Who doesn’t like a good theory, be it our favorite show’s next episode or an unexplained phenomenon, but the city we all love and call our capital city?
There are many accounts behind how the name ‘Delhi’ came to be. These are varied in nature. Some are backed by archaeological evidence, some are based on mythology, and some say the city was named after the ruler of Delhi at that particular phase in time. However uncertain the etymology of Delhi be, we know that it was anglicized by the British from its indigenous form to Delhi.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called Delhi, a grave of many civilizations and a nursery for modern democracy. The origin of the name ‘ Delhi’, is a contested one and is attributed to a few rulers that have ruled over the city.
The gazetteer of Delhi district in 1883-84 says the name has traditionally been attributed to its founder Raja Dillipa, who Alexander Cunningham believed was an ancestor of the Pandavas.
Cunningham also provides another account and states Raja Dhillu was the founder of the city and was named after him.
The gazetteer also talks about other traditions which say the name Dhilli or loose was the precursor for the modern name. It was believed that a Brahmin convinced Anang Pal, the founder of Tomar Dynasty in Delhi and who built the iron pillar which stands in the Qutb Complex today, was built so deep that it rested on vasuki¸ the king of serpents. It is believed that the pillar was ordered to be dug and was found to be wet with blood, said to be vasuki’s . The pillar it is said could not be firmly fixed back into the ground and was left dhilla or loose. It is interesting to note that coins that were in circulation in the region under the Tomaras Dehliwal
Some historians believe that the name is derived from Dilli, of dehleez or dehali—Hindi for 'threshold'—and symbolic of city as a gateway to the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
Whatever the precursor to the city we know and love as Delhi be, a majority of them seem to have one commonality, dil, or heart, which is so say “Delhi is where the heart is”.