The story of Hauz Khas & the ruins around it, 25may13

June 1, 2013 in Deer Park,Delhi Heritage Walks,DHW,hauz Khas,Walking Tour | Comments (0)


There are two large monument complexes in Delhi associated with Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq. His capital city, now called Kotla Firuz Shah & Hauz Khas. The latter has emerged as one of the most popular hangouts in Delhi, better known as HKV. Hauz Khas Village is known for cafés, high fashion boutiques, antique shops or for just bumming around. Just beyond the shops is a gateway which leads you to the monument complex built around a lake. The tank which was originally dug up by the second Khalji ruler Alauddin Khalji in the early 14th century was much larger than it appears today. Munda Gumbad, a ruined pavilion which stands on the boundary of the water body now, is said to have been a pavilion in the middle of the lake. That alone gives us some idea of the extent of the tank. If you are a bird watcher, a good time to visit the lake will be during winter and early spring.

The monuments which stand on the edge of the lake were a madrasa constructed by Firuz Shah Tughluq. Firuz Shah loved buildings and history. In 1350’s, he was the one who restored the abandoned tank and unblocked the streams and channels, renamed it as Hauz I Khas and went on to construct an array of structures including his tomb around the tank. As soon as you enter the complex, walk towards the right where a T-shaped pavilion is standing surrounded by rubble. The building has been around since 14th century & so has been the rubble, such is the tardy pace of restoration going on in the complex. It may have served as a meeting place or assembly hall but nobody is exactly sure about its purpose. After the decline of Tughlaq dynasty, this building was used by villagers of the nearby areas. Firuz Shah was responsible for setting up many madrasas in Delhi including the one at his son’s tomb complex known as Qadam Sharif. Education at these madrasas included a wide variety of subjects including Islamic Law, astronomy, magic, philosophy & literature. Firuz Shah’s college provided lodging facilities to the students built on the lower storey. The classrooms are located on the upper storey and students’ rooms on the lower storey. The entire complex is L-shaped & Firuz Shah’s tomb stands at the junction of the two wings. The original plan had a lush garden around the madrasa with fruit and flowers bearing plants.

A contemporary poet described it in the following words: I saw an even space as wide as the plain of the world. The courtyard was soul animating and its expanse was life-giving. The dust was musk- scented and its fragrance possessed the odour of amber. There were verdure everywhere and hyacinth, basil, roses and tulips blossoming and were beautifully arranged so far as the eye could reach… These lines will help you understand the original and present surroundings of the complex which once was the inspiration to poets and travellers to write about and admire. Firuz Shah was eighty one of age when he died in 1388 after four years of prolonged illness. One of the more ornate buildings in the complex, the tomb has a small yard in the front surrounded by stone railings typical of a Buddhist stupa, a feature which is not be found anywhere in India in an Islamic tomb. An inscription at one of the openings mentions of the repair work carried out by Sultan Sikander Lodi in 1508 AD. If you take the flight of stairs to the lower storey you can see the student accommodations, which are small dark cells. The pavilions in the lawns are tomb, probably of teachers associated with the madrasa.

From here walk back to the meeting point & carry on our heritage walk to the Deer Park. It has 3 monuments, the largest being a Lodi period tomb called Bagh- e- Alam ka Gumbad. The panel with Persian inscription on the western wall tells us the date of the construction i.e. 1501, also mentions the name of the builder. It is usually kept locked, but the ceiling of the tomb has painted patterns and tear drop shaped designs. Close by is Tuhfewala Gumbad, a Tughluq period tomb, looking rather stern. It has some massive cenotaphs but builder or the deceased for whom the tomb was built is now known. It has sloping walls, typical features of Tughluq architecture, which helps us date its construction. The tombstones are topped with kalam (pen) that indicates a male grave. The final stop on our walking tour was the Kali Gumti, a small domed building.

(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)

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