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World Heritage Day: Six historic gems in Delhi to experience on World Heritage Day

Having called Delhi home for years, I can attest to its rich heritage and cultural significance that transcends time. Beyond the glitz and glam, the capital boasts some of the world’s most remarkable heritage sites, each with a story to tell and memories to cherish. As we mark World Heritage Day on April 18th, join us on a digital tour of Delhi’s top six historical gems of all times.

Agrasen Ki Baoli

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The first one on the list is the enigmatically charming Agrasen Ki Baoli, affectionately known as Behens Ki Baoli, nestled in the heart of New Delhi, India. This historical stepwell, stretching an impressive 60 meters in length and 15 meters in width, is a true testament to India’s architectural heritage. Situated near Connaught Place and Jantar Mantar on Hailey Road, this marvel has earned the distinction of being a protected monument under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India. Its origins shrouded in mystery, legend has it that the illustrious King Agrasen may have been its original creator, with architectural clues suggesting a possible reconstruction during the 14th century under the reign of the Delhi Sultanate. In addition to serving as the backdrop for blockbuster films like PK, Sultan, and Mom, this location is rumored to transform into one of Delhi’s most chilling spots after its closing time, 5:30 PM.

Akshardham Temple

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Next up is Akshardham Temple Delhi, where millennia of Hindu culture, spirituality, and architectural brilliance come together in a spectacular display. Inspired by Yogiji Maharaj and brought to life by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, this architectural marvel is a testament to the devotion and creativity of its creators from BAPS. As the world’s second-largest BAPS Hindu temple, Akshardham Delhi stands tall, following in the footsteps of its predecessor in New Jersey, USA. Step inside and be transported through time and space as you explore the various exhibition halls, each embracing contemporary modes of communication and technology to share the life and teachings of Swaminarayan. From the serene abhishek mandap to the captivating Sahaj Anand water show, and the thematic garden that delights the senses, every corner of the complex is infused with spiritual energy. Standing tall at 43 meters high and adorned with intricate carvings of flora, fauna, deities, it is a sight to behold, a beacon of spiritual enlightenment and architectural splendor.

Humayun’s Tomb

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Often compared to the iconic Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb boasts similar architectural grandeur. However, contrary to popular belief, it was not Humayun himself who commissioned this marvel, but his devoted wife Hamida Banu Begum. This act of affection underscores the enduring love story behind the monument, a tale often overshadowed by the fame of the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb, the final resting place of Mughal emperor Mirza Nasir al-Din Muhammad, Humayun’s Tomb was designed by Persian architects Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son Sayyid Muhammad, and stands as the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Its location in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, near the Dina-panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort), adds to its allure and historical significance.

Purana Qila

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Step into the realm of history at Purana Qila, Delhi’s ancient fortress steeped in tales of emperors and conquests. Constructed by the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, and later fortified by Sher Shah Suri, this majestic stronghold stands as a testament to Delhi’s enduring legacy. As you wander through its mighty walls, spanning 1.5 kilometers and towering 18 meters high, you’ll encounter three grand gateways: the imposing Bara Darwaza, the iconic Humayun Gate, and the mysterious Talaqi Gate, shrouded in intrigue. Marvel at the intricate craftsmanship adorning these gates—double-storeyed sandstone structures embellished with marble inlays, blue tiles, and ornate balconies reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture. From towering bastions to pillared pavilions, every detail whispers stories of bygone eras.

Qutub Minar Complex

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Next up is the Qutb Minar complex, a treasure trove of monuments and buildings nestled in Mehrauli, Delhi. The majestic Qutb Minar, a towering “victory tower” named after the revered Sufi Saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, stands as a testament to the ingenuity of Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty. Over the centuries, rulers like the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji, and even the British have left their mark on the complex, adding structures that enrich its grandeur. From the iconic Qutb Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque to the imposing Alai Darwaza gate and the intriguing Alai Minar, each edifice tells a tale of Delhi’s rich heritage. But the allure doesn’t end there. Inside the complex, you’ll discover the resting places of historical figures like Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji, and Imam Zamin, adding layers of intrigue to this ancient site. Today, the Qutb Minar complex and its surrounding area, dotted with old monuments like Balban’s tomb, have been lovingly preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Red Fort

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Emperor Shah Jahan’s vision for the Red Fort materialized on a significant date, May 12th, 1639, as he shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi. The architectural marvel, originally adorned in red and white, was the brainchild of Ustad Ahmad Lahori, the mastermind behind the Taj Mahal. Representing the pinnacle of Mughal architecture under Shah Jahan, the fort seamlessly blends Persian palace influences with Indian traditions. Throughout history, the Red Fort endured both triumphs and trials. Nader Shah’s invasion in 1739 stripped the fort of its precious artwork and jewels, while the British, post-1857 Indian Rebellion, razed many marble structures. Despite these challenges, the fort’s defensive walls stood resilient, transforming it into a garrison. Today, a stroll through the fort reveals a mix of architectural conditions. While some structures retain their decorative charm, others bear scars of looting. Yet, amidst this tapestry of history, the fort remains a living testament to resilience and adaptation.

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Anushka Manik

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