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Architecture

Delhi Architecture That Says Wow!

If you want one place that displays various styles of architecture, you must visit Delhi. The place with its huge and ancient Mughal monuments provides a positive energy that cannot be witnessed in any other city in India. The architectural brilliance of these monuments is a valid proof of the rich cultural heritage of India. Nagara, Gothic, Mughal, Islamic, British, Persian and many more styles are reflected in the monuments of Delhi. British buildings with their huge courtyards and steep stairs are indeed a treat to watch. The same applies to the grandeur of the Mughal monuments, with their intricate marble and red sandstone works. The Red Fort, a magic in red sandstone and marble, situated right at the centre of the Chandni Chowk market area, is a trademark symbol of Delhi even today, though it was constructed many centuries ago. If this was what you witnessed in Old Delhi, take a stroll around Central Delhi to visit some of the exquisite British style structures and monuments. The best is yet to come! Come to the banks of the river Yamuna to witness a massive and splendid structure -  a new temple that was built in just years with the help of 11000 craftsmen. We are talking about the brand new, huge and awesome Akshardham Temple, dedicated to Lord Swaminarayana – a living symbol to prove the magnificence of the Indian temple style of architecture.

The Delhi city that we see today was the effort of 2 decades of hard work, starting right from 1911. The architectural styles of Delhi are inspired by not one, but many sources like British Classical and Palladian. The Viceroy who ruled Delhi then, Lord Hardinge and historian, EB Havell were the main people who ensured that architecture in Delhi reflected the minute and intricate patterns of these styles.

One of the basic phrases that suit Delhi – never say die attitude. Though it has been destroyed and looted many times in the past, Delhi has always been back with a bang! A resilience and perseverance that is evident only in very few places in the world today.  There have been many incidents in the past, when citizens have returned to normalcy just hours after devastating occurrences.

Architectural History of Delhi

The best examples of ancient architectural styles in Delhi are the walled city of Shahjahanabad, Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. Though most of the walls have been destroyed today, the city of Shahjahanabad reflects the architectural brilliance of the Mughal rulers of the yesteryears. The remnants of red sandstone and marble structures found here today, speak volumes about the heritage from where they are. In the earlier days, Shahjahanabad was connected with other towns through huge gates that led into zig-zagged streets. These streets led guests all the way to the ancient Chandni Chowk market area.

The main street of the city directed guests to the famous Red Fort, which was a huge military complex, protected by huge walls made from the sturdiest of materials. Next to this complex, one could find the tall Jama Masjid, which was very spacious and constructed on top of a hill. The mosque is the largest prayer hall in the country today for Muslims and the structure was built in such a way so as to reflect the social and economic classes that were prevalent in the society in the earlier days.

New Delhi, that we know today, is also known as Lutyens Delhi, because it was Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker (famous architects from Britain) who entirely built the place between 1911 and 1931. These 20 years, the place went through an amazing transformation as remarkable British style buildings were set up during this time. These were in order to make Delhi, the official capital of the British Empire. Broad road and well-planned public amenities were part of this transformation. The Rashtrapati Bhavan is an excellent example of British style of architecture. Victoria House that was designed by Lutyens is one of those structures where the architect combines certain Mughal style of elements as well - like usage of domes, red and yellow sandstone and other minute details.

Lutyen’s New Delhi

Lutyen’s plan that was laid out for construction of New Delhi between 1912 and 1931 was heavily inspired by the Versailles and L’Enfant’s Washington. The city was dominated by buildings and monuments that used physical fibre of low height, networks of axial movements and strong reflections of terminal vistas. These structures made New Delhi perfectly fit to be known as the capital of the British Empire. All government offices and other important establishments were set up here.

The plan that Lutyens laid out for Delhi contained two important corridors that intersected at the Capitol Complex. One was of Jama Masjid belonging to Shahjahanabad and other was of the Old Fort or Purana Qila, a part of Old Delhi. In the east-west direction of the Purana Qila, one can find Central Vista. This leads into the Capitol Complex and finally meets at the Vice Regal Palace. One look from the Capitol Complex gives an excellent view of the huge lawns and roads, broad roads and sprawling grounds located in and around the India Gate. There was also a pavilion that was planned to provide shelter to King George.

