Kali Gajar Ka Halwa |Black Carrot Halwa


 

It is an established fact that carrot halwa is the quintessential winter dessert in North India at least. Usually everyone makes the red carrot halwa, loaded with the goodness of juicy winter carrots, ghee (a good fat), and dry fruits but I absolutely love the black carrot halwa since my childhood. More than the red and the exotic white one which is sold only at Shirin Bhawan, Chandini Chawk, Old Delhi. In Allahabad, Lucknow and nearby areas it was made in many households on regular basis and was one of the top picks for the winter wedding season. It was also part of the Royal Awadhi cuisine.

In Delhi, the safed gajar ka halwa ruled until the red one came and dominated the market after the partition.

Even though it a specialty of Eastern UP, very few shops make and sell it. Kali gajar is not really black but of deep violet hue like the beetroot and is used in Punjab for the preparation of the delicious kanji, a mustard, ginger powder and rock salt-laced tingling appetizer. Interestingly this deep purple variety of carrot is the original carrot.

This traditional gajar halwa is one of the top ones in the lost recipes / delicacies of Indian cuisines. The richness of ghee helps in absorption of fat soluble vitamins in the pigments. Black carrot is rich in flavonoids and Antioxidant anthocyanins among other things. They are considered to be warming in nature and extremely healthy so the halwa was eaten as a tonic to boost the immunity. The halwa is less sweet than the red carrot and has a unique taste and flavor that you need to cultivate and once you do it will become one of your top choices.

For years I made this delicious exactly as I made the red carrot halwa and thought that the astringent taste was part of the package but then as few years back I came across Sangeeta Khanna’s recipe on her blog. I was surprised to know the reason for the strange taste and how the black carrots mask the sweetness of the milk unlike the sweet red ones when cooked in full fat milk. So I learned how to get rid of the problem. It was a game changer for the dish I so love. So, the recipe I am sharing is originally hers and you can find it HERE too.

The Kali Gajar Halwa is rich in ghee ( clarified butter) which is essential for the absorption of fat soluble nutrients of the pigment. So, do make this mouth watering dish before the season for black carrots is over.

Ingredients:

1 kg cleaned peeled and grated black carrots
1 Liter full fat milk reduced to make about 200 gm rabdi like thick consistency)
200 gm sugar
60 gm (2-3 tbsp) ghee or a little more
chopped nuts, raisins for garnish (I usually prefer it without any add-ons)

Method:

Wash, wipe, peel and grate the carrots and keep aside. I usually use a plastic bag over my hands while grating as the pigment is hard to wash off. Be careful of it staining your clothes etc.

( Side note -My aunt used to say one should always use straight carrots and not the deformed twisted ones. I asked her the reason and she gave some popular story about the root resembling the phallic shape and considered aphrodisiac.)  😀 

Take the full fat whole milk in a thick bottom pan and bring it to boil. Now, reduce heat and let it evaporate and thicken while you prepare the carrots. Keep stirring now and then. I absolutely detest khoya or mawa so never use it. It also changes the original subtle taste which is a complete no no. No shortcuts to good food.

Heat a broad thick bottom pan or wok  on medium flame and generously smear it with ghee. The wok must be large enough to comfortably contain all the grated carrot.

Slid in the grated carrots and stir vigorously for five minutes or till the carrots wilt and reduce. Now, tun the flame to medium and keep stirring. The beautiful flavors will get locked in as the carrots get a little seared. They will get a glorious sheen when this happens.

Once the grated carrot reduces in volume and becomes shiny soft you can mash it a little to get a smooth texture or leave it as it is for that authentic granular texture. I don’t mash the carrots as it is the shredded texture that gives the dish its character.

Add the sugar and mix well. Keep stirring and cooking till all the water released from adding the sugar evaporates. The mixture will become glazed and shine.

By now the milk would have reduced to the required consistency. Stir and scrape all the thick malai from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and remove it from stove. Add the thick evaporated milk to the carrot mixture and mix well. The milk will take on the gorgeous purple hue of the carrots and the kitchen will become fragrant with the aroma and the halwa won’t get the .astringent taste either.

Cook till all the ingredients come together in a mass. The mixture will usually leave the sides. Roast it a little more and remove from heat. 

Garnish with chopped blanched almonds, raisins etc if you desire. The halwa is best served hot.

I can assure you that you will definitely go for another helping.  Do let me know if you prepare this.

Delhi Monuments – Lal Gumbad


 

Wandering around Delhi you may come across many pieces of history now forgotten and lost to time. One such lesser visited monument is the Tomb of Sufi saint Sheikh Kabiruddin Auliya known as Lal Gumbad. Oblivious to the hustle bustle around it the elegant building stands in a gated walled complex in utter neglect. Though it is in comparatively good state the other structures that lay scattered in the ground around it are a repository of decay.

Sheikh Kabiruddin Auliya is believed to belong to the Chishti Silsila. The Sufi saints were known for their piety and simplicity and never had such grand tombs of marble and sandstone built over their graves. Mostly they were modest enclosures, usually open from the sides. It is believed that Kabiruddin was a disciple of Sufi saint Roshan Chirag Delhi, who was the spiritual successor of the world-renowned Nizamuddin Auliya.

Most of the saints of Chisti order were buried in open grounds and later chatris wee built over the graves. Many other graves, wall mosques would come up around the saint’s grave over a period of time. This particular tomb is not just grand as a structure it has ornate walls, pierced jaali screens, and, according to the local lore, gold filial atop the dome which is thought have been stolen centuries ago. And yet, the plaque inside the tomb ascribes it to the saint. There are many theories about the structure and one such says that it was built by Firoz Tughlaq for himself but later given for the Sufi saint’s burial.

Situated in Sadhna Enclave, Malviya Nagar, this sandstone structure of Tughlaq period is known as Lal Gumbad though it doesn’t have a red dome. How it acquired the name is a mystery. It does have sloping red sandstone walls. The somewhat pointed and not so round dome used to be white but has blackened over the period of time.

If you look at the structure it resembles a mini fort rather than a saint’s Dargah. In appearance it reminds one of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s tomb, albeit this tall square structure is a poor replica of it. Built in 1397, it is a typical example of Tughlaq architecture. The structure stands on a raised plinth and has sturdy sloping walls covered with strips of dressed red sandstone that turn slightly inwards as they go up. The Tughlaq tombs had walls with thick base making it easy for the single dome to sit properly atop the squat building. The plastered conical dome springing from the low octagonal drum of this tomb is strikingly different than other Tughlaq era tombs.

