There’s more to Hauz Khas than the village

Verve, Gunpowder or Lake House 23 for a bite followed by shopping at Shivan and Narresh, NappaDori or Aphrodite…Sounds familiar? I am at Hauz Khas, one of the hippest addresses in New Delhi. But as I walk a little further ahead, I find a big chunk of history right there amongst all that greenery along the banks of the Hauz (tank).

I enter a crumbling archway, climb a slightly raised, flat platform and am stunned by the view. There is a grand medieval structure with sprawling lawns around the calm waters of the Hauz. Emperor Alauddin Khilji built the hauz in the 13th Century for the people of the city of Siri — one of the ancient cities of Delhi and where the Siri Fort and Asiad Village also stand. History tells us that after Alauddin’s reign ended, the Tughlaqs took over and the hauz was abandoned. But when in the latter part of the 14th Century, Feroz Shah Tughlaq ascended the throne he decided to make the water body functional again.

Feroz Shah Tughlaq was also known for setting up many educational institutions and laying out gardens. And maybe he was responsible for the layout of the lush green lawns I see around me. I find myself standing in one of the wings of the L-shaped madrasa (an institution for teaching Islamic theology and religious law), that he set up. The madrasa is believed to have drawn scholars from far and wide. The ambience would tempt any student to study! I make my way through the labyrinth of pillars that is the madrasa. The structure is big and well ventilated, and a large part of it overlooks the hauz. The graffiti on the walls is a mood dampener. But the entire structure is so pleasing in itself, that you can pretend the graffiti doesn’t exist.

I sit down in one of the many balconies of the madrasa and watch ducks make their way across from the other end of the hauz. But for the mid-afternoon jogger, some students and tourists with cameras, I could have fooled myself into believing I was a commoner enjoying the ambience in the Tughlaq era.

There is also a big domed structure. It is a tomb with a set of intricately carved doors. I learn that while the madrasa was being built in the 1350s, Feroz Shah also had his tomb built here. He was laid to rest there after his death in 1388. Besides the tomb of the emperor in the centre, there are three other graves. Two of them are said to hold the remains of his son and grandson. The fourth grave is unidentified. The ceiling and sides of the tomb have verses from the Quran inscribed on them. The inscription right above the southern entrance of the tomb informs us of subsequent repairs to the building that were carried out under Sikander Lodhi in 1508.

After spending two hours in medieval India, I stumble back into the present. I look for a place where I can mull over what I had seen over a cup of coffee. And I find just the place– Café Kunzum, the traveller’s café, a perfect place to write about my recent travel to the past.