Haveli Trail: Old Delhi

The beauty of the Old Havelis in Chandni Chowk lie in the crumbling state as they are in, today who have stood the test of time. Walking past the Old city of Shahjahanabad, the almost broken and haunted looking havelis have a certain magnet which has the power to attract you towards them. Take out some time, to admire the elaborate arcades, colossal doors, which take you back to a long by-gone era.
Situated in Chhota Bazaar, opposite old St.Stephen’s College building, Seth Ram Lal Khemka Haveli was once a place where wealth and power concentrated. It was built in 1850, the mansion has been a witness to the plunder during sepoy mutiny and the revolt of 1857. The present owners, Baglas, inherited the mansion in around 1905. The mansion is built using two types of brickworks from colonial era and the thinner ones, being the Lakhori bricks.
This 19th century mansion welcomes you with an open-air aourtyar with stairways leading towards the large rooms. The effort of the present family can be seen in keeping the old charm alive of the mansion.
How to get there: Ten minutes walk from Kashmere Gate metro station
A textile from the Mughal era, one of the wealthiest people in Delhi, Lala Chunnamal’s haveli was built in 1848. The positioning of the haveli, is interesting as it is situated in the Walled city of Shahjahanabad, the commercial hub of the city, but as you enter the quiet lanes, you forget the hustle and the chaos around you. Although a neglected haveli, it still sparks the erstwhile opulence and an unrestricted entrance welcome you whole heartedly. The mansion consists of 128 rooms which still consists of the chandeliers, antique wall hangings, family pictures on the wall with wooden chimneys. Currently, the 10th generation is staying as well as has the ownership of the mansion
How to get there: Five minutes walk from Chawri Bazaar metro station via Nai Sarak Marg
A mansion near the canal, as you walk through Daryaganj road, is a mansion which was owned by the forefathers of Pervez Musharraf,the ex-President of Pakistan. The mansion is said to be spread over 24,800 sq.ft the structure is dilapidated even though it was once a seat of muslim culture and traditions.
How to get there: Ten minutes walk from Chawri Bazaar
The traffic at Lal Kuan might let you walk past through the quaint place which was once a haveli of Begum zeenat Mahal, the favourite wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar. Towards the west of Hauz Qazi, the mansion dates back to 1846, when it was ordered by the empress herself. After her death, the Mahal was not taken care by anyone, till it was sold to the Indian Government by the Maharaja of Patiala. It stands in complete disarray and houses the famous school for Muslim girls, which happened with encroachments over the years.
How to get there: Ten minutes walk from Chawri Bazaar metro station via NaiSarakMarg
Bhagirath Palace, one of the biggest markets for electrical, was also a mansion for someone. While we still use the place for our shopping, much less is known about the mansion. The mansion was constructed in 1`8th century for a French mercenary Walter Reinhart. His wife’s name was Begum Samru. Pondering over the architecture you might see that it reflects quite a lot of both, the Greek and Roman architecture, with Corinthian columns.
How to get there: Ten minutes walk from Chandni Chowk metro station

When the abode of Godly city became a Mughal City!

The city of Dinpanah, was founded by Humayun, four years, after his father had founded the Empire. On the banks of the river Yamuna, the city was constructed unknowingly, that there was another ancient city which existed at the same area. It was called as ‘Indraprastha’ which translates as the ‘city of the God Indra’. While going through the fort complex, you get to witness the Mughal magnificence as well the remains of the ancient city scattered around, in the form of pottery and other materials. But one very significant thing which the fort city reflects is the material remains that have been left by Sher Shah Suri. An Afghan ruler who had overthrown Humayun, wreaked havoc in the Mughal city, built the new capital city called Sher Shahi, which is now known as Purana Qila. After successfully defeating Humayun in 1540, Suri demolished all that remained from the existing fort city of Dinpanah, re-used the materials from it, as well as from Feroz Shah Kotla and Siri, to make his new city SherGarh which translates as ‘the abode of Lions’. While the fort city was enclosed with three gates which were referred to as Bada Darwaza, Talaqi Darwaza and Humayun Darwaza, the outer walls, right in the front was demarcated with few more gates, such as the Lal Darwaza and the Kabuli Darwaza.
Humayun was often known in history as a moderate Mughal ruler between his charismatic father Babur and his legendary son Akbar. Humayun a superstitious man that he was, must have chosen the particular location of Indraprastha, not far from Nizamuddin Auliya’s shrine. It seems a little awkward that although the gates and outer wall can be proved to be of Humayun’s time, there is not a single other structure of his time.
The gates and the outer walls prove to be of Humayun’s time, but not more than this can be called as pertaining to Humayun’s time. A decent look inside the fort will reveal how scantily the monuments are scattered around the whole area. The main attractions of the whole place might be either the Sher Mandal, and The Qila-e-Kuhna Mosque. The exquisite design of the mosque can be credited to Sher shah, but it doesn’t look like Pathan architecture. A look at the octagonal dome makes it look more like a ‘Lodhi-era’ construction. However, the mosque is the best preserved part of the complex as its horse-shoe shaped doorways is one of the most beautiful example of symmetry, two on the left are ‘sawaal’ and two on the right are ‘jawaab’.

