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Archive for the tag “Delhi”

Third house of Indian Parliament

We are all aware of the two houses, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, of the Indian Parliament. However, if you look at the design of Parliament, it has Four halls instead of two. Three halls on sides for the houses of Parliament and the fourth one in centre, for the joint session. Originally, Indian Parliament, or the Council House as it was termed then, was comprising of 3 houses. The State Council, Central Legislative Assembly and the Chamber of Princes.

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Council of State originally had 60 members when it started in 1919. The Viceroy or the Governor General of India was its ex officio president. In 1937, its size was increased to 260 members and in 1947, it was dissolved, to be later taken over by Constituent Assemblies of India and Pakistan respectively. Today, this upper house in India is known as the Rajya Sabha.

The Central Legislative Assembly, or the lower house, originally had 145 members representing different provinces of India. Out of these, 103 were elected, and rest nominated by upper house. Of these 103, 51 came from general constituencies (30 by Muslims, 2 by Sikhs, 9 by Europeans, 7 by Landlords and rest by businessmen). It was abolished on 15th August 1947 until in 1952, as India became republic, the Legislative Assembly was renamed as Lok Sabha and became functional under the new Constitution of India. Though its members are still known as MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly).

Then comes the third house, which was also abolished in 1947. While Council of State and the Legislative Assembly merged into the Constituent Assembly and later remerged as Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively, this one house had no representation left in the new independent system of Republic of India. Hence, on 15th August, 1947, as India was divided into Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan, this one powerful house was abolished and forgotten for ever. This house was the Chamber of Princes, or the ‘Narendra Mandal’. It was established in 1920 by a royal proclamation of King Emperor George V, so that the princely states can have their say in the administration of India and voice their needs to the British crown. This decision was one of the most important decisions as it abolished the British policy of isolating Indian princely states from each other.

House first met on 8th February 1921. Initially, it had 120 members. Of those, 108 were representing major states, hence were members in their own right. While remaining 12 were elected to represent 127 smaller states. This left 327 minor states with no representation. Also, major states like Baroda, Gwalior and Holkar refused to join it. They met only once a year, with an appointed standing committee meeting more often. The house appointed a Chancellor as head of the house. The first chancellor was Major General His Highness Sir Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner, who presided over the house from 1921-1926. His successors were Adhiraj Major General His Highness Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (1926-1931), Colonel His Highness Sir K. S. Ranjitsinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar (1931-1933), Colonel His Highness Sir K. S. Digvijaysinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar (1933-1944), Hajji Major General His Highness Sir Hamidullah Khan, Nawab of Bhopal (1944-1947).

In 1940, as the discussion of Indian Independence was gaining momentum, the Chamber of Princes felt its heat and convened in the month of March. On 12th March 1940, they resolved:

“The Chamber of Princes, while welcoming the attainment by India of its due place among the Dominions of the British Commonwealth under the British Crown, records its emphatic and firm view that, in any future constitution for India, the essential guarantees and safeguards for the preservation of the sovereignty and autonomy of the States and for the protection of their rights and interests arising from treaties, and engagements and sanads or otherwise, should be effectively provided and that any unit should not be placed in a position to dominate the others or to interfere with the rights and safeguards guaranteed to them, and that all parties must be ensured their due share and fair play; And that, in any negotiations for formulating a constitution for India, whether independently of the Government of India Act 1935, or by revision of that Act, representatives of the States and of this Chamber should have a voice proportionate to their importance and historical position.”

Despite of this resolution, the chamber was dissolved and never revoked. Instead, the princely states were annexed into the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan one after another the hall dedicated for Chamber of Princes was later converted into Parliament Library. As a compensation, a Privy Purse was established.

The Privy Purse was a payment made to the royal families of erstwhile princely states after they agreed to merge their state with India and lost all ruling rights. In 1947, the states were required to sign the instrument of accession with India and cede defence, communication and foreign relations to India. Later, in 1949, most of these states were completely merged. The amount of privy purse was determined by several factors, including the revenue of state, gun salute enjoyed during British Raj and antiquity of dynasty etc. While the smaller states were given a privy purse allowance, as low as Rs. 5000 per annum, states like Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Baroda, Jaipur and Patiala received a privy purse above Rs. 10,00,000. 102 privy purse were between 1-2 lakh rupees. Government of India kept reducing the privy purse with every succession in family.

