Way back in the 13th century, Sultan Alauddin Khalji ruled from the capital city of Siri (Delhi). He decided to dig up a tank, Hauz i Alai, about 28 hectares large to provide water for the fields & the capital. After him, the Khalji dynasty declined & the tank fell into disrepair. It silted up & people carved out private plots of land on it. They dug wells & were selling of its water. The Khaljis were followed by Tughluqs among who Firuz Shah Tughluq took interest in this site. Firuz Shah was the last important Tughluq ruler, who had his capital at Firuzabad (now called Kotla Firuz Shah) on the river Yamuna. He repaired the tank, removed encroachments & built a madrasa complex around. This complex is the focus of our heritage walk.
Firuz Shah renamed it Hauz Khas, a special tank. The madrasa building is an L-shaped structure & double storeyed. It has a mosque, colonnaded halls (which were probably classrooms), cells (probably for living in) & independent standing pavilion many of which have graves. Firuz Shah Tughluq’s tomb stands at the junction of the 2 wings of the madrasa. There are stairs leading down to the tank from the building, at regular intervals. Now these are mostly closed up, some by iron grills, others by dumping rubble on them. Hauz Khas village has come around this very complex.
The Tughlaq kings were also the patrons of art and learning, they invited scholars, artists, architects and craftsmen from Western and Central Asia to the court of Delhi, a centre of learning in the 14th century. Contemporary historian, Zia-ud-Din Barani wrote “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 Hauz Khas madrasa was one such institution which would have attracted scholars & learners from far & wide.
The next part of our walking tour takes us in to Deer Park. And the rains came lashing too. The massive showers marked the beginning of an early monsoon in Delhi & it was great pleasure to walking around the trees enjoying the rain. Many parts of Hauz Khas monuments were waterlogged but that did not stop people from coming out celebrating the monsoon. There were singers & guitarists enjoying the weather in the medieval study halls!
The Deer Park has 3 monuments dating from the Tughluq & Lodi period. Bagh I Alam ka Gumbad is a massive tomb typical of Lodi architecture. Next to it stands a small mosque. Kali Gumti, a one roomed structure is located just across the walking path from the mosque. Walk a few steps ahead & you will find the Tuhfewala Gumbad hidden in foliage.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)