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Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed

It is said, that history is written by the victors. This makes the role of Historians doubtful. However, there are cases where certain facts are available and mentioned by multiple authors/travellers, yet, some historians fail to interpret them correctly.

When I started studying Delhi’s monuments, I was told to read Athar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. We all know Sir Syed as a reformer and founder of various educational institutions in India. His contribution to the field of education cannot be ignored and at the same time, he was also instrumental in devising various acts, that still influence the constitution of India. He also has a very huge list of religious and academic work to his credit.

His work, Athar-us-Sanadid is one of the oldest compilation of Delhi’s monuments and is regarded as the oldest bible of Delhi’s heritage. I had to learn Urdu to read that book, only to find that Prof. R. Nath had translated his book decades ago. However, now that I can read Sir Syed’s work, I spent quality time reading and analysing it. There were few things that did not make any sense, but being new to this field, I felt as if challenging Sir Syed’s work would be blasphemy.

As I read more, I realized that Sir Syed’s work has numerous flaws. I have read several pages and I would like to use this post for a detailed discussion on his work:

What is Athar-us-Sanadid?

Athar-us-Sanadid is Urdu work, originally published in 1846. It was the first attempt of any Indian author to present Delhi’s heritage in vernacular language. The original work was divided into 4 parts, covered in about 600 pages. The work was presented in the Asiatic Society, London, where they requested it to be translated to English. Sir Syed and Mr. Roberts, the district magistrate of Shahjahanabad started its translation. It was then, when they found that this original work is full of flaws and is not organized properly. Sir Syed had to stall the translation and fix the flaws. In the preface of second edition, Sir Syed mentions “The original work was then found to be insufficient and full of defects, and the need to re-write it afresh in order to remove those drawbacks was realized. Hence the translation work was postponed and the book was re-written afresh.

However, I feel that even in this second edition of 1854, many of the flaws were not fixed, perhaps, new were introduced.

Flaws in Athar-us-Sanadid

This Blog post will get too long if I were to discuss every page of Athar-us-Sanadid. However, to spark the conversation let me point out following things:

  1. About Qutub Minar, Sir Syed mentions that the first door of minaret faces Northward, as the hindus always have it, whereas Mohammedans always have it eastward.
    Fact: Direction of gate depends on many factors in Hindu Vastu Kala. We have numerous temples facing West, East or South. Also, It is not important that Muslims buildings face eastward. We have strong examples from Feroz Shah Kotla, Khirki, Bijai Mandal and few others. Even Taj Mahal has entry from South.
  2. More about Qutub Minar, he mentions that it is customary for Hindus to commence building without any platform. But mohamedans first make a platform and then erect the building.
    Fact: There is only 1 temple (brick temple near Kanpur), that I am aware of, where we do not have a platform. All other Hindu buildings are made with a platform. Take Temples, or even if we talk about towers, take example of Kirti Stambh in Chhittorgarh. Platform is an important element everywhere and has a strong significance in Vastu Shastra.
  3. Sir Syed mentions that the first level of Qutub Minar was made by Prithvi Raj Chauhan (Rai Pithora, as he mentions), but his conclusion is majorly based on above two points, which we know, were written without gathering proper information about Hindu architecture.
  4. Sir Syed attributes talks about Indraprastha and says that King Indra (the god of rain) distributed pearls in this area and hence it is called Indraprastha. Kind Indra, the king of sky is also the king of this land.
  5. Sir Syed attributes King Anangpal Tomar with the construction of Old Fort.
    Fact: Anangpal built Lal Kot of Mehrauli and not Old Fort. Ain-i-Akbari mentions this fort as Kaurav-Pandav ka Qila. The present fort was built by Sher Shah Suri. On reading complete description of Sir Syed, I realized that he mixed up Lal Kot and Shergarh
  6. Sir Syed mentions that Qila Rai Pithora was built in 1143 AD.
    Fact: Prithvi Raj Chauhan was born in 1149 AD
  7. Sir Syed mentions at one place that Mehrauli is called so because of ‘Meher-i-Wali’. Wali here is refered to Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki
    Fact: Mehrauli is a corruption of Mihirapuri. The name finds mention in Jain Pattawalis and in records of several travellers, who came to the observatory of Varah Mihir, which was in Mihirapuri (now Mehrauli).

