• Akanksha Damini Joshi

How Delhi came to be known as Delhi

This is a story about the origin of the name of our capital, #Delhi.

Whispers of the story begin around a thousand years ago. They buzz around the famous, mysterious, never-to-rust #IronPillar that no one can clearly say was built when and how.

There was a king called Anangapala. He came from the family of #Tomars who ruled the region — what we call Delhi — from 800s to 1100s.


#Anangapala was a brave man. Poems sing of him as a man who could slay his enemies with his mighty sword. We also hear that he was the one who built the capital of Hariyanaka (yes, Haryana) whose name we now know as Delhi.


Maybe it happened when the capital was being inaugurated. Maybe it happened when his grandson was born.


A old learned Brahmin was invited. You see, the king was himself a wise man. And as one with wisdom, he respected wise folks of his land. This wise one, we hear, was called Vyasa.


Anangapala offered Vyasa what he could, and as a blessing asked for a boon that his reign last long and strong. Now, this is somewhere in the 1000s. The invasions from the west were soon to to begin. The Brahmin, knowing what the future held, smiled.


Sure he blessed him. But in his blessings lay a challenge. Said the Brahmin:

“On Vishnupadagiri, as long as Shri Vishnu’s dhwaja stays straight and firm you, o mighty king, shall reign!”


Anangapala knew. The dhwaja, iron pillar on the hill had always been straight, had always been firm. Why in the world would it change now?! But not taking any chances he bowed to the saint and asked out of curiosity: “Prabhu, what supports the pillar?” The old man laughed, the king had fallen into the #TrapOfTime, the mind.“Hahahaha. The pillar, my son, is balanced on the head of Anant Shesha.” Thus laughing, the wise one, left.

The whole night, our king, the founder of this new capital could not sleep! He tossed, he turned. He became, well, curiOus-ier and curiOus -ier and so curiOOOusier that well, the next morning he went there to do a ground-check.

Yes. Anangapala, not believing the words of the sage, wanting to ensure that his reign would last forever, to check the base, to tighten the pillar, even more … dug deep, deeper deeper.


And lo and behold! A gush of blood streamed out from the under the ground. Hey Prabhu! They had hit upon the head of the Anant Shesha! Anangapala felt faint. He knew a wrong had been committed. The men all rushed to fill up the base. But. The dhwaja would now never be tight.


“Killi to dhilli bhai, Tomar bhaya mat hin”

The pillar has become loose, and so Tomar’s reign he shall lose.


I hear, from this ‘killi’ becoming ‘dhilli’ — the pillar becoming loose — came the name DHILLI, ढिल्ली — ढ not द — the original name for what we now know as Delhi.


Like always, there are many stories. This is one. No one can say how true the story is. But. We do know this. On the mysterious iron pillar of Delhi there is an inscription attributed to Anangapala that has been translated in 1997 as this:


Samvat Kinllī 1109 Angapala bādi

[Translation:] Anangpal tightened the nail [iron pillar] in Samvat 1109


And, of course, we all know this too.

You tighten only that which has become, yes, ढिल्ली #DHILLI!

“हरियाणए देसे असंखगाम, गामियण जणि अणवरथ काम| परचक्क विहट्टणु सिरिसंघट्टणु, जो सुरव इणा परिगणियं| रिउ रुहिरावट्टणु बिउलु पवट्टणु, ढिल्ली नामेण जि भणियं| There are countless villages in Haryana country. The villagers there work hard. They don’t accept domination of others, and are experts in making the blood of their enemies flow. Indra himself praises this country. The capital of this country is Dhilli.


#AkankshaDaminiJoshi #DaminiJosh