The Tentacles of Incomparable Slaves: Qutub Complex

There is no tower like the tower of the triumph modeled to prove the victory of the Turkish over the Indian lands. The QutubMinar is one of the finest brick minaret which was the tower of triumph modeled after another victory, Minaret of Jam near Herat in the remote valley of western Afghanistan, which was erected by the brother of Muhammad Ghori.
The evening QutubMinar, with its tapered star like base with a circular top, was the victory tower with four ornamental bands adorning its lower storey, followed by two more storeys with two bands each. The construction of the first floor of QutubMinar was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the founder of the Mamluk dynasty, who had also commissioned for Jami masjid. Later the first mosque of Delhi, was called as Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was right on the stronghold of the Hindu citadel of Tomars and Chauhans in delhi.
“To summon the prayers so loud that it could reach Misr (Egypt) and Medina”, was the intention of building the magnificent Minar. The piece and other pieces in the architectural arena in the QutubComplex, are exquisite as the complex beholds layers of history in it. While the Rajput rulers had stationed themselves in the first city of Delhi which was comprising of the precincts of Qutub Complex, the first Muslim rule had not been that adventurous to explore more places. Hence you come across the Mosque, and in its courtyard you can stumble upon the Iron Pillar which is said to have got by the Tomars, and has resisted rusting for 1600 years. The early Turkish rulers were primarily soldiers who had their imagination take shape with the Hindu craftsmen who were locally available.
The complex, sitting on the old citadel of Tomar’sLalKot represents the imagination of the Turkish sultans which was fuelled by their conquests and an uncertainty in the new land: a Muslim theme with Hindu imagination. Together, the layers of history in the complex area represents group of monuments of the Mamluks and Khilji dynasties, and some unreal dreams which were left deserted.
The journey which started from QutubComplex, spread tentacles around Delhi and spread their Sultanate throughout Delhi. It’s fascinating to trace how the Sultanate started off with simpler backgrounds to such elaborate tomb structures as we see elsewhere.

The Story of New Delhi

The story of the longest serving capital of India goes back to the British empire, when they wanted to add to the existing heritage, but also wanted to show their prowess by erecting some iconic monuments. But because of the lack of imagination, they named their city “New Delhi”.
The first foundation stone of New Delhi was laid by King George the Vth, the new emperor of India, after successfully crushing the revolt of 1857, and establishing the British Empire in India. For the longest time, the seat of British power was Calcutta, but when they experienced the bloody revolt from the Indians, their affirmations of the power could not stop them from acquiring the seat of power from Delhi. The architects chosen for this dream project of the British were Edward Lutyen’s and Herbert Baker.
On a December winter, during the Delhi Durbar, George V, along with Queen Mary, made an announcement that the capital of the British Raj would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, while the Viceroy’s residence was in the process of construction. Both Baker and Lutyens’ masters in their work, and excellent 20th century architects, wanted to replicate the colonial, vintage architecture, so that the Raj feels comfortable coming and settling in Oriental lands. The constructions in the city began after the First World War, but could only be completed by 1931. The initial planning consisted of the important residences, like the Secretariat buildings, the Viceroy’s residence, the India Gate which was made especially to welcome King George the Vth to his new territory which later would become the ‘Jewel in the Crown’.
These were initial places which were constructed. Later, both Baker and Lutyen’s started considering other places, in the vicinity of their city. Thus, was Delhi Town Planning Committee, set up to plan the city which would expand its tentacle’s till as far and wide. Thus the bungalows which expanded till present day Safdarjung Tomb till South are still in use by the prominent personalities of politics.
A glance through the wide roads, the roundabouts and the greenery around it, reflects why the architects chose to name it, what it was, in contrast to the existing seat of power.

