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A monumental delight for Delhiites

The history lovers can gloat over a wealth of monuments that the city boasts of, from the little known Coronation Park to Badli ki Sarai, Pir Ghalib and the most famous of them all, Kashmere Gate, says R.V. SMITH

The Coronation Park is on Bhai Parmanand Marg in North Delhi, but few know about it. However those who manage to find it are not disappointed because a wealth of history unfolds before them. Statues of British monarchs, Governors and other high officials of the Raj uprooted from various parts of the Capital are on display here. But the park is in a poor condition and how long the brooding statues will survive here is a moot point.

Not far from it in Kingsway Camp is the Coronation Memorial, making the site where the Delhi Durbar was held in 1911 during the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. The Durbar was perhaps the biggest show of the British might in India as never before had a British monarch set foot in the country. And to welcome him were the Viceroy and his entire entourage. But it was the rajas, maharajas and nawabs who stole the limelight. George V and his consort couldn't have had a better view of oriental splendour.

Besides these two sites, North Delhi boasts of a number of other important landmarks.

Near Azadpur Market, off Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, is the British memorial to the Scottish Highlanders who fought and died in the battle of Badli-ki-Sarai in 1857. The monument has fencing around it and a single marble tombstone to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives.

Badli-ki-Sarai, near Adarsh Nagar, was actually an inn or sarai built in the Moghul period and is now in ruins, with only the gateway and part of the rooms meant for travellers surviving. How many medieval caravans took shelter in it can be easily imagined as it was on the main route to Punjab. However it is not known who or what Badli actually was. There are various conjectures, the most convincing one being that the sarai was situated in Badli village.

Octagonal building

At the intersection of G.T. Road and Outer Ring Road is the tomb of Paik, built by a nobleman of the Lodhi period. It is an octagonal building and must have been very impressive at one time. Paik means messenger and it is believed that the monument commemorates some important royal messenger. The building at one time housed a police post, but it is now a neglected monument. On Outer Ring Road, near Wazirabad, is Majnu-ka-Tila where a mystic used to live until he met Guru Nanak in the 16th century and became his disciple. The place is now known for its gurdwara and the Tibetan community that dwells nearby. The tomb of Hazrat Shah Alam is also situated near Wazirabad. He was a Muslim divine who lived in the reign of Firoz Tughlak. A medieval domed structure, it is still quite impressive. Some mistakenly associate it with the Moghul emperor Shah Alam who, however, lived several centuries after the dervish.

The Tripolia Gateways on G. T. Road, near Rana Pratap Bagh, date back to 1728 and were built by Mahaldar Khan, a Nazir at the time of Mohammad Shah Rangila (1719-48). Near the three arched gateways is the gateway of Mahaldar Khan's garden. The garden has disappeared and the place is now a private residence.

The mosque of Shah Wali is a dilapidated Moghul building near Roshanara Bagh. But much more significant is the mausoleum of Roshanara Begum, second daughter of Shah Jahan. The building was erected in 1650, much before the princess died.

Pir Ghaib is a building which is part of the observatory built by Firoz Tughlak. The mosque attached to it is said to be the place from where a Pir disappeared - hence the name. The Mutiny memorial on Rani Jhansi Road, near Hindu Rao Hospital, is dedicated to British soldiers. Coming towards ISBT, Kashmere Gate is the most famous monument, and within its precincts are the St. James Church, Dar Shikoh's library, Fakhrul Masjid and the memorial to the British gunners, near the GPO.

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