(pics by Nirmal Dayani, heritage walk enthusiast)
This heritage walk was special…we had four very young kids joining us at the Mehrauli Archaeological Park: Priyansh, Abeer, Vivaan and Ishaan. And for once, their questions outnumbered the answers available with Kanika, who was leading the walk!!!
We started at the gateway to Balban’s tomb. The area behind it was cleared recently in an archaeological excavation. Now we can see remains of a courtyard and a new rooms & graves towards the north. If one looks carefully, one can pick up shards of pottery scattered around the clearing! Balban’s tomb stands prominently against the skyline. It is in a ruined state and without a roof now, but initially would have been covered by a dome. It is a very significant structure because it was the first building to use the true arch in construction. Balban had a reputation of being a very strict king. In fact, he had spies all over the kingdom who kept a constant eye on his officials. Even the slightest mistake or corruption by his officials was severely punished. The adjacent chamber has a grave which is believed to be of Balban’s favourite son, Khan Shaheed. It is said that Balban died of grief at the death of this son. As we walked westwards from Balban’s tomb towards Jamali Kamali mosque, there are numerous ruined structured. They are remains of a residential settle which might have existed around 17th century. We can the foundations of small cell like rooms and some structures were even double-storeyed. Jamali Kamali mosque is named after a Sufi named Shaikh Fazlullah who lived in the first quarter of 16th century. He was also a poet who wrote by the pen name ‘Jamali’; that is why the mosque built by his is called so. Kamali was probably his companion, who is buried with him in the same tomb. The Jamali Kamali tomb is in a courtyard adjacent to the mosque. It is an extremely pretty structure with plaster and tile decoration in the interior.
We next walked towards what would have been the estate of British Resident, Thomas Metcalfe. The first landmark is his folly built on a high mound. Metcalfe purchased a Mughal tomb and the surrounding land and converted the whole area into his weekend retreat. He called it ‘Dilkusha’ or ‘that which pleases the heart’. This is not all…he not only converts a tomb into his residence, but also diverts a stream to create an artificial lake; builds a carriageway over the stream; and converts a dovecote into a boat house, part of which stood in the artificial lake!!! One cannot but wonder what a fabulous pleasure retreat the Dilkusha must have been. We climbed to the roof of the tomb, which offers an excellent view of the neighbourhood. The last stop on this heritage walk was the Rajon ki baoli. An early 16th century step well, the baoli gets its name from the word ‘rajgir’ or ‘rajmistry’ which means masons. This baoli was probably used by masons at some point of time.
(posted by Kanika Singh, team member, Delhi Heritage Walks)