As always the Mehrauli Archaeological Park reflected the changing colours of season. The bougainvillea was in full bloom and lent a splash of bright colour on a landscape which is almost wild. Our heritage walk started from Balban’s tomb, one of the most important buildings in India, architecturally speaking. It is the oldest building in India to use the true arch in its construction. Before this, our artisans had some trouble erecting domes. Such small corbelled domes and their remnants can be seen in the Qutb complex even now. Just before the tomb is an open area, which happens to be a recently excavated archaeological site. It revealed a stone flooring, a few rooms and a few graves; probably part of the residential settlement which is little further ahead on the heritage trail. In Balban’s tomb, his own grave is no more extant. But we do have a grave in the adjacent chamber which is believed to be of his favourite son, Khan Shaheed. Khan Shaheed died young fighting the Mongols. It is said that Balban, who was notorious as a strict and ruthless ruler, died in grief at the death of this very son. The tomb also has a bit of plaster decoration left which gives us an idea how it might have looked like originally. Along the tomb is a residential settlement which is dated to about 17th century. Our next stop on this heritage walk was Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb. The 16th century mosque is a great example of Indo-Islamic architecture and the tomb has often been described as a jewel box! The bright decoration in plaster and tile is of its kind in Delhi. Just north of the tomb, begins the famous ‘dilkusha’ of Thomas Metcalfe, the aptly named Metcalfe’s folly greets us from a mound! Then comes the carriageway, the dovecot converted into a boathouse and the tomb made into his residence! The tomb belonged to Muhammad Quli Khan, who worked under Akbar. It is said once Metcalfe purchased it, he removed the sarcophagus and replaced it with a billiards’ table! The last stop on this heritage walk was the spectacular Rajon ki baoli. The way the levels of the step well are revealed to the approaching visitor is breathtaking! It is currently undergoing conservation work.
(posted by Kanika Singh, team member, Delhi Heritage Walks & pics by Vinay Kumar, a regular at our walks)