When weather improved this Sunday, we got out of our quilts and headed straight to Mehrauli with our friend and local Delhi monument expert, Vikramjit Singh. It was a fun filled morning with lots to see and learn.
Interestingly in Delhi there is history at every step as this city was probably inhabited before the second millennium BC. It is believed to be the site of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas and according to Mahabharat, this land was initially a huge mass of forests called ‘Khandavaprastha’ which was burnt down to build the city of Indraprastha.
A study of earliest architectural relics point to an inscription from Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–235 BC) and remains of eight major cities have been discovered here. The first five of them are in the southern part of present-day Delhi.
In 736 AD, King Anang Pal of the Tomar dynasty founded the city of Lal Kot. In 1180 AD, this was conquered by the Chauhans, who called Qila Rai Pithora. In 1192, Mohammed Ghori, a Tajik invader from Afghanistan defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan and assumed control.
After Ghori’s death, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, became the first Sultan of Delhi, after breaking away from the Ghurid Dynasty. He later built the Qutab Minar and named after the great Sufi Saint Qutabuddin Bhaktiar Khak, whose shrine is nearby. He also built Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam) mosque.
Thereafter for the next 300 years, Delhi was ruled by a succession of Turkic and the Lodhis.
During our walk we covered the Mehrauli Archaeological Park spread over 200 acres near Qutub Minar. There are over 100 historically significant monuments in this area known for 1,000 years of continuous years of occupation. The main ones covered by us are –
Azim Khan’s Tomb – It was built in 17th century AD on a small octagonal structure. Not much is known about Azim Khan and this tomb.
Khan Shaheed’s (Balban’s son) tomb, who died fighting the Mongols in 1285A.D. The floral designs on the inside walls are magnificent and reminds us the grandeur of that period.
Jamali Kamli Tomb. It is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture, built in 1535 by a Sufi saint, who lived in the court of Sikander Lodi, called Shaikh Hamid bin Fazlullah, also known as Dervish Shaikh Jamali Kamboh Dihlawi or Jalal Khan Jamali. On the northern side of the mosque is tomb of Jamali & Kamali. Not much is known about Kamali.
Balban’s Tomb. The Slave dynasty ruler of Delhi, Ghiyas ud din Balban’s is not in a very good condition though it is of great significance. It was in this tomb that the first true arch was built in India. Sadly by the time it was discovered in the mid-twentieth century most of the tomb had been destroyed.
Rajon ki Baoli. During Sikander Loghi’s reign, in 1506, this baoli was constructed to store water though it is now completely dried and is now known as Sukhi Baoli.
Gandhak ki Baoli. It is the largest step well to be built in Delhi. As the water here smelled like sulphur it was called Gandhak (sulphur) ki Baoli (well). It was constructed during the rule of Emperor Shams-ud-din Iltutmish who was also the founder of the slave dynasty. He was of Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s slave who later became his close confidante and later married the Sultan’s daughter.
Zafar Mahal is the last monument built as a summer palace during the last years of the Mughal empire. The Mahal was built first by Akbar Shah II in the 18th century while the entrance gate was reconstructed in the 19th century by Bahadur Shah Zafar II. He had selected a site for his burial next to the famous Dargha of Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. Unluckily he was deported by the British to Rangoon, after the 1857 First War of Indian Independence where he died of old age without any honour. The site he chose still awaits his mortal remains.
Saddened he wrote :
Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn ke liye,
Do gaz zameen bhi mil na saki kuye yaar mein
This area requires a visit whenever you are in Delhi next or next Sunday. Unless people start visiting these monuments, I doubt if they will exist for long.