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the Privy Purse in 1971, rulers of erstwhile states decided to contest in elections, hoping that their subjects would elect them into parliament, where they can voice their needs properly. However, most of them were left red faced after shameful defeats with huge margins. Popular rulers, like Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi could earn only 5% of total votes, in a 2-way contest.

Finally, the Privy Purse came to an end. Many of the nawabs and kings became more active in politics, while others went to start their business.

 

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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.

The Ancient Clock–Jantar Mantar

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.

0 Maharaja_Sawai_Jai_Singh_II_ca_1725_Jaipur._British_museumThis 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.

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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.

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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::

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5Samrat 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.

4Ram Yantra: These are twin structures, circular in shape with pillar in centre. The walls and floor of which are graduated for reading horizontal (azimuth) and vertical (altitude) angles.

Misra Yantra (mishrit/mixed instrument): This combines multiple instruments in 1. These instruments are:

  • Niyata Chakra: Indicates the meridian at four places, two in Europe and one each in Japan and the Pacific Ocean; half on an equinoctial dial
  • Dakshinottara-bhitti-Yantra: This one is used for obtaining Meridian Altitudes
  • Karka-rasi-valaya Yantra: This instruments indicates the entry of the Sun in the Cancer

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

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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.

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Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

That night of 1736, a family with royal blood in their veins, ran into the forest to save the remaining members from brutal invasion of Nader Shah. Some of them survived and continued living in the Balochistan province, which now falls in Pakistan. Some say, this family was from the Safvid Dynasty of Persia. God had a different plan for two siblings from this family. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba, the daughter of family, born at Isfahan (Persia) in 1732 later became the third wife of Izzat-ud-Daula, Nawab Mohd. Muhsin Khan Bahadur, the eldest son of Mirza Ja’afar Khan Beg, nawab of Oudh. Nawab Muhsin was deputed as special ambassador to the Shah of Persia. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba’s elder brother, Mirza Najaf was a young adventurer. He could not save his family from Nader Shah, but the warrior in him never allowed him to rest. He joined the court of Oudh (Awadh) and with time, rose to power, as the Deputy Wazir of Oudh. He became popular with the name of Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch, but at the time of death, his full name with title was:

His Excellency, Bakshi ul-Mamlikat, Vakil-i-Mutlaq,
Amir ul-Umara, Rustam-i-Hind, Zulfiqar ud-Daula,
Nawab Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur,
Ghalib Jang

 

The Mughal General

The Mughal FlagNajaf Khan is known as the most powerful Mughal General, during the dying days of dynasty. He strengthened the Mughal army by introducing better battle formation and weapons. He is also known for the introduction of ‘Firelock’ musket into the Mughal Army. He fought under the Mughal flag in the famous Battle of Buxar in 1764. During this battle, he was part of the Oudh Army. Later, in 1772, he was moved to Delhi to serve as the highest commander of the Mughal Army. He served this rank only for a decade, which was enough for him to streamline the soldiers and train them with better techniques.

His army had around 90,000 highly trained soldiers and 250 canons. Soldiers were paid timely premium salaries to ensure the best out of them. In times, when Mughal court was not very strong, Mirza Najaf Khan managed to keep the loyalty and moral of soldiers high. It was his vision and expertise, that made Mughal army one of the strongest in country. Even Frenchmen and other European soldiers found their way into his army.

Najafgarh

Najafgarh-GateMirza Najaf Khan realized that after British (who were more like allies than enemies now), the biggest threat is from Rohillas and Sikhs. He marched several kilometers away from the capital of Shahjahanabad to establish a military outpost, which would guard Delhi against such attacks. He built a strong fort, known as Najafgarh. Today, only one gate of this fort survives. Some say that the Stable and Mosque also survived, but are now being used as some government buildings within the Najafgarh town.

