A random bit of Delhi for the weekend

‘Once I leave, I am back out in noisy, smelly, confusing, squalid, hassling, bright Paharganj. When I first came here, it seemed very strange and exotic, had an unusual, exciting feel to it that was difficult to identify but was certainly the strange, unfamiliar sounds, smells, sights and feel of an unknown culture. Even the bits that were new, still seemed dirty and somehow old, as if something about them owed their existence to the distant, Indian past. This has gone and I miss it most keenly, since I keep getting a hint of it, floating unexpectedly on the breeze with sounds and smells that remind me of when I first came out here. This has been replaced, however, by something almost as precious…I feel completely at home.’ 13th November 2009
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Crowds near the Ajmeri Gate, Old Delhi


Turkman gate, Old Delhi. One of the gates in the city walls at the time of the Indian Mutiny / 1st Indian War of Independence, it dates from the seventh city of Delhi, Shahjehanabad. More recently, in 1976, during the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi’s government, it was the scene of another infamous episode, when crowds protesting about the bulldozing of their houses in an effort to clear slum areas and force them out of the city were fired upon by the police, killing several of them.


Tenements near the Turkman Gate, Old Delhi



Mihrab, or Arch, in aΒ building in the Lodi Gardens, Delhi


Delhi Gate, in the old city near Chandni Chowk. This photo was taken in 1989. When I passed the same gate in 2009, the traffic was a whole lot worse!


The great tower of Qutb Minar. The first of the Moslem invasions was by Muhammed, Sultan of Ghur in what is now Afghanistan, in 1192. Having overrun a large part of the Northern Indian plains, he returned to Ghur, leaving his new territory in the hands of his army commander and favourite slave, Qutbuddin Aibak. Qutbuddin decided to leave a monument to his religion that was designed to overawe his new subjects and inspire his own people, and set about building a mosque with a massive tower nearby. The tower itself is almost 73m high and is 15m in diameter at the base, tapering to 2.5m at the top.


Decorative details of the stonework. Most artistic decoration is, as usual with Islamic craftwork, patterned work and verses from the Koran. At Qutb Minar, there are also plentiful stylised, and sometimes surprisingly realistic, depictions of plants with flowers and buds and long, winding stems and tendrils. To construct the mosque, artisans used stone from Hindu and Jain temples and many stones and panels still depict the original carvings, frequently defaced but still recognisable.


The famous ‘non-rusting’ iron pillar. This stands in the courtyard of the mosque and was here long before the mosque was built. It was made in the reign of Chandragupta II (AD 375-413), is composed of almost pure iron (99.72%) and shows only the slightest sign of rusting. A sanskrit inscription on the pillar indicates that it probably stood originally outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar, and was moved later to this site. It would probably have had a garuda, the vehicle of Vishna, on the top.Β 


Squinch-arch in Iltutmish’s Tomb. A squinch is a ‘bridging’ structure, used here to support a dome (now gone). Iltutmish was Shamsuddin Iltutmish (ruled 1211-1236), 3rd ruler of Delhi (after Qutbuddin and Aram).


Brahminical motifs on the columns of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. These pillars were originally part of the Hindu and Jain temples that were razed in the area when Qutbuddin built his capital. It is chronicalled that 27 temples were destroyed. They would have been reassembled by Hindu craftsmen, Qutbuddin using local labour.


41 thoughts on “A random bit of Delhi for the weekend

  1. I have been to Delhi so many times either during transit or for work. Unfortunately, I have never explored the city as a tourist.
    I guess most westerners find Delhi as a big shock (sensory one) because this is the first place where they land. By the time they reach other place, they have adjusted quite a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Delhi gate (or Dilli gate colloquially) is also known as Khooni Darwaza or “The Bloody Door”. It was here that all the sons of the last Mughal emperor were publicly beheaded by the English. It’s opposite Maulana Azad Medical College, one of the premier medical institutions in India.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My knowledge of that is a little hazy, beyond remembering that they executed 3 sons, I think? I might have been the gate that they eventually broke through to take the city, too, but I’d have to check that again when I had time. It was a fairly quiet spot when I passed it in 1989.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not a quiet spot by any means now. Someone did think of putting a plaque there, recounting the deed. Their father was hiding in Humayun’s tomb and legend has it that the heads were sent to him on a platter. It was a gory time..

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting how drawn you are to India and Delhi! It seems to really touch you on a deep emotional level. Did you feel that the first time you visited, or it is a matter of repeat visits? I’m always fascinated by how different people are drawn to different areas, especially those that they weren’t born into.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Mick,
    Are you a travel blogger? I considered becoming one but now I blog about blogging. I travel often but I’ve never been to Delhi.
    Thank you for coming by my site today to “like” my new post about the death of blogging. I wanted to come by to thank you and introduce myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janice. I blog a bit on travel, a bit on writing, and then some. I began blogging on writing, but the blog naturally morphed into my various interests. Since quite a lot of my stories are set in India, there is a lot of crossover. Thanks for visiting back.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, amazing photos. Thank you for taking the time to post so many, as I know how time consuming that is. Also thank you for the history and descriptions. One thing I noticed about the photo of the slums is that I’ve driven by buildings that look similar in the North End of Hartford, CT.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Confusing and chaotic is how Pahargunj and Ajmeri Gate areas would appear to any outsider. I am a little surprised Mick that you later started feeling at home. The pictures capture the architecture of the monuments pretty well. Missing Red Fort in the post though – one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Confusing and chaotic indeed, Somali! It was definitely Paharganj rather than Ajmeri gate area I meant when I talked about feeling at home – just that I’ve spent a lot of time there, and my hotel there was my base. I find it strange too, actually, since generally I don’t like cities and I feel generally overwhelmed by them.
      I must dig out some Red Fort photos sometime, although I know that I have mixed up some of them with Purana Qila and i need to go through them carefully sometime!

      Liked by 1 person

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