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This post by S. Gurdev Singh Rooprai has been moved to his BLOG: http://www.gurdevsingh.in/smadhi-of-maharaja-jassa-singh-ramgarhia/
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.
The 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.
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.
“Come to Red Fort to meet me this Sunday”, said Sh. K.K. Muhammed, the then Superintending Archaeologist of Delhi Circle ASI. “Where in Red Fort?”, I asked. He said, “just say my name and guards will direct you.”
Till this point, all I knew was that K.K. Muhammed is just another ASI officer and I wanted to seek his permission for my Delhi Heritage Photography Club’s next event. But when I reached Red Fort to meet him, he turned out to be a legend, a great human being and master of his work. He used to stay in the Chapel inside Red Fort, which was temporarily converted to his residence. While sipping tea, he showed us his collection of photographs from the site of Bateshwar in Morena District (Madhya Pradesh). Please note that this Bateshwar is different from Bateshwar in UP. The UP Bateshwar is on banks of Yamuna River between Fatehabad and Etawah. It is a complex of 101 small Shiva temples, painted white and still in use. The one we are talking about is deep in ravines of Chambal. When Muhammed sir started narrating the story of this restoration, every line gave me Goosebumps. So here’s the secret of Bateshwar of MP…
Site of Bateshwar originally consisted of 200 temples (mostly Lord Shiva) from Gujjar-Pratihar Dynasty. It is located deep in ravines of Chambal and were occupied by Dacoits like Nirbhay Singh Gujjar and Ram Babu Gadariya. The Temple Complex was in very bad shape. Stones were lying all over, mixed with each other. When KK Muhammed was made Superintending Archaeologist of Bhopal circle ASI, he asked for the most challenging archaeological site. His staff pointed to this Bateshwar and suggested him to avoid that path. But he did not listen. Through a mediator, Mr. Muhammed approached the Dacoits and requested them to allow the restoration of these temples. While I can go on and on explaining how things unfolded in this magnificent bollywood-like epic, I think it is better that you hear it directly from Mr. Muhammed:
Some clicks from the site…
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 Lutyen, 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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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”.
Bhooli 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.
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.
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’.
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.
If you have experienced anything special here, do share with me.
On one fine day of 1719 AD, the courtiers of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah were having a heated argument about how to accurately calculate the auspicious date and time for Emperor’s travel plans. While they were fighting with each other, one member of the Mughal Durbar was sitting quietly, thinking, why don’t we have an instrument, which can give very accurate date and time. By this time, this courtier had decided that he will construct a high precision astronomical observatory.
This courtier was Saramad-i-Rajaha-i-Hind, Raj Rajeshwar, Shri Rajadhiraj, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Maharaja of Amer (later Jaipur). He was an ally of Mughals and had great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. After the debate in court, he held a discussion with the Mughal Emperor, and took his approval on constructing astronomical observatories.
Jai Singh was influenced primarily by the Islamic school of astronomy. He studied the work of the great astronomers. Early Greek and Persian observatories contained elements that Jai Singh incorporated into his designs, but the instruments of the Raja Jai Singh’s observatories, are more complex, or at a much greater scale than any that had come before, and in certain instances, are completely unique in design and function.
The first observatory was built in Delhi. Some people argued that the observatory was built in 1710, but Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, author of Athar-us-Sanadid correctly calculated the date as 1724. Raja Jai Singh had his estate near Delhi, which was known as JaiSinghpura. This estate today comprises of area from foot-hill of Raisina to Janpath and parts of Connaught Place. His palace/haveli/bangla was used by 8th Sikh Guru and is today known as Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.
After this first observatory in Delhi, he built similar observatories in Jaipur, Benaras, Ujjain and Mathura. The Ujjain observatory was painfully demolished by land mafia. Out of other 4, only the largest sundial, the Jaipur observatory is operational because rest 3 are surrounded by high rise buildings or trees, thus obstructing sunlight. All these observatories are accurate to half of a second, which is better than European instruments available at that time.
Originally, these observatories were called “Yantra” or “Yantar”. In many north Indian accents, people often pronounce “Y” as “J”. Thus, Yantar soon became Jantar. “Mantar” means a formula, or in this context, a calculation. Thus we get the present name for these observatories “Jantar Mantar”.