The Capitol Complex is an absolutely beautiful landscape with water used extensively in gardens around Vice Regal Palace and Raisina Hill’s Office Court. Just beneath the official blocks, there are fountains arranged in a symmetrical pattern. These are the sources of water that are found on both sides of the Rajpath. These water bodies, which are just about less than a metre deep, meet at the India Gate, where there are two more fountains arranged symmetrically. Towards further east of the India Gate, there is one more water-body, placed towards the Vista. Lutyen had also included a huge lake towards the extreme eastern side of the Vista; however, it was never implemented when the plan was laid out.

Mughals Architecture

It was in 1206 AD that the first Muslim building of Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque was constructed by one of the first Mughal rulers, Qutub-ud-din-Aibak. Islamic style of architecture is witnessed in this mosque predominantly. Similarly, the tombs of Alai Darwaza and Iltutmish showcase excellent patterns of authentic Islamic architectural styles. If you want to witness a perfect example of Indo Islamic architectural style, you must come to the Qutub complex. One of the main features of this mosque is that, earlier Hindu and Jain temple were located in this area. Muslims consider it a sin to depict animals and humans on their structures; hence these were destroyed to construct the Qutub complex. Huge pillars and sturdy arches are the only elements of Mughal architecture that are found in this complex.  Another tomb, that of Ghiyas – ud-din Tughlaq, is also an example of earlier stages of Mughal architecture.

The Char Bagh concept was first introduced by the Mughals in Delhi. Like these, many other unique styles and patterns were introduced during the Mughal rule, in Delhi and in India. One of the first excellent examples of Mughal architecture was the Humayun Tomb, which was constructed during the reign of Emperor Akbar. With gardens on four sides, a huge mausoleum at the centre, this tomb-cum-mosque used red sandstone and marble for construction. Another example of red sandstone is the Red Fort. There is a small town within the fort , which leads into Lahore Gate. Lots of markets line the streets of the town. Inside the fort, there is the Moti Masjid, the prayer room where the royals worshipped, is present and it is made of pure white marble. The Jama Masjid, biggest mosque in the country,  is made from red sandstone and white marble. There are three domes that decorate the Jama Masjid. Humayun Tomb and Jama Masjid are almost similar in style and pattern. Another famous structure, the Jantar Mantar in Delhi, is an example of Rajput style of architecture. This was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh 11, who belonged to Amber’s Rajput state.

Kolkata, which was originally the capital of India, was shifted to Delhi during the British rule. It was later renamed to New Delhi. Lots of architectural styles like British, Gothic, Imperial, Victorian, etc. are found here in large numbers. The famous Rashtrapati Bhavan, is a place that combines European and Mughal architecture styles beautifully. Just in front of this building, is the Secretariat, a set of twin buildings, built in pure Western classical style. The British National Church is a perfect example of what authentic British style of architecture is all about. It is not inspired by any other style of architecture at all. This church is quite neat, beautiful and graceful and attracts many devotees today.

Other Monuments

Many buildings and monuments have been constructed in Delhi even after India achieved Independence. Apart from British architecture, these monuments combined various other styles and features that made them look neat and presentable. Jeevan Bharati building, created from glass, metal and stone is quite a novel creation. The State Trading Corporation Building, made out of authentic ancient Indian architectural style, uses red and yellow sandstone (features of Mughal style). The Office Complex of Scope is a very unique structure as each of the buildings has a different and brilliant design. During the year 2005, Delhi got a new structure of its own, one that went on to become its landmark destination, the famous Akshardham Temple, dedicated to Lord Swaminarayana.

Today, the structures of Delhi have become the perfect examples of the ancient day history, mythological heritage and modern day techniques. The city has come a long way from its Mughal structures, colonial monuments, temples, mosques and the like. Today, the Delhi city that we see has undergone lots of transformations, developments, upgradations, unfortunate incidents and many more. In a nutshell, Delhi is widely regarded as the architectural hub of the country because of the above qualities.

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