Today, Najafgarh is the most populous constituency in Delhi. Some prominent personalities, other than Najaf Khan, that belong to Najafgarh are:

  • Chaudhry Brahm Prakash Yadav, first chief minister of Delhi
  • Sushma Yadav, first female general secretary of Delhi Pradesh Congress committee and first secretary of All India Mahila Congress
  • Virender Sehwag, cricketer
  • Rajbir Yadav, Alderman of South Delhi MCD
  • Jitender Yadav, Mr. India
  • Many other noted athletes and army officers

Najafgarh is also known for the battle of Battle of Najafgarh, fought during the siege of Delhi in 1857. After the death of Najaf Khan, the (fort of) Najafgarh became a stronghold of Zabita Khan, the Rohilla Afghan chief.

Death and Aftermath

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch died on April 26, 1782 in Delhi. He left behind an adopted son named Najaf Quli Khan (Not8 to be confused with the Quli Khan buried in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, behind Qutub Minar). It is said that his son had converted from Hinduism. He was nowhere close to the strength and talent of Najaf Khan Baloch and could not succeed him.

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Grave of Najaf Khan Baloch

His Tomb is probably the last Charbagh of Delhi. It is an unfinished structure, with only the crypt connected to four corridors. The platform on top contains a rough cenotaph. A proper building must have been in plans but during the dying days of empire, there was no one to finish the project. This brave soldier rests in a corner opposite the Safdarjung Airport.

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In less than 12 months of his demise, Delhi was attacked by Baba Baghel Singh Dhaliwal. The Red Fort was captured and emperor had to run away. He entered Delhi through a hole in wall near Kashmere Gate, where his 30 thousand soldiers had camped (We still call that place tees-hazari). “Hole” in punjabi is known as “Mori”. Some claim that Mori Gate is named because of that hole made by Sikhs. He was supported by soldiers from the armies of Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia and Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. As they captured the Red Fort, Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia reached Delhi and Baba Baghel Singh decided to install him as the Emperor of Delhi. This was protested by S. Jassa Singh Ramgharia and S. Ahluwalia voluntarily stepped down before coronation. The Mughal Emperor then sent Lady Sombre (Begum Samru) to Delhi to strike a deal between Sikhs and Mughals. A treaty was signed and Delhi was released by Sikhs. In some future article, I shall detail out the treaty, and how Sikhs Shrines of Delhi were given to Sikhs as a barter.

In next 5 years, the Mughal Army seized to exist. Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch was the Last Brave commander of Mughal Army.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

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

Origin of Delhi & Tomars

220px-Draupadi_and_Pandavas Roughly 3000 years ago, when Lord Krishna advocated Pandavas in the court of Dhritrashtra, Prince Duryodhna half heartedly agreed to give five villages to them. These villages were Paniprastha (now Panipat), Sonaprastha (now Sonipat), Bahakprastha (now Baghpat), Tilprastha (now Tilpat, in Faridabad) and largest of all, Khandavprastha (later changed to Indraprastha). These villages suffered badly during the war of Mahabharta in Kurukshetra. While the Pandavas were ruling these villages from their small palace, which they called Indrapatta or Indraprastha, they built five temples in the vicinity. One of these temples is the Yogmaya Temple, around which the town of Yoginipura was established (now called Mehrauli).

Later, this area was take up by Mauryans. Some historians say that in 50 BC, a Mauryan King, Raja Dhillu named this town (Yoginipura) after him and started calling it “Dhilli” or “Dhillika”. Uptil here, the history is very ambiguous and mostly referred as Mythology. the only reference we get till here is from Vikrami Samvat 1189-1230 by Vibudh Shridhar, where he writes:

हरियाणए देसे असंखगाम, गामियण जणि अणवरथ काम|
परचक्क विहट्टणु सिरिसंघट्टणु, जो सुरव इणा परिगणियं|
रिउ रुहिरावट्टणु बिउलु पवट्टणु, ढिल्ली नामेण जि भणियं|

Transaltion: There are countless villages in the country called Haryana. Villagers there work very hard and are very brave. They don’t fear anyone or accept anyone’s dominion. They are centrally managed from Dhilli.

