Delhi, the present day capital territory of India, was sequentially ruled by some of the most powerful Dynasties – the Tomars-Chauhans, the Slave or Mamluk Dynasty, the Khilji, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids, the Lodis, the Mughals, and lastly by the British till India got independence in 1947.
The city of Delhi is said to have been established in 736 AD by the Tomar’s who were succeeded by the Chauhan Rulers. However, the political journey of Delhi began with the invasion of Muhammad of Ghur to India in 1192 when he defeated Prithviraj Chauhan, the powerful chauhan king of Ajmer and Delhi and laid the foundation of Delhi Sultanate.
Muhammad of Ghur left no male heirs and was succeeded by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who became the first Sultan of Delhi in 1206. He founded the slave dynasty, which lasted till 1290. His regime witnessed the plan and construction of world famous the Quwaat-ul-Islam Mosque and the Qutub Minar in Delhi, the expansion and completion of which was later done by Iltutmish.
Iltutmish dethroned Aibak’s successor Aram Shah. He was married to the daughter of Qutb-ud-din. He ruled the Delhi Sultanate for twenty five years and died in 1236. He became the first sultan to appoint a woman, his daughter Razia Sultan, as his successor. It was during his reign that the Mongols, under their leader Genghis Khan, first appeared for the first time.
Iltutmish was succeeded by Malik Jalal-ud-din Firuz of the Khilji Dynasty in 1290. This marked the beginning of Khilji Dynasty which reached the apex during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khilji, who was known for his imperialistic activities. After his death in 1316, three Khilji successors, including Malik Kafur, alleged power but were put to death by their predecessors. Thereafter, Mubarak, the third son of Ala-ud-din Khilji ascended to the throne under the title of Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah. He was later overthrown by Khusro Khan in 1320. This marked the end of Khilji Dynasty.
Khusro was a Hindu and had converted to Islam. His brief regime was marked by the dominance of the Hindus, which was enough to offend the Muslim nobles who soon found a leader in Ghazi Malik. He defeated Khusro at Delhi and ascended the throne in 1320 under the title of Ghias-ud-din Tughluq. He was the first ruler of the Tughlaq Dynasty.
He constructed a huge Fort called as Tughlakabad around the capital city to defend the city against the Mongol attacks. It is said that he was killed by his son Juna Khan, who declared himself ‘Sultan’ three days after the death of his father in 1325, under the title of Muhammad Bin Tughluq.
Muhammad Bin Tughluq (1325-1351), gifted with extraordinary intellect and industry, lacked the essential qualities of a constructive statesman. The whole reign of Muhammad Bin Tughluq was full of bitterness, torture, arrests and mass punishments. His decision to transfer the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad was a blunder and caused immense suffering to the people of Delhi. He later recognised his mistake and re-shifted the court to Delhi but by this time Delhi had lost its former prosperity and grandeur. His ill-advised measures and harsh policies sealed the destiny of his empire.
The Delhi Sultanate continued to lose its hold over Northern Provinces following the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388), which continued to decline thereafter under Sayyid Dynasty (1414-1451).
In the year 1451, the fourth ruler of the Sayyid Dynasty, Ala-ud-din Alam Shah surrendered Delhi to Bahlul Lodi. Lodhi Dynasty’s reign ended under Ibrahim Lodi, who was defeated by Babur in the First battle of Panipat in1526. Babur became the founder of the Mughal Empire and ruled from Delhi and Agra. He occupied much of Northern India after 1526. He was succeeded by his son Humayun, who ascended the throne of Hindustan at the age of twenty three. He was defeated by Hemu (Hem Chandra Vikramaditya) in 1553 at Agra and Delhi. Three years later, the rule of the Mughals was re-established by Humayun’s son Akbar. He defeated Hemu during the second battle of Panipat. This marked the real beginning of the Mughal Empire in India.
Akbar was the third and one of the greatest rulers of the Mughal Dynasty in India. He constructed a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabad called Fatehpur Sikri. Mughal architecture developed vigorously during Akbar’s reign. The Mughal architecture reached its zenith during the reign of Shah Jahan, Akbar’s grandson. The empire gained political strength during the reign of Aurangzeb, younger son of Shah Jahan, who killed his brother to ascend the throne. However, after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal Empire witnessed a quick collapse during 1707 to 1719 which continued to decline during the reign of Emperor Muhammad Shah (1719 to 1748).
In midst of which, the invasion of India by Nader Shah (1736 – 47), Shah of Persia, and his subsequent fight with Muhammad Shah in the Battle of Karnal (1739) followed by sack and looting of the Mughal Capital, including the precious Koh-i-Noor and the Peacock throne (made to celebrate the rule of Shah Jahan), paved the way for more foreign invaders, including the British.
Nader’s invasion destroyed what was left of the Mughal Empire. Meanwhile, the rise of the Marathas too worsened the situation during 1707-1757. A treaty signed in 1751-52, between the Marathas and the Mughals, made Marathas to virtually control the whole of India from their capital at Pune, while the rule of the Mughals was restricted to Delhi. Ahmad Shah Bahadur (1748-1754) and his successor Alamgir II (1754-1759) reigned briefly. Thereafter, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II (1760-1806) ascended the crumbling Mughal Empire and made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline.
The invasions by the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali during the reign of Shah Alam II led to the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 resulting in the defeat of the Marathas. However, ten years later, in 1771, the Maratha Authority was regained by Mahadji who captured Delhi and installed Shah Alam II as a puppet ruler on the Mughal Throne in 1772.
In 1784, the Maratha’s under Mahadji Scindia won acknowledgement as the protectors of the emperor in Delhi, a state of affairs that continued until after the Second Anglo-Maratha War in which the British defeated the Marathas in the Battle fought at Delhi’s Patparganj, thus ending the Maratha rule in the City.
Thereafter, the British East India Company became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi, which became a part of North-Western Provinces during 1836-1858. Delhi passed into the direct control of the British Government after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who had authority over only the city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), was deposed by the British government and the remaining Mughal territories were annexed as a part of British India.
In 1911, it was announced that the capital of British held territories in India was to be transferred from Calcutta to Delhi. The name “New Delhi” was given in 1927, and the new capital was inaugurated on 13 February 1931. New Delhi, also known as Lutyens’ Delhi, was officially declared as the capital of the Union of India after the country gained independence on 15 August 1947.
Delhi is full of architecturally significant buildings built during the Indo-Muslim and British period – such as the Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Tughlaqabad Fort, Iron Pillar, Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, tombs of the Sayyid Kings, Hauz Khas, Jamali Kamali, Pearl Mosque, Jantar Mantar, Purana Qila, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Raj Ghat, India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Secretariat, Rajpath, the Parliament of India, Vijay Chowk etc.