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Historically, developments in Delhi took place in a triangular patch of land with River Yamuna on one side and the northern range of Aravalli hills on the other two sides. The wider regional importance of Delhi strategically stems from its location on an important trade route, the Uttarapatha that ran along the Gangetic plain and linked up to the Silk Route.
Archaeological findings have revealed continuous cultural layers from 3rd-4thC BC to the Mughal Period, and pottery fragments that date from approximately 1000-500 BC, Lal Kot, the 1st city of Delhi was founded by the Tamar dynasty in 1060 AD. The Chauhans replaced the Tomars in the mid-12th C and extended Lal Kot to form Qila Rai Pithora. Delhi grew to be the capital of an empire in the time of the Delhi Sultanate, with the establishment of Siri, the 2nd city of Delhi. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (r. 1320-24), the first of the Tughlaq kings who followed the Khaljis built Tughlaqabad the 3rd city of Delhi. In AD 1326-27, Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq linked the older cities of Lal Kot and Siri with two walls to build the 4th city of Delhi, Jahanpanah. Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388) built Firozabad, the 5th city of Delhi, on the banks of River Yamuna. Unlike other dynasties that ruled from Delhi, the Sayyid (15th C) and Lodi Dynasties (mid 15th C) did not left behind any particular city. Delhi was then intermittently the capital of the Mughal Empire (with a hiatus from the mid-16th to mid-17th centuries), Emperor Humayun, in AD 1533, built Dinpanah, the 6th city of Delhi. In AD 1639, Shahjahan shifted the Mughal Empire back to Delhi and the walled city of Shahjahanabad, the 7th city of Delhi was built. The British defeated the Marathas in AD 1803 and took over Delhi. In AD 1911, they moved their capital from Calcutta to Delhi and New Delhi was built to the south-west of the walled city, Shahjahanabad.
It is Delhi's surviving historic urbanscape comprising of four precincts of Mehrauli, Nizamuddin, Shahjahanabad and New Delhi that still have an outstanding universal significance, that are being proposed for nomination as a World Heritage City.
MEHRAULI zone includes the original extent of the walled city of Lai Kot extending south to include Mehrauli village which houses the dargah of the early 13th C sufi saint, Qutubuddin Baktiyar Kaki and the Mehrauli Archaeological Path. This precinct has seen more than 900 years of continuous habitation, leading to a layering of history which has resulted in a complex socio cultural mosaic. The surviving ensemble of buildings from the 1st city including structures like the Qutb Miner and Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, is evidence of an early stage in the development of a distinct Delhi style, characterized by an innovative mix of cultures, technologies, materials and decorative motifs. The traditional dargah settlement of Mehrauli Village and the development around is representative of the living Sufi traditions that originated here. Mehraull Archaeological Park has numerous graves and tombs, mosques, gardens and other structures besides the hauz(tank). Jahaz Mahal, an impressive Lodi period building, exemplifies the mature Sultanate style, reflecting a harmonious mix of materials —grey quartzite, red sandstone, and glazed tiles; and forms — arches, domes, chhatris (domed kiosks) and corbelled doorways, that drew from both western and Indian traditions. The Mughal style is evident in the Jharna(18th century) — a waterfall created from an overflow of the tank, with a formal garden. This ensemble together with the dargah are the attributes of the living tradition of the Phoolwalon-kl-sair, which is celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims as an extraordinary evidence of communal harmony.
NIZAMUDDIN is largely associated with Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, a revered 14th century Sufi saint and his disciple Hazrat Amir Khusrau (1253 AD - 1325 AD) for over seven hundred years. The area proposed for nomination comprises of 1) the traditional settlement that developed around the dargah of the Sufi saint and 2) the Nizamuddin precinct which saw considerable building activity in the form of tombs and mosques, built in this area because of the aura of the Sufi saint. The scale and nature of development in this precinct (impressive complexes Iike Humayun's Tomb) adds to its coherence demonstrating the level at which the saint was venerated and continues to be, till today. The enduring prominence of Nizamuddin Auliya also ensured that many ruling dynasties, the II Bari Turks (Slave dynasty), Khaljis, Tughlaqs Lodis, Surs and of course the Mughals, all built in this small geographic area. The resulting ensemble differs in material, visual and spatial aspects yet possess a homogenous cohesiveness. The dargah settlement and the adjacent precinct is a unique representation of a historic settlement that developed around a religious shrine, over a long period of time. In the Nizamuddin dargah settlement, houses line narrow streets and are interspersed with many historic burial places. Though most of the houses have been periodically rebuilt, the settlement itself is a very old one. Sufism has played an important role in the creation of values of religious tolerance in the culture of the sub-continent; and continues to do so even today.
SHAHJAHANABAD The walled city Shahjahanabad is the imperial capital city established in the mid-seventeenth century by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. The core of the city was the palace fortress now called the Red Fort with the central ceremonial pathway, Chandni Chowk with Fatehpuri Masjid at its other end. Though the pattern of land use is totally urban, it was still essentially a pedestrian city retaining a human scale. The residential areas are introvert spaces and independent social and environmental entities, while commercial activities are located along the spines, closer to areas of administrative or institutional importance. Shahjahanabad, as the seat of the Mughal court saw a flowering of multiple artistic and cultural traditions that persist till today-arts and crafts, Urdu Language and poetic forms, Deihl Gharana of music that extended its artistry to also include dance.
NEW DELHI The city designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker, redefined the architecture and urbanism of Delhi in the process of addressing contemporary imperatives. At its core is the central vista, Kingsway (now Rajpath) with iconic buildings, the Rashtrapati Bhawan located on Raisina Hill, flanked by the large blocks of Secretariat buildings at the northern end, sweeping eastward to a hexagonal roundabout, India Gate. The main cross axis, Queensway (now Janpath) runs south from the business district, Connaught Place. The rest of the city has a range of avenues, from a modest 60 feet to 300 hundred feet, with the grand axis of 440 feet, and a planted parkway of several avenues of trees. The design blends the two dominant themes of early twentieth century city planning— the City Beautiful (vistas) and the Garden City (verdure), concepts that had world relevance in city planning of the early twentieth century. The genius of the design Iies in its integration of vista and verdure. In the architecture of the buildings, Indian elements and motifs were used, drawing Inspiration from Buddhist religious complexes on the one hand, and Mughal buildings and the bungalow on the other. The overwhelming aesthetic within which these elements were deployed captured the spirit of syncretism evident in Delhi for many centuries.
Delhi is without doubt, a city of international standing and significance. Diverse historical, cultural and environmental exigencies have created the city that is today recognized globally as the capital of an important developing nation. Delhi's aura of a capital city goes back many centuries and its outstanding universal value stems from the fact that it was the capital of significant kingdoms and often sub-continental empires, which in many ways facilitated the development of a cultural synthesis that flowered into a sophisticated and mature form and in turn exerted an influence over a wide geographical area, Over several centuries, the city has defined its uniqueness in its ever evolving morphological and architectural styles as a result of its continuous amalgamation of Ideas and ideologies. Such exigencies and syncretism has left a distinct mark on its tangible footprint with the development of new vocabulary of architecture where form, function and symbolism played an important role. An amalgamation of cultures also influenced the traditions which resonated within the society in the form of intangible heritage. Art, craft, religious practices and performing arts developed and was practiced profusely by the people influencing other cities within its regional context.
(ii) Delhi's unique cultural landscape evolved from the mingling of multiple streams of cultural impulses from the Islamic and European worlds. The extension of its integrated culture was a result of cross fertilisation in the process of continuous development as a major centre of power, culture and learning in the medieval world, The result is the hybrid architectural styles and the syncretism of the intangible heritage, which are today closely identified with the city and define its outstanding universal value. At the end of the twelfth century, the then prevalent Rajput architecture of Delhi received a strong infusion of very new architectural styles and techniques, brought in by the Turk rulers. They also point to an early stage in the development of a distinct Delhi style, characterized by an innovative mix of technologies, materials and decorative motifs. There was also an exchange of cultural meaning across sectarian lines. Over the centuries the builders of Delhi built in a style that is neither 'Hindu' nor 'Muslim'. They used styles that consciously sought to incorporate meaningful elements from different traditions. In the design of New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens picked up motifs and forms from the Mughal past and thereby introduced another powerful tradition — that of India's ancient Buddhist sites. This syncretism can be seen in historic buildings throughout Delhi, in all four areas being nominated as part of the World Heritage City of Delhi-Mehrauli, Nizamuddin, Shahjahanabad and New Delhi.