The Story of a Lost Paradise: Qudsia Bagh

Wife of the emperor Muhammad Shah and the mother of a successor- Ahmad Shah, laid out a beautiful garden complex adjoining the western bank of Yamuna. A palace cum summer house, dotted with pavilions and a mosque were set amidst rolling greens of rose and fruit gardens and murmuring waterfalls.
After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire had started crumbling, where the most prominent nobles had taken over their territory and started ruling all by themselves not recognizing the central authority which was still Mughal. Muhammad Shah Rangeela came to the throne, after frequent successions by recent predecessors who had been unapologetic of their responsibility of the Empire. Qudsia Begum and Nawab Javed Khan became the rulers of the Empire. While Ahmad Shah was a puppet king engaged in petty pleasures, he had slowly retired to a large pleasure garden that he had built. Qudsia Begum single handedly would take the responsibility of the Empire and

Presently, the greenery of the area most of which is taken over by the development authorities and established a home to beautiful birds, residence for squirrels and an exotic splash of lush foliage, which overlooks the Inter State Bus Terminus. Of all the original structures, only a few remain which are the main western gateway, a mosque, and a garden pavilion. They carry the scars of the revolt of 1857 war. The walls of the pavilion and structures scream out of the negligence of the later Mughals to be able to hold on to their power.

A walk in the garden pavilion will let you stumble upon the handsomely built mosque, which sits on the raised platform and built of think bricks, introduced by the British, and were called Lakhori Bricks. The mosque is characterized by the three bulbous domes, topped with sandstone lotus finials and surmounted upon an equal number of bays that are punctured with arched openings.
The mosque is adjacent to the busy road, which was once over the course of the river Yamuna. A colonial era building, it was built around the earlier Mughal pavilion, and it was once said that the original stable house for the horses of Qudsia Begum.

The House of Knowledge, a 14th century Complex!

Hauz Khas is probably one of the most elegantly designed structures in Delhi’s architectural history, which nestles amidst a beautiful landscape and calm quiet ambience, with immense greenery and the effervescent beauty of the lake, this is the most popular hangout for the youngsters and photographers. Built in 13th century, it is one of the oldest structures of Delhi, which is still vibrant because of the heart throbbing activities that happen in the place.

Hauz Khas was known as Hauz-e-Illahi when it was constructed by Allauddin Khilji, was further raised by Feroz Shah Tughlaq as a knowledge city and a center of excellence which also served as the city for the servants where refugee intellectuals would take shelter, while fleeing from the onslaught of the Mongols.
The entire beautiful complex of Hauz Khas consists of a madrasa, which is L shaped, three domed structure, conspicuously called as the Assembly Hall for a lack of better understanding of its use, a Mosque which is near the Assembly Hall, all of which is overlooking the Hauz-e-Illahi later, when renovated by Feroz Tughlaq was called as Hauz Khas. The Madrasa built almost 25 years after Tughlaqabad was abandoned.
A unique feature about the complex, is the madrasa has a protruding mihrab wall onto the lake where the scholars can overlook the calm waters.
A poet from the Tughlaq court writes about the madrasa “The moment I entered the blessed building..its fragrance possessed the odour of amber, hyacinths, basils, roses, tulips.” & on the food: “..pheasants,herons, fish.. heaped everywhere & students sat cross-legged on carpets brought from Shiraz & Yemen..”
Jalal Rumi was the first principal of the Madrasa, who had a knowledge of 14 sciences and all 4 Quranic recitals. With some intense academic seminars and discussions happening among the students and the learned professors under the very roof, the place had a lively environment.
Unani medicine is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece but it had been passed on to many universities in Samarkand, Tashkent and brought to India finally by the refugee scholars, who would come to the Madrasa.
A place which would be lively with debates, discussions, Feroz Tughlaq chose this particular place for his final resting in the city of Mehrauli, away from his own city of Ferozabad. The Tomb is the most intricately carved tomb built with a band around of Quranic scriptures and stucco medallions which were later decorated by Ibrahim Lodhi, the dome especially is an exquisite site to watch. The best part about the tomb structure is the courtyard which served not for defense but for a place to sit and relax, unlike his ancestors from Tughlaq kingdom was something which catches the eye of a local.

