The Indian city of New Delhi boasts of a rich cultural heritage. This varied cultural
heritage of New Delhi is reflected in its art, craft, music, and dance. Below is
just a hint of what to expect to see during your visit.
The capital of India, Delhi reflects the cultural diversity and religious unity of
India. It is difficult to define the culture and religion of India. As there is a
continuous inflow of people from all parts of India, the cultural diversity is very
prominent. Being an ancient city Delhi has the shadows of its past. It is said that
the Delhi is losing its charm but still the glory of the past looms large its life-style.
Delhi might be changing with time it has always done so but it has never shelved
the past. There are discos for youngsters to swing their body through out the night,
but still the Quwallies at the Nizamuddin Shrine floats in the air, the silence of
the night is broken by the Prabhat ferries and the singing of Gurbani (the verses
from the Granth Sahaib), the bells in the temples still tells about God being every
where, the Sunday masses in Churches still attract the otherwise busy residents of
India. People take a break from the hurried life during the ancient fairs and festivals
like 'Phoolwalo-Ki-Sair which are still oraganised in traditional way.
Delhi shares its borders with Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, which
influence the life-styles and language of the people. Migrations from various parts
of India has led to pockets of has diverse culture coming together in various parts
of Delhi. For example, R.K. Puram has a concentration of South Indians, while C.R.
Park has a concentration of Bengalies. Delhi celebrates Durga Puja is celebrated
with same enthusiasm as Id is celebrated. The Guru Purab and Christmas carry the
same colour as Dewali or Buddha Purnima. The amalgamation of various cultures, traditions,
religions has painted Delhi in colour which are brought from all over India.
The Jama Mazjid of the walled city is an excellent example of Indo-Persian art, whereas
the Birla Temple and the Chattarpur Temple complex are considered as a blend of the
North and South Indian architectural styles. Gurdwara Raquab Ganj, Sheesh Ganj and
Bangla Sahib stand tall for Sikhism, whereas St. Thomas and St. Columbus toll their
bells for Christians. The Bahai Lotus temple has introduced the Bahai way of worship
in Delhi. Not to forget the ancient religions of Jainism and Buddhism whose genesis
is in India. The monastery near the Interstate bus terminus is hub of Tibetan culture
in India. Not only for the Monastery but the place has acquired fame as shopping
mall. Though 'Parsies' reside mainly in western India, Delhi opens its arms for one
Even though Hindus form the majority, almost 85%, India does not impose any official
religion on its people. Through the ages Delhi has accepted, adapted and moulded
itself to everything from Islam, rather from Aryan culture to Christianity. It adopted
herself with the changing faces of history. It got the destroyed many times but it
has retained the culture, heritage, religion and the tradition of its time for the
generations to come.
While visiting these architecturally magnificent spiritual abodes, acquire prior
information of the etiquettes to be followed. Taking off shoes and other leather
articles and even covering the head and body in the sanatorium might be mandatory
at such places. Avoid hugging and holding hands at these places.
Cruising through the different art exhibitions and galleries of New Delhi, one transcends
to a different world altogether. New Delhi can boast of having one of the most prestigious
art galleries-The National Gallery of Modern Art, an institution by itself. In 1976,
The Lalit Kala Academy, with the help of Delhi Development Authority, set up studios
known as Garhi, the artists' haven. Inspired by the city of art in Paris, where artists,
are provided with studios and lodgings, Garhi was built on these lines. Only qualified
professional artists can work here. Their work is evaluated and those with talent
and great promise are taken in. The artists are given a free rein to explore and
discover their creativity. Though situated in the center of South Delhi, it is cut
off from the hustle and bustle of busy city life providing an opportunity to the
artists to pursue their interest in a tranquil atmosphere.
At Anandgram in Qutab-Mehrauli area of New Delhi is the Sanskriti Kendra, a serene
sprawling sanctuary for artists, craftsperson, as well as visitors. Set amidst eight
acres of land dotted with two thousand trees, the Sanskriti Kendra was the brainchild
of Mr. O. P. Jain, a distinguished art collector. It was conceptualized as a place
where creative minds could pursue and interact with others on an area of study of
their choice with an aim that from such an interaction would emerge a new sensibility
that in turn would enrich and strengthen the bond of our shared culture. Here craftsperson
live in mud huts reminiscent of their village homes while, scholars are provided
complete studio, workshop, library, and residential facilities. The Kendra has an
art gallery for exhibition of work of artists, an auditorium, and an open-air amphitheatre.
Other important art galleries in New Delhi include AIFACS Gallery, Art Heritage,
Art Today, Azad Bhawan Gallery, Center for Contemporary Art, Delhi Art Gallery, Dhoomimal
Art Center, National Gallery of Modern Art, Triveni Kala Sangam, Wadhera Art Gallery,
Sahitya Kala Parishad, and many more.
