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Archive for the category “didar-e-dilli”

Secret Mehrauli Baoli

The Gandhak ki Baoli and Rajo.n ki Baoli (or Rajo.n ki Bae.n) are famous in Mehrauli. However, very few know about the underground Baoli of Dawood and lost Baoli of Aurangzeb, situated on either sides of Zafar Mahal. To the west of Zafar Mahal, there once existed a Baoli, said to have been built by Aurangzeb. It must now be buried somewhere under the houses. However, Dawood’s strucure is in more accessible shape.

Each day, hundreds of devotees flock to the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.) in Mehrauli, Delhi. Khwaja Kaki was the spiritual successor of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (ra) of Ajmer. Numerous stories associated with his life make this area more important for devotees. With so many disciples coming in, basic necessities like Caravan Sarai with adequate supply of food and water was very important. It is said that one of the prime disciples of Khwaja, Sultan Iltutmish commissioned a Baoli in Dargah Complex. Situated in the rear of complex, near Majlis Khana, the Baoli today is hidden and hardly known. In 1844-46, a person named Hafiz Dawood spent Rs. 14,000 and built a huge audience hall over the steps of Baoli. He is said to be a favourite of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The roof of this Baoli is now well covered with marble and appears to be regular floor of Dargah compound, hiding the steps and tank beneath it. A small slit in floor in the south west corner, approached through the maze of few graves, lead you to a flight of steps that result in a locked door. The dedicated manager of Dargah, Janab Fauzan Ahmed, who is trying his level best to keep this Baoli clean and bring it back to life is always more than eager to open this lock for you and make the Baoli more popular.

As the door opens, you reach a hall, built by Dawood. It has huge colonial columns and girders with roof slabs. Another side leads you to the steps, that take you to the tank of Baoli. It was recorded that this Baoli is about 75 feet deep and this depth is scaled with just 74 steps. This 96 feet by 42 feet rectangular structure is built with rubble masonry and panelled recessed arches. The Baoli was open till early 1990s. People used to bath in it. Then it was closed due to some reason.

Towards east, the Well exists, which is open from top and covered by high rise houses on 3 sides. Unfortunately, houses connected to this Baoli used this well as a garbage pit. It was filled with garbage till 2013 and appeared to be totally dry.

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Restoration

2015-11-29-13.48The Baoli was in a bad shape and well was more of a dumping pit. In 2013, government decided to clean it. By November 2013, in just 25 days, they had cleaned 5 meters, or roughly 600 cubic meters waste. During a conversation, I was informed by one of the seniors at Dargah that contractor who was employed by SRDC & PWD to clean Baoli tried to skip hard-work. He offered bribe to Dargah management, to file a report mentioning work completion to satisfaction. However, the honest Manager, Mr. Fauzan (in pic) refused. He returned that money to contractor and asked him to invest it further to clean it. He also informed government officials about this incident. As a result, Contractor had to work further and 5 more feet were cleaned, resulting in the Baoli getting filled with clean water. Had Mr. Fauzan accepted that bribe, this Baoli would still have been dry and dirty.

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We also find traces of some restoration work done by end of 1800s or early 1900. This is confirmed by the use of an iron girder, that bears the date 1898.Seal on Girder at Baoli of Mehrauli Dargah

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The Presidential Palace of India

Rashtrapati Bhawan, Delhi

Rashtrapati-Bhawan-(15)The “Rashtrapati Bhawan” has several secrets hidden under its facade, with some amazing facts tending to surface to surprise you. Right from its regal metal gates to the opulent residence cum office of the President of India, it has quite a few magical stories buried in it. For example, in the middle of the road connecting the Gates and the Building, we have the huge Jaipur Column. Did you know that barely any steel was used to build this Viceregal Palace but the Jaipur Column, funded by the then Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Madho Singh, has a Steel Beam running through its entire height of 145 feet (44.2 meters), topped by a bronze lotus from which rises the six-pointed glass star, all of it weighing a little more than five tonnes! On the double base of column, the original plan of Delhi as designed by Jaipur-ColumnLutyen, is etched. Lutyen had placed Lord Hardinge’s statue at the foot of the column, but post-Independence this was shifted to the coronation grounds, where King George V laid the foundation stone of the new capital during his coronation in 1911. King George’s majestic statue was placed in a canopy near India Gate, which too was removed along with all other statues from Lutyen’s Delhi, all of them finding a resting place in the Coronation Grounds. The Jaipur Column also has the British Seal, a special image of King George and commemorative text etched on it.

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4 panels on Jaipur Column
(From Top left, clockwise – King George: North; Emblem: South; Text: West; Map: East)

Edwin Landseer Lutyen, chief architect of New Delhi, got this job thanks to his royal connections. He was married to the daughter of Lord Lytton, former viceroy of India. He planned the city for some 60,000 people, a city that today houses some 170,000,000 plus. Lutyen got his good friend Herbert Baker to be his co-architect, and both of them were excited about this partnership, until it ended because of this very project. Baker wanted to raise the two secretariat buildings connected with Rashtrapati Bhawan and level the space between them. Lutyen was against this because then the view of Viceroy House (Rashtrapati Bhawan) will be blocked. The heavy debate was won by Baker, and as a result, when we reach the foothill of Raisina, the Rashtrapati Bhawan is hidden behind the slope and appears only when you reach on top. This disagreement over the slope, which ended a long and trusted relationship was described by Baker as “the unhappiest in all my life’s work”.

