Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Out of the shadows of the Qutub Minar -Mehrauli Archaelogical Park

As one drives from Andheria More towards Qutub Minar a y blink-and-you-miss pathway  branches off ,just after the Mehrauli nursery. There's only  a signboard with various do's and dont's which marks the entrance to one of the densest historical ruins in  Delhi.
After many weekends of aborted tries at  visiting this hidden treasure, I could join Kanika of the Delhi heritage walk fame on one of her walks. And am I glad I made it. The modest lane with rocks on the sides and a few little twists and turns ends at the famous Jamali Kamali mosque.But that's not where we started. Instead of following the katcha road we wandered off  to the green on the right side near the main road ,and stood at a  doorway ,the entrance to Balban's tomb. As we walked through it,there were ruins , apparently having been excavated just about a year back. Its great to feel one is standing at a place where history is still being unearthed. Straight ahead was Balbans's tomb... his tomb or rather the cenotaph no longer exists . Balban was one of the most well known of the  Slave dynasty Sultans .The walls are there but the roof is missing ,it had a dome which did not survive time ! As we look up to the skies , standing at the place where the tomb must have been,we come to know that this is the monument where the true arch was first used in construction as was the dome . A landmark of sorts in architecture ! In a chamber next to this, lies his son Khan Shahid ,the cenotaph intact ,with the fragrance of incense around it. Much to our disappointment,the incense fragrance is of recent times,  the residents  of the nearby  Mehrauli village ,having converted this to some sort of a  sacred place . Khan Shahid was Balban's favourite son,who was killed in battle and Balban died ,soon after , heartbroken .
Khan Shahid's tomb near Balban's
The Jamali Kamali complex
We got out of father and son tomb ,and climbed a small flight of stairs ,to ruins of probably some dwelling place.  The ruins showed rooms and possibly the existence of a courtyard. No more  is known of this house,palace,or whatever it may have been. As we walk a  few steps ahead we reach the most well known monument of this place,the complex of the Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb. We move westward   through a darwaza and we are facing the mosque.It has a five arched verandah ,with the Central arch being the largest and having a dome. The courtyard has a tank ,dry now .The western wall of the mosque has some  Quranic inscriptions.We were shown the lotus and lotus buds carved in the parapet of the arches ,showing  the Indian influence on Islamic architecture .  Puzzling was the carved hexagram on a niche in the wall,the Hindu Shiv-Shakti Shatkon ,the Jewish Star of David or the Muslim Khatem Suleiman ?
Moving away from the Jamali Kamali complex ,we climbed a hillock to be at Metcalfe's folly. Thomas Metcalfe,the British resident at the court of Bahadurshah Zafar ,bought this whole area ,lock,stock and barrel or should we say,tombs,buildings  and streams ,to make it his monsoon retreat.He changed the course of the stream flowing through the estate ,so that it could end in a lake.He converted a Lodi period building to a boat house ,built a carriageway and bridge and finally made the building housing a tomb  his home ! Quli Khan ,a Moghul noble ,and son of his wet nurse Maham Anga ,is buried here. But Metcalfe had no qualms in installing his dining table,or was it billiard table ,at the same place where he was buried.I imagine that when Quli Khan turned in his grave at this travesty,either of the tables would have taken a ghostly tumble .
The Boathouse with a glimpse of the now dry stream and the carriageway
Quli Khan's tomb

Metcalfe's Folly and Qutub Minar not so far

The last leg of this educative walk  was to the Rajon ki Baoli. This stepwell had been built by Sikandar Lodi  for the   masons or the Rajgirs, hence the name rajon , building the monuments in the area . The three storeyed stepwell is a magnificent structure and we climbed up steps to see the now dry well. Near the Baoli is also a tomb and a mosque ,and the inscription on the chatri of the tomb givs away the period of its construction.Nothing else seems to be known about the tomb. But sitting on the steps and counting the number of steps leading down to the bottom of the baoli was exhilirating, Just to imagine that at see point of time it must have been filled with water  and people assembled here to gossip,relax take water was like reliving history .  

Rajon ki Baoli

The trio of Baoli,Mosque and tomb

1 comment:

Hey traveller,why not put your signature on the visitor's book.