‘Keele to dheeli bhai, Tomara bhaya mat heen’
This couplet referring to the Iron Pillar in the Qutb Complex is one of the popular stories on how Delhi was named. Our heritage walk at the Qutb Complex explored similar interesting nuggets on Delhi and its history. Delhi is known for its capital cities, and it all started here in the Mehrauli area where the Qutb stands today. The first cities of Delhi, the Lal Kot, Qila Rai Pithora and then capital of the Turks were all here. The Complex also has the first congregation mosque, the Jami Masjid, which is popularly known as the Quwwat ul Islam mosque. It is distinctive for the reuse of material taken from temples, used to create the cloisters of the mosque. Some of the pillars have mason’s marks on them giving numbers to the pillars.
In the courtyard stands the famous Iron Pillar. According to local legends, it was designed to be the standard of Vishnu and meant to be implanted into the hood of the celestial serpent on which the earth rests. At the same time a curse was pronounced on anyone who tampered with it. The Tomara prince who had the pillar installed in Delhi wanted to make sure that it has been planted deep enough to enter the hood and had it dug up. The base was found to be smeared with the serpent’s blood. The curse took its baneful course and the Tomara dynasty declined. The event was recorded in a verse: ‘Kelee to dheelee bhaee, Tomara bhaya mat heen’ or ‘The pillar was loosened and the Tomar lost his head’. Thus some people argue that ‘dilli’ is a pun on the word ‘dheele’ meaning ‘loose’!
We used a map to understand the ruins and imagine the way the complex might have been: the Qutb, the majestic screens with their stone carvings and the extensions to the mosque. The Qutb Minar itself is too well known as monument for anyone to attempt explaining it. Most of us have grown us studying about it and identifying is as one of the most well known landmarks of Delhi. The best piece of information was of course the fact that a film song ‘Dil Ka Bhawan Kare Pukar’ featuring Dev Anand & Nutan was shot here, or as some say, on sets made to look like steps of the Qutb Minar!
Other important monuments covered in the heritage walk were the Alai Minar, the Alai Darwaza, Iltutmish’s tomb, Alauddin Khalji’s madrasa and tomb, Robert Smith’s Folly, Imam Zamin’s tomb and the sundial in the lawns of the Qutb which is in memoriam to the archaeologist, Gordon Sanderson.
(posted by Kanika Singh, team member, Delhi Heritage Walks; photos by Nirmal Dayani & Vinay Kumar, regulars at our walks)