On the North and South side walls one can see mihrabs with ornate sandstone jaalis. The west wall exterior is plain from outside but has a deeply recessed arch inside. One can see lotus bud motifs in marble on the arches that have false decorative pillars below them. The Eastern archway is elaborately carved and as one enters the damp, dark funerary chamber one comes across nine graves. The grave of a male in the center is a somber one. One can see a lot of lotus bud ornamentation in marble inside, very typical of Khilji period in my opinion, though I am not an expert. The great wooden door is kept locked mostly to prevent worshiping I guess.

The tomb is also known as Rakabala gumbad due to the story that rakhabs were fixed on the western slopping wall to steal the gold finial.

The exquisite domed gateway is now gone and so have the enclosure walls. The whole place, except the main tomb, looks more ruinous than what it was even say 10 months back. Not that the tomb of Hazrat Shaikh Kabir-ud-din Aulia is in perfect condition. The massive wooden door is charred from below due to the burning of incense sticks, earthen lamps etc. Overgrowth has taken over many of the dilapidated structures there. Encroachments and sheer neglect has caused the eastern gateway to become dilapidated. Its floor has eroded and is in dire need of repair.

The other domed structure in the complex is filthy and smells disgusting. I think it also acts as a store. I couldn’t approach the wall next to it as there was garbage of all sorts, broken glass and an overgrowth of low thorny bushes. Why aren’t the concerned authorities maintaining this place? Going by the photographs of last 5-6 years things have just deteriorated. The way things are going we will lose most of the lesser known monuments due to sheer neglect and apathy. I think all these gated monuments should be ticketed. It will definitely improve the situation.

There are several scattered graves and remains of at least five wall mosques in the enclosed area around the tomb. All of these belong to Lodi period. The most prominent one is located to the west of Lal Gumbad. Here, there are recessed arches on the western prayer wall and two short walls returning on the North and South too contain arches. One can see some fading incised plasterwork depicting floral motifs as well as geometrical shapes on the main qanati (wall) masjid.

There is a platform in front of the wall with a single grave. The corners of the western wall are strengthened by circular bastions. Two other mosques have three mihrabs and a third one has a single mihrab.

Everything is surrounded by weeds and grass. It is remarkable how these structures have withstood the ravages of time. Nothing much is known about who is buried in these graves. Perhaps people who were close to the saint.

Many locals were lounging around the grassy patches that cover some of the space in the complex. No tourists were there and according to the local boys hardly any visit the place as it is infested with bad elements mainly gamblers and addicts. I could feel the piercing gaze of young men who were killing time there.

The 620-year-old tomb, one of the finest pre-mughal structures and the ruins around it are dying a slow death. There is a dire need to preserve Delhi’s built heritage.

As I walked around the unkempt but manicured grounds that once formed the fourth city of Delhi- Jahanpanah, founded by Muhammad Bin Tuglaq, I thought about the times we live in and the ruinous state of affairs that have marred the social fabric of our country once known to be secular and tolerant. In retrospective these abandoned ruins seemed calming to the senses.

Unfortunately I missed out photographing some important aspects of the place. I will update the post when I click a few more pictures.

Meanwhile do take time out and visit these exquisite yet unknown remnants of our cultural and architectural heritage.

Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Makhdum Sabzwari Mosque


I always wanted to visit this very beautiful and intriguing mosque and Dargah of lesser known saint Hazrat Makhdum Sabzwari in upmarket Mayfair Gardens next to Hauz Khas enclave. The late 15th century mosque and tomb complex stands west to the ruined walls of Siri.

One look and you’re in awe of the simple yet majestic structure set in a serene lush garden. This is another of the invisible, forgotten structures from late Tughlaq period (built after Taimur’s invasion of Delhi in 1398). The massiveness of the construction, slopping sturdy exterior walls, squat domes, rows of unornamented pillars, all show the simplicity and austerity of Tughlaq style of architecture.

Here is a text from the Online Gallery of British Library :

“Durgah (‘Shrine’) Mukhdoom (‘literally a Servant’) Subzwaree (‘title taken from the place of birth’) Saheb. The individual whose shrine is here represented was a native of the town of Subz in the Province of Kish, and was a person of uncommon talent. When he had acquired as much learning as his birth place could furnish him with, he proceeded to Shiraz and Bokhara, where he pursued
[The tomb and adjacent mosque of Makhdum Sabzavari.]
his studies in medicine and other branches of service and literature to a perfection which entitled him to diplomas. Hence he came to Hindoostan during the reign of Sultan (‘Emperor’) Alaoodeen(‘Glory of the Faith’) Khiljie (‘name of tribe or family’), who reigned AD 1295 in quest of religious characters & on arrival at Dehlie became a disciple of Huzrut Sultan ool Mushayek Nizam Odeen Owleea (Page 40 [f. 43v]) under whom he practised so rigid a discipline as to induce his Master to nominate him to the succession of the Priesthood held by himself. He did not, however, survive to receive the honor having demised about AD 1325 two years previous to the death of the Saint. The Mausoleum and Mosque which are seen in the drawing were erected by his children.” (LINK)

The use of indigenous motifs and style at some places in the structures make it a unique link between the early puritan architecture and more inclusive one of the later dynasties of Sayyids and Lodis.

Sadly, except from Thursdays, barely anyone visits this place despite its unique features. On Thursdays a few devout people come to pray and seek the blessings from the saint. Not much is known about Makhdum Sahib. Some say he came from Sabswar in Central Asia.

There is a board telling you that it is an ASI protected monument but no other information is available. This mosque reminds me of Shah Alam’s tomb and mosque enclosure (late 14th c.). Both have low enclosing walls and similar mosque and tomb.

The gateway to the complex is made of rubble masonry. There are four small niches flanking a large Temple-Style entrance arch comprised of carved rectangular slabs and pillars. Under the arch is a beautiful carved corbelled gateway leading to the courtyard. A very important feature of the gateway is the unusual and beautiful fluted ribbed dome. The gateway allows access to the northern side of the mosque. The entrance to the steps leading to the roof is locked. There is a balcony with cells too. The grilled gates of the cells are a latest addition.

The structure is a beautiful example of intermingling of Indian and Central Asian architecture comprising of architectural brilliance of both the styles. Some of the unique features of this architectural style are elaborately decorated and embellished arches and domes. Teachings from the Holy Quran, various floral patterns and the Buddhist and Hindu motifs were widely used in decorations. We see some of that in this complex too.

I find the ‘indo- Islamic’ term a misnomer but that is my personal view point. There is nothing called Islamic or Hindu architecture apart from what the British fed everyone to create a feeling of ”otherness’. The architecture that’s called Islamic is from Central Asia and the Hindu is actually the Indian architecture.

