Why Delhi people are so arrogant

With this issue we continue the series of portraits of the states of India. They intend to do their part to counter the striking lack of German-language information about the ethnically, linguistically, culturally, politically and economically very different Indian regions and states. India is mostly represented in this country - stubbornly ignoring its diversity - as a monolithic unitary state. The country portraits Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Goa, Orissa and Rajasthan have already been published in issues 2/97, 3/97, 6/97, 1-2 / 98, 4/98, 5 / 98, 6/98, 1/99 and 3-4 / 99 from 'South Asia'.


The legendary 'Indraprashta' of the Pandawas, those legendary heroes of the Indian national epic Mahabarata, was already in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Century BC The region was first settled in the 4th century BC, as evidenced by excavations in the area of ​​the Purana Quila fortress.

But it really started in the 8th / 9th. Century AD with the foundation of the medieval city of Dhillika by the Rajput tribe of the Tomar - the first of eight large city foundations in the area of ​​today's Delhi. The city was already quite well developed: The Lalkot fortress, beautiful temples, impressive water reservoirs and numerous large buildings. There the kingdom of the Tomar had to give way to the dynasty of the Chahamana from central Rajasthan around the middle of the 12th century, whose famous ruler Prithviraja Chauhan III extended the city area with a second defensive wall with mighty gates and built the quarter 'Quila Rai Pithora'.

But with him the Hindu rule came to an abrupt end and paved the way for a multi-century power of the Muslims, in Delhi as in all of India: Mohammad von Ghor invaded the north Indian plains of Doab from Central Asia, expelled the Hindu rulers and founded the Sultanate of Delhi in 1199, which heralded the era of Islamic empires in India that existed until the 18th century. From now on six more Muslim residence cities were to be built on the soil of Delhi: Siri, Tughlagabad, Jahanpanah, Feruzabad, Din Panah and finally Shahjahanabad / Old Delhi. The choice of the sultans and Mughals was not accidental, without exception, in the Delhi region. Because the geography of the plain traversed by the river Yamuna is strategically extremely favorable. This is because it forms a narrow, easily controllable corridor between the Thar desert in the southwest and the Himalayan chains in the north. All intruders into the fertile river plains of Ganges and Yamuna, whether they came from Turkey, Afghanistan or Persia via the Khyber Pass, had to pass this natural gateway. Here was the key point for the conquest and defense of the vast subcontinent.

The current name Delhi is derived from "Dhillika". That was the name of the first medieval settlement located in Mehrauli, at the south-western end of what is now the 'Union Territory Delhi' (and the planned new state of the same name). Some also called it 'Yoginipura' - the fortress of the Yogini, the female deities of Hinduism.

After Mohhamad von Ghur had laid the foundation stone for the history of Indo-Islamic rule in India, the "second Delhi" was created in 1290 under Alau'd-Din Khalji: Siri. He took the area in the northeast of the old Tomar fortress as the location for this.

The Sultanate of Delhi was continued by Ghiyasu 'd-Din, who, during his brief tenure (1321-25), had a third settlement built eight kilometers south of Lalkot: Tughlaquabad.

He was followed in turn by Muhammad Tughluq (1325-51) with Jahanpannah, the fourth Delhi, between the fortress of Siri and the old Quila Rai Pithora.

Feruz Shah (1351-88) modestly named the fifth Delhi settlement after himself: Feruzabad. It was set back from the mountains on the banks of the Yamuna, and its ruins can still be admired in what is now Feruz Shah Kotha.

The successors of the Tughluq dynasty - the Saiyad from 1414 - and the Lodi sultans from 1451, showed no interest in large new buildings or even the founding of new cities.

The Sultanate of Delhi, in the person of the last of the Lodi, Ibrahim, was put down in 1526 by the Mughal potentate Muhammad Babur. From then on, the Mughal dynasty would rule India. While Babur ignored Delhi and ruled from Agra, his son and successor Humayun again preferred Delhi and founded a sixth city there on the banks of the Yamuna in the south of Feruzabad: Din Panah.

Akbar resided in Agra. But his grandson and successor Sha Jahan (1628-58) then built the seventh Delhi in the north of Feruzabad: Shajahanabad or Old Delhi, as it is called today - a result of meticulous, well-thought-out urban planning work that was previously unknown here. For almost exactly 200 years it was formally the capital of the Mughal Empire, which in fact had to cede power to the British colonial rulers after 1707. The great sepoy uprising initiated not far from Delhi in Meerut, the "mutiny" of 1857, was at first a last desperate attempt to rebel against the foreign rule of Britain and to restore a Muslim empire. Its brutal suppression not only marked the final end of Islamic power in India, but also the degeneration of Delhi into a lackluster provincial city for the next 50 years. During this time, British India, which was no longer determined by the East India Company, but subordinated to the Victorian crown, was ruled from Calcutta in Bengal.