 

Maharaja Anangpal I

What happened in 736 AD, started developing the history of Delhi, as we see it today. This was the year, when Raja Anangpal I (or Bilandev Tomar) established Delhi. Our old books mention it in this manner:

जहिं असिवर तोडिय रिउ कवालु, णरणाहु पसिद्धउ अणंगवालु ||
वलभर कम्पाविउ णायरायु, माणिणियण मणसंजनीय ||

Means, Anangvalu (read Anangpal) is famous everywhere and break skulls of his enemies. He even caused the great Sheshnaag (on which earth is stable) to shake.

The following lines from a tablet in Delhi Museum also confirms that  Tomars established this city of Delhi

देशोऽस्ति हरियानाख्यो पॄथिव्यां स्वर्गसन्निभः |
ढिल्लिकाख्या पुरी तत्र तोमरैरस्ति निर्मिता ||

Translation: In the country called Haryana, which is equivalent to heaven on earth, Tomars built a city called “Dhillikakhya” (read Dhillika).

The first Tomar king of Delhi, Maharaja Anangpal had to rule a small piece of land. He had much free time to produce 10 heirs. (Don’t you dare ask me any question about Dhritrashtra, who had 98-100 sons). These 10 sons of Anangpal were sent to rule different pieces of land in the country of Tomars.

Son of Anangpal Tomar Territory’s modern name
1 Vasudev Tomar Delhi
2 Satrawala Tomar Bhiwani
3 Indrapal Tomar Aligarh, Badaun, Barelley, Shahpur
4 Kodyana Tomar
5 Bodana Tomar
6 Nihal Tomar
7 Somwal Tomar Meerut, Ghaziabad, Mujjafarnagar
8 Saleriya Tomar
9 Sipala Tomar
10 Kaliya Tomar Part of Haryana and Rajasthan

NOTE: Tomars are also known as Tanwar and Tuar

The second emperor of Delhi, Raja Vasudev Tomar ruled from 754-773 AD. The sixth emperor of Delhi Karnpal Tuar sent 5 of his sons to establish new townships.

Son of Karanpal City Established
1 Vachhal Tomar 9th king of Delhi
2 Nagdeo Tomar Nagor & Nagda near Ajmer
3 Krishanrai Tomar Kishangarh near Ajmer & Khasganj between Etah and soron
4 Nihalrai Tomar Narayanpur near Alwar
5 Somasi Tomar Ajabpur between Alwar and Jaipur
6 Harpal Tomar Harsola & Harsoli near Alwar

On 26th April 1005 AD, Raja Jaipal Tuar became the 14th king of Delhi. Before he came to power, he had already fought with the then most powerful Amir Subaktegin of Ghazni (predecessor of Muhammed Ghazni). He was later always referred to as the Great Jaipal Tomar, the king of Delhi and Lahore. He fought many wars and even lost the kingdom of Kannauj to Rangatdhwaj Gahadavala (Rathore), which plaid an important role in the later history if India. His younger brother Jethpal Tomar captured Paithan and his descendants are called Pathania Rajpoots.

Maharaja Anangpal II

On June 17th, 1051 AD, another powerful person was crowned as the 16th king of Delhi. He was Raja Anangpal the second. He was also known as Anekpal or Anaypal. He practically changed the shape of Delhi and made it much more powerful. He established LAL KOT, the very first fort of Delhi. This fort is presently situated in the Sanjay Van, between Mehrauli and Jawaharlal Nehru University. It’s bastions and ‘Burjs’ are still existing and covered with thick forest. During all these years, several temples were built in and around this area. Maharaja Anangpal II uprooted the Vishnu Stambh installed by Raja Chandragupta II (Vikramaditya) in Udaygiri caves (MP). This Stambha had a Garuda (or Chakra) on top and was made of rust-resistant composition of the metals with a high content of Phosphorus. Anangpal got this IRON PILLAR to Delhi and installed outside his Fort. It now stands proudly in the courtyard of Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque of Qutb Complex in Mehrauli. He even got his name inscribed on it with date. Prithviraj Rasao talks about it in this manner: IronPillar

हुं गड्डि गयौ किल्ली सज्जीव हल्लाय करी ढिल्ली सईव |
फिरि व्यास कहै सुनि अनंगराइ भवितव्य बात मेटी न जाइ ||

Means: Anangpal established the “Killi” (nail) in Dhilli. This tale cannot be removed from history ever.

