This Sunday evening, our heritage trail was planned at Hauz Khas village, a shopper’s paradise & the Deer Park nearby. Walking together to the complex towards our first stop was the high parapet which overlooks the Hauz or Tank. Hauz Khas complex contains a water tank, madarsa, several tombs and graves, mosques and pavilions etc. Hauz Khas is an urban village now surrounded by fashionable boutiques and restaurants. As early as 13th century, it was a plain battlefield where important battles were fought especially the one between Mongols and Alauddin Khalji and Timur and Tughlaqs.
At the end of the 13th century, Alauddin Khalji decided to construct a large water reservoir to cater to the needs of growing population in and around his fortified city and new capital, Siri, which lies to the east of Hauz Khas. The tank was named Hauz-e- Alai which means ‘the tank of Alauddin’, & it was spread over some 28 hectares. To explain the extent of the tank, it was necessary to talk about a structure, Munda Gumbad or a bald domed structure which once formed the centre of the tank and was built during Khalji period when the tank was first dug up. Sadly, after the decline of Khalji dynasty, the focus shifted from Siri to other capitals and the tank fell into disuse and the water got silted. In the 14th century, Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351- 88), ascended the throne. He was a pious, kindhearted ruler and a great builder and constructed a number of roads, schools, canals, hunting lodges etc. He re-excavated the silted tank and raised several buildings on its southern and eastern banks and renamed the tank as Hauz Khas or royal tank. The buildings built by Firuz Shah consist of a double storied college or madarsa, his own tomb and several pavilions in the garden. As we traced our heritage walk through the madrasa we could see the upper and lower storey, classrooms and student resident units and a tall building at the end of the wing and two gatehouses.
A contemporary scholar Zia-ud-Din Barni had written “The capital of Delhi, by the present of these unrivalled men of great talents had become the envy of Bagdad, the rival of Cairo and the equal of Constantinople”.
The madarsa at Hauz Khas is a perfect example of Firuz Shah’s love of learning & architecture. He built his capital in Firozabad or Firuz Shah Kotla, but because of the fondness for the tank and its location, he built his own tomb at the focal point of the L- shaped college building. Firuz Shah’s tomb, with rubble masonry, a square chamber with a high dome, the highest point of the complex. The ceiling of this mausoleum chamber is decorated with plaster work and designs like pointed stars and inscriptions from the Quran. There are four marble cenotaphs or graves inside the structure, two of which belong to his son and grandson and third is of an unknown person. The tomb has a stone railing which forms a yard in front. The halls and rooms in the college buildings are connected through passages which are now closed. The college has tank on the one side and L- shaped garden on the other. There are several pavilions in the garden containing graves probably of the teachers of madarsa. Our heritage walk too us to the southern side of the college; to see structures such as T- shaped assembly hall. The function and purpose of the hall is unknown and there are no signs of graves. Close to the hall, a mosque was built for those who lived and worked in the madarsa which now remains closed. The mosque has a unique characteristic, the western wall or mihrab or direction of Qibla, is opened and a huge window or jharoka is built. The steps leading to the tank from madarsa and mosque suggests that the buildings were well- connected to the pond. The group walked towards the Deer Park side exiting the complex, to see some lesser known structures. To begin with, a tall building Bagh- i- Alam ka Gumbad. ‘Alam’ is the world. A Lodi period tomb, according to an inscription in Persian, says it was built by a person named Abu Syed over the remains of a Saint, Miyan Shaikh Shihabuddin Taj Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. Nothing is known about the builder and the saint. This elegant building has a facade which gives a false impression of three- storeys, & its façade it decorated with blue tile work. On the western side, there is wall mosque and several graves. We proceeded to another structure, Tuhfewala Gumbad, which is a Tughluq period tomb containing high cenotaphs, much plainer than the previous Lodi tomb. Close by we have our last structure, belonging to Tughluq period, a small tomb named Kali Gumti, a black domed building with blackened exteriors with a wall mosque on the western side. It was an ideal day for heritage walk, with light rain and cool breeze, bringing a welcome respite from the harsh summer.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)