Teen Chhatris | Hazire, Makanpur Village, Indrapuram


Last year I finally got a chance to explore the ancient pavilions in Makanpur village inside the posh Indirapuram locality. A slight diversion from my exploration of Delhi monuments. This was as part of discovering lesser known heritage buildings in and around Delhi. I had a few locations marked but could visit only this one before falling sick and then the pandemic ruined my plans.

It took me a lot of effort to locate the place as many of the access points were dug out. The street shop owners, vendors and local residents had little clue about it and were amused as to why a gray haired jeans clad woman with camera is looking for some dilapidated old ruins and that too in blistering summer noon. I kept showing photographs from a national daily to them and finally an old auto driver guiding me to an approximate location. I landed up near the Masjid and again started the search. Finally a shop keeper pointed me to the caretaker of the graveyard, the only one who could guide me. I couldn’t find the old gentleman but someone children got curious and tagged along as I made my way through narrow lanes. One of them asked what I was looking for and seeing the photos exclaimed, ” ye to kabristan mein hain. wahan tala laga hai. andar jana mana hai. sab toota phoota hai. wahan kya kaam hai aapko?” ( these are in the graveyard and the gate is locked. no one is allowed inside. Everything is falling apart. What do want from there?)

I explained I needed to take photos to write about it. Thinking I was a journalist they demanded a picture and in exchanged of that agreed to take me there. We finally reached the place but the man who had the key couldn’t be found. By then I was tired and late for another appointment at my son’s home. I had finally found the gorgeous structures shrouded from all around by tall buildings.

Orphaned and decaying pavilion tombs or chhatris or hazire as called by the local Muslim community are looked after by them. The gate is mostly locked and displays a board claiming it to be a local graveyard. Perhaps this is the only reason why these structures have remained standing even now.

Earlier the structures were visible from NH24 but rampant construction and high rise buildings around it have obscured the view. The pavilions are in a dilapidated state; uncared and forgotten. A mute testimony of a time now gone.

One of the three Chhatris is almost completely gone as you can see. One of the other two is also breaking apart. The blue plaster-work or tile-work on a band around the Dome’s neck is only visible in a few places on the middle structure. Rest has vanished. I didn’t get enough time to study so will go again.

The inverted lotus finial is very prominent in one of the domes.

The chhatris or hazire come under the state archaeological department. ASI has washed its hands off these and they find no place in the list of monuments protected and maintained by them. GDA doesn’t give a care either.

The tombs have a striking resemblance to Yusuf Qattal’s tomb and style of masonry is similar to Jahaz Mahal. The delicate red sandstone pillars, lotus finial and blue tiles suggest it to be either Lodi period or Mughal. I’m no expert so just thinking aloud here. I may be wrong. The motifs are ornate and carved in the maroon tinge of Bharatpur sandstone. Lot of lattice screens were laying around here and there. You can view a few in the picture of the graves below.

The pavilions are often claimed to be from 16th century Mughal period. The local lore about this being the grave of sakka, the bhishti who saved Humayun’s life during the battle of Chausa, doesn’t seem probable to me. There are more than three graves inside the pavilions.

I’m still gathering information about these by discussing with various people who may know the right facts. Will update once something that pin points to the precise date and historical facts is found.

I wasn’t allowed in to inspect the pavilions closely as women aren’t allowed in kabristan ( graveyard) so the photos were taken from right near the gate. There were a very more that one of the young men had taken from my phone but I seem to have lost them. Will update if they’re found.

If you have any authentic documented information about these pavilions then please share.

Delhi Monuments – The Three Domed Mosque, Safdarjung Tomb


There is something about this Garden Tomb of Safdarjung that draws you in.  This was the last architectural project of Mughal era in Delhi and is perhaps one of the most underrated monuments too, mainly because of the constant comparison with much touted Humayun’s Tomb. Here is a blog I wrote about why You should go with an open mind to really enjoy its beauty. Safdarjung Tomb Complex  

Safdarjung’s full name was Wazir-ul-Hindustaan Abul Mansur Mirza Muhammad Muqim Ali Khan Safdarjung. He was also known as Nawab-Wazir, Nawab Wazir al-Mamalik, Subedar of Kashmir Agra & Oudh, Khan Bhadur, Meer-e-Atash and Firdaus Aaramgah. He was the most powerful governor and the state of Awadh or oudh virtually became independent of the Mughal empire under Safdar Jung and his successors till it was annexed by the British in 1857.

