Archives May 2018

Old Fort Walk

‘Jumna’s dark and limpid waters laved Yudhishtir’s palace walls; And to hail him Dharmaraja, monarchs thronged his royal halls.’

The Mughals were a dynasty which had inherited a lot of aesthetics from the Sultanate rule, but also had a lot to give to India. Emperor Babur laid out several gardens and mosques during his short rule. When Humayun had come to power, he founded a modest city called Dinpanah. On the banks of Yamuna, with the remaining stones and bricks from the fort city of Siri, the walls and gateways of the city were laid out. But was it Humayun’s city in actuality?
Sher Shah Suri succeeded Humayun, plundered and razed the settlement, and made a new city over the city called Shergarh. His palace fortress which is now commonly known as Purana Qila, is a complex which consists of a mosque and the tower from which Humayun had fell down. An octagonal fort, it is indeed an important landmark in tracing the history of Delhi.
The Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque was built in 1542 by Sher Shah himself. It offers an interesting glimpse into how mosque architecture in Delhi evolved from the earlier Lodhi period to that of the Mughals. This single aisled mosque contain only one dome left out of three earlier. The exquisite facade of the mosque is decorated with bands of Quranic verses carved in sandstone along with inlay works. The SherMandal, on the other hand is an octagonal, three-storeyed red sand stone building built by Sher Shah again in 1541 as a recreational structure. When Humayun succeeded him in 1555 A.D., he used this place as a library. Here Humayun met his death by accidentally falling down the inconveniently steep stairs in 24th January, 1556. It is said 20th January, the emperor appeared on the roof of his library. Toward evening, he started down the stairs, but on the second step hear the muezzin’s call to prayer and stopped. The steps were slippery, and, the emperor’s foot caught in his robe, causing him to drop his staff and fall upon his head. For the next three days he lay near death, and on the fourth he passed away. He was fifty-one years old and had ruled India twice: the first time from 1530 to 1540 and the second from 1555 until his death on January, 1556. The rubble and dressed stones 20 meter high walls of the fort pierced by three massive gates: the Badā Darwazā, the Talāqi Darwazā (forbidden gate), the Humayun Darwazā or South Gate. All these monumental darwazās are built in 1533-34 under Humayun.
The baoli or step well lies between the Masjid and Sher Mandal. It is an interesting example of medieval water management. The hammām or Persian bath lies to the west of SherMandal, as an important aspect of medieval life, recently unearthed in 1931. Several other monuments also lie around the complex, like Khairul Manazīl, mosque built by Maham Anga in 1561 A.D., Akbar’s foster-mother, and which was later used as a madrasa. It is now stands opposite the Purana Qila, south east to Sher Shah Gate. Though the walls, mehrāb, dome and Qura’nicverses are on the verge of extinction, produces an elegant background of its magnificence.
Believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Delhi having finding a mention in the Mahabharata as Indraprastha built by the Pandavas, Old Fort is in itself a city within a city. Join us and explore as to what makes this area worthy of a visit.

