It is quite an experience to roam around in historical complexes with a bunch of history lovers. The monsoons are here & no matter how little rainfall we get, one can’t help but feel good about it. I couldn’t but feel that the dim colour of the rainy day merged very well with grayish brown colour of the monuments. After walking through the chaotic road of Hauz Khas village, we stood at the high parapet overlooking the water tank for a brief introduction about the history of the complex. The area gets its name from the artificial water tank built by Alauddin Khalji in the 13th century to ensure water supply to the growing population of Siri. The tank was named as Hauz-e- Alai. What we have today is not the actual size of the tank, it was spread over 28 hectares and surrounded with trees bearing fruits and flowering plants. The tank then fell into disuse after the decline of Khalji dynasty. Then came, Firuz Shah Tughluq, an active builder of mosques, colleges, tombs etc and also he also repaired pre- existing structures. He was attracted to this complex so much that he decided to repair the tank, built his own tomb and a Madrasa, college for higher studies. As a part of his construction projects, he cleared the dry tank and de-silted its water channels. It attracted more and more people to settle down here. There are structures like a mosque and a t-shaped assembly hall. Mosque remains closed most of the time but it is architecturally unique as it has a wide open jharoka on the western wall instead of mihrab and steps leading us downstairs to the tank. There is discrepancy among the historians about the purpose of t- shaped of structures. Some say it had graves whereas some strongly believe it was a hall for the public meetings. Firuz Shah was a strong believer in Islam and he didn’t leave a chance to prove it right. A madarsa was constructed under the orders of the emperor to teach Islamic law, Quran and subjects like astronomy, calligraphy etc. He built the two storey madrasa with classrooms on the upper storey and students residential units on the lower storey. The structures are made of grey quartzite largely available in Delhi and minimal carvings are typical of Tuqhluq dynasty. It is interesting to note how well the structures were connected to the tank with steps. Firuz Shah planned the layout in such a way that structures are L- shaped and at the focal point is its own Tomb. The dome of the building forms the highest point and it stands out because of its Indo- Islamic architecture, detailed decoration, stucco work and Quranic inscription. The madrasa has a uniform pattern with a pillared hall followed by a domed building. If we take the steps from the lower storey, we see the upper storey of a tall building of which the purpose is unknown. After we saw the western and eastern gate, we entered the l- shaped garden which was once clad with flowering plants. The pavilions in the garden are significant as they are believed to be the graves of teachers who taught the students of madarsa. Pavilions also acted like classrooms where the students could sit and study in the presence of their departed teachers. The group then proceeded to three lesser known monuments- Bagh-e- Alam ka Gumbad, Tuhfewala Gumbad and Kali Gumti. Bagh- e- Alam literally means garden of the world. This is the only Lodi structure in the complex, made up of neatly cut granite and more elaborately decorated and detailed with stucco work, blue tiles and stones like red sandstone and marble. A Persian inscription on the western wall reads that the structure was built as the memorial, in 1501, by Abu Syed for Sheikh Shahabuddin Taj Khan during Sikander Lodi’s reign. The structure has an adjoining wall mosque with many burials scattered. We went on to our second last spot; Tufhewala Gumbad belongs to Tughlaq Dynasty. It is plainer and dull as compared to the previous Lodi Dynasty. This structures few high cenotaphs. Kali Gumti was our last spot; it is blackened small structure with a wall mosque on the western side. It is believed that it was constructed by Tughluqs. It feels good when the group looks familiar with the history of the structures in the complexes and keen in learning about other structures and wants to attend more heritage walks.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)