I believe that architecture during those times wasn’t really Hindu or Islamic and the motifs were designed as per the aesthetic sense rather than religious one. This is a debate for some other time. The use of common motifs in temples and mosques or tombs etc speaks highly about the vivid imagination of builders and designers of these buildings. The successful bringing together of different design features as a whole is a fine example of the ganga- jamuni tehzeeb. It is interesting that we see a diverse intermingling of Indian, Persian, Buddhist, Jain style of architecture. I am sorry for digressing but it is a point I had to make. Architecture has No Religion.

Back in Sabzwari Mosque, the spacious courtyard is lined on three sides by pillared cloisters that form the part of the mosque. It is a seven bay mosque that has squat domes over the central and the corner bays giving the structure a solid, sturdy look.

The most intriguing feature of the mosque is the concept of “enclosed space”. One can see the sahn defined by iwans on three sides. This gives the sense of both openness and closeness at the same time. The iwans on the western (Mecca facing) wall are more prominent. One can also see circular buttresses on the corners of the western wall.

The building is constructed of rubble masonry coated with plaster. The pillars of the arched openings are made of hard compact granite roughly chiseled into squared rectangular blocks. The western facade also has two slender turret-like structures on either side of the main dome and one on each of the ends.

There are no minarets for the muezzin to summon for the prayer and an interesting thing to note here is that the two step mimbar of pulpit, to the right side of the Qibla wall, is placed behind a pillar. It is a small mosque so it served its authoritarian purpose.

The arches, pillars, the red sandstone dripstones, the architraves and brackets speak of the gentle intermingling of the two architectural styles. The external walls of the iwans and the vaulted insides of the domes have delicate plaster ornamentation and medallions.

There were 18 medallions in total out of which twelve have the word ‘Allah’ inscribed on them while six others have floral designs. This beautiful structure has survived the ravages of more than five centuries but the sharpness of lines chiseled in plaster look exquisite even today. A few medallions, plaster ornamentation, painted decorations have got destroyed over the period of time especially due to neglect and vandalism.

A unique feature is the presence of two medallions that have hexagram in them with the word Allah in the middle. The hexagram is surrounded by Tibetan Buddhist ‘infinity knots’ or the ‘endless knots’.

Delhi has a lot of mosques and tombs with hexagram as a decorative geometrical symbol. I’ll try and do a story on it too.

Hexagram has been used in Islamic ornamentation on almost all ancient structures from tombs to mosques. It has been extensively used in Indian and other architectural styles, cultural beliefs too with different connotations. It is also a potent symbol of astronomy, science and mathematics. I think the early Armenians were the first to use it in 3rd millennium BC.

The infinity knot or the endless/eternal knot is an auspicious symbol in both Jainism and Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhism’s endless knot motif is incorporated in some of other monuments in Delhi too perhaps to depict the concept of infinite powers of one eternal God or an inter-twining of wisdom and compassion. Also, there was a spread of this branch of Buddhism in Delhi since the time of King Ashoka so we do see the symbols from it incorporated in many later structures.

There are two narrow domes hujras or cells on either side of the open pillared cloisters, which probably served as secluded chambers for performing austerities or meditation. One of them still has remnants of an intricate red sandstone jaali (lattice-work).

 

Facing this mosque is a walled graveyard. The focal point is the pavilion tomb of the saint himself. Built on a raised platform, it is a twelve-pillared structure that originally had jali screens (screen with ornamental patterns) held between the pillars. (see the British Library Link above)

 

The pillars are arranged to support a set of beams that in turn support an octagonal drum, on which sits the squat dome. At the corners formed between the square and the octagonal drum on the roof are four decorative minarets. A chhajja (projecting cover supported on brackets) runs all along the outer periphery of the pavilion. Medallions bearing the name Allah are studded into the kangura pattern.

The grave’s plaster has fallen off exposing the bricks beneath. I saw some swastikas drawns with red roli powder on one of its sides. Some flower offerings lay there along with a blackened earthen diya. A mazar such as this has a religious significance unlike the maqbara such as in Humayun’s or Safdarjung tombs.

The most interesting feature of the tomb are the remains of intricate cerulean shamsas on the crest of the dome and lintels for which both incised and painted plaster has been used. One can see it in a painting made by Mazhar Khan for Metcalfe’s Imperial Delhi, Dehlie Diary, online gallery of British Library.

Painting was one of the more common forms of decoration in medieval structures. Possibly because it could be used extensively and did not require the hard physical labour or the large expenses that went into stone work. Unfortunately it doesn’t withstand the passage of years well because of its fragility and here is an example of that but despite that, lots of medieval monuments in Delhi (especially tombs) are home to some beautifully ornate painting.

There are several other graves, some with inscriptions, scattered around the main structure. Most of them are in dilapidated state. These must be the graves of either the saint’s disciples or family members.

A few people were resting under the trees in the rolling park around the structure but mostly it was the crows, squirrels and a solitary Hornbill that had come to experience the tranquil surroundings of this forlorn complex.

I made another visit to the complex a few days later and spent time exploring the gardens.  Usually one finds a peacock or two there but that day it was deserted. I remembered the summer of the Laburnum and how pretty it would look with its delicate flowers carpeted on the emerald green grass.

I am still trying to learn more about this mosque and Dargah and I will update the post in case I come across some interesting facts.

I think I have covered almost all the lesser known monuments in and around Hauz Khas. I have two more interesting posts on Delhi wanderings coming up so stay tuned.

 

Delhi Monuments – Ambling through Green Park – Barakhamba And Biran Ka Gumbad


During the fifteenth century Delhi had such a large number of tombs and other monuments that it became difficult to keep up with them . The area around Hauz Khas, Green Park and its surrounding localities are dotted with such beautiful but forgotten buildings. Only a handful have found a place in the tourist map rest are just scattered around inconsequential and insignificant to the history and to city folks who pass by them without even giving a glance. Though in recent years ASI has given many of them a facelift but still they don’t attract the attention they should. Heritage  for us has become a liability rather than a matter of pride. Thankfully these particular set of  structures are at least free of encroachment and it better condition many of their counterparts.

Barahkhamba 

Close to the two picturesque gumtis stands a massive yet magnificent Barah Khamba or twelve pillared domed structure though, unlike the three other structures in the city with the same name, this one doesn’t seem to have the twelve pillars or columns. The name is misleading but it is clearly a Lodi period tomb with all the characteristics of that architectural style. Like most of the tombs around it nothing much is known about who is buried here or who commissioned or built it.

