Hauz Khas village today is one of Delhi’s urban villages. It is today known for its cafés & designer shops. There are art galleries, curio shops as well as some selling antiques. The famous Deer Park is also in the same village. It is a large patch of greenery almost surprising the first time visitor with its variety of trees & the large area. Hidden among all this a medieval tank & a madrasa, going back to the 14th century. Our heritage walk to Hauz Khas village focuses on this monument complex. The construction of the Hauz or reservoir was initiated by Alauddin Khalji , a famous Delhi Sultan of the Khalji dynasty. He called it the Hauz i Alai. As a believer in Islam, construction of water tank was regarded as a pious deed. After many years of neglect, the royal tank was revived and de-silted by Firuz Shah Tughluq, who was a keen builder and he renamed it ‘Hauz Khas’ which means special tank. Known for his construction works, he also added many public and buildings in the complex. Our first stop is the mosque which remains locked nowadays due to restoration work (which has been going on for more than 3 years now!!!). It is a fairly plain structure but one striking feature is the huge open balcony window or jharokha, on the western wall which marks the direction of Mecca. Historical records state that Firuz Shah was very religious and a strict Muslim, however, the architectural idiom is what is commonly referred to as Indo-Islamic architecture which had evolved for almost 2 centuries before this. Next to the masjid is this t-shaped building most of the historians like to call a hall for public gathering, guessing from the spread, size and layout. It a minimally carved pillared building built with locally mined, grey quartzite stone. All this is part of the madrasa or college built by Firuz Shah Tughluq. The main college building is double storied built in L-shape. It has classrooms on the upper storey while the lower storey has residential units or students accommodation. As Delhi became one of the major centres for Islamic studies during medieval times, Firoz Shah invited best teachers from all the Islamic countries to impart knowledge to young people. At the focal point of the L-shape madarsa is his own tomb, Firuz Shah chose this complex over his capital Firozabad. This is a typical Tughluq building with a few Hindu architectural elements and a striking Buddhist feature. Before we enter the main central room, the tomb forms an open courtyard with stone railings, typical more of a Buddhist stupa rather than an Islamic tomb. Unlike the plain and minimal decoration on the outer wall, the inner dome is more intricately carved and decorated with stucco paintwork and calligraphic inscriptions, in particular the verses of hadith. The tomb is followed by an innovative pattern with a pillared classroom followed by domed classrooms. Right at the end of the structures, there is a tall building with multiple storeys but the purpose of the buildings is unknown. Most probably the upper floor served as a ‘reception’ for the visitors. Firuz Shah added an l- shaped garden with flowering plants and fruit bearing trees with scattered grave pavilions of departed teachers of the madrasa. The fascinating feature is the red sandstone battlement pattern, kanguras with around the dome. The teachers were held with high respect as these grave pavilions were probably used as open classrooms by the students. Next half of our heritage trail took us into the Deer Park to the Bagh I Alam ka Gumbad. The Persian inscription on the outer wall on the western side says that the structure was built by Abu Syed for Sheikh Shahbuddin during Sikander Lodi’s reign in the 16th century. The walk participants got to see clear difference in architecture and style between a Tughluq and Lodi structure. It has arches on the outer walls, traces of blue tile work, white and black marble decoration and a typical Hindu temple gateway. What stands out is the wall mosque with several unknown graves on the western side. Our second last structure stands on a platform hidden by trees, a Tughluq building named as Tuhfewala Gumbad, we have very less information about the people buried in the tomb. Our last structure is Kali Gumti meaning small domed building with blackened walls. This structure was recently lit up by the ASI. Most of the historians call it a Tughluq monument because of its inward sloppy walls, a typical Tughlaq feature. The structure contains no graves and has a wall mosque on the western side. Most of the participants agree that the complex is very different and a complete contrast as compared to the chaotic and modern structures outside the monumental complex.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)