I want to mention several more, but the post will become very long. I may keep adding information to same blog in future, if required.

Please feel free to correct me, if I am wrong. And in case you have better information to add, please use the comments section below.


Lost Heritage: Sikh legacy in Pakistan

17th December 2015: I got a call from S. Gurpreet Singh Anand called me and invite me over tea. I was excited to meet him as he had just put me in touch with Janab Faqir Syed Saifuddin of Fakir Khana Museum of Lahore. Faqir sahib comes from the legendary family of Faqir Azizuddin, the trusted minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

So on 19th, I reached his office in West Delhi. As expected, I received a warm welcome by this warm gentleman. Later I learned that he is an avid traveller, who also holds the honour of being first Sikh on North Pole, and perhaps only Sikh to cover both North and South pole. As I made myself comfortable, he presented me with a book, which in few minutes became the most precious possession in my book collection. He gifted me Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage: Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”.


I love books and have collected all kinds of, that I could get access to. But this case was different. When I held this book in my hands, I had a very strange vibe, something unexplainable. It was a mix of excitement and nostalgia. As I removed the layer of shrink wrap, my fingers were trembling. This has never happened before. As a practice, I turned the book and read back cover. Then checked index. S. Gurpreet Singh Anand jee was watching me and waiting for me to react. But all my reactions had travelled back in time and here I was sitting like a wax statue, staring at the precious contents of this book with stone eyes.

This book is about what Sikhs have left in Pakistan and how partition has separated Sikhs on both sides of border. Book starts with introduction of a Sikh doctor serving in Pakistan and later author introduces his audience with more Sikhs in active service in Pakistan. Book is a systematic journey through Gurudwaras, Forts, Havelis, Schools and other buildings related to the Sikh Raj. The chapters on Faqir Khana Museum and Princess Bamba Collection will force readers to time travel into the bygone era of Sarkar Khalsaji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As Faqir Syed Saifuddin Sahab show rare artefacts from Sikh Raj, the book takes a different turn.

LostHeritage-AuthorAuthor has travelled across West Punjab, North-West Frontier and Pak Administered Kashmir to gather information. It has 60 chapters with 507 photographs and lots of rare information. Author, S. Amardeep Singh, born in India and studied at Dehradoon and Manipal Institute of Technology, now lives in Singapore. He is an amazing photographer and his exhibitions and work is appreciated across globe.

From Havelis to Gurudwaras, Amardeep did not leave a stone unturned. But the most interesting part is that he mentioned about revered Muslim Sufi Saints. Many modern day self proclaimed religious preachers would love to draw a line between Sikhs and Muslims. Whereas, there was a very high level of religious harmony back then. When connecting with god, religion is perhaps the last thing that would matter. Our Gurus and Sufi saints understood this well. May be that’s why, there are so many Muslim contributors to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee and Sain Mian Meer Sahib of Lahore laid the foundation of Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Amardeep visited many Forts and gave a detailed description. While talking about Forts and Havelis, he did not restrict himself to the Sikh religion, but to the fact, that the property was built, modified or at least used by the Sikh Rulers/Nobles. There are many structures which were built before Sikhs took over and All that SIkhs left is now being used by modern occupants. Some are government offices, some schools, some residences and some are simply lying abandoned in a a dilapidated state.

While the content of this book is very precious, what forced me to take a bow and salute the Author was his photography skills. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. They were simply perfect. Books has some shots, which made me wonder, how did he manage to get this shot. The frame, the composition, lighting, everything seems perfect.

Now I am confused. What should I call this book? “A travel guide”, “A Coffee Table Book”, “A Photo-Journal”, “A Heritage Guide”……. Perhaps, this unique masterpiece is a combination of all.

I must thank Mr. Amardeep Singh jee for his brilliant talent and effort in putting up this masterpiece for rest of the world.

If you wish to buy this book, www.lostheritagebook.com should help. Book is already available on Amazon US and will be soon available on Indian e-Comm portals as well. Till then, one can order it from this website.

I clicked few pages for you…


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