The structure stands in the middle of a small well maintained garden patch with two minor yet interesting structures near it. The impressive domed square building is supported by pillars of different girth and the corner ones seem like solid buttressed walls though from inside one can count the twelve columns with walled spaces between a few. The building had cenotaph inside which has long since fallen to the ravages of time but there are still numerous graves in the compound shaded with heavy tree branches. All four sides of the building have three arched entrances. These arched entrances are embedded in a wider arched depression giving the structure a massive look. Set on a mound the structure stands on a 2 feet six inches plinth with a hemispherical dome on top. One can imagine the barren walls of its interior with engravings of some other embellishments.

Two very interesting structures stand close to the structure – a single worn out bastion which seems as if it may have been part of some other structure but looks totally out of place now and a square structure with an alcove / niche that may have been used to light an earthen lamp as the stories say but I feel it may have probably held a horizontal beam or something. Perhaps there were one each at all the four corners. We will never know the mysteries these orphaned structures hold. There is a dried up well too in the compound.

Overall the place carries an aura of mystery and desolation. Not many people spot it in one glace through the thick trees and high walls and grills and those who do somehow prefer the serene and lush green patches of the other smaller structures opposite the road. I didn’t see any caretaker or guard but a roadside vendor said he is usually around somewhere but doesn’t know anything about the building and in any case not many are curious to know what lies beneath in the graves. One day everything will turn into a ruin. Even these big sprawling houses will crumble perhaps even before the ancient structures he said and glanced around the changing landscape of the city with sad eyes.  I bought a dona of chaat from him and walked away reflecting on his wise words.

Biran Ka Gumbad 

Right opposite the main Green Park market is another nondescript tomb that hardly anyone visits. Earlier there was a small entrance from the Agrasen Park but now one has to go to the narrow lane to access the monument. Sandwiched between a row of houses and a park it is totally disconnected from public view and easy to miss. The patch of greenery that surrounds it is smaller than previous ones I visited. Perhaps the reason to have a separate entrance was to stop encroachment and that seems to have worked.

As one ambles around these lanes of old kharera village one can see why Delhi became a necropolis in times of Sayyids and Lodis. The number of nondescript tombs and graves is ridiculously high. Some of these are octagonal or square and others like a pavilion or chattri.

Biran ka Gumbad means ‘Brother’s Dome’, perhaps an indication towards the nearby Dadi -Poti tombs but all these names are locally given. No authentic historical documentation is there about the identity of these various tombs. They all remain uninscribed and unclaimed. The rubble built design is similar to Dadi ka Gumbad except for the absence of arched openings flanking the and the archways embedded in the sides and the mihrab.

It is a massive 13 meters x 13 meters structure built in typical Lodi style. As you climb the seven steps your thoughts wander to the seven ancient cities of Delhi and their remnants scattered all around the present metropolis. The Afghans ruled over Delhi from 1451 to 1526 as Lodhi Dynasty. 500 plus years of ancient footprints and these tombs, a testimonial to that time. 

 

Inside the high ceiling single chamber there is a ruined remains of a cenotaph.  At one time perhaps it had beautiful incised and plastered medallions and remnants of painted decorations but most is lost now. The exterior is decorated with arched niches arranged in a row giving it an impression of double storeyed building.

There is a remaining strip of ornamentation here and there along the exterior walls.

In the compound there is a dried up well which is about 10-15 feet deep.

There is nothing spectacular about the structure and yet it draws your attention to come and explore, perhaps run your fingers along the stones and feel the heartbeats of a million stories. Gaze at it for sometime and you automatically feel drawn to it.

Most of the time the place is deserted. The caretaker said not many people visit it and those who do hardly stop for more than ten minutes. At night the tomb is lit up like all the others in the vicinity but I doubt if anyone gives it even a glance.

It is sad and I am reminded of these lines by William Henry Davis,

” What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

 

Do go visit these forgotten relics of the time by. I have covered most of the monuments in this area. Today there is another adventure awaiting.

Stay tuned for it to reveal itself.

Delhi Monuments – Ambling through Green Park – Choti Gumti And Sakri Gumti


The area around old kharera village (now Hauz Khas) is dotted with many big and small monuments. Camouflaged by large trees and posh houses these structures stand as a silent testimonial to time gone by. Usually set in a small garden plot they offer a place to to the locals to step out of their hurried routines and pause a little.

It is interesting that during the 14th-15th century reign of Sayyid and Lodi’s the city construction was limited to tombs and mosques. They lacked resources and Sikander Lodi shifted his capital to Agra thus further restricting the building of new structures in Delhi. So, the construction of grand forts, palaces, cities that the early Sultanate rulers did practically came to a halt during early-14th to mid-17th centuries except a few exceptions and there. Interestingly the Sayyid, Lodhi and Mughal rulers and nobles chose Delhi as a resting place for their loved ones so slowly in that period Delhi turned into a sort of necropolis.

It is strange that most of these mosques and tombs, except a few large ones, remain unsung even after their recent beautification. The illumination of these structures by ASI hasn’t helped much in promotion as people barely pause to look at them.

Apart from the tombs and mosques there are a few other small structures like Sakri Gumti that could have been part of a larger complex of buildings or perhaps a gateway albeit a strange one.

I explored the cluster of Lodi era structures – Choti Gumti (Small Domed Building), Sakri Gumti (Narrow Domed Building), Barakhamba (Twelve-pillared Building) and Biran ka Gumbad during my wanderings around the Hauz Khas / Green Park area, part of the city of Siri, the third capital of Delhi Sultanate.

All these structures lie in close proximity of each other and to the Hauz Khas group of monuments. The two Gumtis are separated from each other by a road that ambles into the posh Hauz Khas Enclave, Green Park and leads to HKV.

Choti Gumti 

This petite Lodi period (AD 1451-1526) structure stands gracefully in a small garden patch.  The cubical little mausoleum is perfectly proportioned and has small decorative alcoves.  It measures 15 square inches and is built with rubble masonry and then plastered like all the other structures of this period. There are numerous pointed arches of the embossed rectangular facades on all the sides.  A semicircular dome crowned with a blooming lotus finial adorns the structure.

The kanguras (battlement-like ornamentation) and the hints of tiny minarets emerging from the corners of the octagonal drum (base) of the dome make it a pretty little building.

The Choti Gumti is a tomb and a single grave of an unknown person lies in its forgotten dark interiors that are closed to the public eyes. There is a narrow entrance with steps leading to the upper level where one can go around the dome and get a bird’s eye view of the area but that too was inaccessible. I came to know that there is a painted medallion on the ceiling. I will try and get access in a few days. 🙂

I sat to rest on an empty bench watching the men enjoying their siesta and soaking the early winter sun. A group of young girls chatted animatedly as the walked around inspecting the structure. The pigeons sat on the dome obliviously to life around them.  A young lad served tea to two workers eating their lunch on the grassy patch. I had to cover a few more places and the sight of food was making me hungry so I decided to leave. The barricaded garden has a shop on a far side corner and a makeshift entrance made for the convenience of the shopkeeper I guess. I took that exit and crossed the road to Sakri Gumti and Barah Khamba opposite its gate.

