Five free things to do in New Dehli

RAVI NESSMAN
Last updated 17:37 01/10/2012
Lotus Temple
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FREE GIG: The Baha'i Lotus Temple

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The capital of India is a bustling hub of 17 million people and one of the centres of modern Indian life.  It is chaotic and crowded, yet filled with beautiful gardens and  history dating back thousands of years.

There are massive monuments from the Mughal kings of the 16th and 17th centuries as well as to the British Raj of the early 20th Century.

Many monuments and museums charge for entry, but there are still a few fascinating experiences visitors can have for free.

OLD DELHI

Old Delhi is the vibrant heart of the city, its footpaths  crowded with markets and vendors selling street food or chaat, its  roads a hazard of bicycle rickshaws, three-wheelers and veering  motor scooters, its skies a tangle of haphazard electrical wiring. 

The four-century-old neighbourhood - once known as Shahjahanabad,  after Mughal emperor Shah Jahan - is home to a fascinating array of  Islamic mosques, Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu and Jain temples and the odd  haveli, or historic mansion.

The Khari Baoli spice market is famous  for the never-ending sacks of saffron, lentils and curry powder for  sale. At the Kinari Bazaar wedding market, families shop for  crimson bridal saris and elegant sherwani coats and turbans for the  groom.

Other markets display bangles, silver jewellery, fireworks  and bronze statues. If you are bored, bring a kite and climb up  onto a roof to take part in a traditional Delhi past time.

INDIA GATE

The towering India Gate, New Delhi's answer to the Arc de  Triomphe, stands in a massive park at the heart of the city.

The sandstone and granite memorial commemorates the soldiers in the  British Indian Army killed in World War I and in fighting in Afghanistan.

The gate is a centrepiece of the grassy squares, wide  walkways, mammoth government buildings and official bungalows  designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens to house the British  colonial capital in the 1920s and '30s. The park houses one of the  largest and best maintained children's playgrounds in the city. On  a clear day, you can look straight down Rajpath street to  Rashtrapathi Bhavan, the president's house.

LOTUS TEMPLE

India is filled with religious sites, but one of the most iconic is the Baha'i Lotus Temple. The starkly white temple is in the  shape of a partially blooming lotus flower, its petals layered one  upon the other. Outside, sit nine pools. Visitors get a brief  explanation of the Baha'i faith and then are allowed in the inner  sanctuary for quiet contemplation.

QAWWALI SINGING

One of the lesser known sites in Delhi is the Nizamuddin Dargah, a complex of tombs, mosques and stalls centreed on the burial site  of revered Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya. On Thursday evenings,  Nizamuddin's tomb transforms into a venue for a concert of  devotional qawwali music.

The audience sits on a wide marble  courtyard in front of the tomb while singers perform hauntingly  beautiful songs backed by musicians playing the accordion-like  harmonium and the tabla drums. On hot summer nights, men wildly  swing gigantic fans across the crowd to try to cool guests down.

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LODHI GARDEN

Lodhi Garden in a posh neighbourhood of south Delhi is a  destination beloved by locals that offers a lot to tourists as  well. You can watch the wealthy Delhi society wives speedwalking on  the jogging track, join in a cricket match with children on the lawns or feed the ducks in the pond.

Then there are the monuments, which, unlike others in the city, are free of charge. There is a  tomb to 16th century ruler Sikander Lodhi, the Bara Gumbad complex and several other structures with surviving traces of intricate  designs. A recent tourism push has spread informative signs  throughout the garden. If you want to relax, you can always find a  chaiwallah walking by to sell you a cup of hot tea from his pot.  But that will cost you.

- AP

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