The tomb complex is also known as Mansur ka Maqbara and like most monuments of Delhi this too holds interesting nooks and corners which usually visitors tend to ignore.

This post isn’t really about the tomb but about the beautiful little double storey mosque, with its three gorgeous onion shapes domes, built to the right of the exquisite main entrance of the tomb complex. The mosque was supposedly made by Safdarjung’s wife. if true then it is one of the few mosques commissioned by women, another one is Khair ul Manazil mosque.

You get the best view of mosque from the high platform of the tomb.  It is fascinating to watch the lingering shadows, the filtering sunlight and the tree branches making patterns on its wall.  The onion shaped striped domes, the slender cuboidal minarets and the pointy finials emerging from floral base atop the domes are exquisite to look at all times of the day. Interestingly the floral base isn’t Lotus as was the norm in those days. The place is full of intrigue and surprises. The placement of the mosque is unusual but it was built as part of the mausoleum.  The exterior of the domes has distinct stripes of red sandstone and marble veneer. Haven’t seen anything so beautiful in Delhi at least.

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Visitors are allowed entry to the mosque’s square only on Friday for the prayers and an iron grill blocks the entry on rest of the days. It isn’t possible to click the mosque from the small courtyard since most of it is veiled by the awnings that stretch from side to side to provide shade to the devotees. Also, the walls of the numerous chambers that flank the gateway and span the space around obscure much of the mosque.

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These chambers were meant for the students of a madrasa (Islamic seminary) that was commissioned and supported by Safdarjung’s descendants, but now these too are inaccessible. Locked and closed gates aren’t a new feature for those who wander around Delhi monuments. Delhi has enough phenomenal architectural hidden treasures not accessible to public . No one tells why access is denied. The other functional mosques don’t have access issues so it is sort of baffling about this one. Perhaps someone can explain the reason.

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Last year,  I was fortunate to get access to the beautiful but neglected wuzu khana or the ablution tank chamber located on the lower level. There is a small gate on the right (usually latched) inside the grand eastern entrance to the tomb complex that leads to the corridor leading to the wuzu khana and the mosque . The wuzu tank has a fountain in it. The place has lost most of its engravings which were perhaps similar to those on the main gateway. Just imagine how gorgeous this would have looked when it was used for ablution before going upstairs for prayers. The central arch of the mehrab has a floral engraving.

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Most mosques do not have a fountain.  Only three mosques in Delhi, including this one, have a fountain in wuzu khana. The Kalan Masjid at Turkman Gate has a fountain in the tank that is used for wuzu, but it is made of Marble. The entire mosque is built with The Delhi Quartz Stone and was built in the time of Feroz Tugalaq when the use of Sand Stone and Marble wasn’t common and because these stones had to be brought from Rajasthan so the fountain could be a later addition.

Fatehpuri Mosque too has a fountain. This was built in the 17th century and so the marble fountain could be an original.

So, this is a unique feature of this particular mosque and I seriously hope that the waterworks are revived here and the structure is restored properly without making it garish eyesore like a few other restored ones.

Interestingly, a drawing of Safdarjung Tomb scene by Willaim Daniell dated late 18th century shows a water body in the foreground. According to historian and Convener of the Delhi chapter of INTAC Swpana Liddle old maps reveal that this was in fact a stream, which rose in the Ridge, the part of it adjacent to present day Vasant Vihar, it flowed in a north-easterly direction, past Safdarjung’s tomb, through today’s Lodi Garden, and finally merged with the Barapulla nala.  No trace of this stream survives today. I wonder if that water-body fed the water to the Wuju khana. I lot of questions need answers and I will update as I come to know.

Unfortunately both the mosque and the Mansur (Safdarjung) ka madarsa don’t get enough footfall for the authorities to look after these structures. This mosque was opened for Friday prayers in the 1980s and  like monuments used for prayers such as Jama Masjid, the Puri temple and many other old temples, mosques and Churches is not under ASI protection. Since the authorities responsible for these structures do not spend money on maintenance the heritage buildings are generally neglected. The ASI, perpetually short of funds, does not care too much for monuments which are not totally under their care. Allowing prayers in protected monuments is a clear violation of law but laws are often violated in our country. Call them religeous or political whims and a setback to our collective heritage.

