Con­tem­po­rary flair

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.

An­cient city

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.

Shop­ping ga­lore

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.

For more de­tails, go to­cred­i­blein­

Sikan­dra Agra houses the tomb of Ak­bar the Great.

Qutab Mi­nar is ar­guably one of the finest mon­u­ments in In­dia.

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