Mehrauli lies on the Aravallis; the terrain is uneven and now Acacia is the most commonly found variety of tree. Centuries ago, this landscape was interspersed with natural streams & the rocky landscape provided plenty of scope for habitation. There is evidence of prehistoric settlements on the Aravallis in the Delhi region. Our heritage walk today covered a small part of this landscape. The neighbourhood of Mehrauli is located on the southern part of Delhi on the Aravallis & this is where the first cities of Delhi came up. As a result Mehrauli is a minefield of historical remains. We traced a heritage trail through the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in search of some of these.Our heritage walk starts at the gateway to Balban’s tomb and moved in the large open space created just beyond it after the archaeological excavation. One can find pottery shards lying about on the site. It’s amazing how archaeology transforms landscape. About a year ago this area was completed covered in mud and vegetation. One of the chambers’ in Balban’s tomb has the grave of his son, Khan Shaheed although there is another building in the Park which was meant to be his burial place. We next walked through the ruins of a residential settlement towards Jamali-Kamali mosque. The mosque is well maintained and Jamali’s tomb is one of the highpoints of the walk. ‘Jamali’ was the pen-name used by Shaikh Fazlullah, a sufi & a poet. He wrote in praise of Sikander Lodi & even a couple of early Mughals. The mosque was built by him, & a courtyard adjacent to the mosque has his tomb. The tomb chamber retains most of its painter plaster decoration & tile work. The blue, red, green and yellow still retain their vibrancy even after so many centuries.
Close to Jamali Kamali mosque & tomb stands a hillock with a canopy on top. This is Thomas Metcalfe’s folly: source of great amusement to all! All the land around was purchased by Metcalfe & landscaped & transformed to his liking. He was inspired enough to convert tombs into residences, divert streams and make boathouses! He called the estate ‘Dilkusha’ or ‘delighter of the heart’! Metcalfe’s Dilkhusha covers a vast area and one can’t help but think of it as a predecessor of the Mehrauli farmhouses today!
The final stop on our trip was a step well known as Rajon ki Baoli. This complex has recently undergone restoration work. The well is completely dry but initially it would have held enough water to submerge two lower storeys of the baoli.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)