Sakri Gumti  

Set in the center of a small well maintained barricaded garden stands a mysterious narrow structure built of rubble masonry. Sakri Gumti is another lesser known Lodi era monument.

As there is no grave inside we know it is not a tomb. In fact there are entrance arches on all its four faces making it look more like a gateway but a gateway to what we don’t know. Also, there is a half broken rubble wall running along its eastern side, originally it would have perhaps blocked one of its entrances but as I looked closely there seemed one side of a smaller arch entrance in that too right in front of the entrance of the main structure. The wall is broken from that point. One can see a small window too.  Who built the wall and why we do not know. The ornamented arches and windows on the exterior wall give it a semblance of two-storyed building.  The short dome rests on a relatively high drum. A row of kanguras similar to ones around the roof’s vertical expanse surround the dome. I didn’t step inside but will go another time and update on how it looks. On the exterior wall there are some roughly carved patterns embossed here and there.  Otherwise there is no other ornamentation.

Even though the structure is very intriguing not many people visit it. I just saw one gentleman lunching quietly on a nearby bench under a tree shade. There was no guard or caretaker in sight.

These little gems are an integral part of the urban layout of Delhi. They stand there tenaciously holding on to life as the city around them evolves at maddening speed.

Stop by sometime to pause and reflect on this heritage of Delhi that mostly doesn’t get its due.

 

  

Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Darwesh Shah Mosque


At the outskirts of the ancient city of Siri stands a lesser known Lodi era wall mosque dedicated to Darwesh Shah whose identity is unknown. As we know, Darwesh Shah is a honorific, not a name. The DDA park in which the mosque is located is technically in Gautam Nagar next to Gulmohar Park but I am including it in my Hauz Khas trail. The Muhammadi Wali Masjid, the mosque of Darwesh Shah, the Nili Masjid, and the Idgah, all located in close proximity to each other, testify to the fact that the vicinity of Siri was an important location for religious and other significant structures.

The Lodi dynasty contributed immensely to the architectural heritage of the city. They were the last rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. A large number of tombs, mosques, gardens were commissioned during there reign and are splendid examples of late Sultanate architecture. Most of the structures that find mention in Delhi’s built heritage are in Lodhi Garden, the rest are scattered across the city and mostly remain unknown and unsung.

We have no information a  to who built this particular mosque but the legends has it that six centuries ago, the Sufi saint once asked a group of six boys if they would buy the kingdom of Delhi for 2,000 tankas (currency used in the 12th century by Turkish Sultans). One of the boys, Bahlol Lodhi, agreed and was blessed by the Holy man. His friends mocked him for being “a fool” but Bahlol said it was not the case, that if the saint’s words were true, he would gain a kingdom, and if they weren’t, he did the right thing by giving the saint what he desired.

We can see how true his words were as Bahlol Lodi  became the founder of the dynasty that bore his name and ruled over Delhi Sultanate for 75 years from 1451 to 1526.

On his death in 1489 A.D., he had expanded the Sultanate to nearly twice of what it was in the beginning of his reign. However, there is no authentication of this story about the interaction between Bahlol and Darwesh Shah. It is believed that perhaps Bahlol commissioned this mosque to honor Darwesh Shah but there is no documentation of that. 

One can imagine the pastoral setting of the mosque as one stands there watching the play of shadows and light in the the current green expanse around it. The spread out canopies of old Keekar trees, the grassy patches, the walking paths, the gazebo and the quiet nestled in the stone walls of this ancient mosque.

For a long time this unimposing mosque lay in shambles since 1920, overgrown with bushes, shrubs and hidden by huge leafy trees. Neglect had resulted in the collapse of one portion of the mosque but INTACH gave it a commendable face lift in 2009 before the Commonwealth Games making it more accessible to public and restoring the remaining parts. The mosque got saved or else it would have got completely destroyed. The limestone plaster developed a patina over the period of time and now most of the mosque has got back its antiquarian look.

Though the entry to the upper platform is closed to public but one can walk around the structure to access its beauty. In a way it is good as it protects the remaining building and prevents encroachment and offering of prayers thus leading to further damage.

Made with rubble masonry this is a wall mosque, with a rectangular enclosure for graves that stands on a high platform.There are eleven of them but no one knows who is buried in these graves. There is a doorway and stairs at the north-east corner that lead to this raised platform. The prayer wall on the west and east side has a set of seven recessed mihrab arches of which the central one is emphasized with raised battlements. The North and South sides have five arches. The center of the west side wall that contains the mihrab is slightly projected from outside and is flanked by two tall minarets till the parapet level. The description is based on Maulvi Zafar Hasan’s observation.

One can observe different facets of this mosque as the shadows play on its walls or take a stroll in the park taking in the sights and sounds.

Sometimes a peacock will surprise you or you may spot some interesting bird keeping an eye on the joggers, workout enthusiasts sweating it out or the folks lazing around on the grassy patches or the benches.

I spotted an Oriental Magpie Robin perched near the mosque and a few other birds watching the sun go down. Phone photos don’t do justice to birds so I usually refrain from clicking. Some things need to be enjoyed with the naked eyes too.

I sat beneath the shade of a tree thinking about and the Darwesh, the reign of the Lodis, the unique stories of the bygone era that fill the city I love and the rapidly emerging patterns of the urban expanse choking the remaining few breaths of the ancient built heritage of Delhi. As I see the apathy of the other forgotten and endangered big and small monuments I feel glad to see this one at least breathing easy.

As the autumnal sun reached its peak I bid adieu to the Darwesh and made my way to some of the other tombs in the near vicinity. I will be covering a whole bunch of these ancient structures dotting this area.

Art, Flowers And Conversations


It’s been an year since Duets got published. I am working on the Hindi poetry book but there are some other priorities that have kept me busy. The search for home continues as I map the autumnal landscape of my city. finding solace under the vibrant Silk Floss trees in bloom or overriding the noxious Delhi air with the heady fragrance of Saptaparni in bloom.

Delhi landscape never ceases to surprise you with its abundant beauty despite of everything that’s wrong with the city.

Apart from the glorious blooms the recent illumination of the ancient monuments of Delhi by ASI is breathtaking. I especially love the magnificent Safdarjung Tomb but the Qutub Complex looks stunning too. Will do another post on this initiative later but sharing a few pictures.

