Delhi History

Delhi at the Beginning

The presence of human habitation has been found in Delhi as early as 2nd millennium BC to sixth century BC. The reference of city can be found in the great Indian epic Mahabharata. The city which was known as Indraprastha was the capital of Pandava kings. The first architectural reference of the city is found in Mauryan period around 300 BC. The excavations carried out in year 1966 have unearthed certain inscriptions belonging to Emperor Ashoka’s period at Srinivaspuri. The archaeology department has been able to bring out the presence of 8 ancient cities in present Delhi site. Out of the eight cities five falls in present day south Delhi.

Tomara dynasty King AnangPal founded Lal Kot city in the year 736 AD which was conquered by Chauhans in 1180 and rechristened as Qila Rai Pithora.

The Sultanate Invasion

King Prithviraj Chauhan III was defeated in the year 1192 by Afghan ruler Muhammad Ghori and this laid the foundation for dominance of Muslim rulers in Delhi which lasted for six hundred years. In the year 1206 after the death of Muhammad Ghori, the Turkic slave-general, Qutub-ud-din Aibak came to power and proclaimed himself as the first Sultan of Delhi. Immediately after coming to power he started construction of Quwwat-al-Islam and Qutub Minar. He faced tough opposition from Hindus during his rule. However, his successor, Iltutmish succeeded in establishing his supremacy and consolidating Muslim power in entire Northern India.

The next three centuries witnessed Delhi being ruled by various Pashtun and Turkic dynasties. These rulers built numerous townships and forts which are now part of seven cities established in Delhi. Sufism was at its peak during these rules. The famous ruler among these Kings was the second Khilji ruler, Ala-ud-din Khilji. During his reign, the rule of Delhi sultanate reached to south of river Narmada and extended to Deccan region. However, it was during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq the territory under Delhi sultanate was at peak. In order to conquer Deccan region, he shifted his capital to Daulatabad located in present day Maharashtra state. However, once he started losing control over north India he had to shift his capital back to Delhi. This resulted in some southern provinces declaring independence and during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq, the area under Delhi sultanate came down rapidly. He started losing control over many Northern provinces. Timur Lung captured Delhi and killed more than 1 lakh captives. The decline of Delhi continued with Sayyid dynasty and the city was reduced to a normal locality. Delhi sultanate regained its control during the regime of Lodhi dynasty. It gained complete control over gangetic plains and Punjab region. The complete Delhi sultanate was reduced and destroyed with the commencement of Mughal regime in the year 1526 by Babur.

Mughal Dynasty and the Hindu Rule

Babur who was the successor of Timur and Genghis Khan belonged to present day Uzbekistan region. He invaded India in the year 1526 and defeated the last Lodhi sultan during first battle of Panipat. Thus he laid the foundation of Mughal Empire which ruled entire India from Agra and Delhi region. Mughal Kings were able to rule the entire country for three hundred years with a break of sixteen years during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. In the year 1553, Hemu Vikramaditya defeated the forces of Humayun and conquered the throne of Delhi. However, he was defeated by King Akbar's army in 1556 in the Second Battle of Panipat. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was famous for building various architecture grandeurs in the country. He built the 7th city in Delhi by the name Shahjahanabad which bears his name and served as his capital. Shahjahanabad stands at the location of present day Old Delhi.

Time of Marathas and Afghan Invasions

The year 1720 witnessed the decline of Mughal Empire with rise in power of Marathas and weakening of Mughal successors. In the year 1737, Delhi was attacked and conquered by Maratha forces in the first battle of Delhi. Mughal Empire was further reduced when it lost the battle of Karnal to Turkic King Nader Shah in 1739. Nader Shah looted the valuables and treasures of Delhi including famous Peacock Throne. In 1752, Marathas became the protectors of the Mughal Empire in Delhi after signing a treaty.

Further, the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani attacked and ransacked Delhi in 1757. He made a Mughal puppet the ruler and himself the overall controller. Taking this opportunity the Maratha rulers briefly occupied Delhi, but was again defeated by Ahmad Shah in the third battle of Panipat in 1761. After a decade in the year 1771 Marathas under the reign of Mahadji Shinde established full control over Delhi and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II was made the puppet ruler.

Delhi Under British Rule

The British East India Company succeeded in defeating the Maratha forces in Second Anglo-Maratha War which took place in 1803. During the Revolt of 1857, popularly called the first War of Indian Independence, Delhi was conquered by East India Company after a fierce battle which is termed as the “Siege of Delhi” in History. Delhi was annexed to Punjab province and came under the direct control of British in 1858. The British government decided to make Delhi the capital of British captured territories in India. Hence the capital of East India Company was transferred from Calcutta to Delhi. The new capital with a new name “New Delhi” came into existence on 13 February 1931.

Independence and the Partition

New Delhi became the capital of India after India attained Independence on 15th Aug 1947. The partition period witnessed migration of thousands of Sikh and Hindu people from Punjab region to Delhi. Similarly several Muslim refugees migrated to Pakistan. The migration of people from various parts of the country resulted in enormous population rise in city which is continuing till date. The birth rate has gone far ahead of death rate owing to the vast settlement of people in Delhi.

Sixty-ninth Amendment Act of the constitution which came into existence in the year 1991 and provided Delhi the status of National Capital Territory. This act provided a separate legislative assembly with restricted powers.

Recent History

Delhi witnessed the worst of militant attacks when the Parliament building was attacked by armed militants causing the death of 6 security personnel. India strongly condemned this act and suspected the role of Pakistan based militant outfits. This tarnished the bilateral peace talks between the countries. There were also few of such occurrences in Oct 05 and Sep 08 where innocent civilian population had to lose their valuable lives.


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