New Delhi: the scent of India
New Delhi, the capital of India with a history that goes back to the Mahabharata, is a richly diverse melting pot of cultures, flavours and aromas that thrills the heart of travellers.
Delhi, the seat of power for more than a thousand years, has seen the dynasties of the Lodi, the Mughals, and later, that of the British Raj, rise and fall. In 1914, English architect Edwin Lutyens' mission was to build New Delhi. Through various buildings, such as the palace of the residence of the Viceroy of India and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President, the power of the empire of British settlers was reflected, especially through the use of stone. The project was completed in 1931, and the results are amazing. The plans of the new city aligned the mosque in Old Delhi with the famous roundabout of Connaught Place and the parliament. Inspired by the splendour of the Maharajas, Lutyens created a new style of urban architecture, combining the neoclassical with accents from the Mughal era and the Buddhist past.
Nalini Thakur, who specialises in the conservation of India's architectural heritage, described Lutyens' Delhi as 'a very rare capital of the early 20th century!' After the partition of India in 1947, when India regained its freedom, the morphology of Delhi changed. Delhi and its perpetual construction sites over the years has become the theatre of the contrasts of modern India. The large airy avenues of the British era co-exist with the urban hubbub and the maze of Old Delhi, whose streets are only wide enough to ride a scooter through. On Delhi's chaotic roads, it is not uncommon to see an elephant, ox carts, horse carriages, taxis, motorcycles, and rickshaws (tricycles), all competing for a bit of road space. In its frenetic race toward modernisation, Delhi is topsy-turvy. And forgive the word play when we say that Delhi is very much 'topsy' in terms of the cultural wonders it deploys. What a delight to strike out in this anarchic mosaic and explore Mughal mausoleums, Hindu and Sikh temples, dusty bazaars, majestic buildings from the British Raj era, and the fortresses and gardens that oxygenate the city. Delhi perfectly reflects the wise, ancient spirit of India through the teaching of Hinduism and yoga as well as the violence and modernity of its industrialisation process and technological prowess.
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