A city that boasts of a minimum of seven incarnations will have more to talk about
than just old monuments in different stages of ruination. Not surprisingly, Delhi
has a rich legacy of crafts patronized by the emperors of yore.
Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi as it is called today, is the richest of the legacies. Not
only because it is the closest to us chronologically, but also because the Mughals
were great patrons of arts and crafts. Go to Matia Mahal's Pahadi Bhojla and you
will find umpteen shops of jewelers who fashion beautiful bangles and necklaces out
of bone. Their predecessors were ivory craftsmen. However, with the ban on ivory,
they were compelled to change their raw material and switch over to bones of buffaloes
and camels instead.
Creating magic with golden thread embroidery or euphoria with semi-precious stones,
there are the zardozis in the neighborhood. Zardozi is the art of embroidery with
gold thread. These craftsmen work intricate designs on silk, velvet, and even tissue
materials. Insignias, pulpit covers, embroidery on the robes of bishops and even
the Pope are all created here.
The medicinal value of silver paper (varak) is well known. Thin sheets of silver
paper are still wrapped around sweets and even betel leaves. If you are looking for
the authentic one, go to Matia Mahal area of New Delhi again. A few of the craftsmen
who beat silver into thin sheets, by hand, still live here. Once upon a time, there
were so many of them that you could just follow the sound of the hammer and reach
them. Today you have to do a little asking around to reach some small workshops.
The famed meenakari work, where paint is embossed on silver or gold to give it the
look of a precious stone, was once a thriving business of Shahjahanabad. Turbulence
of Delhi, ever since Nadir Shah and later the colonial rule, pushed the artisans
away to peaceful climes. This group moved partly to Rajasthan, while those who make
bangles from lac moved to Hyderabad in the Deccan.
Lacquer work bangles are one of the old art forms still living in Shahjahanabad.
Bright shades of yellow, red, and blue are perked up with tiny pieces of mirrors
and gold-colored borders with beads to add that extra touch.
Common to many parts of Delhi are the potters. Not only do they fashion pots for
the hot summer, which, in spite of refrigerators, are still greatly in demand, they
also fashion beautiful clay and papier-mâché dolls. These clay dolls, some as toys
and some as decorations and some even as clay idols during festivities have a diminishing
demand from the rural-urban migrate.
Then there are more to culture of New Delhi. Making of incense sticks, of attars
(perfumes), brass molding, and so on. Shahjahan's gift to the country did not stop
with Taj Mahal….
If it's dance and music you are interested in, then you can choose which kind you
prefer watching and concentrate your energies in that direction. If it's the classical
dance form you want to view, go to the Kamani Auditorium or Siri Fort of New Delhi.
Triveni Kala Sangam has an auditorium too. Then there's India International Center
on Lodhi Road that offers very good programs. In the cooler months, many dance and
music festivals are organized and every corner of New Delhi is alive with various
interpretations of movement and sound.
However, if it's optimistic gyration that you prefer, then put on your dancing shoes
and be prepared to rock the night at one of New Delhi's many exclusive dance clubs.
These clubs are located within New Delhi's five-star hotels such as Maurya Sheraton
(Ghunghroos), Le Meridien (C.J.'s), The Hilton (Annabelle's), Hyatt Regency (Oasis),
Taj Palace (My Kind of Place), and Park Hotel (Someplace Else). Houseguests and members
can enter scot-free and the rest of Delhi (couples only) has to pay for some fun.
Each place is distinct from the other in its décor, music, lights, and crowd.
For those Delhiites who are willing to go beyond their limits for fun, The 32nd Milestone
(32 km from Delhi on the highway to Jaipur) has the answer-Fireball. The place has
a futuristic look with the décor resembling the interiors of a spaceship. The dance
floor is so large that you can actually move your legs along with your body unlike
in the compact discos of Delhi.
Music connoisseurs have a variety of sounds to choose from in New Delhi. The auditoria
where these concerts are held are the same as the dance programs. Whether Indian
classical, Hindustani or Carnatic, or the lighter ghazals, there is no dearth of
choice in New Delhi. When a particularly well-known singer comes to New Delhi, it
is usually well covered by the press. The papers also reserve a column in their daily
editions to display a list of programs for the day. These programs include not only
the visual arts but also lectures on a wide variety of topics by scholars or luminaries
in that particular field. To see the craftsmen of the city and the country make their
wares, you must go to the crafts museum in Pragati Maidan and Dilli Haat. They try
to display this form of indigenous talent and let the craftsmen benefit from their
skill at the same time.
What's more, all these places have a café or canteen in the vicinity. So, if you
feel like mind-satisfied-is-not-stomach satisfied it can be set right. Overall, New
Delhi offers a profusion of cultural activities from light entertainment to scholarly