I could spend only a short time inside the mosque corridor leading towards wuzu khana and mosque so couldn’t examine it minutely. Neither could I see the entire mosque with the guard breathing down my neck. I could manage only a few photographs but hopefully one day I will get another chance to explore it in greater detail.

This is a quick post just to share some of the photographs and details. Will notify as and when I update it.

I hope this goddamn virus curls under some stone and goes into indefinite hibernation so that the lockdown is lifted and I can visit my favorite haunt. Meanwhile don’t forget the beauty that Delhi is with all its shortcomings.

Delhi Monuments – Kharbooze / Kharbuze ka Gumbad


This is one of the prettiest and perhaps the smallest fluted domed pavilion in Delhi. Built in 14th century, during Tughlaq’s reign, the structure is known as Kharbooze ka gumbad.
The dome, carved from a single solid stone, resembles a half sliced muskmelon (kharbooza) hence the name.

Delhi has its fair share of fluted domes including the one in Makhdumi Mosque, Fatehpuri Mosque, Mir Taqi’s Tomb in Golf Club enclosure, Teen Burj in Mohammadpur village, Madhi Masjid, Mehrauli, Bahaul Lodi’s Tomb and a few more. 

No authentic evidence is available to justify the claim of its association with Sufi saint Kabir-ud-din Aulia. The saint’s grave (Lal Gumbad) is just a stone’s throw away  from this structure hence the presumption.

It could very well be a tomb of some other person or part of a bigger structure. The structure has a miniature chatri made of grey stone that stands on four pillars on  a small octagonal base with a diameter of 2 m.  The dome is precariously balanced on the top. One can see a chamber like opening below the base in some vintage photographs. It’s blocked by the stones now. Only an excavation around the area may perhaps give some answers to this quirky structure’s past.

 I was lucky to get access to Kharbooze ka Gumbad and take close-up of the structure with the permission from the Principal of the school in whose compound the structure lies now.  The ruling by Apex court prohibited any construction within 100 meter radius of a protected heritage site. The school was built in 1982 as per some sources so it was already operating when the ruling came. Not that it is an excuse to encroach. Now it seems there has been an amendment again lifting the ban and allowing construction of public infrastructure within 100 meters of monuments protected by ASI . It could spell disaster for the remaining built heritage. Already hundreds are lost to encroachment and unauthorized construction. 

Delhi is dotted with such lesser known monuments. Where ever you look you are bound to find some architectural marvel. Most of these, which are not on the tourist map, go unnoticed and most of the time  aren’t cared for.  This area of Sadhana Enclave, Panchsheel , Shaikh Sarai, Soami Nagar and Savitri Nagar are rich in such nondescript structures. Not many stop and wonder their architectural presence and historical importance of the mosques, tombs, enclosures of Tughlaq and Lodi periods that are littered all over the place, hemmed in from most sides, in the chaotic, congested bylanes of urban Delhi. They don’t find a place in guide books or get tagged on Google maps. Orphaned, they stand there as a mute testimony to the glorious days of Delhi Sultanate.

INTACH Delhi chapter is looking after the restoration aspect of this structure along with 18 others. The smaller monuments like this one need greater care as they are prone to getting destroyed. Being inside a Montessori school premises has thankfully saved  this one from vandalism. INTACH has been restoring  many relatively unknown monuments every year and turned the fate of a large number of them. 

I think it is a collective responsibility of the the organizations meant to protect these structures and of the public to look after them in the midst of bureaucratic, financial and other challenges that come in the way. A constructive engagement between MCD and residents welfare associations, the public-private partnership and involvement of corporates can help protect the heritage structures from vandalism and pilfering to some extent that is if they get rid of their temperamental aversion towards conservation and restoration of our heritage. 

Having said that one fact that remains undeniable is that uneven attention is given to the built heritage of the city. We have lost enormous history due to our apathy especially the unprotected ones.  

I have digressed from my usual factual details about the monuments but not much information is available about Kharbuze ka Gumbad so I thought of sharing some thoughts in general. Will update the post as and when I get more information.

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.

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.

