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Born: As early as 1000 BC when a settlement sprung up near the Purana Quila on the banks of the Yamuna river. Hindu mythology, however, records a settlement many hundreds of years earlier at the ancient site of Indraprastha on the banks of the Yamuna.

The old urban Delhi arose out of the dust of this north Indian plain in 736 AD and was called Lal Kot. This was the first of the cities to come into being at this latitude and longtitude. Six more followed each on the heels of the other. Palaces, temples, mosques built upon the ruins of palaces temples and mosques of the previous city. Shahjahanabad, as Old Delhi was known in Mughal times, is the most prominent of the city's earlier seven avatars, was built in the 17th century. But remanants of the other cities survive.

Briefly, these seven cities were: Lal Kot, the first city, dated the 8th century AD; Siri, the second city (14th century); Tughlaqabad, the third city (14th century AD); Jahanpanah, the fourth city (14th century AD); Ferozshah Kotla (14th century AD), the fifth city; The Lodi tombs provide evidence of the sixth city (16th century).

The British took over the city in its seventh avatar, in 1803. In 1911 Delhi was designated capital of the British Empire in India. Thirty six years later, in 1947, it assumed that role in democratic, modern India.

Population: Over 9 million.

Languages: English is widely spoken. Almost everybody knows a smattering of English. Hindi and Punjabi are also spoken.

Time: Five-and-a-half hours ahead of GMT.

Climate: The demarcation between summer and winter is pronounced. Summer runs from April to June. In summer, temperatures can rise to 45 degrees Celsius. The monsoon lasts from July to September. December and January are the coldest months, with temperatures dropping to 5 degrees Celsius.

Best time to visit: October to March. New Delhi bakes from March to late June with hot winds sweeping in from the northern plains. December is pleasantly cold in the day; the nights are chilly.

Dress Sense: Woollens are a must in winter. Light cotton casuals and light suits are appropriate in the summer.

Inputs from Anuradha Dutt in New Delhi. Pictures are by Jewella C Miranda and courtesy Dinodia Picture Agency.

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