Inside Delhi of Kunwari Begum and Dadi-Poti... .
DELHI IS a timeless city that began its saga of existence in 1450 BC. That was a terribly long time ago, perhaps when the Pandavas and Kauravas were around and the Purana Qila marked the area of their activity -- extending up to Hastinapur. Much later came the rulers of the medieval period -- the Chauhans among them. But from there the course of history changed and the era of the Sultans began. Most of the buildings in Delhi are the handiwork of that period and of the succeeding rulers, which ended with the edifices of the grand Moghuls. Then the British took over and when Independence came more buildings were added to our glorious heritage and the process continues with the towering skyscrapers now coming up as multi-complex structures.
One encounters such fascinating buildings as Kunwari Begum ka Burj, built during the early Moghul period, Sarhindi Masjid of AD 1650, Gular Wali Masjid, Muhtasib's Mosque, Phatak Habsh Khan, named after its builder, Sidi Miftah, an Abyssinian nobleman of Shah Jahan's time. There are also a number of Shivalas built by the munificent -- Shivalaya Kunniji Maharaja, Bada Shivalaya, Manakchand and Visvesvaranath's Shivalaya, Shivalaya Ghanteshwar Mahadev, Dhummimal's Shivalaya, Pandit Ramji ka Shivalaya and so many others, most of them belonging to the mid-19th Century.
Do you know there's a Milestone Memorial on Tikri border, Rohtak Road, a tapering minaret four metres high which was built in the late Moghul period? The Tibbia College of Ayurvedic and Unani Medicine had among its founders the legendary Ajmal Khan. The Shidion ki Masjid was built in 1743, in Shadipura, Karol Bagh to commemorate three persons and the Baoli -- or Bhuri Bhatratri ka Mahal -- was a shikargah of Firoz Shah Tughlak.
Other places of interest are Circular Baoli of Firoshah Kotla, the tomb of Shaikh Muhammad Sahib, Bibi ka Rauza in Lodi Colony, the Tomb of Mah Khanam at Jor Bagh, Karbala, the Dalan of Mirdha Ikram Khan, the House of Mirza Jahangir and his tomb in Nizamuddin. He was the favourite son of Akbar Shah II and Begum Mumtaz Mahal-II whose vow gave birth to Phool Walon ki Sair. The prince, who had been exiled to Allahabad, returned to the Red Fort amid much rejoicing.
These medieval monuments never cease to evoke interest and comment. There are so many of them and scattered across Delhi. The tomb of Paik is located at the intersection of G.T. Road and Outer Ring Road. It dates back to the Lodi period -- 1451- 1526. Though a protected monument, it's a police post now. The grave chamber is not accessible as the floor of the building has caved in, so it's difficult to identify who Paik was, but the word literally means messenger, a royal messenger of course. If they shot the messenger in those days then nothing could prevent war.
Badli-ki-Sarai is on G.T. Road, near Adarsh Nagar and can be approached from the north of new Subzi Mandi. Only the gate of the inn remains. It was here that a big battle was fought on June 8 in 1857 between the sepoys and the Gordon Highlanders to whom a memorial exists at Azadpur Market, opposite Sanjay Transport Nagar. Just imagine Scottish Highlanders fighting in Delhi during the hot scorching months of May and June!
The tomb of Shah Alam also stands on Outer Ring Road, Wazirabad. This Shah Alam was not the Moghul Emperor who was blinded but a saint of the time of Firoz Shah Tughlak who lived many centuries earlier, and is credited with having performed a number of miracles which earned him the sobriquet of Emperor of the World -- Shah Alam.
You will find Pathan ki Masjid in the Civil Lines, on the edge of Mall Road. The Tripolia Gateways are located near Rana Pratap Bagh, G.T. Road. The four gateways were built by Mahaldar Khan, Nazir in Mohammad Shah's reign -- 1719-48. There's a gateway of Mahaldar Khan and a garden too. The mosque of Shah Wajid is at the north end of Roshanara Garden. Pir Ghaib's monument is on Ridge Road, near Hindu Rao Hospital and commemorates a saint who disappeared, though a part of it was actually a hunting lodge of Firoz Tughlak, who was very fond of shikar at a time when wildlife abounded in Delhi -- mid-14th Century.
Burhiya's mosque is in Mori Gate. Maybe it commemorates a pious old woman of the late Moghul period. James Skinner's house is in Ganda Nala Bazar, Kashmiri Gate. He was the colourful Sikandar Sahib. The Moghul period temples -- three of them -- are to the south of Rao Tula Rao Marg and are occupied by the Indian Navy. Haji Langa's mosque and Gumbad exist on Outer Ring Road. The latter is now a residence. And there's a Kharbuze-ka-Gumad in Shiekh Sarai Phase 1 shaped like a melon and a monument known as Metcalfe's Folly in Mehrauli. The so-called Folly was committed by Sir Thomas Metcalfe. The tombs of Dadi-Poti -- grandmother and grand-daughter -- are in Green Park and there's a Pankhe Wali Masjid too, besides the mosque near India Gate built by the father of Ghulam Qadir Rohilla, who blinded Shah Alam II and became master of the Lal Qila for some months. What fabulous fare!
Metcalfe's Folly is actually a lighthouse, perhaps the only landlocked one in the world which was built by the British Resident at the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar to revive his memories of the Scottish coast, where he grew up. He also built a boathouse nearby and dwelt in a medieval tomb which he renovated and made into his summerhouse, named Dilkhusha. Sir Thomas was poisoned, some say by a jealous Queen Zeenat Mahal -- the emperor's youngest wife -- who later played a leading part in the revolt of 1857. You can get a good view of the lighthouse from the Alai Minar of Alauddin Khilji. If some water could be made to flow below it, the "Folly'' would turn into a reality. Such miracles are not rare in the 21st Century and perhaps Sir Thomas would rest easy in his grave.
Send this article to Friends by