Aga Khan Trust to restore Telangi's tomb in Delhi

The tomb was built sometime around 1388 by Maqbul Khan son Junan Shah.  

: P.V. Narasimha Rao was not the first prime minister of India from Telangana. There was another vazir from Warangal, and he lies buried in not-so-sepulchral silence in a warren of houses in the Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi.

After a 10-minute walk in the inner lanes of the road leading to the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah, beside the Baoli gate road, is a low blue door. Inside the small doorway, about 20 feet away, is the sole entrance to the grave of Maqbul Khan or, as he was known, Khan-i-Jehan Telangi. Born Nagayya Ganna Vibhudu, he changed his name to Maqbul Khan after changing his religion.

The tomb was built sometime around 1388 by his son Junan Shah, nine years after Maqbul Khan passed away. At his death, he was at the height of his power as the counsellor and minister of Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s tottering empire.

“People were living here till a few days ago. Then Mukhtiar Nizam asked us to restore this place as pieces of the dome were flaking off. We began clearing and cleaning it up only a month back,” says Ratish Nanda of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

The AKTC, which has restored the Humayun’s Tomb complex as well as the Jamaat Khana Masjid, one of the oldest in Delhi and built during Alauddin Khilji’s time, has been entrusted the task of conserving the monument.

The outer facade is octagonal, and features a ring of eight smaller domes covered with a shell of red sandstone. “We found that there is sandstone flooring six feet below the surface,” explains Neetipal Brar of AKTC. Three other doorways have been plastered shut over centuries by the occupants; even the windows on the first floor were walled up as neighbourhood families coveted the real estate on the ceiling.

A 2014 photograph shows a dish antenna as well as a water tank on the ceiling. The Delhi quartzite arches still retain inscriptions from the Quran carved on them.

Inside, the dome is a soaring oval in which roots of the massive banyan and neem tree have struck deep roots. It is a dank, dark chamber where natural light has been blocked out for dozens of years by the earlier residents.

However, the finial of the monument comprising clasps of red sandstone and grey sandstone has surprisingly stayed intact with just one small fallen portion.

“The task of restoration of the monument will be tough and time-consuming as we cannot bring in heavy equipment. The narrow street does not allow vehicles to pass, making the removal of waste material or bringing in construction material difficult,” says Mr. Brar.

How the monument came to be constructed here and how Khan-e-Jahan Telangi came to be buried here is not a mystery. The Nizamuddin area is suffused with a sublime belief about the benefits of being buried in close proximity to the saint. And Khan-e-Jahan Telangi could not escape the magic though he was born in a culturally, socially different world.

In 1323, after Ulugh Khan’s (future Muhammad Bin Tughlaq) soldiers finally conquered Warangal, a select band of Turkish soldiers escorted the deposed Kakatiya king Prataprudra to Delhi. According to multiple versions, Prataprudra ended his life on the banks of the Narmada.

However, his commander Nagayya Ganna Vibhudu, changed his religion and joined the Tughlaq administration, steadily rising in rank. Under Firuz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled from 1351, Maqbul Khan became the vazir or prime minister after a brief stint as finance minister. Titled Khan-e-Jahan (lord of the world) he waived off farmers’ loans by having Firuz Shah publicly destroy records of debts during the earlier regime.

Maqbul Khan had a glad eye, and by the end of his life, he had 2,000 mistresses, among them Greek and Chinese women. Firuz Shah, who was beholden to Maqbul, set up a new rule for him. Every time he had a son, his income went up by 1,000 gold coins.

Cut to the present: there are dozens of families that have built rooms, toilets and kitchens abutting the monument. Walking around the historic structure is difficult. But a beginning has been made such that conservation architects are able to enter and access the Khan-e-Jehan Telangi’s tomb. And it is only a matter of time before Khan-e-Jehan Telangi’s tomb is put back on the tourist map of Delhi.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 3:59:07 AM |

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