Delhi Wonders

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Climate

Delhi has a subtropical climate, which is greatly influenced by its inland location. The summer months of May and June are extremely dry and scorching, and day temperatures sometimes reach 43-45ºC. monsoons normally break in July and bring down the temperatures, but the weather until the end of September is hot, sultry, and very uncomfortable. The average annual rainfall is only about 660 mm. The period between October and March is quite pleasant, although December and January can be very cold and foggy with occasional wet spells. The mean daily winter minimum temperature is around 7ºC, but some nights can be cold, with the mercury dipping to 1-3ºC. The transition from winter to spring is gradual.

Flora

The changing climate of Delhi results in three vegetation seasons. The paucity of rain and a depleting groundwater level retard the luxuriant growth of natural vegetation. About 1,000 species of flowering plants grow in the city and its environs. The vegetation on the ridge and the riverine tract are distinctly different. The permanent vegetation on the ridge consists of acacias, wild date palms, and gregarious undershrub dotted with some flowering species. Grasses, climbers, and twiners constitute the ephemeral vegetation, which emerges only during the rainy season. The vegetation on the sandy and alkaline riverine tract, on the other hand, is rich and varied, especially during the monsoon and winter months.

Fauna

The fauna of Delhi is fairly rich, varied, and oriental and falls under the Cis-Gangetic zoological type. Hyenas, wolves, foxes, jackals, and leopards once walked its low forests but are now found in the ravine lands or the hilly ridges bordering the city. Ungulata, or hoofed animals, are represented by antelopes and boar. These are now rarely found in the wild state. Porcupines, hares, rats, and squirrels constitute the city’s rodents, and bats, hedgehogs, and shrews are the insectivores of Delhi. The monkey is the only indigenous primate, found in the city around some temples and historical ruins.

The bird life of Delhi is also very rich and varied. The homing pigeon, the house sparrow, kites, jungle crows, parrots, bush quail, and partridges are found throughout the year. The lakes around Delhi attract many a migratory bird in winter. The Yamuna River abounds in fish.

Economy of Delhi

Delhi’s economy is dominated by manufacturing, services, and administration. It has been a centre for a great variety of arts and crafts. In the Mughal period Delhi was famous for its jewellery, damascene work, cloth embroidery, gold braids, silk and brocades, engravings of all kinds, sculpture, and miniature paintings. About three-fourths of its working population are engaged in trade; public administration; community, social, and personal services. Industrial growth in Delhi picked up substantially only in the 1980s, when the number of registered industrial units increased from 50,000 in 1981 to 81,000 in 1990. Industrial investment, Production, and employment also almost doubled during this period. The 1990s have brought important changes in the economic structure of the city. New Delhi has become an important node in the international corporate and financial network, and Old Delhi has further consolidated its position as an important wholesale centre of North India.

History of Delhi

Delhi has one of the most interesting archaeological landscapes, with monuments belonging to several millennia silhouetted side by side. Thirteen cities, built on new or on fortified old sites, have left their evidence in a limited area of about 180 sq km of the Delhi-Aravali triangle. The earliest settlement, Indraprastha, built about 1400 BC and mentioned in the great epic the Mahabharata was said to be the capital of the Pandavas. The second city of Delhi to emerge in the triangle was Anangpur, or Anandpur, established by Anang Pal, a Tomar Rajput, in about AD 1020, as a royal resort. Anang Pal later shifted his city some 10 km west to the citadel he established at Lal Kot.

The Tomar kings occupied Lal Kot for about a century. Prithviraj III, or Rai Pithora, extended Lal Kot in AD 1164 by building massive ramparts around it. This became the third city of Delhi and was popularly known as Qila Rai Pithora. Many historians consider it the first of the seven cities of Delhi. Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the sultan of India, made Lal Kot the seat of his empire. For the next three centuries (1192-1398) the city remained, with minor breaks, the capital of the reigning kings of the Sultan dynasties. Lal Kot was also given another important monument, the Qutub Minar, by Qutub-ud-din. It was a victory tower and perhaps also a minar (tower) to the mosque. However, the tower, as it stands today, was completed by Firoz Shah with an addition of two more storeys with copious marble inlays, raising its height to 74 m. It was, as it were, a statement of the arrival of the Sultans in India, boastful and triumphant.

Delhi passed into the hands of the Tughlaqs in 1321. Eleven Tughlaq kings ruled over Delhi, but only three of them showed an interest in architecture. Muhammad bin Tughlaq decided to shift his capital to Deogiri, which he named Daulatabad, in the Deccan in order to supervise the territories he had recently annexed in that region.
The Sayyid (1414-44) and the Lodhi (1451-1526) dynasties, which followed the Tughlaqs, confined themselves within the precincts of Firozabad. They lived through turbulent times and had no time to build cities. Babur, the first Mughal king of India came here in 1526 and made his base at Agra. His son Humayun ascended the throne in 1530, and for 10 turbulent years he ruled from Delhi. In 1533 he celebrated the establishment of his dynasty by building a new city, Dinpanah. The site was carefully selected on the banks of the Yamuna. No trace of the city now remains, as it was completely destroyed by Sher Shah Suri.

The next two Mughal rulers Akbar and Jahangir preferred to rule India from Agra but, realizing the importance of Delhi, paid frequent ceremonial visits to the city. In 1639 Shah Jahan instructed his engineers, architects, and astrologers to choose a location with a mild climate somewhere between Agra and Lahore. The choice was the Hazrat Delhi of the Sultans, on the western bank of the Yamuna, just north of Purana Qila. Shah Jahan started the construction of the new capital initially, focusing on his fort called Urdu-i-Mualla. Popularly called Lal Qila, or the Red Fort it was completed in eight years, and on April 19, 1648, Shah Jahan entered his fort, and his new capital, Shajahanabad, from the riverfront gate.

The fort had a monumental entrance, Lahori Gate, from which emerged the main street of the city, terminating at the Fatehpuri Mosque. The Jama Masjid, commenced in 1644, and the city wall, constructed between 1651 and 1658, were the next most important structures to have been completed in the city. The wall was semicircular, 8 m high, 3.5 m thick, and 6 km long, and enclosed an area about 6.4 sq km. It was punctuated with seven large gates (Kashmiri, Mori, Kabuli, Lahori, Ajmeri, Turkomani, and Akbarabadi), and the wall fronting the river had three gates (Raj Ghat, Qila Ghat, and Nigambodh Ghat).

The city of Delhi passed on to the hands of the British in 1803 AD. It was only in 1911, when the capital of British empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. In January 1912 a three-member committee was formed to “work on the practical details of the politicaldecision”. It had as a member the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who was ultimately to give shape to the city. The committee set out to choose a site. The Raisina hill just south of the walled city, neither too far nor too close to it, was chosen.

The committee accepted the general features of Lutyens’ plan for Delhi city in December 1912.