New Delhi, the capital of India and its third-largest city, consists of two parts: Old Delhi and New Delhi. Steeped in history, the city is the perfect combination of the old and the new. Busy thoroughfares weave around modern buildings while the architectural marvels of yesterday, maintain their dignity and history of centuries. The capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries, Old Delhi seems somewhat anachronistic as compared to New Delhi. It draws one through congested roads and lanes, interesting mosques, monuments and forts relating to its chequered history. New Delhi as a sharp contrast is spacious and modern. It was created by the British as their capital in India, after they shifted base from Calcutta. The 17th-century walled city of Shahjahanabad with city gates, narrow alleys, the enormous Red Fort and Jama Masjid, temples, mosques, bazaar and the famous street Chandni Chowk is known as Old Delhi today. Paharganj near the New Delhi railway station acts as a sort of 'buffer zone' between the old and new cities. New Delhi is a planned city of wide, tree-lined streets, parks and fountains. Areas around Connaught Place and around Rajpath to the south are subdivided into the business and residential areas. Rajpath is flanked by the India Gate memorial in the east and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the residence of the Indian president in the west. Janpath, running off Connaught Place to the south, is one of the most important streets, with the Government of India tourist office, the Student Travel Information Centre in the Imperial Hotel and a number of other useful addresses.
Though Delhi was not the capital of India from the very outset, it nevertheless played a very distinctive role in Indian history. Almost 3000 years ago, Indraprastha, of Mahabharata fame was apparently located exactly where Delhi is situated today. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mughal emperors made Agra their capital, and though under British rule the capital had changed to Calcutta, it was shifted back to the newly constructed New Delhi in 1911. Delhi was surrounded by no less than eight cities. The first four were to the south around the area where the Qutab Minar stands. Indraprastha, centered near present-day Purana Qila, was the earliest known Delhi.. At the beginning of the 12th Century the last Hindu kingdom of Delhi was ruled by the Tomara and Chauhan dynasties and was also near the Qutab Minar and Suraj Kund, now in Haryana. This city was followed by Siri, constructed by Ala-ud-din near present-day Hauz Khas in the 12th century. The third Delhi, Tughlaqabad, stood 10 km south-east of the Qutab Minar. The fourth Delhi, Jahanpanah, around the 14th century also stood near the Qutab Minar. The fifth Delhi was Ferozabad, now called Feroz Shah Kotla. Traces of a mosque in which Tamerlane prayed during his attack in India and an Ashoka Pillar can still be seen in its ruins. The Afghan ruler Sher Shah defeated Humayun and took control of Delhi. He created the sixth Delhi at Purana Qila, near the India Gate. In the 17th century, the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan shifted the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi, creating the seventh Delhi in the process, at Shahjahanabad. It roughly corresponds to Old Delhi today and is largely preserved. The Red Fort and Jama Masjid were part of his Delhi. The eighth Delhi, was created when the British shifted thier capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. The city was however, officially inaugurated in 1931. Delhi has been invaded, plundered,looted through the ages; Tamerlane in the 14th century; the Persian emperor, Nadir Shah, who crated the Kohinoor Diamond and the famous Peacock Throne off to Iran. The Mughal emporer Babur occupied it in the 16th century. The British captured Delhi in 1803 which played a central role in the resistance against the British in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.