(v) The various cities within Delhi were built as capitals of the ruling dynasty at different times in response to very specific social, political and cultural catalysts. Two of these, the walled city of Shajahanabad and New Delhi remain intact as traditional human settlements of outstanding universal significance. The town planning of Shahjahanabad was no doubt influenced by Iranian ideas — as expressed in texts like the Rasail Ikhwan al Safa, and the examples of West Asian cities, such as Isfahan. But scholars believe that the plan of Shahjahanabad was equally influenced by the ancient Indian texts on architecture —the Vastu Shastra. Moreover, the organic growth of the city in the centuries following its establishment has reflected the assimilative tendencies in Indian society— with various religious sects, occupational and ethnic groups finding space within the city without any one being privileged over the others. New Delhi, built between 1913 and 1931, exhibits an interaction of a different sort. Two traditional Western trends —The American 'City Beautiful' and the British 'Garden City' movements, were blended with the peculiar needs of British colonialism in India.
(vi) Sufism and its unique composite culture developed along independent lines and gained immense popularity in Delhi even with the non-Muslim population. In the practices of the Sufis, who have been a cultural, and at times even political force, there was common ground with the ideas of bhakti or personal devotion to God that existed in the Hindu tradition, Many characteristics of the typically Indian variant of Sufism, have a history of beginnings in Delhi where there are believed to be 22 important shrines. The city was known as 'Hazrat Dehli'; hazrat being the respectful title used for a saint. The saints, with their liberal religious practice attracted not only converts and devotees in large numbers; they also provided the political power with a model of governance that was based on a tolerance of non-Muslim populations. Mehrauli and Nizamuddin contain the shrines of two of the most influential saints of the Chishti order — Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Nizamuddin Aullya; while Shahjahanabad has several shrines of only slightly less well known saints such Shah Turkman, Sarmad Shaheed and Hare Bhare Shah. Sama, or qawwali is an important part of the legacy of the Sufis, particularly of the Chishti order, as is the evolution of forms which incorporated indigenous Indian musical traditions and the Hindavi language with Persian traditions. The link between the dargah of Qutub Sahib and the Hauz-e-Shamsi that had existed since the early years of the Sultanate was further reinforced in the 1810s with the birth of a new tradition, the Phoolwalon ki sair or `festival of the flower sellers'. This celebration of Hindu-Muslim amity is a tradition that has survived to the present time, and is an annual festival at Mehrauli. Language and literature were not unaffected by the cultural melting pot of Delhi, Farsi (Persian) became the language of the state and of high culture In the early days of the Sultanate and attempts at blending It with the local dialect spoken around Delhi were seen in the poetry of Amir Khusro. Slowly Urdu developed — blending a number of words from different sources including Persian and Turki, into the local language or Khari boll. Zaban-e urdu-e mu'alla-e Shahjahanabad (the language of the exalted city/court of Shahjahanabad) underlined its close connection with the city. Urdu soon spread over much of the sub-continent, and its literature, (much of it produced in Delhi) is counted among the great literatures of the world.
Delhi is a living city. It accommodates the remains of over a thousand years of building in different states of preservation. The authenticity of the form and design of the nominated area varies in the four historic sites that are proposed for consideration. Use and function has remained authentic to a very high degree. Location and setting of all four sites has been largely retained. Urdu Language, Sufi traditions and other forms of Intangible heritage have. survived in the heritage precincts of Mehraull and Nizamuddin and continue till today.
Mehraull There are a substantial number of surviving monumental buildings within the 1st walled city that has retained its original form, design and materials providing coherent evidence of the character of Delhi's first urban settlement. The nominated area is an integral whole and includes the original extent of the Rajput fortification, though only traces of the fortifications remain. The morphology of Mehraull village with its original function and use, typical of traditional settlements remains unchanged and will continue to do so because of the high level of awareness and sense of reverence that prevails with regard to anything associated with the Sufi Saint. The structures In the Archaeological Park are now listed buildings and most of them have been linked through trails and interpretive signage allowing them to be read as a cognitive whole.
