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Old Fort, new script

R.V. SMITH
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Cityscape The new edition of Purana Quila's sound and light show is sure to attract more people because of additions to the saga of the Old Fort, says R.V. SMITH

T he New Year brings good tidings for Purana Quila — a new son et lumiere script, Ishk-e-Dilli, which is claimed to be more interesting than the earlier one, though the latter too was engrossing enough for tourists and others. The Purana Quila is the original fort of Delhi, for it marks the site of the fort built by the Pandavas in their Indraprastha. It later became the site for Humayun's Dinpanah and subsequent adoption by Sher Shah Suri. However, excavations have revealed many basic features of Mahabharat times that confirm that it's a pre-historic site. One attraction of the Purana Quila is the temple said to have been built by Kunti Devi, the mother of the five Pandava brothers, though few people visit it.

The earlier son et lumiere was started long after the one at the Red Fort. Since it dealt mainly with the Moghul period ending in 1857, the ITDC felt that there was a need to have another son et lumiere to cover the Capital's history prior to the Moghuls and stretching back to ancient times. Some of the features were mystical no doubt, but the sound and light effects made them realistic, so that the Mahabharat era came alive. Now the new edition (the one at the Red Fort was revised earlier) is sure to attract more people because of additions to the saga of Purana Quila.

After the Red Fort it was the turn of Hauz Khas. One spent an evening there and the nip in the air added to the enjoyment of dance, music and of course, dinner. For those sitting near the L-shaped monument, built around the Hauz Khas of Alauddin Khilji, the Slave dynasty did not seem all that distant. In such situations one has to give a free rein to fancy and enjoy the fun, an escapist experience though it may be in present-day circumstances when life throws up so many problems. Not that the days of Alauddin were problem-free. There were wars, massacres, cloak-and-dagger mysteries and suffering. But at least there was no pollution. The air was pure and so was the water, and there were no congested localities and roads where death now rides in pomp on rashly driven vehicles. It was horses all the way then, and bullock carts and camel carts for families on an outing.

Medieval times

Contemporary historian Ziauddin Barani goes on to add that the emperor, despite the fact that he was busy with military campaigns and conquests, did manage to find the time to keep an eye on traders so that life did not become unbearable for his subjects. As one watched the illuminations, one was reminded of those medieval times when the hall of 1000 pillars stood in all its majesty. After Alauddin's death his general, Malik Kafur, tried to set up a child on the throne with tragic consequences. Then followed the sham reign of Mubarak Khan, a depraved son of Alauddin. He, however, met his end at the hands of his favourite Khusrau Khan, a convert, who staged a bloody midnight coup. But a dashing young courtier, Fakhruddin Mohammed Juna escaped the massacre and helped his father to slay the usurper and lay the foundations of the Tughlak dynasty. Taimur the lame, even more ferocious than Alauddin, saw the Hauz Khas complex and thought it grand. Would Taimur have been able to conquer Delhi had he come during the reign of Alauddin, who had beaten back the Mongol hordes so many times?

As one wondered the monument glittered in patches, belying its six centuries of existence and coming alive, but for the voices of the Slave boys and the teachers of the madrasa, many of whom rest in unmarked graves. They were all part of the sound and light dream that now extends to Purana Quila.

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