Wandering in the ruins of Mehrauli, Delhi : A Photoblog by Atanu Dey

Mehrauli is probably the oldest part of Delhi - considerably older than the so called "Old Delhi". This was the ruling site of the Tomar kings - the most notable of them being Anangpal Tomar - who founded "Delhi" (if we leave apart the possibilities of Delhi being the legendary city of Indraprastha and therefore being in existence since the Mahabharatas).  The first city of Delhi - Lalkot - was here, which later got merged into Pila Rai Pithora, the second city of Delhi during the times of Prithwiraj Chauhan. The reign of the Tomar kings ended when Prithwiraj Chauhan was defeated by Mohammad Ghori & his extremely competent general Qutubuddin Aibek and the reign of the Delhi Sultanate (more specifically - the Slave dynasty) began. Initially, the Delhi Sultanate had their ruling site in Mehrauli and therefore one can see signs of the Tomar kingdom and Delhi Sultanate in this area.
Other than the early Delhi-Sultanate structures, Mehrauli also has several ruins which belong to the later Moghuls. And our walk, organized by the Delhi Karavan, was to explore some of these ruins of both the eras. 

Near the Mehrauli bus terminus itself, we see the octagonal makbara of Adham Khan. This octagonal design was popular in the Indo-Islamic architecture for a brief period (starting in the era of the Delhi Sultanate and ended probably with this structure i.e middle of the Moghul age). 

Adham Khan's makbara       Photo credit : Monidipa Dey

Adham Khan was the son of Mahim (Maham?) Anga, the foster mother Emperor Akbar and was the general of Akbar's army. He was punished for killing Ataga Khan, husband of Jiji Anga, the other foster mother of Emperor Akbar. This was one of those rare occasions when Emperor Akbar was really torn with rage as he ordered Adham Khan, his milk brother (Kokah) to be thrown from the Agra fort balcony - not once but twice - to make sure that he is dead. 

Adham Khan's tomb

Inside Adham Khan's Makbara

The place offers a view of Qutub
View from Adham Khan's tomb

Mehrauli is densely populated and walking is not easy. Nevertheless, the walk offered some interesting spectacles enroute.

Photo Credit : Monidipa Dey

The next stop was supposed to be the Jahaz Mahal but we stopped at an unexpected location called Hijroh Ki Khanqah.

Hijro ki khanqah      Photo Credit : Monidipa Dey

This is a pre-moghul Lodhi period khanqah and is maintained by the Eunuchs of Turkman gate. The entry to this place is through a narrow gateway which is easy to miss. Inside it has a large courtyard which is reasonably well maintained with tombs of 50 Eunuchs. One of the tombs, which is supposed to belong to a Eunuch called Miyan Saheb is kept prominently. 

We walked further down to reach the Jahaz Mahal, located just next to a lake called Hauz-i-Shamsi. Legend has it that Prophet Muhammad himself had come in the dreams of Sultan Iltutmish and had told him the location to dig so that the underground can be tapped out and this led to the creation of Hauz-i-Shamsi. Jahaz Mahal was constructed just beside this in the Lodi era - probably as a resting place for pilgrims or travellers. At some point, it was also the summer palace of the Moghuls - before this honour was passed on to Zafar Mahal.

Jahaz Mahal 

This is the site of the "Phool Walon Ki Sair" - which started as a celebration of release of Jahangir Mirza, the younger brother of Bahadur Shah Zafar and still continues as one of those unique celebrations where both Hindus and Muslims take part. 

Jahaz Mahal      Photo credit : Monidipa Dey

Right across the Jahaz Mahal was the so-called "Jharna" - an artificial waterfall created in the late Moghul Era. It was constructed by Akbar Shah II which had two pavilions, a water tank and a tunnel (called the Naulakha Nala) connecting it to Hauz-i-Shamsi. 


This pavilion used to get hidden under the water curtain from the waterfall and was one of the places where Bahadur Shah Zafar used to write his shayeri. It is a pity that this place, today, is in shambles. 

Our walk ended at Zafar Mahal and the adjoining dargah of Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki
Entrance to Zafar Mahal : Hathi Gate 

Moti Masjid : the neglected cousin of the one within Red Fort

 The lighted dome of Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki

Inside the Dargah

Quawali inside the durgah complex of Qutubuddin Kaki

The evenings still resonate with the Quawali sung inside the durgah and the memories of yesteryear which seem to linger at various corners. 

Acknowledgements :
Most of the facts mentioned here were mentioned by Mr. Asif Khan Dehlavi, Mr. Vikram Singh Rooprai and Ms Rana Safvi during the walk - which I subsequently supplemented with information from Wikipedia and some other sources on the internet. 


Atanu/Monidipa - Quite inspiring Photo Essay with very good information about Delhi and facts around it's old days.

All these stories by you guys are very inspiring and every time I read & see pictures, I feel like going there at that moment only.

I would love to join you guys for such walks after Jan'13. Excited !

Thank a lot for sharing these beautiful stories with us here !!!
Unknown said…
thanks Vj..the walk is really wonderful and company enjoyable..do join us after January, am sure you will enjoy it too :-)
Anonymous said…
Enjoyed every minute and learnt so much about the history of Delhi .. Merci Moni,Atanu :) great work .
Gungun Chanda said…
Atanu,very interesting and informative essay and as usual pleasurable reading. Monidipa beautiful shots-----especially love the "food stall wallah" (you know why ;)) and the "old man"... lovely :D :D keep it up, doing a great, job both of you. All the best.
Beloo Mehra said…
Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing these.
Vibha said…
I love your historical photo journeys Atanu and Monidipa. This photo essay makes me think about the way we are taught history in our schools. Won't it be so much better if schools could organize walks to accessible historical sites such as these for their students as a part of the history curriculum. Students will be able to retain information so much better.

I wish you had added captions to all the images though...Can you try to do that now?
Atanu Dey said…
Vibha - I added captions for almost all the pictures now. I agree with you - history can be made so much more interesting through such walks. Also the teachers should focus on culture and lifestyle instead of only conquests and dates
Atanu Dey said…
Thank you all for your encouraging comments :)
Biplab Paul said…
Very informative, Delhi is a historical city as it was the capital of the Mughals and also later of the British.
The little nuggets that escape history books are a delight when unraveled in times of future.
But, I do agree with Kausik, the copyright, if used in the bottom right corner would appeal the intensity of the photographs and we can steal them at ease with little effort in cropping. :)
Biplab Paul said…
Very informative, Delhi being a historical city has a lot to offer.
It is good for us that you have taken the pains to reveal the little known nuggets of wisdom and tales otherwise missing is standard history books.
Personally, I would like the pictures to be smaller in size with the option of zoom, so that they are in sync with the word format.
Also if the copyright watermark is shifted to the bottom right corner of the picture with reduced font, it would be easy for us to copy it with minimum effort in cropping. :)

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