(photos by Chhavi Sharma, team member, Delhi Heritage Walks & Vinay Kumar, a regular at our walks)
The ‘walk of the month’ for August was Kotla Firuz Shah: a 14th century citadel built by the Tughluq king, Firuz Shah. A group of about 20 heritage enthusiasts braved Delhi’s summer to be part of this walk. For some of us it was a trip down the memory lane…those who had lived in the neighbourhood of Kotla and spent their childhood frequenting the ruins here, bunking classes and hiding away from home. Kotla is relatively lesser known among the historic cities of Delhi for most Delhiites. But for the locals it is actually a shrine of great significance. The locals believe that the ruins are inhabited by jinns. People come here in hoards to offer prayers to jinns and have their wishes fulfilled. These are written down on paper and left among the dark niches in walls. One can see threads, incense sticks and flowers as marks of worship on the ruins. This is the place referred to by William Dalrymple in his ‘City of Djinns’.
The ruins we see today was the citadel of Firuz Shah’s new city, Firuzabad, built along the river Yamuna. If we can believe contemporary descriptions, it was more than double the size of Shahjahanabad. And for the people of Delhi in those days, the new city soon became a popular resort. People used to travel from Mehrauli and Siri to Firuzabad, for pleasure!
The citadel today is in a much ruined state. As we enter from the west gate, we can see single rooms on the ground floor which probably acted as guard houses. On the south side of the citadel there existed a series of gateways leading into courtyards which probably were assembly points for various official purposes. On the eastern end were riverside apartments, which were probably living quarters. Some have been identified as zenana chambers. The Jami Masjid is one of the impressive monuments surviving now. We walked north from the royal chamber thought the vaulted chambers under the mosque courtyard and entered the mosque from the elevated northern porch. This must have acted as the main gateway to the mosque.
Next to the mosque stands the Minar I Zarrin or the ‘Golden Column’. This 4th century BC, Ashokan pillar was found in Topra (Haryana) by Firuz Tughluq who decided to bring it to his own capital and erect it as a monument for future generations. He built the pyramid for the pillar and called it the ‘golden column’. It was a wonder of the age..no one had seen anything like it before and no one could decipher what was inscribed on the pillar!
The last stop on our heritage walk was the circular baoli. There are series of subterranean apartments around the well and each has water receptacles, probably for ornamental display of water. It must have been a breathtaking sight when fully functional…a truly wonderful setting for concluding our visit to Firuz Shah’s citadel.
(posted by Rajesh Ranjan & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)