Nizamuddin Dargah Walk: Delhi is still far

The Dargāh of Nizamuddin Auliya is situated in the midst of Nizamuddin bastīt onwards South Delhi. Beside large number of tombs of saints, royal dignitaries and high nobles, there were baolīs, a mosque called ChinikaBurj (tower of tiles) and several medieval structures erected surrounding this holy shrine. Nizamuddin Auliya(1236-1325) died in 1325 A.D., but his original tomb does not exist any longer.It was repaired and decorated by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, but even the repaired building has disappeared. The present structure was built in 1562-88 by Faridun Khan, further repairs and additions to the complex continued by the devotees. The complex consists of a square chamber surrounded by verandahs, with arch openings, while the roof is a dome placed on an octagonal drum. The areas around the tomb are regarded as sacred, as a result large number of persons including royalty, lie buried here. On the death anniversaries of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Amir Khusraw, an ūrs or fair is held here. Amir Khusrau, alas Abul Hasan, was the chief disciple of Shaikh Nizamuddin. He enjoyed the patronage of several rulers and was also a celebrated saint and poet. After his death he also buried here. Bearing inscriptions of several dates, his tomb lies towards the south, probably erected in 1605-06 during the reign of Jahangir by Tahir Muhammad Imaduddin Hasan. The tomb proper is built of marble and is covered with vaulted roof supported on twelve pillars and crowned externally by a pair of guldastās. Jahanara Begum, the elder daughter of emperor Shahjahan died in 1681 A.D. and buried in this pious place. The unroofed enclosure of perforated marble screen to the south containing the grave of Jahanara. But Jahanara’s open-air tomb chamber is unique in that it is the only one in the Dargāh to have the graves of three women- she is buried alongside Jamalunnisa, a Mughal princes and the latter’s daughter. Her tomb has no roof. It was her own wish, and is inscribed in Persian on a marble slab there. “He is the living, the sustaining; let no one cover my grave except with greenery; for this very grass suffices as a tomb cover for the poor; the annihilated faqir lady Jahanara; disciple of the Lords of Chist; Daughter of Shahjahan the warrior; (may God illuminate his proof)”. As it happens, green vines grow on Jahanara’s grave. When Atagha Khan was killed by Adham Khan, his son Mirza Aziz Kokaltash built a small tomb hereand it was completed in 1566-67. The tomb of Muhammad Shah Rangeela(1719-48) also lies within a small enclosure as well as Mirza Jahangir, the elder son of Akbar II (1806-37). The Jama’atKhana or congregation house lies to the west of Nizamuddin’s tomb.The mosque was built in 1325 by Khizr Khan, the son of Alauddin Khalji. The rectangular red sand stone structure is the oldest buildings in this area. On the other hand, the Chausath Khambaor hall of sixty-four pillars marbled structure is built Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, governor under Akbar. He himself buried here.
Wondering who said the words “Delhi is still far” to by Nizamuddin Auliya? Well Join us and be a part of India City Walks and know more about what made this man the most popular and most revered Sufi saint and what is that one thing that draws us to him even in present days.

Mehrauli Archaeological Park

“Cast your eyes upon Jamali with kindness and do not look at his idleness and shortcoming’
Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a unique experience in itself. Once a vibrant city of Prithviraj Chauhan, a thriving capital for the Tomars and the Chauhan dynasties, also the capital of the first muslim rule in India, lies unnoticed towards the south-east of Qutub Complex. The park which is scattered over 100 acres of land, is layered in history, right from the ruined tombs of the first slave dynasty till the British era. It shows that the park was never out of sight of all who came to rule over Delhi. A walk around the park is an adventure in itself, as you will be going back and forth in history.
The Tomb of Balban, commenced by himself is located on the western side. Dating back to about 1280 and erected by Balban himself, it is now a ruined, unattractive edifice but a notable landmark in the evolution of the style. For the first time in India we meet with the true arch produced by means of radiating voussoirs, a fact of more than ordinary significance. Such an innovation was a clear intellectual gain, and it is therefore not what this building is that is important, but what it signifies.
The baolis, especially, Gandhak ki Baolī of Sultan Iltutmish and the Rājon ki Baolī of the Sikandar Lodi, gives a deep insight of the water harvesting techniques. The name Rajon ki Baolī was apparently derived from the use of the step-well (baolī) by masons (raj) for some time. This is a four-storeyed step-well supposedly built in 1506, under Sikandar Lodi. It is consists of three long flights of broad steps leading down to the water surrounded by four-storeyed corridors or dalāns. It was obviously meant to act not just as a source of water, but also as a place of rest for thirsty travellers. This is why, besides the small cells (used as rooms) which line the walls, there is a small and pretty mosque here, decorated with more of the finely incised plasterwork. In addition, there’s a small tomb, in the form of a chhatrī (a domed pavilion) was built possibly by Daulat Khan, in 1506. Another baolīis known as Gandhak ki Baolībecause the water in it smelled of sulphur. It is a rock cut step well, four to five levels deep in the ground.Built in the around 1528-29, the Jamali Kamali mosque and his tomb resembling mosques constructed under the Lodis and is said to be the first example of Mughal architecture in Delhi. Sheikh Jamali is the pen name of Sufi saint Sheikh Fazlullah who started his career under Sikandar Lodi and continued the patronage of Babur and Humayun. Hehimself built this mosque and is composed of red sandstone sparsely, but very delicately, ornamented with white marble and grey quartzite highlights.Then the tomb of Quli Khan, the elder brother of Adham Khan is another architectural land mark of the 17th century. This domed octagonal structures speak effortlessly the grandeur of the Mughal glory. When this stretch of land came under the British and Thomas Metcalfe appointed an agent of the East India Company to act as an intermediary between the Company’s government and the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, between 1535-53, he changed the whole space into a resort. He not only built several new structures and additions but also changed the meaning and characteristics of considerable monuments. His creation of boat-house, Dilkusha(Quli Khan’s tomb), dining room etc., are the best example. Among the additions, the chhatrīs, bridge, gardens and lakes are notable.
With atleast a 100 significant monuments being un-earthed and several still lying buried under ground, join us and know as to what made this area so important that even 1000 years and on this place continues to be inhabited right till today.

