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‘Delhis’ Before New Delhi

The Indian capital city of New Delhi has a long history, and has served as the capital city of several empires. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya Period dating back to 300 BC.


14 capital cities were founded in a small area of about 60 square miles on the left bank of the river Jamuna.


Of these, the most important are the capital cities built between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries.

Let us trace the eight cities that existed between 736 AD and the 17th Century.


"Dilli” was the Tomar Rajput capital from c.736 onwards

Lal Kot was built in 1060 AD by the Tomar ruler and later it was conquered by Prithviraj Chauhan and renamed "Qila Rai Pithora”

Siri-- A new seven-gated fort was built in 1303 by Alauddin Khilji.

Tughluqabad—was built by Sultan Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq between 1320 and 1325.

Jahanpanah was built by Muhammad Tughluq between 1325 and 1351. He tried to unite the fortifications of Dilli, Siri, and Tughluqabad.

Firozabad-- Firoz Shah Kotla, built by Firoz Shah Tughluq between 1351-88, survives as a series of ruins with his carefully installed Ashoka pillar

 Dinpanah was built by Humayun between 1533 and 1538, with additions by Sher Shah.

Shahjahanabad the most splendid capital was built by Shah Jahan from 1638 to 1649. It contains the Lal Qila and the Chandni Chowk. It was the capital of theMughal Empire during Shah Jahan's reign. It is presently referred to as "Old Delhi". 

'Nai Dilli' (New Delhi) was built by the British, which enclosed the Old Delhi
  • Shahjahanabad built by Shah Jahan consisted of a fort-palace complex and the city adjoining it.
  • To the west of Red Fort lay the Walled City with 14 gates.
  • Chandni Chowk was the major street in the walled city. It runs through the middle of the walled city. A canal ran through the middle of the street as part of the water supply scheme. Chandni Chowk was broad enough for royal processions to pass by.
  • Jama Masjid in Shahjahanabad was one of the largest and grandest mosques in India.
  • During Shah Jahan’s time Delhi was an important centre of Sufi culture. It had several dargahs, khanqahs and idgahs.
  • Open squares, winding lanes, quiet cul-de-sacs and water channels made Delhi an opulent and beautiful city.

The other side of Shahjahanabad

  • The opulence of the city was combined with poverty
  • Magnificent mansions were found among mud houses of the poor. The divide between the rich and the poor was very wide.
  • Women were kept in the background. The rich culture of the Mughals was enjoyed only by the men.

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