Melange Society

Balban's Tomb lying in ruins

An eerie silence greets one while approaching the ruins of the Balban Tomb situated in the middle of the sprawling Mehrauli Archaeological Park behind the towering Qutub Minar.

Suddenly, a squirrel brimming with excitement on discovering a morsel breaks the silence as it rushes towards a packet. As the rodent consciously nibbles chips from the packet, one gazes at the heap of plastic bags and leftovers dumped by visitors.

Ghiyas ud din Balban (1200-1287) was a Turkish ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. He epitomised indomitable resilience and courage. Though Balban was captured by the mighty Mongols when he was a mere lad and sold as slave at Ghazni, he was able to resurrect himself.

If the ugly site of garbage adds insult to the memory of Balban, the fact that not a single representative from the Archaeological Survey of India is present at the site makesone both angry and disappointed. The tomb is certainly not a visitor-friendly place and tourist can be waylaid easily. Therefore it is best to visit the tomb during the daytime with a group of friends.

The only sign of the ASI is a plaque on which it is written: “For over a century, this area was covered with dense vegetation with only glimpse of archaeological structure. In 2001-02 a major conservation initiative in this area led to a careful consolidation and conservation exercise on numerous ruins. This was the site of a flourishing settlement in the 16th and 17th centuries with large public courtyards and residential units.” Due to continuous neglect, the Balban Tomb is in a dilapidated state. In what was a well constructed Indo-Islamic tomb, today ugly boulders and smaller variety of trees on the entrance make the place an unwelcoming site. The searing heat and parched throat add to the discomfort.

Finally from the top, one can get a bird’s-eye view of the site where Balban lies buried. On descending, one finds Islamic inscriptions written like calligraphy on the grave. Inexplicably, there is fragrance emanating from the grave but no traces of incense.

Just as I think of solving the mystery, I stumble upon a guard at the adjoining Jamali Kamali Mosque.

The guard is clueless about the fragrance at the burial site. But it was understandable as he has recently been stationed there.

But why was he stationed at the mosque instead of being at Balban Tomb?

His smile says it all. To perhaps break free from the unrelenting heat, he found refuge at the Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb. After some hesitation he says: “I am supposed to be posted at both the places.”

Just then a bearded American with a couple of boisterous friends enters the mosque.

The gentleman reveals that he stays in the Capital and occasionally visits the park because it is an interesting mix of forest and history.

“As America does not have much of history, we do not find such architectural delights. European countries have managed to preserve such monuments because of multiple factors. India needs to invest a lot more in its monuments and ensure adequate security if it wants to attract tourists.”

Point taken.




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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 4:27:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/balbans-tomb-lying-in-ruins/article6065322.ece

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