Summer Flowers, Poetry & Other News


Petrea flowers

Some one asked me if trees and flowers were my latest obsession. No, I said, it’s been a life long love affair but lately I have come out unafraid and showing it with pride. Delhi has given us a gorgeous spring summer offering when it comes to flowering trees. Last years show was a bit dampening but this year the city palette is smudged with every hue possible. This year I braved the heat and sun despite of my health concerns and went wandering in the city. What greeted me were vibrant coral trees, stunning palash, flaming gulmohars, magnificent kachnars, baikain and jacarandas and then the laburnums which are my favorite.

Moulmein Rosewood

Moulmein Rosewood

The gorgeous pink cassia and neem flowering in abundance. I saw sita ashok, Moulmein Rosewood and laal kund in bloom for the first time and it was not just the flowers but the fruits too that stole my heart.

Chamrod berries

The chamrod was fruiting and the tree full of glassy red orange berries were a delight to watch. While laburnum is stealing the show this year one can’t ignore the delicate crepe like Jarul flowers that are adding to color palette.

Jarul | Queen Crape Myrtle | pride of India

I also witnessed the pilkhan change colors and the mahua blossoming and then changing its leaves. You can visit my Instagram page to see some of my paintings of Delhi flowers and the actual flowering too.

In the midst of this flower show mango trees bloomed and then fruited. Nature has been benevolent this time. As I work on my Hindi Poetry book and other pending drafts I find less time to post more poems/stories here. Most of the journals seek unpublished work. So I will keep sharing the news if something finds a home. I am, meanwhile, still looking for a home. Perhaps I may eventually shift to some senior citizen home and find some work there or some place nearby. The financial constraints and lack of support is like a finger on the jugular.

Dhak / Tesu / Palash

The good news is that  two of my poems got a place in Cafe Dissensus magazine in February and got tremendous appreciation from poetry lovers across the globe. It was heartwarming to see strangers leaving words of appreciation in the comment section. Such engagement always encourages me to write more and write better.

Here is an excerpt :

“two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness”

Read more HERE

City’s midsummer dream

Another set of poems recently again got published in the same magazine but this time with a note, a few photographs and a watercolor painting by me. You can read this here – Poetry In The Time Of Amaltas 

These poems are special because of many reasons including thatthey were written as a larger set on a call given by Mayank Austen Soofi aka The Delhi Walla in celebration of the Laburnums of Delhi. I admire his work as a chronicler of my city and it was an immerse joy to get featured in his daily city dispatch that he writes for The Hindustan Times.

You can read my poem HERE

Another beautiful opportunity came my way by writing for the famous column  called – ‘Farewell Notice- Our Self Written Obituaries’ on his popular blog. You can read it HERE 

The elegant Kachnar in full bloom

Now another special news that I had to share. While Tavish, my old time blogging buddy, bought ‘Wayfaring’ and sent a reader’s pic with a note about how much he is enjoying the book, Madhulika Liddle whom I had met at an event and gifted the book reviewed it on Goodreads. A pleasant  surprise and a cherished one too.

Here is an excerpt,” This collection of poems is divided into several sections: Trains, Exile Poems, Remembrance, Travel, Mosaic, Acrostics and Delhi Poems. Remembrance is the largest section, but these actually aren’t the only poems that talk of memories: in fact, most of Tikuli’s poems have a very strong aspect of remembrance, often a touching backward glance at the past, combined with a waiting—sometimes hopeful, more often despairing. 

In all of the poems in Wayfaring, a couple of things stand out. One (and this is what impressed me the most) is the poet’s ability to conjure up word pictures. She is so good at imagery that every now and then, I found myself transported to the place in question, seeing it, smelling it, feeling it. Whether it’s the Himalayas or the Kashmir Valley or Delhi (or Varanasi, as in the memorable On the Banks of the Ganges), she evokes it brilliantly. 

Then, there is the depth of feeling which comes through. Often, it’s a feeling of loss (this comes through, for me at least, most strongly in the Exile Poems, which so poignantly depict the pain of the forced exile of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley). There is despair, as in Exhaustion – 2, which is shatteringly tragic, and so true. ” 

Read it all HERE 

Do buy the book from any online book vendor across the globe.

A lot more is in store and I will be updating the blog with recipes and travel posts regularly for sometime. Will also keep sharing the poetry news. Another poem and a few more photographs of a city park will also be shared shortly.

Till then keep reading and sharing your views.

Pink Cassia haze on a hot summer noon