Meanwhile as I do my art and take in the beauty of the city I love some of my work got published and  new much awaited review of Wayfaring came in.

Rhiti Chatterjee Bose, an excellent artist/writer and an old friend of mine interviewed me sometime back about my art journey.
Today it got published in Prākṛti, the page for visual arts on the website Samskriya which has different branches for social work, languages, Indian history. Feeling deeply humbled by this gesture. I owe it to all the artists I’m learning from including my son Aditya.
Here is something about who we are and our initiative, your support means a lot to us. Please share our page and help us bring various art forms and artists to the forefront. Do read the full interview on the website.

The program Prākṛti is aimed at finding, documenting and promoting all such fine arts and artists who have been carrying a huge knowledge in their memory through generations, and also, presenting in a way which can be perceived properly in today’s global world while keeping its originality intact and making the young minds aware of their proud legacy. In addition to this, the program is also about exercising the fusion/adaptation/localization of other forms of all fine arts developed in the other regions of the world.

Here is the Link to my interview and an excerpt :

“What influence has art had in your life?

For a long time, I’ve been struggling with issues, mentally, physically and emotionally. Art keeps me sane in hard times and at others, it helps me channelize my energy both negative and positive. I’m not saying it has cured me of everything but it certainly has helped me in focusing on the right stuff. Sometimes one doesn’t wish to write. Words have their own burden but colours are fluid. It’s a different sort of high, calm and serene.”
Another art related article found home in a website that posts views about Mental Health, society and  culture. Here I write about how art is helping me to cope with various issues I face in my daily struggle to live.
Here is the link – How I Use Art To Stay Sane  
Excerpt :
“Painting by hand lets me express all my anger, pain and anxiety and not feel frowned upon. My everyday painting ritual has helped me focus and gather loose ends to some extent. I won’t say it is the mother of all cures but it certainly is a grounding process for me. Creativity does wonderful positive things to the mind, body, and soul if you let it.”
You can follow my Instagram Page for more work.
In the poetry world things are progressing at their own pace. I was delighted to find an excellent review  of my book Wayfaring   in Jaggery – A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal. 
Shikhandin  is an exceptional poet fiction writer
Do get your copy if you haven’t read it. The book is available with all online book vendors worldwide
Here is the link to the review – Wayfaring By Tikuli  
And an Excerpt :
“The poet as a wanderer. This is what comes to mind when reading “Wayfaring” by Tikuli. Not as a wandering minstrel. Rather as one who collects snapshots of experiences and sketches of mental spaces, through seemingly aimless wanderings. Yet nowhere does Tikuli come across as footloose and fancy-free. Rather there is an oblique brooding quality to the poems.  The have history and landscapes running down their spines. And then there is protest, subtle, unobtrusive, but it is there. “
I will be continuing my series on Delhi Monuments now. Do look out for new posts.
Meanwhile, enjoy some fruits of love that my consistent effort brought. This is my first crop of bell peppers. Most are ready for harvesting. I am awaiting for other produce to show up.

Rejected Poems


Two of my poems did not find a home in any online magazine. They were not considered “poems” but a jumble of words. Well, what can I say, most of my work is a jumble of words.  I’ve been away from blogging for more than one reason but thought of sharing them with you. Maybe one of you will be able to unscramble these words.

1.

Somewhere in the thick of the night between sleep and wakefulness I suddenly found myself furiously typing away on my mobile. It continued till I got exhausted and then I cut pasted it an email draft before turning the device off.  In the morning I read what my possessed fingers wrote, rearranged the words and decided it was a decent poem. The poetry experts thought otherwise so here it is.

NIGHT THOUGHTS

In my search for a home

All I wanted

was two arms

that would hold me in love,

a quiet lap for my head,

fingers stroking my hair

a shoulder to lean on

when my heart was heavy

But that was asking too much

all they gave me

was four walls and a roof

A window to see the world

and a door that kept me in

Often

i would stretch my arms

out through the window,

close my eyes and free myself

of everything that held me,

often

i would try to fly

but would fall instead

my injuries seldom showed

Once

i found the door open and fled

as if my life depended on it

No,

my life did depend on it

I had no experience of freedom

there were arms, laps,

shoulders everywhere

luring as a spider lures a fly

to make the kill

With sinking heart

i searched for those four walls,

a roof, a door

that would keep me in,

a window that was closed

unless i wished it otherwise

I wanted to hide away in the dark

Away from prying eyes

but they found me…

Every single time

I wanted to bury myself in a hole

but they would only dig me out

Instead

I was a forever drifting

between what was

and what might have been

The only constants

were the walls and the roof

enclosing me,

morphing into arms, laps, shoulders

that pushed and groped and pressed

Till i was like a palimpsest

Absent yet strangely there

Sometimes

everything was a black expanse

Even in the searing daylight

from that blackness

They would pull me in

Deeper

deeper

Until my breathing failed

until my heart exploded

yet still i stretched my arms

Trying to find freedom

from all that held me

Sometimes

hands would pull me out

only to abandon me as i held tight

then i would fall again

invisible injuries hurting so much

Sitting in this black hole

desperately

i stare at a patch of sky

I feel the sides for hand and footholds

I find a few

but my legs

Have forgotten how to climb

I stretch my fingers

Press them hard against the cold

Hoping they’ll grow into vines

Vines climb upwards

Follow the light

Snip

Snip

Snip

A sound echoes

………………..

2.

An autobiographical sort of poem written in moments of deep anguish. Sometimes this is the only way to release the stress, the emotional burden and the anxiety. My search for a place I can call my home continues, the struggle with my emotional, physical health continues and so does the constant effort to keep my finances stable. Many times I reach a breaking point and then pick myself up. Sometimes writing it out helps. A lot of people question my public writing of my personal struggles. Why do I write and share? Do they serve any purpose? Well, perhaps not to the readers but to me they do. They help me with many things and that I will keep to myself. On practical grounds writing may not helps, it may not get me a house or improve my monetary situation but it is a a stepping out of blocks that choke my mind.

There have been betrayals and backstabbing, abuse and gaslighting, there have been people who snatched what was truly mine but then one learns. It is all about moving on. Writing helps.

