The Mystique of Mehrauli

Meh44 balban gateway.jpg
Gateway to Balban’s Tomb

As Indraprastha in the age of Mahabharata it was a city ruled by Pandavas. Painted grey ware found in excavations near the site of Purana Qila points at the long continuity of civilization in the national capital region. From Mauryas in the third century BC to the modern Republic of India, Delhi or Dhillika has been ruled by several dynasties. From Tomar Rajputs like King Anangapal to the British who shifted India’s capital to Delhi from Kolkata in 1911 every clan has added its share of monumental heritage. For a design enthusiast there is a lot to learn in Delhi … visit to each monument brings the flavour of different aesthetic styles and construction methods. Having explored Tuqhlakabad and Shahjehanabad (heritage cities of Delhi) I decided to explore the Mehrauli area.

Meh37 Balban tomb
Balban’s Tomb

The first monument I visited was Balban’s tomb. Ghiyatuddin Balban was the ninth sultan in the Mamluk or slave dynasty. He ruled as Sultan of Delhi from 1266 to 1287. The importance of this monument in terms of understanding Indo-Islamic architecture does not reflect in its present state where it lies ignored and locked away; accessible only through an unkept walkway. This is the first monument in India where a true arch was used unlike prior examples of corbelled arches. (ref- Delhi and its neighbourhood – Y D Sharma, published by ASI page 65)

Meh38 rubble arch

Well there are several arrows in the park that point to various monuments but the information design is pathetic. Many ruins are covered by trees and there are no clear paths with directions that guide us to find them. I found Balban’s tomb purely thanks to GPS. I also tried to locate Shahid Khan (Balban’s son) tomb but I gave up after encountering many rubble ruins.

Meh36 ruins2
Meh35 ruins

The next monument belongs to another era…. we jump ahead by about 220 years or so. Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb was completed during Humayun’s reign and the construction started when Babur was the emperor. It is a beautiful mosque with 5 arches and central arch looks special with fluted pilasters.

Meh40 Jamali Kamali arches.jpg

The gate of the mosque is still intact and the rear view shows chajjas and interesting octagonal towers on both ends.

Meh42 Jamali Kamali gate
Meh20 Jamali Kamali mosque backside

Adjacent to the mosque is the tomb of Jamali-Kamali. It has flat roof and coloured tiles. It is said that Jamali’s verses have been carved on the walls of the tomb.

Meh21 Jamali Kamali tomb wall
Meh19 Jamali Kamali tomb

Then we come to the Akbar era. Mohammaed Quli Khan’s tomb stands largely intact and we can see Qutab minar in the backdrop. There are beautiful arches in the base and vibrant frescos inside.

Meh33 rubble arch2
Meh31 islamic
Meh30 fresco3
Meh29 Fresco2
Meh28 fresco1
Meh27 mohd quli khan fresco
Meh26 Mohd quli khan tomb

An eccentric British resident, Thomas Metcalf converted this tomb into a weekend retreat. So lets jump ahead in the times of the British and enjoy some structures constructed by Metcalf to make Mehrauli a weekend oasis.

Meh22 rubble arch
Meh24 Metcalf guesthouse
Meh34 boat house.jpg
Meh23 metcalf folley
Metcalf’s folly

About half a kilometre long walk brings us to the Rajon ki Baoli which also houses a mosque. According to an inscription found in the mosque, it was built in 1506, during Sikander Lodi’s reign. There are some unidentified Lodi era tombs nearby as well

Meh18 rubble base
Meh16 Lodhi era tomb
Meh15 Rajon wide
Rajon ki Baoli
Meh14 Rajon arch
Meh13 Rajon steps
Meh12 Rajon ki Baoli mosque
Meh11 Muhammad Quli Engravings
Meh17 Lodhi era tomb
Lodi era tomb

A few hundred meters ahead we exit the park and enter crowded Mehrauli town… and then we find the Gandhak ki Baoli. It is a five tier structure built in the Iltutmish era (1211-36) When I visited it was full of water and I could see only the top tier.

Meh10 Gandhak Baoli wide
Meh9 Gandhak Baoli

After I exited the park and walked past the Mehrauli bus depot, I found an octagonal domed structure, standing over a rubble wall. It is known as the bhoolbhoolaiya… but it is the tomb of Adham Khan. He was sentenced to death by Akbar for killing Ataga Khan.

Meh8 Adham Mehrauli
Meh7 Adham Tomb
meh5 Adham columns arches
meh4 Adham fresco
meh3 Adham Khan Tomb

I was planning to visit Qutab Minar, Lal-Kot and Qila Rai Pithora area… but rain delayed it to next visit! Maqtub ….


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