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Lutyen also gave very deep thought to which trees ought to be planted where. King’s Way (Rajpath) was decorated with Jamun Trees, Queen’s Way (Janpath) had Arjun Trees lining it, Imli was for Akbar Road and Neem Trees were planted on Lodhi Road. A total of 10,000 trees were planted in the new city, making it the then greenest capital on earth. Luckily Delhi is still considered to be one of the greener capitals even today. It is very interesting to know that Lutyen was not a fan of Indian Architecture. But the then viceroy Lord Hardinge insisted on his introducing Indian styles, and that is when Lutyen traveled across India and fell in love with the Mughal style. Even the same red & buff sandstone material that the Mughals used in their buildings was chosen for this palace. Most of us think that Rashtrapati Bhawan’s dome was inspired by the Sanchi Stupa, but this is only a half-truth. Actually, Lutyen was very much inspired by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, so he tried to blend both to create a dome with characteristics of both.

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“To the south of city, 27 Kilns came up to make the 700 million bricks or so that was needed for the project …. About 700 men were employed, to produce some 200,000 pounds worth of work in teak, shisham …. and other Indian woods. There were 84 miles of electric distribution cables and 130 miles of street lighting, 50 miles of road…….” Describes Edwin Lutyen. All pillars have bells carved, similar to temples in India along with the elephant motifs on the pillar-crowns. The huge main gate was wrought out of iron and has its motifs and designs taken from the Red Fort of Delhi.

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The Pillars of the main complex are borrowed from Roman architecture, topped with brackets inspired by Indian Temples. The palace has 340 rooms, 227 columns and 37 fountains. The estate around it also has a cricket ground, eight tennis courts and a golf course. On 13th February 1931, the new capital was inaugurated, and the hard work of chief engineers Hugh Keeling, S. Teja Singh Malik and contractors Haroun-al Rashid, Sujan Singh and his son S. Sobha Singh (father of legendary writer Khushwant Singh) became an enduring reality. After few days, Mahatama Gandhi was invited to the palace. But the Indian politicians were in no mood to celebrate as they were mourning the death of Motilal Nehru (father of Jawaharlal Nehru). In 1947, as India got independence, the Viceroy’s house was turned into the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Council house into the Indian Parliament. And India Gate? This was not called India Gate then, but was “The Great India War Memorial”.

Also read: Ceremonial Changing of Guards – Rashtrapati Bhawan. This ceremony is practiced in almost all countries. In India, it is open to public on Saturdays.

 

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North Block

Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal

Karol Bagh, the busy market of Delhi, has a hidden secret. The area is identified by Delhi’s new landmark, the huge Hanuman Statue next to Bagga Link Services. Right behind this Bagga Link, a small serpent road goes deep into the Southern Ridge of Delhi. As you advance few hundred meters on this road, a strange structure on your right will cast a spell on you.

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This structure is claimed to be the most haunted place in Delhi. There are no metal gates to be locked. The only thing that guards this massive structure is a note written at entrance, which tells people to not to come near this place after sunset.

I had an unofficial chat with one of the govt employees associated with this place. He told me that no security guard deployed by govt survived his job for more than 2-3 days. He added, “I don’t believe in all this, but there is something suspicious & scary here”.

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What is Bhooli Bhatiyari?

2Bhooli Bhatiyari (or Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal) is a Hunting Lodge built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 14th century. It has its resemblance with another of Feroz Tughlaq’s structure, ‘Malcha Mahal’. The structure is entered by a huge rubble masonry gate, which takes you to a small zone. Another doorway with corbelled arches welcomes you to the huge open square courtyard. On sides, we have rooms, used by people who stayed here during the hunting season. Towards north, it has a semi-circular structure accessed through a plight of stairs. On one corner, we have a modern toilet, which was built by Delhi Tourism in hope to promote this place. But it lies deserted as no govt guard was able to come near this place. We can imagine, that the hunters back in Tughlaq days could have seen the entire ridge from this mini-fortress.

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This structure also has those elements, which are commonly seen in Mosques and Palaces built by Junan Shah Tilangani.

On outside, the Lodge has bastions like a fort. The entire plan of this Lodge appears as if this was a safe house of the Emperor during some calamity.

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Why the name “Bhooli Bhatiyari”?

There are two theories behind this title. One theory suggests that this place, after the Tughlaq Dynasty, became abode of a sufi saint named ‘Bu Ali Bakhtiyari’. Bhooli Bhatiyari is simple a distorted form of his name. The other theory suggests that there was a Bhatiyarin (a tribal lady from Rajasthan), who forgot her way and ended up here. After her, the place became famous as ‘Bhooli Bhatiyari’.

Is it Haunted?

Personally, I never had any haunting experience at this place. I have been there alone, with family, friends and with huge groups during Photowalks. But perhaps the scaring spirits in this area don’t like me. The closest we went were when we were doing a Photowalk and 2 of our group members decided to drift away from the group. They went deep into jungle and tried to click a white wall that they saw. When they adjusted their cameras, standing next to the wall, they realized that the wall just vanished. They came back running to me and narrated the story.

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If you have experienced anything special here, do share with me.

Lost Baoli of Lodi Garden

Aap Dilli ki Baolis pe kyon nahi kuchh likhte”, said Mr. Vikas Arya from Aryan Books International when I met him last year. He wanted me to do a coffee table book on Baolis for him. For those who don’t know, Aryan Books International is a famous publisher dedicated to heritage & history books. Mr. Arya, an IT Engineer left his lucrative and promising IT career to dedicate his life towards the rich culture of India. His company reprinted several old books, which were continuously out of print due to lack of readership. If you are a heritage lover and interested in reading, more than half of books on your shelf are published or distributed by Aryan Books for sure. I met him when I was doing some IT implementation for one of Delhi’s major distributor ‘Delhi Book Store’. I told them that I am looking for some old books, but it appears that they are out of print. I was told that Aryan Books have re-printed some of them. So Delhi Books Store helped me reach Aryan Books and that’s how discovered this huge treasure of amazing books, that I always wanted to read. I told Mr. Arya about my club ‘Delhi Heritage Photography Club’ and my initiative ‘www.monumentsofdelhi.com’. At this, he said that I should be doing something about the water bodies, specially the baolis of Delhi. My first reaction was to call Janab Sohail Hashmi, as he is the only person I know, who can give authentic information about Delhi’s water bodies. And hence, the research started and have been going on since then. We have so far found 22 Baolis and still searching for more. (Best part is that in govt. records, only 16 baolis exist out of 100+ in Delhi)

 

What is a Baoli?

