The Mehrauli village of Delhi is most famous for the tallest rubble minaret in world, the mighty Qutub Minar. In our November 2013 edition of the NRI Achievers, we had told you the untold story of the Qutub Minar. In other issues, we have also shared with you the story behind Mehrauli’s ‘Phoolwalon-ka-Sair’ and some other interesting nuggets of information about this place. But then, there is a lot more to Mehrauli than just the Minar, and this time round, our heritage journey will begin from the huge park situated right behind the Qutub Minar complex.
On the 24th of October in 2014, I had gone to the place officially known as the ‘Mehrauli Archaeological Park,’ or MAP. This stretch of forest dotted with lush green parks surrounding the many historical edifices within it is more commonly referred to in Delhi-parlance as the ‘Jamali Kamali.’ A really massive park spread over some 200 acres, with over 70 monuments is indeed a treasure trove for any heritage lover. And when I first experienced the place it was simply awe inspiring for me. I had never seen more beautiful structures than these. While Mehrauli village has quite a bit to offer the heritage lover with it’s history-rife sites like the Zafar Mahal, Jahaz Mahal, Bhuli Bhatiyari, the Dargah, Hijro.n ki Jhanqah and Adam Khan’s Tomb, I will focus in this piece just a few special monuments within the Mehrauli Archaeological Park that make this place really great.
15 Dynasties ruled Delhi. Now, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park is the only place that has structures built by most of these. The area abuts the Lal Kot and is sited inside the Qila-i-Rai Pithora, which harks back to the Tomar and Chauhan dynasties. The Slave dynasty and the Khiljis administered their domains from a palace that used to be situated somewhere in this very area. The Tughlaqs don’t have much of a contribution to this place, except that Mohammad bin Tughlaq did extend his city walls upto this area. Later on, the Lodhis and the Mughals made major contributions to this entire park. Even British are not left behind – their ensembles too find a place here.
Come, let us visit at least a few of the monuments of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
Sheikh Fazalullah aka Sheikh Jalal Khan aka Jamali Kamboh was the court poet to the Lodhi and Mughal courts. He is buried in this park, and locals over time had begun to call this park by his name. There are dozens of stories around Jamali and Kamali – some say they were friends, some say father-son, some claim them to be colleagues, and some have even gone to the extent of calling them lovers. Whatever the case might have been, the structure of Jamali-Kamali’s tomb and its adjacent mosque is simply amazing. A small square tomb, now locked to the public (to save them from encroachers). Here are few pictures:
The tomb has most beautiful ceiling I have ever seen in Delhi.
Equally majestic is the mosque attached to it, which was built during Humayun’s period.
Rajo.n ki Baoli
The next structure I want to take you to is the Rajo.n ki Baoli. This is a stepwell nestled amid the lush greenery that is so characteristic of this archaeological park. Interestingly, this stepwell is called by most locals as the ‘Rajao.n ki Baoli’, which changes the meaning drastically, to mean ‘the stepwell of Kings’. In actuality, this particular stepwell was and is supposed to be associated more with Raje than with Raja. In Hindi, Raje would denote the mason – Raaj Mistry. It is hence more authentic to call this stepwell Rajo.n ki Baoli, meaning the baoli actually belongs to the Masons, and not to a king.
This Lodhi-era stepwell is the largest in this area. There are 3 more stepwells in Mehruli, out of which only one, which goes by the name of ‘Gandhak ki Baoli’, is accessible to general public. Stepwells were a very important part of medieval Indian cities and settlements. A typical baoli in Delhi and Haryana would have a natural water source like a spring or a well, attached to the water pond that is approached through stairs. The well is always separated from pond with a wall having small windows at various levels, while the stairs have rooms on both sides for people to sit and bask in the sun after a refreshing bath.
Slave King Ghiasuddin Balban finds his own important place etched into the annals of history. He was the first Muslim ruler in the Indian Subcontinent to commission a palace, one that had the very first true dome, true arch and taikhana (basement) constructed.
This palace, the Lal Mahal is sited in the Nizamuddin area of South Delhi, which he established and was originally known as Ghiaspur after him.
His own tomb is in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, and is no less than a wonder. This vast structure built in 13th century would leave any visitor awestruck.
Quli Khan’s Tomb & Dovecoat
Another rather interesting architectural ensemble in this area is Quli Khan’s Tomb. He is said to be the foster brother of famous Mughal emperor Akbar. His other brother Adham Khan is also buried along with their mother Mahamanga not too far away. Interestingly, during British times, this tomb was converted into a recreational room by Metcalfe, the then resident British officer in the Mughal court. Metcalfe also built a circular path and a guest house with Delhi’s first English swimming pool near this tomb. Here are some pictures from the site: