The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a part of the Aravallis bits of which is landscaped & maintained by Delhi Development Authority. Mehrauli being the oldest continuously inhabited area of Delhi has a long and fascinating history. This is where the first cities of Delhi came up. There are remains of Rajputs’ cities to monuments built by Delhi Sultans & then the Mughals. British could resist the temptation of compete with the Sultans of Delhi either. Our walking tour in Mehrauli offers a glimpse into these multiple layers of the region’s history. We start our heritage walk at gateway to the tomb of Sultan Balban. The tomb is considered the first monument to use the true arch and dome in the subcontinent. It has three chambers all in ruined condition, with the roof long gone. There is no cenotaph in the main hall. A grave in the adjacent chamber is considered to be that of Khan Shaheed, Balban’s son. A small flight of steps led us to the ruins of residential settlement which dates back to 17th century. Some of these structures are double storeyed. The next stop on the heritage trail is the mosque of Jamali Kamali. A Sufi saint and poet, Shaikh Fazlullah who used the penname ‘Jamali’ commissioned this mosque next to his personal room. He lived when the Lodi dynasty was towards its end & saw the first two Mughal kings as well. The mosque with five arched openings has decorations highlighted on red sandstone and white marble. The main building material remains quartzite. The tomb has been recently worked upon & the plaster looks fresh & clean. Towards the fag end of the Mughal dynasty, all this land was purchased by British Resident Thomas Metcalfe. Mehrauli has many structures built by Metcalfe which is termed by historians as Metcalfe’s follies! Metcalfe constructed a bridge which still stands; it leads to his estate called Dilkusha or heart’s delight. The estate included many pleasure pavilions including a boathouse. Mohd Quli Khan’s tomb was converted into residence by adding rooms on all eight sides. On one side, additions made by Thomas Metcalfe still stand. The blue stuccowork on the walls of the tomb recently underwent restoration work during 2010 Commonwealth Games at Delhi. The final stop on our walking tour was a step well, Rajon ki Baoli (raj referes to masons. A three storied step well with arched rooms on both sides & has a deep well to its south-east. Since the baoli is completely dry, we climbed down into the well, hoping to see stars from the bottom of the well!
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)