Baoli is a stepped well in which there is a water source, which can be reached through a flight of steps. In Delhi region, these baolis are connected with a Well on one end and a long flight of stairs connects to different chambers at every level. The well has a small opening from where water fills in the water pit at the end of stairs. Few exceptions in Delhi, where there is no separate well, but the main pit of Baolis is the well itself are Nizamuddin’s Baoli, Hazrat Kaki’s Baoli, Feroz Shah Kotla’s Baoli and Tughlaqabad Baolis. Other famous baolis are Rajo’N ki Baoli, Gandhak ki Baoli, Ugrasen ki Baoli, Red Fort Baoli and Old Fort Baoli. Besides, there are lesser known Baolis like Loharheri Baoli (Dwarka), Talimabad School Baoli (Talimabad near Tughlaqabad), Wazirpur Baoli (RK Puram, Sector 5) and Muradabad Pahari Baoli (Muradabad Pahari near Vasant Kunj).

Baolis are also known as Bawdi, Barav, vaav, bain and pushkarini. During british raj, they were written as ‘diving wells’ in all official govt. documents.

 

The Lodhi Garden Baoli

Now let’s get back to our original topic. While I was doing my research on Baolis, I found several hidden baolis. But I also found references of Baolis, which were there till early 1900s and today are no where to be found. The most important of these are Palam Baoli and Khari Baoli. We may not be able to remove the dense settlement over them to unearth these buried baolis. But there is one Baoli, which we can still revive. This baoli is situated within the famous Lodi Garden of Delhi.

Maulvi Zafar Hasan prepared a listing of all 1300+ monuments in Delhi  in 1919 as part of his job at Archaeological Survey of India. His book is called ‘Monuments of Delhi, Lasting splendour of the Great Mughals and Others’. On page 37 of volume 2, he mentions of a Baoli in Khairpur Village. It should be noted that the present day Lodi Garden was originally Khairpur Village and the families living in there were shifted in 1936, when the British decided to build a nice park here. Maulvi Zafar Hasan writes:

To the N. E. of the Shish Gumbad are the remains of a garden, the four walls of  which, brick built, are broken in several places. The double storeyed entrance is in no better condition. To the south of the latter is a mosque also ruined and neglected. The baoli in front of the entrance outside the enclosure is in the same condition. In the centre of the garden is a small brick built enclosure furnished with arched openings, apparently intended for a tomb but now containing no grave.

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3The above two pictures are of the said entrance and mosque respectively. They are situated ~200 yards to North East of Shish Gumbad and ~160 yards to south of Lodhi’s Tomb. The picture on right gives a view of the garden reached through this entrance. Garden is used by people for their morning exercise. A Yoga camp is held here daily.

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Zafar Hasan’s listing suggests that this Baoli is not of any major importance. Hence, it is not important to protect it. Lady Willington, wife of Governor-General of India, Marquess of Willingdon, when landscaped this village and converted it into a beautiful garden for British officers, covered this baoli with earth and buried it forever. Upon inauguration on April 9th 1936, this park was known as Lady Willingdon Park. After Independence, Indian government renamed it to Lodi Garden. We know of a water stream running through this park, on which Athpula (bridge) was made. It is a possibility that the water stream be a ‘barsati naalah’ and gets filled only during rainy season. The land around this place must be having high water table at that time. Therefore, the baoli must not be very deep and given the fact, that the village here was not a very big or prosperous town, the baoli may not have any significant or distinguishing architecture. I however feel that if the government and the Archaeological Survey of India tries to restore this Baoli, it will be a great attraction for visitors.

– Vikramjit Singh

The Moti Masjids of Delhi

When we say Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), the first image that comes to our mind is the small box-shaped mosque inside the Red Fort, which we never get to see from inside. But fact is that the last Mughal Emperors built another Moti Masjid in Mehrauli. These mosques were built as the private chapel of the emperor and his family. You will find Moti Masjids in almost all Mughal Palaces This article is about these two beautiful marble pieces of history from Delhi.

Moti Masjid of Qila-i-Mubarak (Red Fort)

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The Moti Masjid of Red Fort was built by Aurangzeb. He did not miss his prayers and the Jama Masjid (merely 600 mts. from Badshahi Gate of Red Fort) was probably too far for him. So he commissioned his own private mosque and decorated it with nice white marble. Originally this mosque had golden domes but they were severely damaged during the mutiny of 1857. This mosque was built at a cost of 160,000 in 1659 AD. It is situated to the west of Hammam. The female of harem were also allowed to attend prayers in it. The main entrance on eastern side has a small door with decorated copper plates nailed to it. There was originally a door in the northern wall for women, but during the repairs after 1857, it was closed. Archaeologists at that time were not able to restore the original domes with their Copper plates, but did good work restoring the Pietra Dura (embossed artwork on walls).  It also has a small ablution pond (wuzu-khana) in the centre of courtyard.

