The chaotic, sprawling, crumbling capitol of India is surely on every true traveller’s bucket list. Here are three must-see holy sites you can’t miss while touring Delhi.
In This India Article You Will Discover:
- Fascinating Islamic architecture
- One of India’s largest Hindu temples
- And more!
Oh, Delhi… Teeming with 20-million-odd citizens; a symphony of car horns; blanketed in smog; a chorus of hard-haggling touts; peppered with 3,000 years of history; both crumbling into the ground and rising toward the sky — it is a city apart from all others and I loved every moment I spent there.
There is too much to see and do in Delhi. Shopping at the bazaars (or higher-end locales like the Kashmiri Market or Central Cottage Industries Emporium); touring ruins and holy sites; dining out; or simply people-watching (and being watched) can pass many a Delhi-day. However, if time is of the essence, I recommend seeing at least these holy sites in Delhi:
This near-400-year-old mosque was the first holy site I visited in India, and it remains one of my best memories of the trip. Perched high above the rough-and-tumble Chawri Bazar Road in Old Delhi, this serene and beautiful mosque is truly “mystic India” at its finest. Commissioned in 1650 by the famous Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan — who also oversaw the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort — it is spectacularly preserved in all its ornate glory. Revel at the 41-metre-tall minarets, the 500-metre-square courtyard and the intricate inlayed marble floors under the main dome. Even the cacophony of traffic on the streets fades away with Jama Masjid — and it is an apex example of the Islamic architecture I would come to love so much during my time in India.
The second-largest Hindu temple in India, Chhatarpur is a must-see for anyone interested in the complex and oftentimes confusing Hindu religion. Throughout this 25-hectare complex, you’ll find colourful Hindu statues — including a 30-metre tall Hanuman (monkey god) statue — burning incense, hanging flowers, carvings of Ganesh and other gods, the tomb of the temple’s founder Baba Sant Nagpal Ji and so much more. Examples of southern and northern Indian architecture can be found throughout — keep an eye out for my favourite statue, that of Shiva (as a turtle) with a towering trident on its back.
One of the most impressive ruins in Delhi — if not India — is Qutub Minar, an 800-plus-year-old complex featuring a 75-metre sandstone minaret. Qutub Minar dates back to the Islamic rule of India — construction began on this complex in 1193, right after the defeat of Hindu Delhi. The minaret itself is breathtaking, but there is more to see as you wander the ornate halls and courts — including the first mosque ever built in India and the mystic Iron Pillar. This pillar, standing in the centre of the main court, is almost 2,000 years old — and for some reason, has not rusted in all that time. And no one knows how it could have been made given the technology of the time, nor why it hasn’t oxidized in the past 2,000 years (goosebumps yet?). Expect to take at least an hour to fully explore and appreciate Qutub Minar.
Delhi advice: if you’re going to Agra afterwards, as most do, you may wish to skip Delhi’s Red Fort, as Agra’s Old Fort is a virtual copy and passing on the Red Fort in Delhi will give you more time to see one-of-a-kind city sights before heading onward.