After Muhammad bin Sam (aka Muhammad Ghori, or Muhammad of Ghor) tricked Prithvi Raj Chauhan to death, the Sultanate Dynasty of Delhi ruled a major part of what India is today, and it’s first emperor Qutb-ud-Din Aibak had the penchant for dreaming big. Credit goes to him for constructing the first ever imperial mosque built by any Muslim Ruler of India, the ‘Jama Masjid’ in Mehrauli, which is now part of the Qutub Minar Complex (the ‘Quwwat-i-Islam’ Mosque). He also dreamt of building the biggest and tallest brick minaret in the world, but died playing polo in Lahore without fulfilling this wish, during the fourth year of his reign.
His mausoleum, a huge yellow box-like building, stands today forlorn by a road-side with hardly anybody noticing it. To his glory, the wall that this mausoleum shares with the congested locality does have some Qutab Minar figures etched on it.
After the painful partition of 1947, this first imperial tomb of the Sultanate Period fell in the share of Pakistan, and India was then left with the Tomb of the son of Iltutmish, the next emperor. Sultan Iltutmish, who lost his son when he was in the prime of his youth, then built a mausoleum for him, which later becomes the oldest Tomb of independent India. This mausoleum was located just a bit outside the boundaries of the then Delhi ‘Qila Rai Pithora’, on a small mound in village Malikpur/Rangpur.
The tomb is a mini-fortress with a large Gate. As you climb up the stairs and enter the fortification, you find an octagonal chamber about 3 feet high from ground, strewn with some feed for pigeons. A small opening on one side of the chamber takes you into the pitch dark square chamber below containing the graves of this royal family.
This tomb is worshipped as ‘Pir-Baba’ by residents of neighboring villages, and local custom has it that a newly wed bride is not allowed to enter the house- hold’s hearth until she has sought the blessings of ‘Pir Baba’. So one often sees marriage parties coming in with full brass bands (or traditional drums) and relatives singing marriage songs behind the brides and grooms clad in all their finery.
Today this tomb lies unbeknown to the world, outside the Rangpuri and Malikpur villages, situated on the road from Chhatarpur Metro Station to Mahipalpur, shortly after the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in the plush Vasant Kunj locality of South Delhi. The tomb is surrounded by a sprawling ghost town, with broken rubble and masonry of houses and mosques built in the classical Rajputana style. The reason for this syncretism in architecture is understandable, as the initial Islamic invaders, when they came to Delhi, brought a huge army with them but no masons. So they perforce had to conscript local architects and labor to build their cities. Hence the characteristic but complex fusion of local and foreign architectural elements in earlier Islamic cities of India, which gave birth to what is called “Indo- Islamic” Architecture. Qutb Minar is by far the finest example of this architecture.