The ruins of Jahanpanah are a curious lot. Not much survives of the famed capital city of Mohammad Tughluq. A cluster of buildings in south Delhi near Kalu Sarai, locally known as Vijay Mandal, are believed to be the remains of Jahanpanah. Our heritage walk in this complex explores the stories of this city of Delhi.
It was widely believed by Mohd. Tughluq’s contemporaries that he killed off his father, Sultan Ghiysuddin Tughluq, to get to the throne. And the guilt of this act would not let him be at peace in his father’s citadel, Tughluqabad. So he first created a small citadel for himself called Adilabad & then planned to make a new capital city larger than anything Delhi had seen before. His plan was to enclose the older cities of Delhi-Lal Kot, Qila Rai Pithora, Siri-within a boundary wall, which would also have his new palace and court. Mohd. Tughluq called it the ‘Jahanpanah’ or refuge of the world. The Vijay Mandal is what remains of his palace. As we entered the complex, a lush field of grass lay before us, leading on to the citadel. The overnight rains had left a heavy mist around a complex, making the complex look like a retreat at a hill station.
The first cluster of monuments appears immediately to your right: a small graveyard, under a large shady tree, along with remains of a rectangular pavilion. The burials are said to be that of a sufi saint from Jaunpur, Shaikh Hasan Tahir and his family or followers. Shaikh Hasan had a solid reputation has a scholar of ‘wahadat ul wujud’ or the doctrine of ‘unity of being’. Sultan Sikander Lodi (whose tomb is in Lodi Garden) was said to have been so impressed with the saint, he invited him over to Delhi. The buildings in the complex which we have not been able to identify, have been conveniently attributed to Shaikh Hasan-his hospice, his madrasa, his prayer chamber & so on 🙂 . Sikander Lodi’s brother ruled at Jaunpur and he too was a follower of the saint.
Follow the narrow trail in the grass which leads you to the main citadel. There is a large building to the right. Nobody has a clue to its purpose or antecedents, so we will call it the ‘curious, domed building’. Some say this might have been the place where Shaikh Hasan lived while he was in Delhi. Entry to palace area is through a series of narrow steps. The first level is made up of remains of a hall & ‘treasure pits’. If you look carefully at the ground, there is a series of square blocks. These are pillar bases and they go all around the existing halls. This is what has been identified as the famed ‘Hazar Sutun’, the hall of thousand pillars. Some of the most extensive descriptions of this hall and rest of Mohd. Tughluq’s palace, appear in the travelogue of Ibn Battuta.
He was a Moroccan who travelled all over the world, including Arabia, Persia, China, and India. His recent claim to fame in Bollywood has been that he featured in the title song of the Hindi movie ‘Ishqiya’. Hindi poet Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena has a children’s poem named after him. Ibn Battuta spent a few years at Mohd Tughluq’s court and gives a vivid description of everything he sees. He mentions the samosa (samusa), seeing the rhinoceros in Punjab, a sati, cities-their architecture & shrines, and all the gossip as well. So he plainly accuses Mohd. Tughluq and the chief architect Khwaja Jahan of murdering Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq; and on the other hand he does not hesitate to praise Mohd Tughluq’s large heartedness. Many a stories in his account are set in the public audience hall of Jahanpanah, the Hazar Sutun.
Climb up another level & you reach the octagonal pavilion, open from all sides. There are two narrow staircases leading to the roof of the pavilion. Standing here, one does get a sense of grandeur of the capital city. The Begumpur Masjid, the next stop on our heritage walk is visible close by. On a clear day one can see as far as Mehrauli, which would have been part of Jahanpanah. The Begumpur mosque is one of the grandest buildings in Delhi, although one of the least visited. Some say that the mosque was the Jama Masjid of Jahanpanah. Others maintain that this is one of the seven mosques built by the Khan i Jahan Tilangani & his son Khan i Jahan Jauna Khan during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq. Khan I Jahan Tilangani was the Prime Minister of Firuz Tughluq & was succeeded by his son Jauna Khan to the post. The duo was extremely powerful, so much so that Khan I Jahan Tilangani was called the ‘king of Delhi’ by the Sultan himself!
One is filled with a sense of wonder upon entering the Begumpur Mosque. The courtyard is vast & enclosed by a vaulted arcade on all four sides. The entry is through the east gate. The mosque is plain, still awe inspiring. We rambled through its arcade to its northern wall, which has a tiny niche. This is the way to the women’s prayer hall, which is built at a height from the courtyard. The stairs continue up to the roof from which one gets a magnificent view of the mosque, Begumpur village & the Kalu Sarai area.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Awadhesh Tripathi, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)