Mehrauli, one of the oldest cities in Delhi, is the perfect example of the amalgamation of the past and the present. Mehrauli Archaeological Park, a magnificent structure of medieval India is home to many historically rich structures spread across 200 acres.
From structures belonging to the 13th century to the pleasure house of an Englishman from the 19th century, Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a wonderful place to relive Delhi’s legacy.
Reminiscence of the Past
The story of slaves and masters and their transitions and rebellions can fascinate anyone. The first monument you come across is the famous 13th century tomb of Ghiyas ud din Balban, the last Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate.
Ghiyas ud din Balban was one of the most powerful rulers of the Mamluk Dynasty, also known as the ‘Slave Dynasty’ between 1266 A.D. to 1287 A.D. Captured by a merchant as a child, Balban was later bought as a slave by Iltutmish and eventually released from bondage under the orders of the emperor Qutub-ud-din-Aibak. After working in the court for years, at the age of 60 in 1266 A.D. Balban ascended the royal throne.
Balban’s tomb is open to the sky and enclosed within the old ruined walls and arches that represents impressive Indo-Islamic architectural style, one of the firsts in the country. If you walk towards the east of the tomb through the arched gateways, you will find a rectangular grave of Sultan Balban’s son, Khan Shahid, who died two years before his father’s death.
Many claim that they can smell sandalwood agarbattis (incense) around Balban’s tomb though none are ever lit in the vicinity. Visit the tomb to find out the real answer yourself!
Secret Lovers and the Djinns
Around 200 metres west of Balban’s tomb is where you can find this iconic monument – the tomb of Jamali-Kamali, built in 1528-29, that shares its boundaries with the premises of Qutub Minar. The insides of the mausoleum, built by one of the followers of the 16th-century poet Jamali, resemble the insides of a jewelry box with intricate red and blue stucco work.
Jamali, pseudonym of Sheikh Hamid bin Fazlu’llah, came to India during the reign of Sikander Lodi and settled in Delhi. Sikander Lodi, who himself was a renowned poet was influenced by the poems of this Sufi saint asked him to correct his poetries. Jamali stayed in the court of Babar and Humayun and it is believed it was Humayun who had Jamali’s tomb built.
There are several mysteries associated with the tomb of Kamali. For starters, no one seems to have the right idea about who Kamali was. Many like to believe that Kamali was either a follower or a brother of Jamali, while many others say that it was actually the works of Kamali that Jamali took credit for.
An American author Karen Chase has mentioned in her book “Jamali- Kamali, A Tale of Passion in Mughal India” that they were actually forbidden homosexual lovers. A lot of historians also like to believe the plausible case that Kamali was the beloved wife of Jamali who died first.
The mystery of Djinns haunting this place is a very old story, believed till date by many passersby. According to mythology, Djinns are what God created with fire and they reside in abandoned places in their own parallel universe. They sometimes cross these worlds and decide to stay amongst humans in invisible form. Such is the mystery associated with the Jamali-Kamali tomb!
An Englishman’s Folly
In front of Jamali’s tomb is a manicured lawn with structures representing the blend of Indo-Islamic and Victorian architecture. Sir Thomas Metcalfe, agent of the governor general of India at the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar (1835-1853) was the architect of this puzzling space. He bought the tomb of Quli Khan and converted it into his pleasure retreat.
There are no definite records available, but Quli Khan is said to be the foster brother of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Sir Thomas made several additions to the landscape like building ornamental pavilions and adding chattris, ziggurats, stables and an irregular gateway.
Although these annexes were taken down by the ASI, the spectacular view of Qutub Minar from the premises of the tomb of Quli Khan is quite a retreat from the Delhi chaos.
The Well of Mysteries
Less than 100 metres west from Jamali-Kamali’s tomb, you can reach two enormous step-wells – Rajon ki Baoli and Gandhak ki Baoli. Though constructed 300 years apart, both these step-wells show an immense similarity between their sizes and structure.
Rajon means ‘masons’ and not kings whereas baoli means ‘well’. Now the question that arises in the heads of all avid readers and historians is that why and how did the masons manage to make a baoli dedicated to themselves in the 16th century?
Daulat Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, built this triple storeyed step-well with an additional ground level in 1516. This enormous baoli is surrounded by high arched halls with calligraphic inscriptions of the Quran all over it.
Both these magnificently designed baolis were used by people to bathe and congregate in. Gandhak ki Baoli was used as a sauna hundred of years back and even today by visiting these structures, you can experience the perfect intersection between the past and the present.
The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a true testimony to the many waves of settlers this city has folded into its fabric over centuries.
If you’re stopping by Delhi and looking to explore the city beyond the shops and food, you must visit the splendid historical monuments. Contact Us today to book your tour!