LONELINESS

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for being born when no one wanted me

not even me nor the womb that carried me

as I wrapped the placenta around my neck

as I tried to end what should not have begun

a son was enough to continue the family name

a son was enough for a mother to love

who needs a daughter

conceived perhaps to spite the mother

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for shuffling between life and death

a cause of utmost bother to caregivers

forced to revive a child

in almost vegetable like state

it snapped their backs and their feelings

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

            for abandoning that little pup

            on a side street many years ago

            a pup who had cried with me

            when mother was taken to the hospital

            her heart weary

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for that is all I had to call my own

as I wandered the streets after school

not wanting to go back to a loveless home

whose key hung around my neck like a noose

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for witnessing what I shouldn’t have seen

someone close and her lover

a man who played uncle

his hands reaching for places

that I was beginning to discover

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for trying to wash away

that dreadful touch

which scarred my innocence

which made me flinch away from men

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for giving it all

sometimes at will at other times forced

for retreating within my adolescent heart

as I was forced to atone for sins I didn’t commit

punished by my father every other day

the gaze of the neighbourhood scalding my skin

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

because that is all I had to call my own

my mother too busy

my father mostly absent

my brother indifferent

not much has changed

except my father is dead

he doesn’t come home every season

to replace his clothes.

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for marrying a man I thought loved me

as I wanted to love him

tied to his mother’s apron strings

he could never give enough

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for clenching my tongue between my teeth

so that no words escaped

for drinking the bitter taste of agony

as they fought for breath then gave up

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for crossing a line women in India

are not supposed to cross

better to die in the marital bed

than return to the childhood home

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

            for abandoning my sons

            for leaving them in a toxic house

            that I could never call a home

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for craving love either non-existent or forbidden

years of carrying a curse has turned me into one

though when I raise my voice in protest

I’m labelled with the choicest of names

reserved for women of my kind

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

things go full circle

a placenta wrapped around my neck

slowly and steadily tightening its grip

what begins has to end

loneliness is a curse I’m tired of carrying

Loneliness is a curse I carry—

for it is still all I have to call my own

एक शहर ये भी – कविता 9 – हाशिये में शहर


कनॉट प्लेस के सेंट्रल पार्क के बेंच पर
उंघती ज़िन्दगी, बेपरवाह,बेख़ौफ़,
खोने के लिए उसके पास अब
यादें भी नहीं रही, हाशिये में रहने वालों की
ज़िन्दगी और मौत दोनों ही थोड़ी सस्ती होती हैं
आम ज़िंदगिओं में भला किसको दिलचस्पी
इन्हें  भूल जाने में ही सबकी भलाई है
ठीक उस बेउम्मीद समलैंगिक जोड़े के तरह
जो इंतज़ार में है एक क्रन्तिकारी बदलाव के
या वो कूड़ा बटोरता बचपन, ज़िन्दगी की महाभारत में
कर्ण के रथ की तरह फंसा – लाचार, अभिशप्त
या फिर फुटपाथ पे बैठे वो आंकड़े जो एक उम्र से
इस शहर में इंसान का दर्जा पाने की क़तार में हैं
या फिर पटरी पे बैठी वो अर्ध नग्न पगली
जो अपने बेतरतीब बालों सी उलझी
ज़िन्दगी की दुत्कार लिए ताकती रहती है
शहर के शोर भरे सन्नाटे को
या लाल बत्ती पर गाड़ियों की लम्बी क़तारों के बीच
हाथों में फूल, पेन और मैले चेहरों पर
दस रुपये की मुस्कान लिए दिन भर भागते छोटे छोटे पाँव
चलते रहना जिनकी मजबूरी है
या मैनहोल के ज़हरीले अंधेरों में दम तोड़ती
वो अदृश्य ज़िंदगियाँ जिनकी मौत किसी खाते में दर्ज नहीं होती
दिल्ली की चकाचोंध सतह को कुरेद कर देखो तो
शहर की बूढी हड्डियों में समाये सभी नए पुराने घाव
रिसने लगते हैं परत दर परत खून के जमे हुए थपके से काले
इन्हें न छेड़ना ही बेहतर है, हाशिये में बसा ये जुड़वाँ शहर बहुत भोंडा है
राजधानी की TRP घट जाती है फिर कोई झट से एक जादुई लेप पोत देता है
और दिल्ली फिर नयी गाड़ी सी चकाचक सरपट दौड़ने लगती है

Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Firoz Shah Tughlaq Tomb Complex – 1


I am rather late in writing about this. Health and other anxiety related issues have kept me away from most work but today let me share the first part of the Hauz Khas monument complex. The next post will cover the Madarsa and some other aspects related to this marvelous site and surrounding areas.

Hauz Khas complex has been one of my favorite places to go to when in search of solitude irrespective of the fact that it is always crowded with couples and people looking for a place to rest/eat or just linger around. In a good move ASI has put an entry ticket since April and I see the effectiveness of it. So, a few days back I went to explore the ruins and sit under the grand old tamarind tree.

This post is just my personal account of what holds me captive and pulls me to this place and not really a historical or architectural commentary. The most interesting aspect of these ruins and the Hauz e alai near by is the influence of three great rulers who ruled over Delhi.  Allauddin Khilji’s construction of the second city of Delhi, the city of Siri (1296–1316} and Hauz e alai the grand reservoir that provided for the water requirements of the city. Once Khilji died and his empire faded away the reservoir got neglected and perished.

Then as a mark of respect another great ruler of Delhi Firoz/Firuz Shah Tughlaq restored and got the silted Hauz cleaned during his reign (1351–88). He also commissioned a magnificent double storied Madrasa-i-Feroz Shahi (seminary), a mosque, few pavilions, chatris overlooking the restored lake. It is among these he built his own humble tomb where the great Sultan rests now. 

Later in the year 1507-08 yet another great sultan of Delhi Sikander Lodhi added the striking embellishments inside the tomb.

So when I walk through the 13th century ruins the stones whisper stories of many eras of sultans and their immense love for art, architecture and intellect. Firoz Shah Tughlaq was the third ruler of Tughlaq dynasty that ruled over Delhi. A man with a mission he loved to build things be it fortresses, canals, schools, cities, mosques, hunting lodges, sarais (rest houses), hospitals etc. He also commissioned repairs of old buildings, mosques etc. including Qutub Minar to which he added two floors after it was damaged by an earthquake.

Coming back to the Hauz Khas Complex one enters through a modest stone gateway into a the landscape of ruins set in the midst of manicured grassy patches. It is a world very different from the so called urban village you leave behind on the other side. Immediately a calm descends on you as you glance around at the ancient structures, the domed tomb of Tughlaq soaring above the rest of the buildings, old wise trees with birds merrily chirping in their lush branches and a little further and beyond the lake with its deep green waters. These are the secret keepers and the story tellers of ancient Delhi. 

Each ruler from the Tughlaq dynasty added their own architectural creativity to whatever they build. In Firoz Shah’s time these architectural achievements reached their zenith. The new architectural trend is visible in all the buildings erected during his reign.

