Down Memory Lane History & Culture

The story of Palam, Delhi

Book cover of The Travels of Ibn Battutah

Book cover of The Travels of Ibn Battutah   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Palam village was held in higher regard centuries ago than it is today

Palam village is a relic of Dhilli or Dhillika, founded by the Tomars. The ancient name of Palam is Palamba and some historians trace its antiquity to Raja Soni, the founder of Sonepat, who was the 13th in descent from Arjuna. The village was flourishing at the time of Mohammad bin Tughlak, in whose reign the Moorish traveller Ibn Battuta visited it.

He was a native of Tangier who came to India in 1333 and remained in Delhi until 1342 after being appointed Chief Qazi. Battuta described Delhi as “a most magnificent city, its mosques and walls without an equal on earth”. But he observed that although the king was then re-peopling it (after his futile experiment to transfer the capital to Daulatabad), it was almost a desert.

“The greatest city in the world has the fewest inhabitants,” he said. What a contrast to present-day Delhi, almost bursting at the seams, and extending even to the remotest pockets which were once thinly populated villages!

One of the landmarks of Palam village (besides the airport to which it has given its name) is the mosque said to have been constructed by a nobleman called Ghaznafar in about AD 1528, which makes it perhaps the only structure of Babar’s reign in Delhi that has survived the ravages of time.

The mosque is built of Kakaia eent (small bricks), with three arched openings leading to its not very large prayer chamber. On the four corners of the roof are small minarets with domes. There are Persian and Arabic inscriptions on the mosque which give the date of its construction as 935AH (Al Hijri).

One is inclined to believe that either this mosque was rebuilt by the illustrious Ghaznafar or there was another masjid in the village that naturally called for an inspection by the Chief Qazi (Ibn Battuta). The Moor’s Travelogue, written after his return to Tangiers, is about the most truthful account of the reign of Mohammad Tughlak. Batuta was a keen observer, who would have made a fine journalist in more recent times.

Palam was also famous for its baoli or step-well, with a Sanskrit inscription, believed to have been written in 1276 during the reign of Balban, one of the great Slave rulers. This means that Palam was more than a village in those times.

Even as late as the time of Shehzada Ali Gohar, who ruled as Shah Alam II from 1759 to 1806, Palam was considered an important suburb of the capital.

The popular saying then wasSultanat-e-Shah Alam, Az Dilli ta Palam, meaning, 'The empire of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam', a poignant assessment of the domain of the blind emperor (Andha Moghul to the residents of old Palam).

The writer is a veteran chronicler of Delhi

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 1:39:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/on-delhis-palam-village/article30840727.ece

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