On the trail of sufis, sultans: a heritage walk in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, 4 Dec 2011

December 6, 2011 in Delhi Heritage Walks,DHW,Heritage Walks,Mehrauli Archaeological Park,Mehrauli Archaeological Park Heritage Walks | Comments (0)

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 verses 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. Our group of 20 odd met at the entrance to the Park and began exploring. 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.

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.

Our heritage trail then weaves its way through ruins of a residential settlement, to the Jamali Kamali mosque. Built by Maulana Jamali, 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 Quli Khan’s tomb, converted it into his residence, and modified a Lodi building into his boathouse, which stood in an artificial lake! And this estate was his Dilkusha or delighter of the heart! I like to call it the first farm house in Mehrauli!

The final stop on our heritage walk was the Lodi period stepwell, Rajon ki Baoli. The stepwell is a spectacular structure, in the middle of nowhere! The complex also has a tomb and a mosque. The baoli has recently undergone conservation work and currently there is de-silting work going on.

(posted by Kanika Singh & Awadhesh Tripathi, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)Mehrauli Archaeological Park Heritage Walk

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