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Moti Masjid of Zafar Mahal, Mehrauli

Mehrauli The Moti Masjid of Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli is not as beautiful or as big as the mosque of Red Fort. But it serves the same purpose of offering a place to offer prayers to the royal family. It has similar three dome structure and have marble patterns on Mussallas(Praying Mat) on floor. There is hardly any embossed artwork (Except for flowers near the keystone of arch and some floral patterns near ground). Mehrauli-1The only beautiful thing about this mosque is that it is to the immediate west of the Dargah of  Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (ra). A small wall separates the courtyard of Mosque and the Dargah. This mosque was built around 1707 by one of the last Mughal Emperors. Only one minaret of this mosque survives in shattered state, and which is now supported by external scaffoldings to avoid its collapse.

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The dome with stairs in this picture is of the Dargah Sharif and the triple marble domes are of the Moti Masjid. This pic shows the distance between the Mosque and the Dargah. On the lower right corner of picture, we can see the sardgah, the enclosure containing graves of Emperor Akbar Shah II and the empty slot, where Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be buried. One door of the mosque opens inside the Dargah complex, and is usually kept locked. This palace (Zafar Mahal) was built adjoining Dargah of Hazrat Kaki, when Akbar Shah II started the famous Sair-e-Gulfarosha’N (Phoolwalo’N ki sair) festival of Delhi. Royal family along with other nobles from Red Fort used to stay in this palace during the 7 days of festivities.

Today, these mosques lie ignored and silent.

Untold story of the Qutub Minar

Mamluk Sultan Altamash (Iltutmish) built the Minarah, which till date is the tallest rubble masonry minaret on earth. Then why do we call it the Qutub Minar?

Qutub Minar

The Qutb Minar (also spelled as Qutub Minar or Kutb Minar) is world’s tallest rubble masonry minaret and a world heritage site in Delhi. It is situated within the Qutb Complex, which has been the centre of the first city of Delhi since the first Muslim ruler stepped here. Before Muhammad-bin-Sam (Muhammad Ghori) defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan, this land was with Tomar Rajpoots & Chauhans (Arkpal Tomar gave it to his grandson Prithvi). Chauhan extended the walls of Lal Kot to create Qila Rai Pithora. Ghori left his governor Qutb-ud-din Aibak to rule India after defeating Prithvi Raj  Chauhan in 1060 A.D. and thus the slave dynasty started in India. There is a huge minar in the heart of this city, which most people attribute to this first Islamic ruler of north India – Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. But is this true? This article unfolds a story, least discussed in History.

 

The Qutb Complex

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The Qutb Complex was originally a site with 27 Hindu and Jain Temples. These temples were destroyed by the Islamic invaders to obtain stone and raw material for their mosques and other buildings. These temples existed much before Ghori was even born.

As the rulers from slave dynasty planned their buildings, they were short of raw material. By demolishing the majestic temples, they served another very important purpose. To ensure stronghold, it was important that the backbone of religion prevailing in conquered land is crushed. Destroying temples meant that the new Islamic Invaders had no respect for the religion being practiced by locals. They were in such hurry of completing the job, that they were not able to deface the statues properly. Even today, the remains of temples can be seen within the Qutb Complex.

The First Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid of Qutb Complex For those who don’t know, ‘Jama Masjid’ (or Jami Masjid or Jumma Masjid or Masjid-e-Jami) is the majestic Friday Mosque built for the Muslim population of the city. Inscriptions on the Qutb Minar suggested that Qutb-ud-Din Aibak built this Mosque as the first building after stepping on Indian Land. This was the oldest mosque of North India. There are few mosques built in Tamil Nadu and Kerala before this. Qutb-ud-din Aibak was ruling over Delhi from 1206 to 1210 AD. There is a confusion over the actual name of this mosque. These days, we call it Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) but the old books suggest that its name was Qubbat-e-Islam. R.N.Munshi even writes it as ‘Qutb-ul-Islam’. Further, Munshi quotes the translation of the inscription written on the walls of Mosque (done by Thomas in his book – Pathan Kings):

Kutb-ud-Din Aibak, on whom be the mercy of God, constructed this mosque.

This fortress was conquered and this Masjid Jami was built during the months of the year 587 by the great and mighty commander-in-chief Kutb-ul-Dawlat-wa-ul-Din, the commander of commanders, Aibeg Sultan. May God exalt his helpers. Materials from 27 idol temples, each of which cost twice thousand into thousand Diliwals, have been used in this Masjid. May Almighty God send mercy on him, who prays for the rest of the builder.

Quote Ref: The History of the Kutb Minar (Delhi) by R. N. Munshi (1911)

Later this mosque was extended by Alaudin Khilji and a college (Madrasa) was added to it. When Khilji died, he was buried in the same mosque and his tomb, though not decorated with glorifying marble and inscriptions, was built in same complex.

 

Origin of Qutb Minar

Qutub-4 According to the popular  belief, the Qutb Minar (or Qutub Minar) was built by the first Islamic ruler of North India, Qutubud-din Aibak. However, I have found numerous proofs that he neither had funds, nor time (in his tiny 4 year regime),  to build, or even commence such a majestic structure. It appears to me that associating it with Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak was a “historian’s mistake”. If you read historians & travellers, who came to India during the Sultanate period, you will find that they honour this Minar as ‘Sultan Altamash’s Minar’. Hasan Nizami dedicated his work Taj-ul-Maasir (the crown of exploits) to sultan Aibak but also mentioned major events from the period of his predecessor and successor. There is no reference to any such Minar in this important piece of work, which talks about period after 7 years of death of Aibak. If Qutubuddin Aibak even dreamed about (if not commissioned) this minar, then we must have found atleast some mention in this book. But Hasan Nizami do talk about the Jami Masjid of Delhi built by Aibak in following manner:

Kutb-ud-Din built the Jami Masjid at Delhi, and adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had been demolished by elephants, and covered it with inscriptions in Yoghra, containing the divine commands.”

