New Delhi

Short history

New Delhi, the capital of India, has a history that dates back to its establishment on December 12, 1911, when it was chosen to replace Calcutta as the capital of British India. Its design and inauguration, meticulously planned by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, culminated on February 13, 1931, presenting the imperial visions of its creators. Following India’s independence in 1947, New Delhi went through a transformation, gaining limited autonomy and becoming part of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The subsequent years witnessed considerable progress, with the establishment of the diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri in the 1950s being a notable event. Throughout its evolution, New Delhi has emerged as a symbol of India’s dynamic growth.

Geography

New Delhi is situated in the northern part of India, within the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The city is anchored on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, providing a relatively flat relief interrupted by the low-lying Aravalli Hill Range in the south. 

The climate of New Delhi is characterized as a dry-winter humid subtropical climate, with extreme variations in temperature across seasons. 

Summers are notably hot, with temperatures soaring to 46°C, while winters can see temperatures dropping to around 0°C. The hottest month in New Delhi is typically May, whereas January is often recorded as the coldest.

Urban layout-wise, New Delhi is celebrated for its well-planned structure. The city’s central part, known as Lutyens’ Delhi, has wide, tree-lined avenues, large bungalows, and important administrative and government buildings. Additionally, New Delhi is organized into various zones, including commercial, residential, and green spaces, promoting a balanced urban environment amidst its rapid urbanization and population growth.

Population

New Delhi is characterized by its heterogenous and sizeable population. As part of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, it has a population of approximately 31.2 million people. The city’s demographic picture is complex, making it a microcosm of India’s pluralistic society. Ethnically, New Delhi is predominantly inhabited by Indo-Aryans, followed by Dravidians, and other minor tribal groups contributing to the city’s demographic plurality. 

Religion in New Delhi mirrors the diverse faiths found across India, with Hinduism being the predominant religion, followed by Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, and other religions in smaller numbers. Languages spoken in New Delhi are equally diverse, with Hindi serving as the lingua franca, complemented by English, Punjabi, Urdu, and a variety of regional dialects. 

Main sights

  • India Gate: A war memorial dedicated to the soldiers of the British Indian Army who died in World War I. This majestic structure stands at the eastern end of Rajpath.
  • Rashtrapati Bhavan: The official residence of the President of India, is a mix of Mughal and British architectural styles. The estate includes magnificent gardens, large open spaces, and grand buildings.
  • Humayun’s Tomb: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fine example of Mughal architecture, this tomb was built in memory of Emperor Humayun and set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture, including the Taj Mahal.
  • Qutub Minar: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 73-meter tall victory tower represents the beginning of Muslim rule in India and is adorned with intricate carvings and Quranic inscriptions.
  • Lotus Temple: Known for its flowerlike shape, this Bahá’í House of Worship is open to all, regardless of religion, and is celebrated for its design and ambiance.
  • Red Fort: A historic fortification that served as the main residence of the Mughal Emperors for nearly 200 years. The Red Fort is a symbol of India’s national pride and hosts the annual Independence Day celebrations.
  • Jantar Mantar: An astronomical observatory built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. It has a large collection of architectural astronomical instruments.

Food

  • Chole Bhature: A typical Punjabi dish, this consists of spicy chickpeas (chole) paired with deep-fried bread (bhature). It’s a popular breakfast and street food item in New Delhi, loved for its hearty and satisfying nature.
  • Butter Chicken: Originally from Delhi, this creamy and spiced curry made with tender chicken pieces is a global ambassador of Indian cuisine. It is best enjoyed with naan or rice.
  • Paranthas: A variety of stuffed flatbreads, paranthas can be filled with anything from potatoes to paneer (cottage cheese) or mixed vegetables. The famous Paranthe Wali Gali in Chandni Chowk is renowned for serving these delicious, filling breads.
  • Kebabs: Reflecting New Delhi’s Mughal heritage, kebabs are a must-try. Seekh kebabs, made from minced meat, herbs, and spices, grilled over charcoal, with a smoky and aromatic flavor.
  • Chaats: A broad category that includes items like golgappa (also known as pani puri), aloo tikki, and papdi chaat, chaats are savory, spicy, sweet, and tangy snacks that are an integral part of Delhi’s street food culture.
  • Rabri Faluda: A traditional dessert, rabri faluda combines thick, creamy rabri with faluda (cornstarch vermicelli), often served with ice and rose syrup. It’s a cooling and sweet treat, perfect after a spicy meal.

Fun facts

  • New Delhi was officially inaugurated as the capital of India on February 13, 1931, replacing Calcutta (now Kolkata).
  • The Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House) in New Delhi has a total of 340 rooms spread over four floors, making it one of the largest residences of any head of state in the world.
  • New Delhi’s Connaught Place, designed as a showpiece of Lutyens’ Delhi, is named after the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and was completed in 1933. It remains a premier shopping and financial hub in the city.
  • The city is part of a seismic zone IV, indicating its vulnerability to significant earthquakes, despite being away from the primary seismic fault lines.
  • New Delhi is home to the Lotus Temple, a Bahá’í House of Worship famous for its flower-like shape and attracting visitors from all religions and backgrounds.