The neighbourhood of Hauz Khas gets its name from a 13th century reservoir: ‘hauz’ is a tank & ‘khas’ is important or special. Now part of a DDA park, the tank was originally called Hauz i Alai, built by Sultan Alauddin Khalji. He also built his capital city of Siri, today the area around Asiad village & Khel Gaon marg. The tank served the needs of this capital city. After 50 years after Alauddin, another Delhi sultan, Firuz Shah Tughluq found the tank silted up & people growing crops on it. He removed the ‘encroachments’, re-dug the tank & built a madrasa & his own tomb along its edge. This entire complex today constitutes the ruins of Hauz Khas village.
Our heritage walk covered the Hauz Khas madrasa & monuments in Deer Park. What remains of the madrasa is just bare structure; still, it is an impressive building. Here’s what contemporary poet, Mutahhar has to say of the madrasa:
‘The moment I entered this blessed building through the gate, I saw a level space as wide as the plain of the world. The courtyard was soul-animating, and its expanse was life-giving. Its dust was musk-scented, and its fragrance possessed the odour of amber. There was verdure everywhere and hyacinths, basils, roses, and tulips were blooming and were beautifully arranged so far as the human eye could reach. It seemed as if the last year’s produce had in advance the current year’s fruits, such as pomegranates, oranges, guavas, quinces, apples, and grapes. Nightingales, so to say, were singing their melodious songs everywhere. It appeared as if they had guitars in their talons and flutes in their beaks.’
We walked around the upper storeys of the madrasa which mainly consist of colonnaded halls. There is minimal decoration on the walls but the pillars and beams on the roof give it an impression of strength. Now the tank is a few yards away from the building but initially its water would have lapped at the madrasa walls. One can see steps leading to the water, like in a ghat. On the other side of the tank is a ruined structure called the ‘munda gumbad’ or the bald/roofless dome. It is believed that this pavilion once stood within the tank. So it follows that the tank would have been at least twice its present size.
Firuz Shah’s tomb is located at the junction of the two wings of the madrasa. An unusual feature of the building is the stone railing forming a courtyard outside its main entrance. Such a railing is typical of Buddhist architecture & is quite unprecedented for Islamic buildings. A little ahead, towards the west are steps leading down to the lower level of the madrasa. This level has very small rooms, probably meant for students. The madrasa complex has the water tank along one edge and a garden along the other. There are several canopies in the garden, which are believed to be tombs of officials or teachers of the madrasa.
The Deer Park too has some monuments of interest. We first walked around the Bagh I Alam ka Gumbad, a Lodi period tomb. The tomb has a wall mosque with some graves in its courtyard. The mosque had traces of some very pretty plaster decoration, similar to what can be seen at the Jamali Kamali tomb complex in Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Next to it is a small single room structure called the Kali Gumti or ‘black hut’. The last stop on the walk was the Tuhfewala Gumbad. One doesn’t know why it is called so: it a typically Tughluq period building with sloping walls which give an impression of strength to the structure & has almost no decoration.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)