A Jantar Mantar complex constitutes of multiple ‘Yantras’ (instruments). Each instrument serves its own unique task. Instruments from the Delhi Jantar Mantar are::
Samrat Yantra (supreme instrument): is ‘an equinoctial dial. It comprises of a triangular gnomon with the hypotenuse parallel to the earth’s axis, and on either side of the gnomon is a quadrant of a circle parallel to the plane of the equator’.
Jai Prakash Yantra: This consists of two concave hemispherical structures to ascertain the position of the sun and other heavenly bodies. It has a long tower with stairs attached to it, from which, the experts would accurately calculate time.
Misra Yantra (mishrit/mixed instrument): This combines multiple instruments in 1. These instruments are:
The Jaipur Jantar Mantar on the other hand, consists of 14 major instruments. These include the instruments from Delhi Observatory.
Each of the instrument is carefully angled at the latitude of the location where it is built. The height of each building and its marking are very carefully calibrated and an expert can predict eclipses, tell time, track stars and determine celestial altitudes and related ephemerides
Jantar Mantars are instruments of high precision and excellent craftsmanship. Unfortunately, we have lost the art to modern clocks. However, we must respect the talent and hard work of our forefathers, who made the modern day possible.
On 17th June 1631, as Arjumand Banu Begum, aka Mumtaz Mahal, the most favourite wife and Empress Consort of the Mughal Emperor Badshah A’la Azad Abul Muzaffar Shahab ud-Din Mohammad Khurram, aka Shah Jahan died, the Mughal Court started planning for the grand burial of the late queen. She left the mortal world while giving birth to her 14th child in Burhanpur, where her husband, the Emperor was fighting with rebels. She was buried in a pleasure garden called Zainabad, originally constructed by Shah Jahan’s uncle Daniyal on the bank of the Tapti River. The Emperor went into secluded mourning for almost a year and when he came out, he was a changed man with all the sadness reflecting from his face and attire. Meanwhile, in December same year, her body was taken out from her grave and in a golden casket, transported to the then capital of Mughal Empire, Agra. There, the body was buried in a garden on the banks of Yamuna and as Emperor reached Agra after finishing his campaign in Deccan, the garden was taken from the king of Jaipur, Raja Jai Singh for an exchange of a prestigious piece of land within city. In 1632, the construction of the grand mausoleum started, which was later called “The Taj Mahal”
While there are numerous things to talk about the great Taj Mahal, this article focusses on the foreign connection of the Taj. In coming editions, I will try to write more about Taj and unveil more secrets of this magnificent wonder of the world.
Taj Mahal was not built overnight. It took decades to reach the final finial and plant the last tree. Architects, Masons and Material from different countries was sourced to construct this finest piece of Mughal Architecture. The structure was built using rubble masonry, covered with layer of bricks, which were baked locally. The sandstone used in the tomb was sourced from Fatehpur Sikri, which is around 40-45 Kms away from Agra. The famous white marble for Taj Mahal was brought from Makrana in Rajasthan (some 400 Kms away). The marble of Makrana is known to be finest and decorates many other famous buildings including Victoria Memorial of Kolkata, National Assembly of Pakistan, Jain Temple of Mysore & Dilwara, Ambedkar Park of Lucknow, Birla Temple of Jaipur and Makrana Emitra Campus. Jasper for the building was sourced from the region of Punjab. This building is decorated with Jade and Crystal, which were imported from China and turquoise came from Tibet. The Lapis Lazuli was sourced from Afghanistan, Sapphire from Sri Lanka and Carnelian from Arabian region. Onyx and Amethyst came from Persia. It is said that in all, 28 types of semi-precious stones were used on Taj Mahal, which were sourced from all over South Asia. Some say that the cost of the construction of this building was around 50 Lakh Rupees, while some debate that it might have gone up to 6 Crore (Which sounds a little impractical, given the state of royal treasury back then).