The 5-6 pavilions with domes in different shapes (hexagonal, rectangular, octagonal) and sizes are the first thing you notice on entering the complex. Some of these structures were tombs and one can see a few graves. The roof and domes of these simplistic tombs is decorated with kanguras. You can see the small chatri in the foreground.

The pavilions and the ruins of the court yard are conjectured to have been used as part of the madrasa in the past. On the inside all the pavilion domes have lost the ornamentation but one can still see the exquisite foliated motifs on the drums and the kalsa motifs on  top of the domes. Most of the structures are falling apart and the bands of calligraphy are discontinuous or fading. I notices a few pigeons nestled in the holes inside.

The cylindrical pavilions don’t have any graves and perhaps they were part of a bigger structure as one can see stone beams projecting from the base of their dome drums.

I moved on from there to the hundred year old Tamarind tree which I will cover in next post. Next to the tree are Three domed colonnaded pavilions and the Mosque.

These interlinked pavilions make a T shape and again have broken bands of calligraphy inside the dome. The building is made of hard quartzite which is tough to carve. One can still see finials, kanguras and calligraphy in incised plaster in the plastered tombs. The long colonnaded halls stretch from north to south.

There are also signs of ornamentation of some sort which has vanished now leaving just dark holes and broken patches. The whole structure stands on a solid stone platform. It is amazing how these strong square pillars have supported the structure for last almost 650 plus years. Yet one sees the cracks that have developed over the period of time. Some restoration was done by ASI in 2012 I think. These structures were perhaps used as seminar rooms for the students of the Madarsa.

One can also see a ruined remain of a staircase with large windows and perhaps one can descend to the lower floor of the madarsa from there but I did not disturb the couple sitting there and moved on to the Mosque.

The small Mosque with overhanging jharokhas stands under an ancient Tamarind tree at the northern end of the Madarsa. The quibla wall of the mosque projects towards the water reservoir. If you see it from the lake side you can clearly see the five mehrabs.

The central mehrab with a domed chatri and open sides is like a pavilion and projects towards the reservoir. I have heard that the qibla wall has rich ornamentation but I couldn’t see it. Perhaps next time. The mosque was closed for public entry although the door was open. There’s a crumbling staircase next to it which leads down but I left it for another day of exploration.

I headed to the Tomb of Firoz Shah but then I spotted the two buildings flanking the original entrance not in use opposite Firoz Shah’s Tomb. One is closed to public and the other is ASI’s local office.  One of them seemed to be a guard house but not sure of the purpose of other one. 

The sun was getting to me now so I sat on some ruined steps and watched the common myna quench her thirst from the water pipe in the garden. A young girl sat reading on yet another set of steps shaded by the laburnum.

Firoz Shah’s Tomb looks very simple from outside. It is a square building with battered walls and an old surviving jali (stone lattice work) with calligraphic details and medallions above the entrance door that is set in a larger niche. During the reign of Firoz Shah the tombs were devoid of ornamentation and were very simple structures. Inexpensive material like rubble, lime and plaster were used for construction. Lack of skilled craftsmen and poor economic conditions were the prime reason for this. Constructed in 1388 AD Firoz Shah’s tomb is totally in line with the structures of Tughlaq era, made with quartzite rubble finished with plaster with slightly sloppy fortified walls and battlement ornamentation.

Situated at the pivot point of the two perpendicular wings of the madarsa it is the largest building now in the complex. It doesn’t have the defensive architecture pattern but has some simple ornamentation around the entrance. The walls are decorated with merlons on the two tiers. One above the cube and other above the octagonal square. The outer wall has a slight projection towards the center emphasizing the entrance door which depicts a blend of Indian and Islamic architecture.

The top of the tomb has a slightly pointed dome set on plastered squinches and corbelled beams making it an octagonal drum and then a sixteen sided drum before the actual dome.

There is a low platform in a courtyard on the southern side with horizontal and vertical stone railings and ledges similar to the ones found in Buddhist Viharas and stupas of that era. It is believed that that these were inspired from the Sanchi Stupa.

Somehow the tomb seems very impressive even in its plainness. Three steps lead inside to a beautiful interior with Firoz Shah’s grave in the center and the graves of his son and grandson to one side of it. The eight sided polygon roof is very different from the other Tughlaq era structures.

The squinch arches were a thing of past but are used in here. There is a band of calligraphy and a band of geometrical designs on which the dome rests. There are beautiful medallions of different shapes and sizes with Hadiths and Quranic inscriptions in narqsh characters. These medallions are arranged between two concentric stars and a large medallion in the center. It is believed that Sultan Sikander Lodhi who took up the repair work of many tombs commissioned these ornamentation during his reign (AD 1489-1517). They are typical of the architecture of his time. In Tughlaq’s buildings one doesn’t find such embellishments.

Next to the tomb there are two other domed entrances leading towards the madarsa. One was barred by iron door but  could see the steps leading down.

The structures are in dire need of restoration but I feel scared of the way current restorations are going on in Delhi. Ruins must look like ruins and all this whitewashing just spoils the original aura of the place. I sat on the stairs leading to nothingness and wondered how it must have looked when the place was in its prime glory.

The pillared halls, the crumbling walls, the musty dark corridors, the collapsed buildings, the  lake waters down below and the greenery around taking away all the worries and tiredness I felt. There is a certain energy that runs through the ruins stitching everything. Lean against a crumbling walls or just run your fingers gently over them and you’ll feel its presence.

The relationship of modern Delhi and its ancient architecture is complex and especially in this case you see how rapid unrestrained urbanization has marred the face of these ruins. The original spirit of Hauz Khas Village is long lost to the passages of time. As per my knowledge, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) regulations prohibit construction of structures within 100 metres of protected monuments but here in the haphazardly expanding Hauz Khas ‘village’ no one seems to bother about any laws either MCD’s or the ASI’s. The sleepy green waters of the lake, the old wise trees and the ancient ruins watch the complete collapse of the cultural fabric as the metamorphosis continues to change the original landscape. The bubble is ready to explode any time soon. Meanwhile life continues to struggle to find breathing spaces between the ancient and the modern. In the end it is all about money and here there is no dearth of it.

We will cover the other areas of the complex in the next post. I am not keeping too well to explore right now but the truth is I am a nomad by and these ruins will pull me to their embrace sooner than I think. I am posting this with the current pictures I have but I will soon update with a few fresh ones. I realized that some photographs don’t do justice to the buildings or embellishments. I will upload rest of the photographs for this post on my Instagram account. Do visit.

Till then do go and enjoy the serenity that  surrounds this complex.