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View of Delhi from the top of Minaret of Jama Masjid.

Ever thought, how did the national capital of India got its name, 'Delhi'? Interestingly, a lot of legends and stories are associated with the origin of the name Delhi.

One of the theory states that Delhi is named after a king of the Mauryan dynasty, Dhillu or Dilu, who built a city here, in 50 BC, and named the city after himself. Whereas, according to another theory, the city's name has a Hindi or Prakrit base from the word 'Dehli', meaning loose. It is believed that this name was kept because of the weak foundation of the Pillar of Delhi. On the other hand, according to the Bhavishya Purana, a fort was built in today's Purana Qila for the convenience of the four castes during the reign of King Prithviraj Chauhan. Therefore, later on a gateway was constructed to the fort which was named Dehali.

In today's time, residents or natives of Delhi are referred to as Dilliwallahs or Delhites. The city has been mentioned beautifully in the Northern Indo-Aryan language. Some of these idioms are:

  • “Hanuz Dilli Door Ast" which now means that success or destination is still far away, so don't stop doing (your) hard work.
  • “Dilli Dilwalon Ki" which refers to Delhi as the city of large hearted people.
It must be noted that humans inhabited regions in and around Delhi during the second millennium BC or at least during the 6th century BC. In fact, it is also believed that present day Delhi was the city of Indraprastha of Mahabharata.
As many as seven main cities have been discovered in Delhi. The names of the seven cities of Delhi were:
  • Qila Rai Pithora
  • Mehrauli
  • Siri Fort
  • Tughlaqabad
  • Firozabad
  • Shergarh
  • Shahjahanabad
Lastly, though there no perfect etymology of 'Delhi', but all the theories have somehow managed to interest people to know the story behind the city name– Delhi!
Keywords: Delhi, Etymology, Mauryan Emoire, History.


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