Ustad Isa, an architect from Shiraz, Iran is considered by few to be the chief architect of Taj Mahal. While this claim was challenged by few, who named Ustad Ahmed Lahauri (also from Iran) as the chief architect. The claim of Ustad Ahmad being the chief architect was put forth by his son Lutfullah Muhandis and was verified by many modern research scholars. Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan and Makramat Khan were the Imperial Supervisors for the construction. Ismail Afandi was bought in from Ottoman Empire to design the dome. Qazim Khan from Lahore was asked to cast the solid gold finial. Amanat Khan from Shiraz (Iran) was the chief calligrapher of Tomb. Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz were incharge of finances and management of daily production. Puru from Benarus in Iran was the supervisor of all architects. Chiranjilal, a lapidary from Delhi was the chief sculptor and mosaicist while Muhammad Hanif was the supervisor of masons
Another interesting name that appears in picture is of Geronimo Veroneo, an Italian, who lived in Agra and died in Lahore in 1640. The European Scholars celebrate him as the chief architect of Taj Mahal. This claim was made by Father Sebastian Manrique, an Augustinian Friar whose purpose in India was to secure the release of Father Antony, who was being held as a prisoner by the Mughals in Lahore. And it was here in Lahore that he met the executor of Geronimo, named Father Joseph De Castro. It was Castro who told Father Sebastian about a famous Venetian jeweller who came to India in the Portuguese ships but died on his way in Lahore and was later buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Padres Santos in Agra. However, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, who was travelling in India during the construction of Taj Mahal has given the most accurate account of its construction and did not mention anything about Geronimo. Peter Munday, another traveller who has left a complete record of his travels, was in Agra around that time. He knew Geronimo well and mentions that he met him several times, but does not state anything more than the fact that he was a goldsmith.
While there is lot that can be said and written about Taj, I reserve more for my future articles. No doubt, this marvel leaves its impression on every spectator and reminds us of the great artistic capabilities of the people back in 17th century.
“Henceforth, let the inhabitants of the world be divided into two classes – Them as has seen the Taj Mahal; and them as hasn’t.”
– Edward Lear
In my series of articles on Taj Mahal, I am going to introduce you to an interesting episode of our history, where one of the British appointed Governor General, Lord William Bentinck, who had absolutely no respect for or interest in Indian Heritage, decided to auction off the Taj Mahal.
When celebrated English author, poet and illustrator Edward Lear wrote the quote mentioned above, he tried to depict the mesmerizing sight of the great Taj Mahal. Countless visitors since ages have praised the beauty of Taj. But one man, sitting on the top position had some other evil plans about this beauty. Lieutenant-General Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck became the Governor General of India for just two years from 1833 to 1835. In these 2 years, he saw the bad state of finances. To improve the financial state of the government, he took a very stupid decision, which was to auction, what we today regard as the ‘Wonder of World’.
During British Raj, it was a practice of Rich British families to visit decorated Mughal buildings and dig precious stones to be taken back as souvenirs. Taking a hint form this malpractice, Lord Bentinck decided to dismantle the Taj Mahal and auction off the precious marble. Part of the marble was to be sold to Indian nobles and rest was to be sent to Britain, for further sale. Idea of trying to sell majority of marble in India rather than in Britain came because an earlier attempt to sell marble from Red Fort of Delhi was not a successful. The cost of transporting marble to England came out to be more than the bid.
The British had earlier sold the Taj Mahal to Seth Laxmichand of Mathura for Rs. 1.5 Lakh, who, when reached the Tomb for possession, faced a major opposition from the Hindu and Muslim residents of Taj Ganj, the colony established by Emperor Shahjahan, which is said to have the descendants of workers, who made Taj Mahal. Seth Laxmichand had to retreat and the sale was called off.
Then Lord Bentinck came with better arrangements and ensured that such problems do not hamper the auction. On July 26, 1831, an advertisement to sell Taj Mahal was published in an English daily of Kolkata. Auction started with seths of Mathura and Rajasthan. The next day, auction continued with English Bidders. Once again, the Taj mahal was sold to Seth Laxmichand for Rs. 7 lakh. But the cost of dismantling and taking off the marble was so high, that it was practically impossible to make profit out of it. Once again, the auction had to be called off.
Lord Bentinck went back to his thinking table and finally managed to sort out the cost issue. Historian, Prof. Ramnath in his book ‘The Taj Mahal’, mentions about this incident. British author HG Cannes also mentioned about this incident in his book ‘Agra and Naibr Hoods’. They wrote Lord Bentinck finally managed to arrange an auction, which cannot be called off as all the hurdles have already been taken care off and this one was well planned.
