On the day of separation from you in helplessness and loneliness, nothing consoles us but the sorrow we feel for you.
O Jamali! Resort to the door of the friend, for our refuge is the door of the beloved.
These are lines by poet & traveller, Sheikh Fazlullah, who went by the pen name Jamali. And his name lives on today…the park where our heritage walk was organized is locally known as Jamali Kamali. Officially, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, very few know it by that name. The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a minefield of archaeological remains! Everywhere the eye goes, there are remains of historic settlements, some almost devoured by vegetation. Close to the entrance is a clearing, beyond a gateway, which is a recently excavated archaeological site. I shared some of my surface finds with the group: a small clay toy shaped like a horse, bits & pieces of pottery! They have unearthed a stone floor and a few rooms to the east, some with graves in them. One just has to start digging & it is not difficult to find some remains. In fact, the builders who construct apartments in Mehrauli area, regularly hit a grave platform or foundations of old buildings. This is how thickly littered this area is with the remains of historic Delhi. Of course, the medieval buildings are the most easily visible. But Delhi region’s history goes back to prehistory. And there are some important archaeological sites, esp along the Delhi Ridge.
The large building just after the clearing is one of the most important in the history of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is the tomb of Sultan Balban, and the earliest building to use the true arch in construction. It is dated to second half of 13th century. Balban’s tomb is no longer extant but the adjacent chamber has a grave which is believed to be of his favourite son, Khan Shaheed. The walking tour then weaves its way through ruins of a residential settlement, to the Jamali Kamali mosque. Built by Maulana Jamali (Sheikh Fazlullah), the mosque enclosure also has Jamali’s tomb. The tomb is a fine example of decorative work in plaster and tiles. The walls are inscribed with verses penned by Jamali himself, one of which is quoted above. The second grave in the tomb, it is said, is that of Kamali, his close companion.
A few steps from Jamali Kamali mosque & tomb, sits a canopy, atop a small hill. This is Metcalfe’s folly. Thomas Metcalfe was a British Resident at the Mughal court who purchased land here and landscaped it to his liking. He bought Mohammad Quli Khan’s tomb, converted it into his residence, and modified a Lodi building into his boathouse. He diverted streams to create artificial lakes & so that his boathouse was standing in water, once. And he chose to call this weekend retreat the, Dilkusha or delighter of the heart! I like to call it the first farm house in Mehrauli! This area is adjacent to the Qutb complex, & Metacafe would often ride his buggy around the Qutb ruins. There is a proposal to include the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in the World Heritage Site of Qutb Minar, but proposal will probably end up being part of ‘legends of Delhi’ some 100 years from now!
The final stop on our heritage walk was the Lodi period step well, Rajon ki Baoli. This step well is a spectacular structure, in the middle of nowhere! One doesn’t see the whole building in one glance. The well slowly reveals its levels as one approaches it. The effect is quite incredible. The baoli is completely dry & the well was recently cleaned up. So it is clear of the garbage thrown by visitors over years, but the debris from the cleanup operation now litters the complex! The tomb & a mosque stands next to the baoli & are probably contemporary.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Awadhesh Tripathi, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)