The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is one of the best areas to explore in Delhi. Located on the Aravallis, this area is extremely rich in history. Being the longest inhabited region of Delhi, the Mehrauli area has seen settlements for a thousand years now. This is where the first cities of Delhi came up, and even when the capital moved to other locations, Mehrauli continued to be inhabited. So this area is practically littered with monumental remains.
Our heritage walk starts at the entrance to the park. We walk towards a gateway, which gives way to a clearing. Beyond this is the tomb of Balban, one of the Sultans of Delhi. Balban’s tomb is the earliest structure to use the true arch in construction, hence, an extremely significant monument! His grave is no longer extant and the one in the adjacent chamber is believed to be of his favourite son, Khan Shaheed. Next, we walk through the ruins of a 17th century settlement area to the mosque of Jamali Kamali. The mosque is considered one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. The adjacent tomb has extremely pretty decoration. The ceiling has patterns carved on plaster and painted in blue, red and green and tile work. Jamali was a sufi and a poet, and his verses are carved in the walls of the tomb. Their lies another grave in the tomb, believed to be that of Kamali, perhaps a close companion or friend of Jamali. This is the monument that gives the park its local name, Jamali Kamali. A large part of what is today the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, was purchased by the British Resident, Thomas Metcalfe. Metcalfe not only purchased the land, but the ruins standing on it as well, and then went about landscaping them. We see Metcalfe’s folly, standing on top of a mound, just beyond the Jamali Kamali mosque. Also, he converted the tomb of Mohd. Quli Khan and converted it into his residence; another ruin, from the Lodi period, was converted into a boathouse by him! All this was part of his weekend retreat, which he named Dilkusha or delighter of the heart! The final stop on our heritage walk was a magnificent step well called Rajon ki baoli. This is an early 16th century step well which has an adjacent tomb and a mosque. The baoli has recently undergone conservation work.
(posted by Kanika Singh & photos by Chhavi Sharma, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)