As the second auction was arranged, the seths and the British once again were invited. Then came into picture, an unknown soldier from the British Army, who secretly reported the matter to the Member Parliament of his constituency back in England. The matter was taken to the British Parliament and London office immediately ordered the Indian Governor General to give up this stupid idea. We will never know who this unsung soldier was, who saved the precious Taj and gave India its share in the list of Wonders of World.
Much later, Lord Curzon, called for an auction on 7th February 1900. Many old paintings and precious carved stones, which included some material from Taj Mahal was auctioned. Even Lord Hastings had many precious stones from Taj Mahal sent to London.
However, there have been incidents where looters didn’t bother to do the formality of auctioning. Historian E.B. Havell records that the Jats of Bharatpur, under Suraj Mal, carried away the fountains and the fish tanks of Machhli Bhawan of Fort. Later, other parts were taken by Lord Bentick for auction. Similar looting was done at Taj as well. In 1784, the Jats carried away the silver doors of Taj, which were estimated at Rs 127,000, when installed by Shahjahan. They were studded with nails, the heads of which were silver rupees.
Manucci writes, the first plunder of Taj took place in 1691, when Jats, under the command of Rajaram and Ramchhera took away great gates of bronze, studded with precious stones and plates of gold and silver.
No matter what Taj has seen and suffered, it is still counted as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Indian Subcontinent.
“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)
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.
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.
The 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.
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
Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah Tilangani, the prime minister of Feroz Shah Tughlaq brought a revolution in the Mosque Architecture of India. His creations were majestic, beautiful and well planned. Last month, I wrote about Jauna Khan, who later became Muhammed Bin Tughlaq and was widely misunderstood. Today I write about another Jauna Khan, whose wonderful contribution is victim of neglect and poor keep.
Gannama Nayaka, aka Yugandhar, the commander of Warangal was converted to Islam in 1323 by Muhammad bin Tughlaq (then Shehzada Jauna Khan) and made governor of Multan after the defeat of King Prataparudra of Kakatiya Dynasty. He was given the name “Malik Maqbul”, and soon became Masnad-i-Aali Ulugh Qutlugh Azam-i-Humayun Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul Tilangani. During the region of Feroz Shah Tughlaq, Malik Maqbul was made the Prime Minister and one of the highest paid ministers of Indian history with a salary of 13 lakh Tankas (silver currency of Tughlaq regime) annually and therefore earned the title of ‘Lakhtankia’. Not only this, he also succeeded in saving his office of Prime Minister for his son Jauna Khan (later known as Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, the hero of our story). Maqbool Tilangani named his son after his first master Junan Shah was creative, but a weak commander. He could not lead armies like his father. So he spent more time in constructing beautiful marvels for his architecture loving master Feroz Shah Tughlaq, which changed the way mosques were built in India. Unfortunately, he could not last long and was soon captured and executed in a conflict for succession. But during his tenure, he succeeded in constructing seven architectural wonders on 14th century Delhi. He built 7 mosques, which broke all the rules of mosque architecture known till then and established a new trend, which later spread to the length and breadth of Sultanate Empire.
NOTE: Some historians claim that these mosques (or some of them) were built by Khan-i-Jahan Maqbool Tilangani (Malik Maqbool), whereas the ASI record correctly identify his son Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah Tilangani to be the architect of these buildings.
Hidden behind a thin row of small shops right opposite the famous shopping malls of Saket, it’s a 288 feet long and 288 feet wide square-shaped Mosque with 11 feet high basement containing 100 cells. It’s 81 domes stand on 22 feet high 180 columns and 60 pilasters and it has 15 Mihrabs (arches on praying wall). There are three huge gates on north, south and east sides. But what’s most important is that this was the first mostly covered mosque of India. It has four openings in the roof to let sunlight come in. The only fully covered mosque built during that time was that in Gulbarga (Karnataka), which was built few years after completion of Khirki Masjid by a Spanish Architect and is smaller in size. In order to ensure proper ventilation, Junan Shah built red sandstone windows instead of walls, from where the mosque got its name “Khirki” (meaning window).
