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7 facts about Delhi, India

| Words by Rachel McCombie |

Read some interesting facts about Delhi and learn something you didn’t know about India’s bustling capital.

Delhi isn’t just a must-see city on a tour of India; it’s an important place in the country’s past, with many layers of history spanning not merely centuries, but millennia. Today, we take a look at some interesting lesser-known facts about this fascinating city.

1. Delhi has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC

Delhi’s long and colourful history begins around the 6th century BC, and the many centuries since have seen it invaded, occupied, plundered and rebuilt on numerous occasions. The Medieval period was particularly turbulent, and over the course of its history it’s been a capital city for a number of different empires. It’s thought that the history of the site stretches back even further, into prehistory; there’s probably been a settlement here for at least three thousand years.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Temple, Delhi

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Temple, Delhi

2. Delhi has a possible place in legend

The Sanskrit epic poem Mahabharata - thought to date back to the 8th or 9th century BC and said to be the longest poem ever written - talks about a place called Indraprastha, the capital city of the Pandavas, which was built on the site of a burned-down forest called Kandavaprastha. Some believe that this city was located at Delhi, and it’s often associated with Purana Qila, an old fort of Delhi.

3. The seven cities of Delhi - or is it eight?

Traditionally, historians refer to “the seven cities of Delhi”, because over the centuries several different dynasties have had their capital cities located here, each built around a fortress that doubled as a palace. Archaeological remains in the Delhi area, however, point to at least eight different major cities between AD 1100 and 1947.

4. It’s one of the greenest cities in the world

Picture Delhi, and you’ll probably imagine chaotic streets heaving with people and cars, with a large number of tuk tuks thrown in. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Delhi is actually considered one of the greenest cities in the world. Its comprehensive bus system runs on Compressed Natural Gas, which is kinder to the environment, while 20% of the metropolis is given over to greenery, including trees and parks.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Temple, Delhi

A rickshaw ride through Delhi

5. You’ll find (not quite) the world’s largest brick minaret in Delhi

Built in the 13th century by Delhi’s first Muslim Sultan, the Qutb Minar is an imposing brick minaret purporting to be the world’s largest. It’s actually India’s second tallest, but that doesn’t detract from the impressiveness of its ornately carved red sandstone. While it’s certainly something to see when you’re in Delhi, you’re unfortunately out of luck if you were hoping to enjoy the views from its uppermost level: the top, accessed by 379 steps, has been closed to the public since a lethal stampede in 1981.

6. Delhi’s weirdest museum celebrates the toilet

Delhi has many fascinating museums, housing artifacts, art and all kinds of other priceless treasures spanning India’s long and eventful history. But Delhi is also home to a museum celebrating something rather more mundane: the toilet. Not that it’s likely to be high on your list of things to visit when you’re in Delhi, but it displays examples of examples of every kind of toilet you could imagine, including a replica of that used by King Louis XIV of France. Behind this quirky landmark is a serious message, however; it’s a way of highlighting India’s major issue with sanitation.

7. Delhi’s Jantar Mantar: astronomy on an architectural scale

One of Delhi’s most interesting landmarks is the Jantar Mantar, a collection of 18th century architectural astronomical instruments built in 1724 by Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh. There are three instruments, and they were used for measuring the path of the moon and sun, for drawing up astronomical tables and calendars, and to predict eclipses. Similar observatories were built in other Indian cities, most famously in Jaipur.

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