It should also be noted that some historians believe that since this Iron Pillar was not fixed properly, people started calling it “Dheeli Killi” (Loose nail). From here, the name Dhillika came up. However, if this is true, how come we get reference of this name even 500 years before this guy attempted this brave act.

9 of his sons established different cities in India

Son of Anangpal II Cities Established
1 Bhumpal Tomar Narwar, near Gwalior
2 Indrapal Tomar Indragarh
3 Rangraj Tomar Taragarh (near Ajmer)
4 Achalraj Tomar Achner (near Bharatpur)
5 Draupad Tomar (ruled from) Hansi
6 Sisupal Tomar Sirsa (in Haryana) & Siswal (Sirsa Patan)
7 Surajpal Tomar Surajkund (Faridabad)
8 Beejpal Tomar Buhana

Interesting part is that the next king of Delhi, Raja Tejpal Tomar, who established Tejora (between Gurgaon and Alwar) also built the famous Shiv  temple in Agra called “Tejo-Mahalya”. This temple was very unique in every sense. Some historians link it with the present Taj Mahal. however, it must be noted that no connection of Taj Mahal being Tejomahalya was ever found by any established historians and only few fantasy writers tried to create a hype about it. Indians being very sentimental about the religious structures, easily fell prey to these false claims and started believing in what these writers had to spit.

Mahipal Tomar and Mahipalpur

The next king (18th ruler of Delhi), Raja Mahipal Tomar went little to north and established another town called “Mahipalpur”. This town today is near the Delhi International Airport and is flooded with hotels. The National Highway 8 (Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway) passes through this historic town. He even got back Hansi and Thanesar (then called Sthaneshwar) from Madud, grandson of Md. Ghazni. Mahipal also built a water Bund, walls of which still exist between Vasant Kunj and Mahipalpur in Delhi.

Maharaja Anangpal III

19th king of Delhi, Arkpal Tomar, or Dakatpal Tomar or more popularly known as Anangpal III was the last emperor of Delhi from Tomar Clan. He had his daughter rajkumari Kirtimalini married to Raja Someshwar Dev Chauhan of Ajmer. Anangpal III sent his 3 sons to rule different parts of country.

  1. Rao Salivaahanji Tomar (Rao Salunji) was sent to rule Tomaravati (aka Tanwaravati aka Toravati), which Anangpal II established in Patan, Rajasthan. It had 380 villages spread across 3000 sq. Km. He became the 1st ruler of this independent territory and his present descendant is Rao Sahib Digvijay Singhji, the head of Tomar Clan in India, who was crowned on 11th September 1991 as Rao of Patan.
  2. Rao Ajmalji Tomar, his second son settled at Pokhran and Jaisalmer. One of this descendants is “Baba Ramdevji”, the deity in Rajasthan.
  3. Rao Sohanpalji ruled Morena and later conquered Gwalior

PRCMaharaja Anangpal Tomar III called his daughter’s Son, the great Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the king of Ajmer, and gave him the throne of Delhi before proceeding towards Chambal down south. The marked the end of Tomar rule in Delhi and hence started the Chauhan Clan. Unfortunately, Prithviraj (aka Rai Pithora) was the first and last Chauhan ruler of Delhi. I’ll write about Prithviraj Chauhan and his conquest in later articles. This one was dedicated to Tomars, and especially the “Anangpals” of Delhi.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

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

Qutb-layout

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 Last Hindu Emperor

PrithviRajChauhan Search this title on Google and all you will find is “Prithvi Raj Chauhan”. He was a brave fighter and a noble emperor of Ajmer and Delhi who ruled from 1169 CE to 1192 CE. Tales of his bravery are common folklores amongst Indian families. But very few learned writers talk about the Hindu Emperors, that came to power after him. In this article, we will talk about the Emperor, who ruled entire Northern India and virtually the entire India from the throne of Delhi.