The Guardians of the Slave dynasty fell apart: Lodhi Garden Walk

The 90 acre Lodhi Garden was initially called as Bagh-i-Jud, which suggests to us that it was a bagh even during the medieval times. But it houses the famous tombs of the Sayyids and the Lodhis, who happened to be the last of the slave dynasty, in the first part of 15th century. The garden which is now a sought after place for walks or yoga sessions, has a historical past to it.
The death of Firoz Shah Tughlaq brought with it hard times as till then, the dynasty was protected from invasions. With the onset of the Sayyid dynasty, who claimed to have an inheritance of Prophet Muhammad, through his daughter Fatima, had been in rule for approximately 37 years had been overthrown by Lodhis, who were Afghan descendants, the most loyal class who were loyal to the thrown and the responsibility which was bestowed on them.
A walk around the beautiful Lodhi Garden exposes us to the architectural intricacies of the Sayyids and the Lodhis, the only architectural contributions they had to make were the tomb structures which were as if to highlight the atmosphere of unrest, after the sudden fall of Sayyid dynasty.
The types of domes which are present in Lodhi garden can be categorized into two: octagonal colonnade tombs surrounded with a dome and square based tombs of two floors, where the window openings decorate the upper floor. The four corners of the square room is with squinches, which gives a 8 sided layout.
The BadaGumbad and the Masjid is termed as the finest gateway of the 15th century. They contain square tombs with turrets at the corners, the two levels giving a false impression of a double stories building is the most striking feature in BadaGumbad. One of the tallest structure in the complex, with the absence of grave inside the tomb suggests that it must have been a gateway to the mosque.
But the most striking architectural piece inside Lodhi Garden is the Sheesh Gumbad. It is a different feeling to see the blue tiles still on it. Originally, the gumbad was decorated with Persian glazed tiles of cobalt-blue and midnight-blue, which led to its name “Glass Dome”. It might be in a sad state, but it’s an architectural marvel left for us by the Lodhis, to admire.

The Story of the Cursed City!

The ruins of Tughlaqabad reflect a history of the ruined city. Abode of the first Tughlaq ruler Ghiyasuddin, who was perceived to be the agent of change from Khilji to the Tughlaqs was the agent of continuity for the Islam rule in delhi. The underlying tale of his change was kept alive by the prominent rulers, and the contemporaries who visited the court of Ghiyasuddin as historian like Barani and Afif had written about thecity as well as Amir Khusrau a poet and the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta. Above all, the greatest of the sufi saint of Delhi NizamuddinAuliya had a the biggest connection with the fort city right from its flourishing state to the state of ruin and further as being the cursed state.
While we walk through the whole place, the Tughlaq’s were busy erecting the massive fort city around the 14th century, the architects of this ingenious monument, devised a very unique way of perceiving architecture, which had not been experimented earlier. Crudely called as the defense architecture, it consisted of inward sloping double walled Cyclopean fort, which any other contemporary kingdom must have perceived it as tasteless architecture had one aim in mind: to sustain any Mongol invasion, who had paid bloody visits at the door steps of the seat of the power. The fortification highlights how Ghiyasiddin was living in troubled times.

The troubled times were much feared back then, so much so, that the tomb of Ghiyasuddin with its pentagonal fortified raised walls with five towers was a small fortress, including the four tiers of fire in the walls, a stepwell or baoli and a storage place inside the tomb suggests the self-sufficiency of this defense system. The tomb was conceptualized in an artificial lake to make it inaccessible to the enemy.
But one cannot come out of the fact that a Sufi saint’s eternal curse on the emperor and his city had been confined to ghosts.
The fort city is replete with baolis in all parts of the city, huge granaries suggest that the planners were interested in making the city self-sufficient in case of a long drawn scarcity of grains which were associated with seasonal fall in the market. It was rumored that the fort city had a gigantic place containing all the gold of the world.
Ghiyasuddin was obsessed with his new fort city which subsequently was his new capital as well. Trying to maintain his exclusivity, he wanted all his labourers to only work at the fort. The one’s working at NizamuddinAuliya’sKhanqah were even asked to abandon the work of the sufi saint. The workers with on choice left to them, started working at night in the Khanqah. When it reached the Sultan, he stopped the sale and use of oil so that they cannot continue their work. It is a belief amongst the people that NizamuddinAuliya asked his disciple HazratNaseeruddin to light the lamps of the workers with water. As the lamps were lit up miraculously, the step well was constructed in 7 days. Prophetically, NizamuddinAuliya had cursed the Sultan that his new city will either be deserted or occupied by herdmen, which is still the state of the fort city!
Even though the Tughlaqs have left, the ruins of the fort city makes us remember how a curse can desecrate the home of a Sultan, when in contrast Nizamuddin lives on!

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