The incredible and chaotic city of Delhi, capital of India, is home to three World Heritage Sites. These three sites are all from the Mughal era of Indian history, and all three are among the most famous monuments in Delhi. Read on then, for our guide to the World Heritage Sites in Delhi!
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi – World Heritage Monuments in India
Our first UNESCO World Heritage site in Delhi is Humayun’s Tomb, an incredible building which houses the tomb of Emperor Humayun. He was part of the Mughal dynasty which ruled much of the Indian subcontinent for several hundred years. Humayun himself was emperor twice during the mid-16th century. The Tomb was built just a few short years after his death, and was commissioned by his widow, Empress Bega Begum. She was later buried here as well.
Constructed of rubble masonry, red sandstone and white marble, the tomb is incredibly beautiful when seen gleaming in the sun. Intricate Islamic patterned artworks complete with six-pointed stars cover the facades, and there’s beauty to be found at every point. There’s an obvious resemblance too with the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, though Humayun’s Tomb is several decades older than the Taj.
Interestingly, the Tomb is set alone among a large Persian-style garden, one of the earliest to be found in India. These gardens are laid out in perfect proportions and in line with Islamic theology, and the whole complex makes for a beautiful and relaxing afternoon. It’s even possible to forget that you’re surrounded on all sides by one of the world’s largest cities! It’s such a great example of a heritage site in Delhi.
Qutb Minar, Delhi – World Heritage Site
The next of our UNESCO World Heritage sites in Delhi is a fascinating complex on the southern outskirts of town. Qutb Minar is a huge minaret, 72 metres high, constructed around 1192 by the first Muslim Sultan of Delhi. Although its height has been added to over the centuries, it’s still an amazing sight. The beautiful tapering design is covered in Islamic scripts and artworks, and the lower levels are fluted, which creates a very striking effect. These days it’s considered the oldest still-remaining Muslim building in India, and the tallest stone tower in India as well.
Also in the complex of monuments is the remains of Quwwat al-Islam Mosque, one of the earliest mosques constructed in India. This is a fascinating building as you can really see the influence of local Hindu craftsmen on the design and architecture, creating something that is truly unique.
And of course, nearby you have the famous Iron Pillar of Delhi, a tall iron pillar dating to the fourth century AD and the Gupta Dynasty. Although we don’t know precisely where and when it was manufactured, we know that the enormous pillar has barely rusted for 1700 years! Truly a testament to the incredible skill of ancient Indian ironsmiths. There’s also a beautiful inscription carved onto the pillar, dedicated to the might and power of King Chandragupta the Second. Definitely one of the best UNESCO heritage sites in Delhi.
Red Fort of Delhi – World Heritage Site
Finally, the third of our UNESCO sites in Delhi is the imposing Red Fort. Located in the centre of Delhi, this imposing fortress was built in the late 17th century by the great Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. It takes its name from the deep red coloured sandstone material used for the outer walls and ramparts. Despite having the name of “fort”, it’s really more of a palace complex, as its where the Emperors and their courts resided for the last two centuries of their rule in India.
Unfortunately, this was a super disappointing visit for us. The Fort was closed for two weeks while we were in Delhi as part of the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. So we only managed to see the Fort from the festival outside. I guess we’ll just have to come back, maybe when they add another World Heritage site in Delhi!
So there you have it – the three World Heritage monuments in Delhi. Quite a fascinating mix of buildings, and although we were both disappointed about not getting inside the Red Fort it just means we’ll have to go back! But we hope you’ve learned a lot about the heritage of Delhi, and some of the Mughal monuments in Delhi as well.
If this is your first time here, have a look around! Why not check out the 8 World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka? Or for something a little further afield, the beautiful World Heritage Sites of Tuscany. Are you curious to know how World Heritage Sites are selected? Wonder no more, with our World Heritage Sites – Your Questions Answered megapost!