Nizamuddin the main structures within the Nizamuddin precinct have retained their authenticity and integrity to a large extent. The traditional dargah settlement still retains its original urban morphology and street pattern. Most palpable in this settlement is the spirit of religious fervour and feeling of reverence for the Sufi saint and all associated traditions
Shahjahanabad In the walled city of Shahjahanabad, the physical form of the walled city and some gates have survived. The city has evolved with time, most significantly as a result of the aftermath of historical events like the Uprising of 1857, which has changed the spatial character of parts of the walled city. However, in most parts of the city, the urban morphology and monumental buildings of the Mughal period remain intact and the residential structures have been rebuilt on the original footprint. In certain areas commercial developments have replaced the residents in the original buildings, adding considerably to the load on its infrastructure. New Delhi The original form and design of New Delhi, together with its location and setting remains unchanged to this day. The synthesis of the Garden City Movement and City Beautiful Movement, both very strong town planning concepts of the 19th century has been almost wholly preserved (with the exception of the commercial district of Connaught place which has seen some change in the building heights). The cross section of the streets with the original avenue planting is still retained. Having completed their life span these trees now need to be replaced and a comprehensive proposal has been prepared for replanting of the avenues.
This comparative analysis aims to highlight the distinctiveness of Delhi as compared to other historic cities In the geo-cultural region, by examining the influences on city planning, morphology, architecture and intangible heritage. Delhi has been compared to the cities of Samarkand, Lahore, Agra, Lucknow, Cairo, Istanbul and Tunis in the broader region of Asia, Arab and European states. The architectural style and the planning principles which are the features of the above mentioned cities exhibits very rich heritage and are comparable to Delhi. However Deihl stands unique as a culmination of various architectural styles and amalgamation of various cultures. This amalgamation of cultures reflects in the tangible and intangible elements resulting In an unique architectural form, city morphology and cultural traditions which today define its Outstanding Universal Value.
Similar to the city planning concept of Islamic cities like Lahore, Cairo and Tunis; Delhi also had a unique street layout with the primary axis leading to a central place of worship flanked by shops on either side. The secondary and tertiary roads were further segregated based on its functional need. Often the roads leading to the residential quarters would end in a cul de sac. A similar road network can also be seen in Istanbul where the Messe became the central road with several smaller linkages branching to different sections of the city.
The Islamic city of Shahjahanabad was designed based on ideas and ideals of Persian city planning and the Indian text of Vastu Shastra. No segregation of the city was done based on religion which makes no analogues anywhere else In town planning of an Islamic city. A similar idiom of town planning was followed during for New Delhi where not only Indian principles but also the concept of "Garden City" was applied thus defining the uniqueness of Delhi in terms of its urban fabric based on influences and design principles of both Islamic, Persian and Hindu Principles.
Architectural vocabulary developed encompassing elements from Indian, Islamic architecture, art and craft. Use of kaiash.or lotus motifs in Islam buildings or Incorporating chattris and chajJas in 20th century colonial buildings are examples of sensitive amalgamation of different styles. Such form of architectural amalgamation further influenced the architectural style of Lucknow and became a base for building design by the Nawabs. Gardens incorporated as elements of design and place for leisure was brought to Delhi by the Mughals from the rulers of Central Asia.
Dehli being a capital city became a centre where the performing arts, craft, language, traditional beliefs and practices continuously evolved. Urdu language, ciawwail and Sufism are a few of the intangible forms which developed. Urdu was later used extensively by other parts of India. Sufism was practiced in several countries across Central Asia like Samarkand but it developed in its own independent lines in Delhi by incorporating Hindu traditions like annihilation, music and dance which further influenced other parts within the regional context. Thus Delhi is comparable to several cities mentioned above but its uniqueness lies in its tangible and Intangible elements intertwined together which defines the Outstanding Value of Delhi.