Delhi boasts of a rich history which changed the course of entire India. Have a look at the article to get familiarised with the history of Delhi.

History Of Delhi

History Of Delhi

The history of Delhi is in fact the history of India. If mythological claims are to be believed, Delhi was the legendary city of Indraprastha, which featured In Mahabharata 3000 years ago. It was a barren land given by the kauravas to the Pandavas which they converted into a heaven through their immense effort.  As per historical records, the region has settlers since 2500 years ago. Though has not been the capital of India always, the city played a role which was undeniable in India’s history. This gateway city is a major route which linked Western and Central Asia and South East Asia.  This is the same city which witnessed the rise and fall of empires and dynasties; some even didn’t had the lifespan of a moth. Its old ruins proclaim an imperial past and a vibrant present, which pulsates as higher as the ever flowing life of a country called India. It has always seen the best of power struggles from the time of Mahabharata which continued through every conqueror which craved for the blood of Delhi.

Early References

  • The first reference to the settlement of can be found in the epic Mahabharata in which a city named Indraprastha is constructed around 1400 BC by the Pandava King Yudhistra. Though there are no remains found, Indraprastha is said to be a thriving city.
  • The name ‘Delhi’ was first referred in 1st century BC when a city was built near the site of the present Qutub Minar by Raja Dhilu which he named after himself.

Early Settlements

  • Settlements in Delhi are dated back to the age of Mauryan Empire (300 BC). Coins, jewellery and terracotta pots show the importance of Delhi which Ptolemy mentions ‘Dilli’.
  • Modern Delhi came into existence when Tomara Rajputs dynasty’s king Anang Pal founded the city of Lol Kot in AD 736.
  • The Chauhans conquered Lol Kot in the year 1180 which was renamed as Qila Rai Pithora.


  • The Chauhan king Prithviraj III was defeated by Mohammed Ghori in 1192.
  • The year 1206 witnessed Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the Turkish general and the first ruler of Slave Dynasty establishing the Delhi Sultanate (the first prominent Muslim rulers of the sub continent). He constructed Qutub Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam), the early mosques in India. He was succeeded by Iltutmish, who is one of the greatest of Delhi sultans.
  • In 1290, Turks invaded Delhi inspired by their ruler, Ala-ud-din Khalji (1296-1316) whose reign marked the pinnacle of Delhi Sultanate. Following this, the Tughluq dynasty came to power with Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq naming himself sultan in 1320.
  • The reign of Tughluqs came to an end when a Central Asian Turk and his successors ruled Delhi from 1414- 1444. They were ousted by Buhlul Lodi who left his footmarks in the tombs and mosques still in the Mughal gardens. All these dynasties which ruled Delhi constructed forts and townships which paved the way to the formation of seven cities of Delhi.
  • In 1398, Timur Lenk conquered India, entered Delhi and destroyed the left the city in ruins. He killed 100, 000 captives.

Mughal period  

  • In the year 1526, Zahiruddin Babur defeated the last Lodhi sultan in the First Battle of Panipat. He founded the Mughal Empire and ruled from Delhi, Agra and Lahore.
  • Mughals ruled Delhi for almost three centuries though Babur’s son Humayun was exiled to Persia by the Afghan King Sher Shah who constructed the Old Fort.
  • Shah Jahan is credited for building the seventh city of Delhi. This city which was named Shahjahanabad is more commonly known as Old Delhi or Old City served as the capital of Mughal Empire in 1638. After 1680, Mughals lost their prominence which led the Marathas to rise to power. 1707, Aurangzeb transferred the power of the capital to the Deccan plateau.

Declining Mughals

  • During the reign of Muhammad Shah, Mughals lost the Battle of Karnal (1739) to Nadir Shah, the Persian emperor. The city was invaded and looted by the victorious forces.
  • The next sixty years witnessed Delhi being ruled by countryers and invaders from Persia. The plain tomb of Safdurjung constructed in 1745 in the same model of Taj shows the declining power of Mughals. The treaty of 1752 made the Marathas the protector of the Mughal Throne of Delhi.

British Rule

  • In 1761, Delhi was again raided by Ahmed Shah Abdali after the Marathas lost the Third Battle of Panipat. The year 1803 saw the forces of British East India Company defeating the Maratha forces and ending its rule. They moved to Delhi, took the control leaving the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah with no power.
  • In 1857, after the First war of Indian Independence, Delhi began to be directly ruled by the British and was made a province of Punjab.
  • In 1911, Delhi was made the capital of British India after which British architect Edwin Lutyens designed an area which houses political, administrative and government buildings, known as New Delhi. New Delhi, which is also called ‘Lutyens Delhi’, was officially made the capital of Independent India after the country gained its independence in 15 August 1947.
  • During the partition of India, thousands of Sikh and Hindu refugees from West Punjab and Sindh made Delhi their home. The city also witnessed anti-Sikh riots following the death of Indira Gandhi, the then prime Minister.

The history of a city which was destroyed and recreated several times has to be enthralling and thrilling. Go through the article to know the history of Delhi and thus the history of India.