But in 1911 the glory of the British Empire was to be expressed through the creation of a new Indian metropolis. Again the choice fell on the well-tried region of Delhi: An area south of Shajahanabad moved into the focus of a drawing board concept for the planned capital, now an eighth and for the time being the last city to be founded in the area of ​​Delhi: New Delhi. The then internationally renowned architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker designed the new capital, which was inaugurated in January 1931. It was and is the location of the government domiciles, the official mansions, pretty gardens and parks, spacious avenues, promenades and the colorful shopping arcades. There are the stylish, urbane-looking, green and elegant residential areas of politicians, administrative elites and foreign diplomats, embassy staff and development experts; each group lives for itself, separated as in a, albeit luxurious, ghetto. There are the British and the German Club, the Turf and the Rotary Club. The often oasis-like, quiet residential areas each have their own supply infrastructure. The foreigner who lives here for a limited period of time does not necessarily have to come into contact with indigenous Indians, unless his work forces him to do so, and some highly paid so-called experts in international cooperation avoid such a situation whenever possible. Delhi is a city of education: there are international schools that teach, among other things, in German or French; well-known universities such as the 'Delhi University' or the left-wing 'Jawarhalal Nehru University' (JNU); respected scientific institutes such as the 'Asian Institute of Technology' (AIT).


Some Indians, especially from the south of the country, claim that there is the typical Delhier, and they know how to describe his mentality: well-educated, serious to the point of ridiculous, distant, arrogant in the capital, hiding emotions, emphasized rational, class and box-conscious. There is certainly something to it and yet this typical Delhi resident does not actually exist. Because the metropolis is a kind of "melting pot": its population is ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse. Although most of the people here are indeed from the north Indian heartland of Doab and speak Hindi, there are numerous internal migrants or descendants of the same from the states of Haryana, Punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal and even from southern Indian regions . Punjab Sikhs, tall, with splendid beards and turbans, enterprising, eloquent Kashmiri traders, proud Bengali from the Tagore city of Calcutta, Bihari, former farmers or farm workers with a coarse and direct attitude, Dravidian-born South Indians, Tamils, Kannadas, Andhras, Andhras , Muslims, Jains, Parsi, Buddhists, Christians, Germans, English, Americans, Japanese, Israeli - Delhi has a very heterogeneous, multilingual population and so the atmosphere of the city is colorful, open, liberal and international.


The earlier many centuries of Islamic rule in India and Delhi not only led to the entry of Islam into the formerly Brahmanic-Hindu Indian population - today there are 120 million disciples of Muhammad in the Union - but also generated an art-historically interesting and aesthetically impressive amalgamation formerly strongly Hindu influenced culture with the Islamic one. This resulted in a highly civilized Indo-Islamic mixed culture, which is expressed in the idiosyncratic architecture, in the poetic language Urdu, in music, dance and fashion as well as in the culinary field. The Indian capital Delhi forms the great center of gravity of this intermingling. As if in a magnifying glass, it reflects the concentration of Indo-Islamic history on the subcontinent. One encounters her here at every step, most conspicuously in the surviving evidence of architecture: The victory and superiority of Islam is symbolized by the 72.5 meter high 'Qutb Minar', completed in 1199, within the Tomar fortress in the Lalkot district. As with the 'Quwwatu' I-Islam 'mosque (power of Islam) built there from old Hindu and Jain temple columns and the high south portal' Alai Darwaza ', it shows very vividly the architectural and stylistic fusion of both cultures.

The monumental 'Mausoleum Humayuns', made of marble and red sandstone, which shaped the Taj Mahal in Agra, albeit roughly, takes up the Hindu garden concept of the 'Carbagh' (five gardens) and transforms it into the Islamic-Persian Paradise Garden. The mighty 'Red Fort' from the middle of the 17th century in the east, located on the Yamuna, one kilometer long and over 500 meters wide; built on the model of the Red Fort of Agra from red sandstone - the residence of several Mughal rulers. Here you walk in amazement through the Lahore Gate, pass the drum house and visit the large marble public audience hall 'Diwan-i-am', in the harem area the Palace of Jewels, 'Mumtaz Mahal', the Palace of Colors 'Rang Mahal', the royal bath 'Hamam' and the private audience hall 'Diwan-i-Khas'. The fort was once the control center of power in the Indo-Islamic empire; here the emperor consulted with his closest confidante and made the decisions for the vast country; and this is where the legendary gold-diamond and jewel-studded 'peacock throne' stood, which Nadir Shah kidnapped in a raid to Persia in 1739.

The large Friday mosque 'Jami Masjid' from the 17th century in Old Delhi, commissioned by Shah Shahan, is connected to the Red Fort by a one-kilometer straight main axis, the former royal boulevard and today's lively trading district 'Chandni Chowk' . This largest Islamic church in India towers over the labyrinth of markets and bazaars in the old town. In its 90 x 90 meter courtyard teeming with pigeons, with its fountain for ritual cleansing before prayer, there is space for 20,000 believers, who kneel down in awe of Mecca in front of the prayer hall with its huge central arch, Persian onion domes and minarets. From the 'Jami Masjid', under the cool, shady stone arcades of the corridor lining the inner courtyard, one has a great view of the Red Fort opposite, of whose enormous dimensions one gets a realistic impression, and of the ant-like, noisy hustle and bustle in the narrow streets of the bazaar area of ​​Old Delhi.

'Jami Masjid' and 'Chandni Chowk' together form the most pristine and probably most authentic Indian district of all of Delhi. Here the influence and the character of the modern "western" world has hardly left any traces. Countless small shops are lined up in the bazaar; Small traders offer their everyday goods for sale: spices, vegetables, sweets with silver paper, rice, clay pots, leather goods, plastic bowls, live chickens and dogs in tiny cages, colorful saris, shirts and pants, hats, milk, chai - the sweet one, Milk tea flavored with cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, green betel leaves with various colorful fillings to chew and spit out, wooden, silver and metal goods for home and kitchen. Cycle rickshaws - the only possible means of transport here - torment their way through the bottlenecks of the alleys and shops, crammed with loudly confused men and women and exuberant children - the population problem of India, with a nation of almost a billion: hardly anywhere else is it more sensual than here in Old Delhi.

The majority of its inhabitants are followers of Allah, Sunnis, their male part easily identifiable by white caps interwoven with Islamic motifs such as suras or crescent moons. They believe in the one God whose prophet Mohammed was, pray five times a day, fast in the month of Ramadan, give alms, the 'zakat', and once in their life go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the 'haj'. Although Indian Muslims and Hindus differ little in the manifestations of their everyday culture, there are occasional communal riots between the followers of both religious communities, especially in the area around the Friday Mosque. The violence of politically and economically ambitious Hindu and Muslim groups and parties is often artificially stoked; in order to enforce their particular interests, they are instrumentalized for their economic or power-political advantage. This has increased since the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya by a fanatical Hindu mob in December 1992, and the previously predominantly harmonious coexistence of Hindus and Muslims, bargaining with one another, is not often, but occasionally, suddenly interrupted by bloody violence , 'Chandni Chowk' and Old Delhi are suddenly transformed into a ghost town under a state of emergency. This is a reminder of the gloomy times in the mid-1980s, when, in 1984, after the storming of the Golden Temple of Amritsar - the most important Sikh shrine - ordered by Indira Gandhi - also in Delhi, there were downright pogroms by Hindus against the Sikh population.


January every year experienced their heyday with large parades and which leads to the 'India Gate', the memorial for the fallen of the First World War, not coincidentally reminiscent of the 'Arc de Triumphe' in Paris; the opulent presidential palace, west of the 'Purana Quila', with its 340 rooms and wonderfully manicured gardens. The excellent hotels with every imaginable luxury - tasteful room furnishings with bathrooms made of Rajasthani marble, swimming pool, laundry service, evening cultural programs with music and dance, eateries with delicious Punjabi and Moghul cuisine; so the 'Ashok' in Chanakyapuri, the 'Oberoi' at Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg or the 'Taj Palace Intercontinental' on Sadar Patel Marg.

A visit to the brightly colored 'Lakshmi-Narayanan' temple, which was founded in 1938 by the industrialist Birla and is dedicated to the goddess of happiness and material prosperity, is popular with the Hindus in New Delhi, as with all those interested in Hindu culture.

Anyone who has an affinity for Indian history, sculpture, fine art and culture will get their money's worth not far from the 'India Gate' if they pay a visit to the 'Indian National Museum' with its valuable exhibits from all Indian epochs or if you give them a visit the artistic modern preference - the 'Gallery of Modern Art', where sculptures and paintings by contemporary artists of the subcontinent are shown; Impressive works by Amrita Shergil, Jamini Roy and even Rabindranath Tagore, who achieved fame as a poet in the Occident, but was also a talented painter, can be seen here.

Delhi has a good reputation as a museum and exhibition city andPlace of art consumption and art marketing. As a place of origin or production of artistic forms of expression, however, it is spoken of with disdain; here one has to fight off competition from the film city of Bombay-Bolywood or the city of poets, writers, filmmakers, painters and musicians, Calcutta.

The range of leisure activities in Delhi is higher than in almost any other Indian metropolis, except perhaps in Mumbai (Bombay). Countless theaters, cinemas, discos, parks, museums, restaurants, bars and now even internet cafes enable a variety of after-work entertainment.

Anyone who can afford it owns a motorcycle, scooter or car and escapes the heat of the summer months to the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir or the Himalayas. Because Delhi is one of the hottest places on the subcontinent. Its basin position in the Doab plain, wedged between the desert expanses of Rajasthan and the pre-Himalayan mountains, creates an inversion weather situation with stagnant, dry heat that often reaches 40 to 45 degrees Celsius in June / July. It is only pleasant between October and February; in winter it even cools down to below ten or even five degrees and the northeast monsoon brings refreshing rain.


In addition to such extremely extreme climatic conditions, there are other downsides to existence in Delhi. The quality of life here is clouded by an increasingly precarious demographic, energy and environmental situation: the city's population has tripled within just two decades (!); from four million (1975) to twelve million (1995); and the Moloch continues to grow unchecked and metastasis-like, with devastating consequences for its infrastructure, housing, traffic, health and ecological situation.

As early as 1993, more motor vehicles were registered in Delhi than in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras combined, namely 2.12 million. Since then, 700 more have been added every day. With 1,700 traffic fatalities per year, it is also at the top of the Indian metropolises, as the traffic density and the downright anarchistic driving style cause many accidents.

The city's electricity supply is inadequate. It is not uncommon for power outages to occur, sometimes synchronously throughout the city. Those who - like the large international hotels, clinics or wealthy private households - have their own diesel generators can be happy.

Car exhaust fumes, but also those that come from power plants in the surrounding area and the thousands of small and medium-sized industrial companies in the Indian capital, lead to health-threatening contamination of the air we breathe. Around 2,000 tons of dirt particles are emitted every day. At the large intersections and round traffic islands so typical of Delhi, the exhaust gas density is 100 to 600 percent above the limit values ​​of the World Health Organization. Anyone who spends only one day on the streets of Delhi absorbs the amount of pollutants in 20 cigarettes (!). It is therefore hardly surprising that, according to the news magazine 'India Today', 600 respirators are being bought in the city every day.

A similar existential problem, especially for the poorer sections of the population in Delhi, is the access to clean drinking water. The river Yamuna flows with a length of 48 kilometers through the capitals. Countless industrial companies - including paper and leather production and processing: true spinners - line its banks like a string of pearls and "dispose" 1.8 million liters of wastewater - untreated - into the river every day; In addition, there are waste and pollutants / toxins from private households in the metropolis. Since many residents of Delhi have no alternative but to use the unpurified Yamuna water for "personal hygiene", washing clothes, cooking and washing dishes, they risk numerous serious illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, cholera and gastrointestinal infections.

Despite the existence of an Indian environmental movement, with many small and often uncoordinated eco-groups, the general environmental awareness in India is unfortunately still very embryonic.

One can only hope that the described dark side of the megalopolis Delhi - an unrestrained growing, industrializing and modernizing city - does not lead to a catastrophe that makes life there unacceptable for its residents. The political leadership of the Union territory, which is to be raised to the status of a federal state in the short to medium term, will have to muster a lot of skill, planning intelligence and pronounced administrative competence in order to counteract the negative developments of the capitals and to make Delhi "sustainable". The 'Congress Party' has held the government scepter here since November 1998. In last year's regional elections, with 48 percent of the vote and a two-thirds majority in the city parliament, it achieved an impressive victory, replacing the almost seven-year rule of the 'Bharatiya Janata Party' (BJP), which only got 15 seats and thus in its former stronghold has sunk, at least for the time being, to a marginal political size. A 'Congress' politician is now continuing the continuity of female power in the metropolis: Sheila Dikshit. She has inherited the BJP actor Sushma Swaraj as the capital's head of government. We can only wish her wisdom and luck in shaping the future of her city.