(From Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)

New Delhi

New Delhi, the capital of the Republic of India, is located on the western bank of the Yamuna River in north central India. The city proper has a population of 9,817,439 (2001 prelim.); the population of the Delhi metropolitan area is 12,791,458 (2001 prelim.). The National Capital Territory of Delhi covers an area of 1,483 km2 (572 mi2) and has a population of 13,782,976 (2001 prelim.); it encompasses most of greater Delhi and a large number of surrounding villages.

Contemporary City

Although Delhi is a predominantly Hindu city, it has significant Sikh and Muslim minorities. Hindustani and Punjabi are the dominant languages; English is a common second language.

New Delhi is essentially an administrative sector with business and retail activities, and Old Delhi is largely a commercial and industrial center. New Delhi was designed (1912–14) by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens on a geometrical plan. The Rashtrapati Bhavan, or Presidential Palace (formerly the viceroy's residence and one of the largest palaces in the world), and India Gate are joined by the main east-west axis, the Raj Path (Kingsway), a wide highway lined with government buildings. The imposing Parliament House, formerly the Council Chamber, contains both houses of the Indian legislature. The main shopping area, Connaught Place, has state-owned and privately owned shops. New Delhi has many spacious residential areas.

Old Delhi, to New Delhi's north, is dominated by exquisite Indo-Islamic and Mogul architecture. Historic monuments include the 7-m-high (24-ft) Iron Pillar erected in the 5th century. The early-13th-century Qutb Minar, a 73-m-high (238-ft) minaret, is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Examples of Mogul architecture include Humayun's Tomb (1565); the Red Fort (1638–48), containing the emperor's court and palaces; and the Jama Masjid (1650–56), the largest mosque in India. The Red Fort complex, built during the reign of Shah Jahan as the new capital of the Mogul empire, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Drawing its name from the red sandstone walls that surround it, the fort is an outstanding example of Mogul art and architecture.

Delhi's economy is highly diversified, but employment is dominated by the civil service. The most important industries in the city produce textiles, machinery, books and periodicals, transportation equipment, metal products, steel castings, and chemicals. The first section of the city's new underground metro system, planned to ultimately carry 2 million passengers a day and help to solve the city's traffic jams and pollution problems, was inaugurated in December 2002. The selection of New Delhi as only the second Asian city to host the Commonwealth Games, in 2010 (Kuala Lumpur was the first, in 1998), was expected to boost tourism.

The Union Territory of Delhi formally became the National Capital Territory of Delhi in 1992. It remained under the control of a lieutenant governor appointed by the president of India and a 61-member Metropolitan Council until the first elections for a legislature similar to those of the states were held in November 1993. The National Capital Territory is now locally self-governing and is generally classed as a state, even though it lacks formal statehood status.

Important seats of learning in Delhi include the University of Delhi (1922) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (1969). The National Museum of India in New Delhi houses ancient relics of the Indus civilization. The Gandhi National Museum and Library contains memorabilia of Mahatma Gandhi's life.


Urban settlement on the Delhi site dates from ancient times. Strategically located between the Punjab and Ganges plains, it lies on the main invasion path from the west. At least nine sites in the vicinity, known as the Delhi Triangle, have been identified as former locations of capitals: mythological Indraprastha (pre-6th century B.C.), near the Purana Qula site; Dilli (1st century B.C.); Dhillika (736), at Lal Kot; Kilookai (1287–90), by the side of the Yamuna; Tughlukabad (1320–51); Firozabad (1354–88); Din Panah, later Purana Qula (1530–56); and magnificent Shah Jahanabad (1638–1857), today's Old Delhi. New Delhi is the most recent site. Delhi was pillaged by a succession of invaders: Timur in 1398; Nadir Shah in 1739; Abdali in 1756–57; Marathas in 1757, 1760, and 1772; and Rohilas in 1788. The British erected a cantonment nearby in 1803. In 1857, during the Indian Mutiny, Delhi was the scene of a major battle won by the British over native troops. The British occupied Delhi until 1947.

When Delhi replaced Calcutta as capital of India in 1912, the city resumed its earlier significance after two centuries of decline, developing into a major rail center. The Indian independence movement brought on violent demonstrations between 1919 and 1946. Mahatma Gandhi formulated plans for his nonviolent movement in Delhi in 1919. He was killed there in 1948; the Rajghat memorial commemorates the site of his cremation.

In December 2000, Pakistani-based guerrillas involved in the Kashmiri separatist movement extended their operations outside Kashmir by attacking Delhi's historic Red Fort, which was constructed during the reign of Mogul emperor Shah Jahan. Militant Kashmiri separatists were also believed to be responsible for a synchronized series of bombings that killed at least 59 people in several of the city's marketplaces on Oct. 29, 2005. Later that year the city teetered on the brink of catastrophe when its High Court ordered the demolition of all illegal structures. Because of corruption and the fact that city authorities had long ago fallen behind in meeting the housing needs of the roughly 400,000 people who migrate annually to New Delhi in search of work, a majority of all buildings in the city were believed to include some major or minor illegal construction. Many of these structures were unsafe or encroached on sidewalks and other public land, but people had nowhere else to live.

Ashok K. Dutt


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