Capital of India, Delhi is two cities in one– first the Old Delhi of the Mughals, created by Shah Jahan and still a medieval place of forts, mosques and bazaars. Second, the New Delhi built by the British, an elegant metropolis of broad avenues, stately homes and landscaped gardens. The coexistence of the old and the new, a comman featured of modern Indian cities, is nowhere more obvious then in Delhi; with the poor inner city leading a life of its own, the rich and the political elite retire to the sophisticated diplomatic enclaves, and debate the encroaching poverty from behind closed doors. Delhi is the seat of Indian government, and what visitors see here is a reflection of what is happening in the country as a whole.
When the great coastal cities of India were still mud-flats, Delhi was already a thriving capital of an ancient empire. Legend has it that the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata epic, founded a city on this site, called Indraprastha, around 1200 BC. Certainly, it has for many, many centuries exerted a powerful influence on the history of the country. Its strategic situation between the Aravali hills, known here as the Ridge, and flanked to the east by the river Yamuna, was one that no prospective Hindu ruler or northern invader could afford to ignore. Consequently, it was built,fought over or, defended, destroyed, deserted and rebuilt on several occasions over the ages. In the process, it absorbed many different cultures and became uniquely cosmopolitan in its outlook.