Following are the other prominent travel historians of related period

  • Ibn Asir (with his work Kamil-ut-Tawarikh aka Tarikh-i-Kamil)
  • Ata Malik Juwaini aka Alau-ud-din Juwaini (with his work Tarikh-i-Jahan-Kusha)
  • Maulana Nuruddin Muhammed ‘Ufi, who lived in Delhi during Altamash’s period (with his work Jami-ul-Hikayat wa Liwami-ul-Riwayat)
  • Minhaj-i-Siraj (with his work Tabkat-i-Nasiri)

The above authors make no mention of Minar. If it was one of the biggest construction of era, these people, who were living in Delhi and writing particularly on Qutb-ud-Din Aibak must have mentioned about it.

Fatuhat-i-Feroz Shahi, written by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq himself has a mention of Qutb Minar. It says:

“The minara of Sultan Muizz-ud-din Sam had been struck by lightning. I repaired it and raised it higher than it was before”

It should be noted that Feroz Shah Tughlaq also repaired other monuments and mention correct names like Hauz-i-Shamsi, Hauz-i-Alai, Madrasa of Altamash, Rukn-ud-din’s Tomb, Sultan Jalal-ud-Din’s Tomb and so on. Tarikh-i-Firozshahi written by Shams-i-Siraj Afif however refer to this Minar as “the large pillar at old Delhi” raised by Sultan Shams-ud-Din Altamash. Ibn Batuta was not sure who built this minar so all he wrote about the builder was “Is it the minar of Feroz Shah”. Babur in his memoirs mention about this minar as the Minar of Sultan Alauddin Khilji. This shows that even till late 16th century, this minar was not attributed to Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. It was known by the names of Altamash, Khilji or Tughlaq, who we know built and repaired portions of minar.

Translation on the entrance gate of Qutb minar:

The prophet on whom be the mercy and peace of God, has declared “whoever erects a temple to the true God (on earth,) shall receive six such ‘dwellings in Paradise’. The Minar, the building of the king of kings, Shems-ud-Dunya-wa-ud-Din, now in peace and pardon, be his tomb protected, and his place be assigned in heaven ____ was injured by lightning in the reign of the exalted monarch Secander the son of Behlol : (may his power and empire last for ever and his reign be glorious); and therefore the slave Fatteh-Khan, the son of Mesned-Ali the liberal of the liberal, and the meritorious servant of the king _____________, repaired it according to command. The 13th of Rebi-ul-Akher in the year 909.

<FROM DOOR ON FIRST BALCONY>

The Sultan Shams-ul-Hak-wa-ud-Din Altamash ____ erected this building

<FROM FOURTH STORY>

“The erection of this building was commanded in the glorious time of the great Sultan, the mighty king of kings, the master of mankind, the lord of the monarchs of Turkistan, Arabia and Persia; the Sun of the World and Religion, of the Faith and the Faithful, the lord of safety and protection, the heir of the kingdom of Sulman Abul Muzeffer Altamash, Nasir-Amin-ul-Momenin”

– Translation by Mr. Walter Ewer in Asiatic Researces vol. XIV (Cal: 1822)

We can see from the above proofs that this Minar was always known as the Minar of Altamash and not of Qutub-ud-Din Aibak.

 

Minarets of Jam, Ghazni and Konye

Reputed historian Sir Syed Ahmed in his work Athar-us-Sanadid said that this Minar was actually built by Prothvi Raj Chauhan so that his daughter can have a view of Jamuna river. But if it is true, then its design and architecture must be unique and not match with the other Minars of Islamic countries.

Minars

Minaret of Ghazni: Built by Muizuddin Bahram in 10th century in the city of Ghazni. It is little different from the Qutb Minar but has many similarities, like built by same generation of rulers and it is also the minaret of a mosque.

Minaret of Gutluk Temir in Konye-Urgench: This is the third tallest rubble masonry minaret in world built in Old Urgench city of Turkmenistan in 11th century.

Minaret of Jam: This Minaret, very much similar to the architecture of Qutub Minar is situated in Shahrak District of Ghor Province of Afghanistan. It is right next to the Hari River. This 65 metre high minaret was completed in 12th century. This place (called Firuzkoh) was the summer capital of Ghorid Dynasty (from where Qutbuddin Aibak came). This is the second tallest rubble masonry minaret of world and was probably attached to a mosque, just like Qutb Minar.

 

Qutbuddin Or Qutbuddin

Some historians went to an extend claiming that Altamash dedicated this Minaret to Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.), whose shrine is right behind this complex. Khwaja Kaki (ra) is the immediate successor of Hz. Khwaja Mouinuddin Chisti (ra) of Ajmer. This could be true because we know how much Altamash respected Hazrat Kaki (ref: work by Maulana Minhaj Siraj). A friend of mine, Khalid bin Umar told me a story:

Khwaja Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki (1173-1235 AD) is one of the most respected and esteemed Buzurg in India. He lived during the reign of Altamash ( Eltutmish) and died in Delhi. When Khawaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki’s janazah was ready for the last salat. The khadim-i-khas came forward and announced that according to the will of Khawaja Sahib the funeral prayer (salat-ul-janazah) is to be led by the person who fulfills these 3 requirements:

  1. He should have never committed adultery after reaching puberty.
  2. He should have never missed the 4 rakat of sunnah(ghair-muakkidah) before Asr salat.
  3. He should have never missed Takbir-i-Ula’ ( Opening Takbir in Salat) in prayer ( Jamat)

The huge crowd stood still !
Hundreas of Awliya , Shyukh of Delhi as well as Shaykh’s senior disciples were present there. No one came forward.Khadim repeatedly announced the requirements. But there was no response. A sense of impatience was being felt.
Finally, Sultan Shamusddin Altamash (May Allah have mercy on him) stepped forward. He remarked, “No one knew my secret, the respected Khawaja disclosed it. All praise is to Allah, I fullfil these criteria”. He then led the prayers.

