History of Delhi | Delhi City Information

Delhi is a city in North India & its Capital of India. It’s a Union Territory & officials known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT).  It is bordered by the state of Haryana on three sides and by Uttar Pradesh to the east. As per census 2011, Delhi has a population of 1.68 Crore & its spread over an area of 1,484 square kilometers. After Mumbai, Its second-largest populated city in India & Delhi along with other areas ( Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, etc) of National Capital Region (NCR) is world second largest Urban Area with a population of 28,125,000. 

Throughout its History, Delhi was destroyed 7 times and rebuilt 7 times. It survived against all odds & has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires & now in modern times its again the capital of independent India. Let have a look at the past & read about the brief history of Delhi.

The earliest references to Delhi are found in the Mahabharata. During the reign of Dhritarashtra, the blind Kaurava king a settlement on the banks of the Yamuna known as Khandavavana or khandavaprastha had turned into a forest. Dhritarashtra gave this piece of barren land to his nephews the Pandava. Pandavas turn this area as their capital & named it Indraprastha. The land occupied by Indraprastha and its environs has been identified as the area between the present-day Firoz Shah Kotla and Humayun’s Tomb.

Indraprastha which dates back to one millennium BC, was said to match the splendor of Amaravati, the capital seat of Indira the lord of gods. According to traditions, Indraprastha enjoyed a pre-eminent position for a good many centuries under the Pandavas and their successors. But another tradition holds that the Pandavas deserted Indraprastha after only 36 years of rule and shifted their capital to Hastinapur, the seat of Kuru dynasty.  After this Indraprastha got lost in history. 

The Delhi of Rajput Kings

By the 4th Century BC ancient Indraprastha seems to have been forgotten. The classical writers who accompanied Alexander during his Indian campaign make no mention of it. Centuries rolled by without history taking any note of the region where the turbulent story of Delhi was to unfold. The Chinese pilgrims Fa hien and Hiuen Tsang came to India in the 4th and 7th century A D respectively but diligent writers though they were they found nothing worthy of mention in the region.

It is only in the eighth century AD that we come across a reliable tradition which speaks of the founding of Dhilika by Tomar Rajput kings, to the south west of ancient Indraprastha. It is from Dhilika that Delhi is believed to have derived its name. There are some other traditions too. According to Farishta, a medieval historian, Delhi was named after a king Dilu or Dhilu by name who ruled over this area around the beginning of the Christian era. 

Founded in 736 AD as the capital of Tomar kings, Dhilika was surrounded by a strong fort called Lal Kot (near Qutab Minar). With the downfall of the Tomars, Dhilika became the capital of the Chauhans in 12th century AD. Prithviraj Chauhan improved the defenses of the city by expanding Lal Kot which now assumed the name Qila Rai Pithora. In 1192 A D Dhilika fell to the Qutubud din, the slave general of Muhammad Ghori.

Delhi Sultanate - The Medieval History

The Delhi Sultanate was a medieval empire based in Delhi that stretched over north India from 1206 to 1526. Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–1290), the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526).

Iltutmish (1211 -1236 AD), the successor of Qutub-ud-din (1206- 1210 AD) built a new capital to the southeast of Lal Kot. But Muiz-ud-din (1287-1290 AD), a grandson of Balban (1266-1287 AD) chose Kilokari on the Yamuna for his capital.

Jalaluddin Khilji (1290-1296 AD) shifted back to the old capital but his successor Ala-ud-din (1296-1316 AD) built a new capital at Siri to the northeast of Qutub.

Ghiyas ud din Tughlaq (1320-1325 AD) who succeeded the Khilji dynasty built a new capital at Tughlaqabad, Five miles to the east of the old capital. His successor Muhammad Tughlaq tried to shift the capital to Devgiri (Maharastra) but had to return to Delhi after subjecting the people to a great deal of suffering and financial loss. Firuz Tughlaq (1351-1388 AD) who succeeded Muhammad deserted the old city and founded a new capital at Firozabad eight miles to the north of Qutub Minar.

Delhi then passed on to the Sayyads and later to the Lodis. Sikander Lodi (1489-1517 AD) however shifted his capital from Delhi to Sikandarabad near Agra.

Delhi History in the Mughal Period

Humayun (1530-1540 & 1555-1556 AD) restored Delhi glory by setting the capital at Din-i-Panah now known as Purana Qila. Sher Shah Suri (1539-1545 AD) further beautified this capital.
Delhi did not occupy an important place in Akbar’s (1556-1605 AD) rule. During his reign, Delhi was formed part of the subah of Delhi comprising eight sarkars subdivided into 232 Parganas. He chose Fatehpur Sikri near Agra for his capital.

Akbar’s grandson Shahjahan (1628 -1657 AD) built a new capital in Delhi known as Shahjahanabad. It continued for another one hundred years as the old city of the times. After the death of Aurangzeb (1657-1707 AD) Delhi started to shatter. Court intrigues and factional fights converted the streets of Shahjahanabad into battlegrounds. Nadir Shah sacked Delhi in 1739 A D.  The Jats, the Rohillas, and the Marathas plundered Delhi from time to time. A treaty signed in 1752 made Marathas the protectors of the Mughal throne in Delhi. Ahmad Shah Abdali looted Delhi in 1757 AD. In the great struggle for power among the Marathas, the Rohillas, and Abdali Delhi suffered immensely. Gujar, Jat and Sikh forces also contributed to this anarchy substantially.

The sorry state of affairs ended in 1803 AD when British forces defeated the Marathas in the battle of Patparganj.

Start of the Modern Era - Delhi under British Raj

In 1803, during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the forces of British East India Company defeated the Maratha forces in the Battle of Delhi. This was the beginning of British rule in Delhi. The emperor shorn of all powers and possessions had already been reduced to a cypher . The Delhi of the great Mughals was a ruined city. A city of two million people during the reign of Aurangzeb, it had a population of half a million in 1739 and one-tenth of a million in the early 19th century when the British stepped in.

Delhi recovered to some extent during the following decades but the revolt of 1857 again brought untold misery to the people. The British ruled India from Calcutta till 1912. In 1877 Delhi was chosen as the site for the great darbar to celebrate the assumption of the title Kaisar i Hind Empress of India by Queen Victoria. In 1903 Lord Curzon held the second darbar in Delhi on a far more lavish scale. Another darbar followed in 1911 with King George V present in person. The change of capital from Calcutta to Delhi was announced by the King in this darbar. Delhi thus became the capital of India once again.

Six villages in and around Raisina were taken over for building the new capital. The name “New Delhi” was given in 1927, and the new capital was inaugurated on 13 February 1931. 

Delhi- The Modern City

After India gained independence on 15 August 1947, New Delhi was officially declared as the capital of the Union of India. The States Reorganisation Act, 1956 created the Union Territory of Delhi from its predecessor, the Chief Commissioner’s Province of Delhi. The Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991 declared the Union Territory of Delhi to be formally known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The Act gave Delhi its own legislative assembly along Civil lines, though with limited powers.

As per provisional reports of Census of India, the population of Delhi in 2011 was 1.68 Crores. Delhi ranks fifth among the Indian states and union territories in the human development index. Delhi has the second-highest GDP per capita in India. New Delhi is jointly administered by the federal government of India and the local government of Delhi and serves as the capital of the nation as well as the NCT of Delhi.  It has 11 Districts & seven Lok Sabha ( Parliamentary seats). The Delhi Assembly consists of 70 members of the legislative assembly (MLA).

Sources: Gazetteer of Delhi, Census India & Wikipedia

History of Delhi | Delhi City Information

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