Luyten’s Delhi An exquisite piece by a master architect

The eighth or the last city in Delhi was built by the British. On 12 December, 1911, when King George V announced that the center of government would shift from Calcutta, longtime capital of British rule in India, to Delhi. Lord Hardinge (1910-16) chose a site to the south-west of Shahjahānābād, and Edward Luytens and Herbert Baker drew up plans for a magnificent city that took years to complete. The wide, carefully planned streets of New Delhi, the great monuments, and the imposing government buildings spoke eloquently of the imperial impulse to dominate and order. The Imperial complex, consisting of the Viceregal Lodge, the North and South Blocks of the Secretariat, and a Council Chamber which now houses India’s Parliament. To the north and west of the central area which linked this complex with the Memorial Arch, the residential areas were developed for Government staff. The shopping centre of Connaught Place was also built to the north of this access.
The India Gate or All India War Memorial on the Rājpat is a memorial to commemorate the undivided British Indian Army who died in the World War I (1914-21). It was also designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and built between 1917 to 1931 is 42 metre tall bears the names of 13,218 martyrs. The Rashtrapati Bhavan or President House, built in 1919 to 1925 lies towards the western end of Rājpath. Under the British it was designed as the British Viceroy’s residence. Built of red and buff sandstone housed 340 well decorated rooms with durbar hall, Ashoka hall, State dining room and large number of guest suites and the private apartments. The four-storeyed Secretariat house important ministries of Government of India is divided into two blocks- North and South. It is designed by Herbert Baker and accommodate 4,000 rooms. The premises included formal gardens with water fountains, pillars and porticos with vaulted ceilings. The style of architecture is classical, where each block is crowned by an imposing central dome. The Rajpath is a 3.2 km long Avenue which runs from Rashtrapati Bhawan through Vijay Chowk, India Gate through National Stadium. It is one of India’s most prominent displays of power and unity, the Republic Day Parade held each year on 26th January which commemorates the date on which the Constitution of India came into force. It is lined on both sides by huge lawns, canals and rows of trees. The city had two important churches. The Anglican Cathedral was located at a short distance of the north of the Viceregal Lodge and the Secretariat. The Catholic Church, built by Jesuit missionaries, was about 2 km to the north of the Secretariat. Two hospitals and other schools were also located in this area. The principal of segregation by rank was followed in location, size and design of the residential buildings. They are large, single story houses situated amidst extensive lawns. Most of them were demolished during the 1970s and 1980s to be replaced by 4-story structure containing flats. Broad tree-lined streets, diagonal avenues and green roundabouts where the streets and avenues meet in another important feature of New Delhi. It was a green and uncongested city. The greenery helped to reduce the severity of Delhi’s hot summers and cold winters, and also helped to keep pollution of air and water low.
Being the political headquarters of the British and now the Indian govt., Lutyen’s Delhi is a classical and dominant example of British authority in India. Come and go on journey with us into the past to get a glimpse of what was the might and strength of the British empire.

Lodhi Garden Walk A history with a picturesque view

Formerly called as Lady Willingdon Park, which sits right at the heart of the residential area of New Delhi, a familiar spot with most visitors in the city, Lodhi Gardens is now a preferred spot for most morning, evening walks as well as it serves as a good ambience to high profile yoga sessions. Called as a period of Maqbaras, the Sayyids and the Lodhi’s were not much interested in building fort cities. In Delhi itself, more than 50 tombs were constructed under the Lodhi’s, which also translates as Delhi being reduced to the metropolitan for graveyards in this period.
Three types of tombs were constructed during this period, i.e., octagonal (reserved for Sultān), square (preferred by nobles) and pillared pavilion (for saints). Apart from a Mughal bridge, the Āthpula and some small outbuildings, there are five main structures which lie along a south-south-west to north-north-east axis. The tombs of Muhammad Shah Sayyid (d. 1434), Mubarak Sayyid (d. 1444) and Sikandar Lodi (d. 1517) are identical in general. The first two are at present are isolated structures having no enclosure surrounding the tomb. However, the third one is built within a walled enclosure or chahār diwarī with a gateway in the southern side and a mosque in western side. A structural innovation is found in tomb of Sikandar Lodi is double dome that is comprising of two shells, outer shell and inner shell. Before this, an attempt was made in the Shahabuddin Taj Khan ka Gumbad build in 1501. It was to the liking to raise the height in order to give the structure a lofty and more imposing appearance.
Besides that we have several un-named tombs, locally known as Gumbad. These tombs are known by their local names. The Badā Gumbad and Shīsh Gumbad, are a single story structures, but from outside they appeared to be multi storeyed and this is created by means of ornamental niches. Three sides are open and the fourth side are closed for accomadate mehrāb. The positioning of the doors of the grave less Bara Gumbad, probably is an entrance to the adjoining western winged five-arched mosque known as Bāre Gumbad ki Masjid (d. 1500) and the Majlis Khana. Inside the Shīsh Gumbad are seven large cenotaphs and one small one. One can see remnants of its former elegance in the turquoise and cobalt-blue tiles on the facade. There are no inscriptions in these tombs apart from brief Qur’anic verses. Under the Mughals major renovations were taken up and they added several utilitarian structures. Standing from seven centuries, this complex of royal personage is a good example of a combination of the Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture.

