Delhi is a complete melting pot of cultural legacies, historical landmarks, and community transitions. It ranks high in terms of infrastructure, road and highway conditions, economic opportunity, financial power, and is the seat of regional and foreign institutions and dignitaries. However India’s burgeoning population and unregulated environmental terms means that Delhiites battle elements both on the road and from the sky on a daily basis, given the maddening congestion and the choking smog.
My intention to travel to Delhi was not for tourist purposes. In fact for the past couple of years, I invariably would land in Delhi every time I planned a trip to India. But this trip was different. I had an appointment at the US Embassy and was hoping to renew my US visa. This meant that I would be spending an entire day in Delhi, before heading off to Uttarakhand.
Since I am all about budget travel, I have put together the details of my stay in Delhi including my hotel, the places I ate at, and whatever I could squeeze in to sight-see.
P.S. Hop on the metro to get around. It’s way more cheaper than hiring a cab, and is very safe. There are also carriages designated for women. If not, you can always hail a passing rickshaw or auto from the road. Just remember to bargain hard, especially if you don’t “look Indian”.
The Mughal dynasty features prominently in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Followers of Islam, they drew their origins from Central Asia, and were the descendants of Genghis Khan and Timur. But through different marriage alliances, successive generations also claimed Persian and Rajput ancestry. The Mughal dynasty was founded by Babur, and Delhi played a key administrative role in the Mughals strategically ruling their empire.
Humayun was the son of Babur. The tomb was built for him by his first wife Empress Bega Begum. At first glance, I was enamored by the intriguing architecture of the tomb. It isn’t at all what one would imagine when the word “tomb” comes to mind. Surrounded by green gardens, this iconic landmark of Delhi exemplifies red sandstone artisan work, and grand marble detailing in the form of lattice screens, door frames and domes.
There are also over a 100 gravestones inside. Aside from Humayun, his wives including Bega Begum and other subsequent Mughals were also buried here. Most notable of them is Shah Jahan, the emperor who built the world famous Taj Mahal.
You can also see how the architecture is inspired from Persian, Timurid and Rajput styles when you walk up to the Bu Halima Gateway. Very little is known of Bu Halima, except that she was the wet nurse of Emperor Akbar, Humayun’s son.
Humayun’s Tomb is open from 10am to 7pm. The entrance fee is 55 Rupees for Indians and 100 Rupees for foreigners. Entry for children and senior citizens is free.
Jantar Mantar Delhi
In 1723, the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah elected Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur to compile astronomical tables that could accurately predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. The Jantar Mantar in New Delhi is one of five such sites built by the Maharaja.
Looking at the gigantic instruments, it’s kind of neat to see how people tried to measure time before clocks, watches or even smartphones came into existence. In fact, ‘peher’ was a traditional unit of time used in the Indian subcontinent. The day was divided into eight pehers, and each peher equaled three hours in modern time.
This huge triangle is actually a sundial and is known as the Samrat Yantra. Even though at the time of its construction sundials already existed, this sundial has an hypotenuse that points toward the North Pole. How did they manage to do that??
This structure with many ‘windows’ is a Jayaprakash Yantra. Standing inside, astronomers would align the position of a star with the window’s edge.
Jantar Mantar Delhi is open from 10am to 6pm. The entrance fee is 5 Rupees for Indians and 100 Rupees for foreigners. If you are coming by metro, Patel Chowk and Rajiv Chowk are the nearest stops.
While the place is still under renovation, I was kind of annoyed to find people eating here. Of all the places in Delhi, you really could only find an archaeological site to eat in? I think the historical value of this place is definitely lost on the security guards.
While I didn’t have the opportunity to get up and close to Delhi’s Lal Qila or Red Fort, it is a must-do on every traveler’s list. Constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan, the Red Fort served as the primary residence of the Mughals in Delhi for many years. Much of its jewels were stolen and structural beauty destroyed during Nadir Shah’s invasion, and the British suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny. But its remarkable red sandstone facade still stands, and continues to enthrall visitors.
The fort is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year on 15th August, the Prime Minister hoists the Indian national tricolor flag to mark India’s independence from the British Empire.
Guru Sis Ganj Sahib
One of the nine historical Gurdwaras in Delhi, it marks the site where the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb was known for his austere approach to Islam, a sharp contrast to the lavish and opulent lifestyle that characterized the Mughals. He was also known for punishing people of other faiths who refused to convert to Islam.
Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
It is the oldest and best known Jain temple in Delhi, dating back to the time of Emperor Shah Jahan. With its grand structure made primarily of red sandstone, it is also referred to as the Lal Mandir or “Red Temple”. The temple is located in the historic Chandni Chowk district, opposite to the Red Fort.
Named after Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Connaught Place is one of the largest commercial centers in New Delhi. The place is lined with boutiques, international brands, restaurants and financial firms.
The Central Park in Connaught Place has the second largest Indian national tricolor flag. The flag itself measures 90 by 60 feet, while the pole on which it is hoisted measures 207 feet.
While strolling around Connaught Place itself is not very eventful unless you plan to do some shopping, it is a food haven for anyone looking for a bite to eat in Delhi.
• Pizza Hut
While many are familiar with the standard fare of American chains, India’s Pizza Hut puts a new spin to the menu. Meet the Tandoori Paneer Pizza. The ingredients include paneer (Indian cottage cheese), tomatoes, green bell peppers, onions, and tandoori sauce. This unique sauce is made up of yoghurt, heavy cream, ginger-garlic paste, and spices such as cumin and garam masala. Its so very different and delicious, that I recommend everyone to try it. You’ll know what we are being denied back in America!
In the same vein, Chatpata Paratha Wrap is why I fell in love with the Starbucks in Delhi. But check out the other neat stuff you can try out like Tandoori Kebab Sandwich, Tandoori Paneer Sandwich, and Wild Mushroom Pocket.
• Saravana Bhavan
With branches all over the world, Saravana Bhavan brings traditional South Indian recipes to diners. One meal that especially characterizes a typical South Indian household is the tiffin, a meal synonymous with breakfast or brunch. I had Saravana Bhavan’s extremely popular Mini Tiffin. So so so freakin yummy!! The Delhi branch definitely lives up to my expectations.
Items featured in clockwise direction:
- Coconut Chutney: A condiment made of coconut, red chilies, curry leaves, onion and ginger.
- Rava Kesari: Indian sweet made from semolina, roasted nuts, cardamom and ghee (clarified butter).
- Upma: Savory dish made of dry roasted semolina, curry leave, spices and vegetables.
- Mint Chutney: A condiment made of fresh mint leaves, coriander leaves, onion, ginger, garlic and green chilies.
- Sambar: A lentil based vegetable stew in a tamarind broth.
- Masala Dosa: The crepe is made from a batter consisting of rice flour, wheat and lentils, that is fermented overnight. The next day, the batter is spread over an oil greased pan to give it the classic golden brown crispy texture. The dosa is stuffed on the inside with spicy potatoes and onions. It is rolled up tightly and served.
- Mini Idli: Made from steaming a batter of fermented black lentils and rice. Soaked in sambar (lentil soup).
Where to Stay in Delhi: Bloom Hotels
- Address: 8591 Arakashan Road, opposite Railway Station, New Delhi, Delhi 110055, India
- Website: http://staybloom.com/
This place was just what I needed: clean, cozy and cheap, right in the center of Delhi. Everything was a stone’s throw distance; Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar, Rashtrapati Bhavan to name a few. I give this place 5 stars!