After Samrat Prithvi Raj Chauhan was captured by Muhammad bin Sam (Muhammed Ghori) in the second battle of Tarain (1192 AD), the Sultanate Period started in India. Rulers like Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, Iltutmish, Ghiasuddin Balban and Razia Sultana were prominent during the Slave Dynasty, the first Islamic Dynasty to rule the region. The last emperor of Slave Dynasty ‘Kayumars’ was dethroned by his own guardian Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji, who founded the Khilji Dynasty.

Khusro Khan, the Hindu, who converted

Alaudin Khilji attacked Gujarat in 1297 AD under the command of Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan and defeated the last Hindu Ruler of Gujarat Karan Vaghela. Before Khilji forces killed leaders Hamirji Gohil and Vegado Bhil near Somnath, Vagedo took a promise from one of his loyal to escape and take revenge from Khilji. This guy came to Delhi as a war prisoner and converted to Islam.  He was given the name ‘Hasan’ and later Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah of Khilji dynasty gave him the name ‘Khusro Khan’.

It is said that Khusro Khan got Alauddin Khilji killed through his friend Jahiriya and later managed to kill his master Mubarak Shah and declared himself the king of Delhi. But in just 4 months, he was captured and killed by Khilji’s loyal general Ghyasuddin Tughlaq, who after that formed his own dynasty by the name ‘Tughlaq Dynasty’.

Khusro Khan was against laws which favoured tax system based on religion. It is said that he was against women being treated as war booty. He took strong steps to prevent harems and sex slaves. Perhaps his own sufferings made him think this way but this caused nobles to go against him.

 

Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya (Hemu)

Hemchandra Bhargawa or Hemu (1501-1556), son of Rai Puran Das, born in Alwar Rajasthan was the Chief of Army & Prime Minister during the regime of Adil Shah Suri of the Suri Dynasty. He fought 22 battles in a row without even a single setback before his emperor was captured and killed in Fathpur. In his 22nd victory on 7th October 1556 against Tardi Beg Khan of Humayun’s Army, he crowned himself as the Emperor of Delhi instead of establishing the Islamic Flag of Suri Dynasty. He took the name ‘Samrat Hemchandra Vikramaditya’. Some say that he was very much influenced by the famous Vijaynagar Empire of South and based his kingdom on those lines.  Although Hemu’s rule was very short, he was able to struck coins bearing his name.

Hemu was a powerful general who captured the Fort of Gwalior, Agra and Delhi, which were considered to be the most powerful forts of India. He captured areas which today comprises of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana.

His rule lasted only 1 month when on 5th November 1556, Mughal armies fought with him in the battle of Panipat and captured him in unconscious state. It is said that Bairam Khan asked Akbar to behead Hemu to earn the title of Ghazi. Akbar, despite of being a kid, replied that he is already dead and if he had any movement or breathing, he would have killed him. So upon Bairam Khan’s request, Akbar struck Hemu and later Bairam Khan beheaded him. His head was sent to Afghanistan to be hung outside the Delhi Darwaza in Kabul and his body was placed in a gibbet outside the Old Fort (then called the Shergarh).

After Hemu’s death, a massacre of Hemu’s community and followers was ordered by Bairam Khan. Thousands were beheaded and towers of skulls built with their heads, to instil terror among the Hindus. At least one painting of such minarets is displayed in the "Panipat Wars Museum" at Panipat in Haryana. These towers were still in existence about 60 years later as described by Peter Mundy, a British traveler who visited India during the time of Jahangir.

Today, no one knows about this brave emperor, who saw Hindus and Muslims with same respect and had no religious differences. He had a dream of making India a better place, if only he could have done it.

– Vikramjit S

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.

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