If you say Lady Willingdon Park, not many people would recognize the actual name for Lodhi Gardens. But this place is equally steeped in history as it is in nature. With structures dating from the late Sultanate and Mughal era, the place is a perfect blend of Indo-Islamic architecture. Join us as we explore for the perfect mix of history and nature.

Humayun Tomb Complex

“Humayun’s greatest enemy was he himself.”
Poole referred to a particular incident which had led to taking his own life. A connoisseur of wine, he died in January 1556, at the age of fifty-one. He is credited to build the sixth city of Delhi, called Dinpanah, beside the river Yamuna. Upon his death, by falling from the stairs of his library, he had left behind an empire that was precariously held together.
The Humayun’s tomb complex was origninally built in the land of Kilokheri (a medieval name for modern day Nizmuddin), a city which was built by the Sultanate ruler Kaiqubad. It encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun as well as numerous other Mughal structures. Haji Begum, Humayun’s widow was responsible for its construction of Humayun tomb, begun in 1564, eight years after the emperor’s death. The tomb structure is a massive red-sandstone and white marble structure rests on a large plinth, made up of fifty-six cells, in the centre of an enclosed Mughal Chahārbāgh. A rigid geometry of the main pathway sand water courses compels the visitor forward, from the garden’s entrance in the center of the southern wall, up through the plinth, which is ascended by a series of stairs. Subsidiary water channels and paths subdivide the quadrants of the garden into smaller sections. Small streams of water punctuate the juncture of each of the canals and channels. The tomb itself is built in a typical Persian hast-bīhist (noni-partite) plan, the best example of which is encountered at the Taj Mahal. The style of the complex structure is a blend of Persian architecture and indigenous styles. One of the 27 UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, was the first of the monumental mausoleums built in the country.
The tomb of Isa Khan, son of Niyaz Aghwan, the Chief Chamberlain, was built during the reign of Islam Shah in 1547-48. Built on a high octagonal platform the tomb copied the earlier tombs constructed under Tughlaq and Lodis. The mosque covered by a central massive dome and flanking chhatrīs, a reminiscence of Lodi tombs. The unknown and un-associated Bu Halima garden complex comprising an arched gateway and a tomb that leads to the Humayun tomb is undoubtedly an early Mughal architectural production. The ruins of Arab Sarāi was also built by Haji Begum, the widow of Humayun in 1560-61 supposedly to house the masons and workers engaged to build the royal cenotaph. Beside that there were tomb Fahim Khan died in 1626 as Nila Gumbad outside the eastern enclosure wall, Chillah-gah Nizamuddin Auliya, the residence of the said saint, located outside to the north-east corner, and Afsarwala tomb and mosque, south-west gate of the main mausoleum built between 1560-61 and 1566-67. The Chillah-gah Nizamuddin Auliya is believed to be the residence of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya who died in 1325 A.D.
The complex is an exquisite piece which was a benchmark for future tomb-making examples. Join us as we explore the architectural masterpiece and listen to the stories of the man, his struggles to regain his empire only to die in coming 11 months.