Unlike Khirki, Begumpur mosque is single storied and is slightly bigger in size (308’ X 289’). It has total 68 domed compartments and a huge open court. The main Pishtaq (central arch), which is the most prominent feature of the building is flanked by sloping buttresses each containing a winding staircase leading to the roof. There is an attached Mallu Khana, which is an independent mosque for ladies and also has a Taikhana. Mallu khana is accessible from a very small opening in North wall, where you have to kneel to get through. I have not seen or heard of any mosque from that era, which contains such a huge and beautifully decorated mosque for women, attached to the main mosque. Mallu Khana is approx 1/4th of the size of Begumpur Masjid and has beautiful Mehrabs and Windows. An entire village was settled in this Mosque at one time. British forced the villagers out, and who established their small houses along the walls of this mosque, but within the Lal Dora.
Jami Masjid of Kotla Feroz Shah is a combination of both Begumpur and Khirki Masjid. Its uniqueness is the material used, which is local quartzite rubble, externally rendered with limestone, originally of a dazzling whiteness and giving the effect of marble. It contains a huge open courtyard with thick walls with open arches. Lower level of Mosque contains Taikhana with a series of cells, which are now habitat of bats and are illuminated with earthen lamps and incense sticks as locals believe this place to be the abode of Djinns. A very huge circular pit covers most of the courtyard of mosque, which is assumed to be a well (unlikely for any mosque to mark such huge space for ablution zone or wazoo-khana right in the middle of the courtyard). There was a unique octagonal dome over this well supported by 260 pillars of 25 feet in height. Documents suggest that these pillars were removed and used while constructing towers in the wall of Shahjahanabad. Amir Taimur lung (Tamerlane) was so impressed with this grand mosque of Delhi, that after offering his prayers here, he took 200 craftsmen from India to build a similar mosque for him in Samarqand. Few of them were rewarded for their service but many were beheaded for negligence after completion of mosque. This mosque today stands proudly as Bibi Khanum Mosque of Samarkand,Uzbekistan.
This is another marvel by Junan Shah, but now in ruins. It fell into the hands of locals and in last 2 centuries, pieces of the mosque have been falling down. Only few arches are left and original size or design of this mosque is no longer known. Some historic travellers mention of this mosque as a magnificent piece of architecture. The main building is now consumed by row houses and while walking down the tight lanes, one can see remains of arches and walls. However, it is assumed that the portion shown in this picture was the original area of mosque.
This is the huge active mosque near Turkman Gate of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). It is a double storied mosque with double-apartments in the basement, which are till date used by locals. This is an active mosque and so badly surrounded by row houses, that the original façade of Mosque is totally hidden. As you can see from this picture, it is half covered and has domes all over it. the green circle on the eastern wall is actually the green dome of projected entrance, which is reached through a flight of stairs. From inside, the mosque is now beautifully plastered and coloured, while the floor is decorated with marble slabs. The exterior however is white washed and thankfully, the mosque management committee is taking good care of the place.
This mosque from Nizamuddin Basti is an architectural replica of Kalan Masjid of Turkman Gate from outside. From inside, the difference both mosques have is in the partition of courtyard. Turkman Gate Kalan Masjid has half of the courtyard covered, whereas this one has a cross section (as appears in image on left) and has multiple domes over it. The lower right corner (South East) is now covered, which is a modern repair work. Its original name is also Kalan Masjid (huge mosque), but with time, the name got corrupted to Kali Masjid (black mosque). This mosque has multiple entrances and numerous domes but most of them have been repaired beyond recognition by local caretakers. When I went there last, I saw piles of building material as some repair work was going on. Most of the domes of this mosque have collapsed and caretakers have constructed plain roof in place of broken sections.
Also known as Chausath-khamba Masjid (Mosque of 64 pillars), this mosque is situated on Mirdard Marg near the Maulana Azad Medical College. Its 64 pillars are made of White Sandstone and supports a huge roof over its 64 pillars. This is an active mosque and rarely known to the outside world. As far as size is concerned, this is a much smaller mosque (as compared to other 6 mosques of Tilangani). However, nowhere else he built a proper Chausath-Khamba before this.
It is pity that this marvellous architect was brutally murdered and the revolution he brought to Indo-Islamic architecture had a major setback.
– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai