The area around Delhi was probably inhabited before the second millennium BC, and there is evidence of continuous inhabitation since at least the 6th century BC. The city is believed to be the site of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas in the Indian epic Mahabharata. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya period (c. 300 BC); in 1966, an inscription of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–236 BC) was discovered near Srinivaspuri. Remains of eight major cities have been discovered in Delhi. The first five cities were in the southern part of present-day Delhi. Anang Pal of the Tomara dynasty founded the city of Lal Kot in AD 736. The Chauhans conquered Lal Kot in 1180 and renamed it Qila Rai Pithora.
The iron pillar of Delhi, is said to have been fashioned at the time of Chandragupta Vikramaditya (375–413) of the Gupta Empire. The king Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in 1192 by the Afghan invader Muhammad Ghori who made a concerted effort to conquer northern India. By 1200, Hindu resistance had begun to crumble. Dominance of Muslim dynasties in India was to last for the next five centuries. On the death of Muhammad in 1206, the Turkic slave-general, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, broke away from the Ghurid Dynasty and became the first Sultan of Delhi. He began construction of the Qutb Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam) mosque, the earliest extant mosque in India. Qutb-ud-din faced widespread Hindu rebellions and it was his successor, Iltutmish (1211–36), who consolidated the Muslim conquest of northern India. A view of Qutab minor
At 72.5 m (238 ft), A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Qutub Minar is the world's tallest free-standing brick minaret. For the next three hundred years, Delhi was ruled by a succession of Turkic and an Afghan, Lodhi dynasty. They built a number of forts and townships that are part of the seven cities of Delhi. Delhi was a major centre of Sufism during this period. The Mamluk Sultanate (Delhi) was overthrown in 1290 by the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320). Under the second Khilji ruler, Ala-ud-din Khilji, the Delhi sultanate extended its control south of the Narmada River in the Deccan. The Delhi sultanate reached its greatest extent during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325–1351). In an attempt to bring the whole of the Deccan under control, he moved his capital to Daulatabad, Maharashtra in central India, but by moving away from Delhi he lost control of the north and was forced to return to Delhi to restore order. The southern provinces then broke away. In the years following the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), the Delhi sultanate rapidly began to lose its hold over its northern provinces. Delhi was captured and sacked by Timur Lenk in 1398. Near Delhi, Timur massacred 100,000 captives. Delhi's decline continued under the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), until the sultanate was reduced to Delhi and its hinterland. Under the Afghan Lodhi dynasty (1451–1526), the Delhi sultanate recovered control of the Punjab and the Gangetic plain to once again achieve domination over northern India. However, the recovery was short-lived and in 1526 the sultanate was destroyed by Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty. In 1526, Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur, from the Fergana Valley in modern-day Uzbekistan, invaded India, defeated the last Lodhi sultan in the First Battle of Panipat and founded the Mughal Empire that ruled from Delhi and Agra. The Mughal dynasty ruled Delhi for more than three centuries, with a sixteen-year hiatus during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, from 1540 to 1556. In 1553, the Hindu king, Hemu Vikramaditya acceded to the throne of Delhi by defeating forces of Mughal Emperor Humayun at Agra and Delhi. However, the Mughals re-established their rule after Akbar's army defeated Hemu during the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556. Shah Jahan built the seventh city of Delhi that...
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