Hauz Khas Complex

‘The tank is filled by the rains in the rainy season, and it supplies the people of the city with water throughout the year. When I had pitched my camp here, the princes and amirs…generals and officers, came to wait upon me and pay their respects.’
Water has been an important source for any civilizations to exist and survive. For its geographical positioning, Delhi may have suffered quite a lot in terms of natural sources of water, but the rulers of Delhi, knew the importance of reserving water for later use. Alauddin Khalji, was one of the prominent rulers from the Khilji dynasty, an ambitious man of his times, wanted to leave a mark in Delhi. He built a city right in the middle of the existing establishments of Qila Rai Pithora, Kilokhiri and Indraprastha. He named the city as Siri. His new capital was built in a certain manner to cater to the needs of every citizen. Khilji is probably remembered in history because of his schemes but also because of the huge water reservoir he had built on 70 acres of land, which he called Hauz-i-Ilahi, which we know presently as Hauz Khas.
When Firoz Shah Tughlaq, ascended the throne after the death of Mohammad bin Tughlaq in 1351 A.D., he started a massive reconstruction work. He was a man keenly interested in material heritage and antiquities. He repaired and re-excavated the Hauz-i-Alāi, re-named it as Hauz Khās manicured around 30 gardens in and around this area and many other old structures. Hauz Khās, so much admired by Amīr Timūr in 1398 lies towards the south-west corner of Sīri(the second capital of Delhi) presently in South Delhi. Under the Delhi Sultans, the villages surrounding Hauz Khās was also known as Tarabābād (the City of Joy). The great reservoir, was rectangular, measuring 600 by 700 metres, was over four meters deep. He also built a madrasa on the south and east sides of the reservoir and appointed his learned chief Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi in it. The madrasa was the center of Muslim theological learning in 14th century northern India and the chief educational endowment of the Tughlaq dynasty. Its construction must have been begun in 1352 and finally finished until 1388. The south side of the complex measures 76 meters in length and the east side 138 meters. Though Timur says that there were structures on all four sides of the hauz. The beautiful landscape of this areas is achieved through laying gardens to the east and south.
The garden also contained the tomb of institution’s founder and patron. The tomb of the founder stands in the southeast at the intersection of the two sides. This two storeyed building is covered by a massive hemispherical dome was flanked by two identical halls, now vanished except for the bases of their pillars. It is the reminiscence of Tughliqian architecture was originally covered with paint. In the southeast corner of the garden is low platform with several unidentified graves sites. At the north end of the complex is the madrasa’s mosque. It is built during the reign of Firoz Shah. The madrasa and its garden were nourished in multiple ways by the water of the hauz, and the tomb, as a memorial and a stepping-stone toward paradise, was supported by it as well. Seeking order and stability after the tumult of his uncle’s reign (Jalaluddin Khalji), the sultan created one of the most remarkable buildings in the history of medieval Islamic architecture and attracted to this great center of learning scholars and students from all over the Muslim world.
A blend of historical and commercial centre, Hauz Khas village has a long past. With heritage available in the form of several monuments clustered together and with fashionable boutiques and restaurants, join us and explore as to what makes this place a popular spot for food, fashion and with a history of its own.

The city which smells of Royalty: Amrita Shergill, Chelmsford, Aurangzeb Road

Imagine a place, filled with lush greenery around, big glass windows from where you can peak out, sipping a good coffee from your mug, and hold a book in the other hand, scrounge into a comfortable couch with dim lights around. Sounds like a plan isn’t it?
The British after taking over India and making it a jewel in the crown were involved mostly in these activities. In order to make extra comfortable houses, which makes them feel like homes, is when the last city of Delhi built, which was named as New Delhi for the lack of creativity on the British part. Today, Amrita Shergill marg, Chelmsford Road, and erstwhile Aurangzeb Road exuberate the royalty of the British, with wide roads, walking pathways lined with trees which constantly provide shade, big, luxurious cars passing by.
At its best, Amrita Shergil Marg, in central Delhi, expresses the aspirations of humanity – the hopes of a good life. With its broad avenues, tree-lined streets, and elegant bungalows, the quiet neighbourhood is like a fairy tale. Living here is the pinnacle of upper crust existence. In 2006, a bungalow here was sold for Rs 137 crores. If you aren’t super-rich, however, it’s difficult to break into this world. But we can dream for it. And there is no fee to take a walk in Amrita Shergil Marg.
In the old days, Aurangzeb Road was the address of historically important figures such as Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the ‘Iron Man’ Vallabhbhai Patel. Today, it is peopled by industrialists and ambassadors. The 17th century monarch after whom the avenue was named was said to be brutal but we are perhaps missing the point. Aurangzeb Road is (was?) now no longer about Aurangzeb. In our present-day Delhi, it is a state of mind.

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