I have serious doubts on the fact that Qutb Minar was named after Hazrat Khwaja because if it really was, Altamash must have engraved atleast some information in this regard on the tower. He had all the time in world to write almost everything on this minaret and even the kings that followed him wrote a lot on it. But no one ever mentioned anything about Hazrat Kaki, ever. However, Ritter in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol XX, Nos. I to VIII, 1851, p353), wrote that this Minar could be in honour of Qutub Sahib, the celebrated saint. This statement is further corroborated by Major Raverty in his translation of Tabakat-i-Nasiri where he calls this Minar as ‘Lath of Kutb Sahib’. Several other historians like Miss Mabel Duff (aka Mrs. W. R. Rickemers) and even Sir Alexander Cunningham (Dir. Gen. of ASI – 1862) support this statement. But they all put forward their assumptions and no one gives an assurance of confirmed fact to prove it. The only logical reason was given by R.N. Munshi, who says that since Hazrat Kaki was such a celebrated saint, it is possible that the emperors never thought of putting an extra line on the Minaret and it was assumed by everyone as the ‘Laat of Qutub Sahib’

 

[Edited – 16 October 2015]

Link with 27 Nakshatras

Many people claim that since there were 27 temples and Qutub Minar has 27 edges on base, this could be a Hindu observatory to study the Constellation movement as Hindus believe in 27 Nakshatras. Well, before paying attention to any such rumour, I would request readers to ponder upon following points:

  1. There were 27 temples. They were a mix of Jain and Hindu Temples. This makes it impossible to form a pattern for observatory
  2. These temples were built in different eras, some even decades apart. There is no proper documentation for each.
  3. Temples were not in a single complex. They were spread across the length and breadth of this first city. Some were even outside the walls of Lal Kot and Rai Pithora. We still have Jain Dada Badi and few other remains
  4. A portion of Temple is still intact in the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. One should see its placement and design, before reaching the final conclusion.
  5. The base has 27 conical edges and 27 circular ones. This makes it 54 at base.

 

Qutub Minar has a long and mysterious history. People like me will never be able to unfold it completely. However, I have tried my best to put forward the facts that I learned in past few years.

———-
Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

 

The Malcha Mystery

board1 Every few days, I get a query about the Mysterious Malcha Mahal. People want to go there and know more about it. They are fascinated because they think that in today’s world, how can someone live without electricity and regular water supply.

But things are different for the Royal siblings of the Oudh (Awadh) province.

What is Malcha Mahal

Malcha Mahal is a hunting lodge built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 14th century. Situated right next to Delhi Earth Station in the restricted area of Delhi Ridge, this monument is largest of all Shikargaah’s built by the emperor. It is a huge square complex of 30 meter length on each side built on a high mound. The architecture of this lodge is somewhat similar to another of Tughlaq’s hunting lodge, Kushk Mahal (inside Teenmurti House).

It’s Location

Malcha Mahal is situated next to Delhi Earth Station on the Bistdari Road in Delhi Ridge. It is the restricted part of the forest behind the Buddha Jyanti Park (Buddha Garden). Malcha Mahal is also known as Bistdari Mahal

About its residents

Board2 Princess Wilayat Mahal, the Begum of Oudh was the great granddaughter of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh. Nawab Wajid Ali waas deposed by British more than a century ago and their property was seized. Begum Wilayat Mahal was fighting with the govt. of India to get her property back, which is now used as a pharmaceutical research centre. To humiliate the government, she housed herself in the VIP lounge of New Delhi Railway Station with her two kids and dogs for a considerably long period. In may 1985, the govt. finally decided to allot Malcha Mahal to this royal descendants. But placing a royal family in such a ghost palace was not a good idea. On December 10, 1993, out of pain and mental stress, Begum Wilayat Mahal committed suicide by drinking crushed diamonds. She left behind her two kids, Princess Sakina and Prince Riaz, few Dobermans & German Shepherds and some royal treasure. Her body was lying on her study desk for 10 days and her kids were mourning in grief. The night before Prince Riaz buried her, both her kids slept with her dead body. Since her mother’s death, Princess Sakina has only wore black colour.

Entrance On june 24th 1994, some people tried to attack this haunted place in search of treasure. The terrified young siblings had to dig the grave of their deceased mother and burn her body to save her grave from being vandalized. Today her ashes rest in a crystal vial. They were given a revolver and permission to shoot in self-protection by the Lt. Governor of Delhi. Today, the dungeon is guarded by over a dozen dogs and high shrubs and grilss around the premise. They once had 27 dogs but today, only 9 are left. Others have been poisoned by local thieves, who have also stolen a huge silver table some some gold and silver tableware from the palace.

The other side of the story

Anjum Quder, the prince of Oudh wrote a letter to prime minister, several government bodies and other ministers in April 1975 stating that the claim by Begum Wilayat Mahal is a hoax. He explained that according to the Muslim tradition, the title of ‘Mahal’ was always awarded by the King to her wife only when the first male child was born. Under no circumstances, the title of ‘Mahal’ can be given to a daughter or grand-daughter. Since Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Burma, no lady in India was given the title of Mahal. This can be cross verified with the last 150 years of Indian History. He has given confirm proof of the entire genealogy of the entire Oudh Family from Nawab Wajid Ali Shah onwards. His letter and explanation can be read at http://oudh.tripod.com/bhm/hoax.htm

My conversation with the forest officials and CISF guards

Out of my several visits to the place, I was able to talk to few people there. In one visit, I was able to talk to the local forest officials. They said that it is a false claim that she was allotted this palace permanently by government. It was more of a make-shift temporary arrangement to pull her out of the New Delhi Railway Station. He further went to an extend saying that in the initial days of Begum Wilayat Mahal coming to this palace, they used to hear sound of music and dance from the palace. They even told us that they fear some illegal activities going in there. They could recall 1-2 reporters trying to go inside the Mahal and never return back.

I even had a conversation with the CISF guards at the Delhi Earth Station. They told me that they have no clue what happens in there. All they know is that if anyone tries to come near, this guy unleashes his dogs and points a gun at the intruder. I was lucky enough to talk to one employee of the Earth Station. He said that he has been working in the Earth Station for decades and this palace, which is just few feet away from the Station used to be their badminton court. But since these people have come here, they have not allowed us to go near the palace.

Encounter with the Prince

During one of my several visits, when I was trying to find the entrance to the palace and was being accompanied by few other members of our Photowalk Group (Nikhil Garg, Karan Arora, Pankaj Pratap Singh, Praveen Lal, Sourabh Singh Khillery and few others) we were lucky to have a look at the guy, who we later realized is the prince himself. We were amazed by his command over English. We tried to break the conversation with him but he quickly jumped into the bushes and disappeared.

My Understanding

I don’t know whether Prince Anjum Quder is right or the story told by Begum Wilayat is true. All I know is that Princess Sakina and Prince Riaz deserve a peaceful life. They have had enough torture and pain in all these years. We cannot estimate their loss. Today they share a haunted dungeon with bats, lizards, spiders and snakes. They live a life of refugees in their own country’s capital. Government and other people, including their own servants have betrayed them so many times that now they can’t trust anyone but their dogs. The best we can do today to help them is to let them live peacefully and not force our curiosity to breach their privacy. Let’s stay away from Malcha Mahal and let them live the life they have chosen for themselves. It is their basic right and we are no one to force a lifestyle on them, which we think is better.

– Whatever people say about the siblings living in this palace, I have my full sympathy with them and would like to support them in the way, in which they are most comfortable.

 

* UPDATE * – 12 May 2015

This article has grown popularity as people have grown interest in this Monument (or should I say, in others lives). Almost every week, I am contacted by at least 1 person, asking about the couple living there. The worst experience I had was with one of the journalist, who was very proud that he went inside and met the couple. Here’s what he told me over phone:

“I went there with my photographer, jumped the fence and went inside. An old dying lady was lying in one corner. When she saw me, she screamed and called someone. She asked him to unleash dogs and pull out gun. I ran away. After coming out, I phoned police about some suspicious activity and had the place raided. As police came, I went inside with them showing my press card. When we went inside with police, we found that they are very poor. They had few dogs. There were hardly any utensils in the room and very few traces of food. Entire structure was checked by police this is all we found in there”. He added, “Policemen were also cribbing about this false alarm, and so were the old duo living in there”. This reporter, from India TV was very proud of his act. After narrating his gallantry act, the reporter invited me for an interview, to which I refused (obviously). I have appeared on many news channels and this channel will always remain in my black list.

Once I went to Malcha Mahal and the Trees had shed leaves, revealing the Monument. I was able to get a clearer view and found that it is more closer to Bhooli Bhatiyari ka Mahal built by same, Feroz Shah Tughlaq, than the Kushk Mahal (as said by me earlier in this post). It is on high mound, with a huge gate, accessed by a ramp, instead of stairs. Outside the Monument, towards west (Qibla), is a Mosque Wall, which touches the boundary of Delhi Earth Station. This is a rare thing as nowhere else, I have found any such wall near any Hunting Lodge. Usually, prayer chambers are inside the premise of lodge. There is a possibility that this mosque wall was built later. Exact statement can be given only after proper examination of the wall.

Whenever the duo loving inside the Malcha Mahal depart from this Mortal world, the monument will fall in hands of Archaeological Survey of India. These people are geared to restore it and set it open for public.

At end, all I want to say is, please don’t try anything, which can disturb the peace, with which the duo is living. They have right to live. Please let them live peacefully. We can see the monument from inside few years later.

First view of Baoli in the Red Fort of Delhi

1

 

What looks like the most untouched stepped well was actually a garbage dumping site for many years. When British took over the Qila-e-Mualla aka Quila-e-Mubarak aka Red Fort, they decided to make some more space for their residence. This beautiful stepped well, built by the Mughals also fell prey for their greed for space.

The British installed huge girders across the platform to create rooms in there. Post Independence, when Indian Army took over, they turned this place to a dumping site. Recently, Archaeological Survey of India got the charge of this place and they cleaned the beautiful stepped well and removed the girders.

 11

The history stone there says that the INA officers Shah Nawaz Khan, P. K. Sehgal and G. S. Dhillon were confined here in 1945-46 during the freedom movement

 

The unique structure

8This baoli has a unique structure with stairs from two sides at 90 degree. The two stairs combine at a pit, which is attached to the well. The amazing part was that we were able to listen to the sound of water seeping from the ground into the well.

 

More from lens…

73  The stairs on two sides

10 2

94   

5 6 Well behind the steps

12The CISF Quarters opposite to the Baoli

Is Delhi really 100 year old?

800px-Delhi_Drubar,_1911 Delhi, the capital of Republic of India. It is said that Delhi has completed its hundred years on 12th December 2011. How true is this statement?  

What happened 100 years ago?

11th December, 1911 – King George V was declared the Emperor of India and on 12th December 1911, he presented himself to the public at the Coronation Ground in Burari Village, Delhi. This ceremony was called ‘Delhi Durbar’. On this occasion, King George declared that the capital of British India be shifted from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Delhi. 12th December 2011, we complete 100 years of this declaration.

The Ignored truth?

Delhi was treated as a capital since Mahabharta era, when Pandavas had setup their territory in the reign of Khandva Forest and named it as Indrapatta (or Indraprastha). Later, several dynasties came and used Delhi as their capital. Here’s a list:

circa 2500 BC Pandavas Ruled from Indraprastha, the earliest reference of Delhi
736-1180 Tomars Ruled from Lal Kot (now in Mehrauli)
1180-1192 Rajputs Ruled from Qila Rai Pithora (Mehrauli, Lado Sarai area)
1206-1290 Slave Dynasty Ruled from area around Mehrauli
1290-1321 Khilji Dynasty Ruled from area, what we now call Siri (around Siri Fort) in Delhi
1321-1398 Tughlaq Dynasty Ruled from Areas like Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah (now Begumpur, Sarvpriya Vihar and Tara Apartments etc.) and Ferozabad (or Feroz Shah Kotla). NOTE: Muhammed bin tughlaq took capital from Delhi to Daultabad for some time, but brought it back.
1398-1414 Attack by Timur Lung No Ruler. Period of Chaos
1414-1421 Sayyid Dynasty Ruled from existing establishments of various cities comprising Delhi
1451-1526 Lodhi Dynasty Ruled from existing establishments of various cities comprising Delhi
1526-1540 Timurid/Mughal Dynasty Humayun started Dinpanah at what we now call Old Fort
1540-1556 Sur Dynasty Ruled from Dilli Sher Shahi, around Old Fort of Delhi
1556 Hindu ruler – Hemu (Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya) Ruled very small portion of country from vacant fort of Shergarh (now called Old Fort), but removed from throne by Humayun and Mughals came back
1556-1857 Mughal Dynasty Akbar and Jahangir took Capital out of Delhi but Shahjahan bought back to Shahjahanbad and started rule from Red Fort of Delhi.
1856-1947 British After taking last Mughal king out in 1857, British continued to rule from their existing setup  in Calcutta. Then King George V, on 12th December 1911, declared to bring the capital back to Delhi.

  We have numerous sites and remains since 7th century showing Delhi as one of the most important cities of India. British just understood the importance a little late and utilized the empty space lying between the other 7 cities of Delhi. The did a unification of cities and restored few old buildings. After the declaration in 1911, it took more than a decade for the capital to actually move in. The Viceroy House (Rashtrapati Bhavan) was commissioned on January 23rd, 1931.   Following is the video from the Delhi Durbar of 1911 at the Coronation Ground of Delhi. Rest is up to you to decide.  

 

Ceremonial changing of the Guards – Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi

Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi

Guarding-the-StarEvery Saturday morning, people are allowed to witness a ceremony of the most secure place in India, the Rashtrapati Bhawan (residence of the President of India).

On the heights of Raisina Hill and between the colonial pillars of North Block and South Block, the President’s Body Guards (PBG), along with a unit of Army march out of the majestic gates of the presidential palace. Spectators are seated to witness the Ceremonial Changing of Guards, on the this side of RajPath.Amar-Jawan-Jyoti

On the eastern end of RajPath, stands gigantic India Gate, the tomb of Unknown Soldiers of India, with ever-lit Amar Jawan Jyoti (Immortal Soldier’s flame). On the west end, is the seat of the President and Parliament of Republic of India. Army and President’s Body Guards (PBG) guard this place and rotate shifts every week.

Canon and Guard at Rasthrapati Bhawan Cavalry marching out of Rashtrapati Bhawan

The Presidential Bodyguards, mounted on their horses come marching from outside the complex and enter through a gate near South Block. Initial ceremony is held inside the gates and only people with special permission are allowed to view it. Later, the entire parade marches out of Rashtrapati Bhawan and everyone is allowed to be seated on the chairs installed for the ceremony outside south block.

Infantry CommanderMounted-Commander

Infantry during Change of Guard Ceremony

PBG and the the regiment incharge takes position in front of the North Block with a  backdrop of saffron, white and green flags. The commanders take position on the other side of road, in front of the South Block. The commander of Infantry stands on a small red stage and the cavalry commander from PBG takes the salute mounted on his horse near the South Block entrance.

Ceremony starts with a salute and attendance is taken. Then both the Changing-the-Guardcommanders inspect the new guards and the entire parade marches towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan for shift swap. The parade enters the gate and public is allowed to view the ceremony from outside (except for those with special permission). After another round of salutation and inspection, the guards are swapped.

The ceremony ends with the parade marching out on the tune of Sare Jahan se Achha!

Timings

Summer: 9:00 AM to 9:40 AM
Winter: 10:00 AM to 10:40 AM

NOTE: The timing for this parade keeps changing. Please check the below link before planning your visit.

(ref: http://presidentofindia.nic.in/time_cog.html)

More from lens…

Commanding South-BlockMounted-Guard-Front  Guard Guards-of-the-Palace  Marching Marching-Sync March-Out Mounted-Guard

Replacing the New Guard The North Block Flags on the South Block Guarding Rashtrapati Bhawan, Before starting the ceremony Presidential Body Guards Presidential Body Guards Army officer from Madras Regiment Change of Guard ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi North Block, Rashtrapati Bhawan 10 11 The guard of the Nation Band from the Sikh Regiment Parade retiring to the Rashtrapati Bhawan

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