The heritage walk at Hauz Khas includes visits to the 14th century madarsa (Islamic seminary), the water tank and the tombs located around the village and the Deer Park. This walk was in a way continuation of the first walk held at the Firuz Shah Kotla (citadel and palace of Firuz Shah) as some of the monuments in Hauz Khas were also built by Firuz Shah Tughluq. The monument complex comprising the madrasa is located next to the Deer Park and its passage is through the famous Hauz Khas village market, known for its fashion shops, pubs and eateries.
The walking tour began with a small introduction about the history of the monuments. Our first discussion was about famous the water tank by Sultan Alauddin Khilji (1296–1316). The tank (spread over 100 acres) was constructed to meet the water needs of the people living in and around the capital city of Siri built by the sultan. A dome now called Munda Gumbad was built in the centre of the tank. At present, the dome is located outside the tank, which has considerably reduced in size over the centuries due to encroachments and construction and lack of water. The tank was first known as Hauz-i-Alai. ‘Hauz’ in Persian means tank and ‘Alai’ comes from Khilji’s first name. It subsequently came to be called Hauz Khas or the royal tank. The tank was later renovated by Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351–88) of the Tughluq dynasty. Shah had restored many other buildings, the famous being the Qutb Minar and he is known for the construction of irrigation canals, mosques, gardens and other public infrastructure.
Our second stop was the madarsa built by Firuz Shah in 1350s. This was supposed to be the largest Islamic seminary of the world of that time. It’s an L-shaped building, located on the banks of the water tank. To the south-east is the tomb of Firuz Shah and to its north is a masjid (mosque). The madarsa is a two-story structure built in a typical Tughluq-style: it is massive and austere while incorporating the pleasing features of Indo-Islamic style. It seems that the first floor with its pillared halls would be the place for holding classes and the ground floor with small cell-like rooms would be the residential portion. The entire madarsa is inter-connected through domed and pillared halls. Each floor has staircases that lead to the water tank. However these have been locked by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Timur, a feared Persian ruler who invaded Delhi in 1398 had camped at this madarsa and he wrote praises about it.
The masjid to the north of the tomb is locked. Its a small structure with jharokas (projecting windows) and the mihrab (indicating the west or the direction of kaaba or Mecca ) of the masjid overlooks the water tank.
We next visited the tomb of Firuz Shah which is made of quartzite stone rubble. It also has carvings of battlements made of red sandstone on top of its entrance. There are four graves inside the tomb. These belong to Firuz Shah (the central one), his son and grandson. The identity of the fourth grave is not known. The ceiling of the tomb has Quranic inscriptions. An inscription at the entrance of the tomb indicates that Sikandar Lodi repaired the tomb sometime around 1507.
The final stop on our heritage trail was to the tombs located in the Deer Park. Bagh-i-Alam ka Gumbad (tomb of the garden of universe) is a Lodi period tomb and masjid. The tomb is locked by the ASI. The facade has red sandstone and remains of blue ceramic tiles are still visible. We ended our walk with a visit to the Tuhfewala Gumbad (another imposing Tughlaq period tomb) and Kali Gumti (literally, the black hutment).
(Photos & text by Jamal Kidwai, and the walk was led by Moby Zachariah, both team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)